All about producing and mastering audio for disc, the web and beyond

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Grammy's and Mr. Stoute

In the NYTimes, long time music entrepreneur, Steve Stoute, slung some hash the way of the Grammy's and NARAS in a paid ad/letter he took out in the magazine. As I read his rant I became increasingly uncomfortable with much of what he was saying. Not because I think it was entirely without merit in some of the arguments and, yes I believe things could be made much better, BUT, in the end, it seemed he was complaining that his horse didn't win. You can read the post yourself here:

Our Dear Mr. Stoute is ignoring some essential facts:

- The awards are voted on by NARAS members, not decided in a back room with the exception of lifetime achievement awards and such. There is no conspiracy. Otherwise ow to explain Esperaza Spalding, Arcade Fire and Alison Krause/Robert Plant a few years ago?

- Secondly, the categories in the Grammy's and the Latin Grammy's have changed to reflect the changing culture. It ain't perfect but it's not so broken as he suggests.

No I don't agree with the final tally, ad if left up to me, the nominations round would come out different in many cases. But I am not a committee of one.

I would respectfully suggest that Mr Stoute wouldn't turn down an award if it were offered to someone he deemed worthy.....but he's no committee of one either.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The promise of a 'better' mp3

Whilst consumers revel in the freedom of consuming music in the mp3 form, the format is considered something of a blight when it crosses into the world of professional audio production. This is due in part to the phenomenon that some DIY home producers think it a good idea to actually produce mp3 as the final 'master' rather than using a full resolution format and then deriving the lossy version....and it's also due to the fact that making mp3's is something of a 'dumb' process.

Well Sonnox has announced a tool to make it easier to inspect and adjust the encoding process so that it can be optimized (read made less bad). Read more about it here:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Performance Mixing (?) vs Arranging

A friend posted a video on his FB profile today of Daniel Lanois talking about the recording of a song called Bladesteel. One of the subjects that arose what how Lanois thought of the console as something of an instrument to be 'played'.

Back in the day when the analog-console-dinosaurs roamed the earth, automation of levels in a mix was not something easily accomplished, and certainly not without a cost associated with the facility. Even when you COULD automate, the reliability of some of the automation systems was questionable. Further, while we might automate levels, but not eq parameters or compression each mix involved a certain 'performance' aspect, and each mix might be a little different from the previous.

Performing a mix could be an adrenaline filled event, both exhilarating, and sometimes frustrating....but in any case, the results varied from one pass to the next. (this is most certainly true when mixing live shows, but that's another story)

So what does it mean to perform a mix? The mix engineer's job is to realize the vision of the composer/arranger. Is there a 'right answer' to the way a piece of music is balanced? Assuredly not. Are there wrong answers, in other words, is it possible to create an imbalance that would argue against the musical vision intrinsic to a composition? In most cases, yes.

The question then becomes, does the variation in the balance from one mix pass to the next potentially add anything to the listeners experience of the mix?

IT seems it certainly would if the listener had the chance to hear many different version of a mix. That would stimulate different feelings and impression of the music. It certainly changes the mix engineers experience of making the mix.

What do you think? Is the priority given to trying to get as close as possible to the arranger's vision in which case the ability to repeat the same result over and over takes precedence, or is there something to be gained by have at least SOME unpredictability in the result?