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

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?

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