Ability to create a sonic universe

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jonetsu
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Ability to create a sonic universe

Post by jonetsu »

Just a thought.

From a practical point of view, playing a CD could mean adjusting the volume. If not bass and treble. This means that there is a capability to create a sound atmosphere for a whole CD since all tracks would be mastered the same. With all this online stuff and buying single songs. one must them adapt to what others are making. You do not really want to have your song way off the 'norm' since it can be bought individually and played along others. If there's too much discrepancy the listener will not like it. How would it then be possible to propose a sonic universe in such a way ?

Cheers.

rghvdberg
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Re: Ability to create a sonic universe

Post by rghvdberg »

Don't understand. Who proposed that sonic universe?

Nachei
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Re: Ability to create a sonic universe

Post by Nachei »

If I understand you right, you are fearing that our moving from the previous format of consumption, where songs were "canned" in packs called CDs, to the current trend that seems more focused on singles, could result in loss of creative freedom for the musician. I see two differences aspects to that matter:

1) Volume homogenization caused by all songs going through the same computer "funnel": yeah, you're right, if you send music to a service like Itunes and the like, I guess all songs will be passed through the same "steamroller" to make sure there's not too much contrast of volume between different songs from different sources. But the same has always been done, afaik, with commercial radio, it seems they normalize and limit the hell out of everything; so such processing is something that musicians have always had to live with, and I suppose producers also have it in consideration...

This leads to the analogy:

Commercial radio of yesterday (squashed to death, homogenized, but free to taste) => Free streaming and mp3s of today

CDs of yesterday (you want the whole experience so you pay for it) => Flac or other high quality format downloads of today

Here the analogy flounders because the sales of high quality audio downloads are peanuts compared to what CD sales used to be. The underlying problem is that people no longer consider quality music something worth paying.

But anyways, as a musician, you would give thought to cramming your whole, in your expression, sonic universe in the .Flac, but keeping in mind that mp3 in earbuds is going to be the mainstream format, and it must still sound well, with all the loss and all.

In addition, I think volume standardization among different songs is not much of a concern for many listeners. For example, I listen to a lot of music in Alonetone.com; you get music and all kinds of sonic stuff done by all kind of people, with different recording equipment and knowledge, so sometimes you get the occasional piece where you have to crank up the speakers after 10 seconds of listening to nothing, or the one that makes you reach out quickly for the volume control because it's frying your brains. In all those cases, as a listener, I may go through a momentary surprise, but then I will adjust the song and just listen to it for what it is; if I have liked a song, the fact that it was normalized extrahot or wishper-like never stopped me from bookmarking it if I liked it...

That is from the point of view of a listener. As a musician, I don't give that much thought to volume either. The possibility that volume adds to the musician's palette is contrast: going from piano to forte and all the stuff in between. With the volume standards that are in use currently, I have never felt that my expression in that area was ever limited. As long as the emotional content passes through, I don't mind my tracks being submitted to volume changes (the only changes I would not allow, as it seems logical, is those that could damage my music -I mean that Loudness Wars nonsense that actually makes the music sound worse...-).

2) Moving from the 10 songs pack, a.k.a. CD, to the single as unit of consumption: this one, indeed, I see it as a limitation to artistic expression. With a whole album you can paint a picture, tell a story... Even if the record is not narrative, arranging the sequence of songs is a delicate art that can make for a complete different experience, just like they say that with the same footage you can make 2 completely different movies depending on the editing.

However, nothing stops you from keeping on doing it. I still think in terms of "CDs" or "EPs" when I select the songs I'm going to record and in which order they will appear in a playlist. You want each of the songs to stand on their own, but you also make the experience of the whole "CD" available for the people who still value that experience (going back to my listener "cap": I don't listen to whole CDs/playlists that often any more, but sometimes I do).

In the end I don't see it that different to the pre-internet times, where you could like a single you heard on the radio, buy the CD, and then listening to it among its 'colleagues' turned it into a different experience.

Just thinking aloud for the sake of it...

jonetsu
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Re: Ability to create a sonic universe

Post by jonetsu »

Thanks for our comments. 'steamroller' of online distribution services/stores: yes, the audio files are processed. There are mastering ways to deal with this although I haven't looked at them yet. Same for commercial radio. But then, I was thinking more of the non-pop material which will never play on radio but would be facing per-piece online distribution (or could be likely to).

Concerning file formats and resolutions, there's the audio player introduced by Neil Young, which is criticized at:

http://gizmodo.com/dont-buy-what-neil-y ... 1678446860

On basically the basis that anyways we do not hear what's beyond the current CD range, so why bother ? One thing I have experienced since I started to follow mixing courses, is that hearing sensivity can be developped. At first I could not tell the difference between some details and now a few months later I can. Transposing this to a general public and asking it to make a blind test comparision between a regular and high definition player might very well show no difference perceived for most.

In any case, my concern was more about being able to carry an atmosphere, a 'sonic universe' since mastering would also be implied, into a suite of pieces, as in the case of CDs and LPs. You might very well be right that after all it does not matter so much when individual peices are played since the listeners will probably reach for the volume control when needed. Musicians and people with interest in music, that do active listening, will do at least.

Even though I do not make anything pop I still try to run the mixes through headphones and a mono single-speaker (Behritone) to make adjustements. I also put some on CDs to play in the car. I do not have earbuds yet, though, nor any player that can play through earbuds (a computer standard mobo audio might not deliver the same).

My concern was based on individual files playing. You're right, albums are still made and it's possible to download an entire album and listen to it from start to finish, experiencing the 'sonic universe' that was created by the artist as well as in the mixing and mastering stages.

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GMaq
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Re: Ability to create a sonic universe

Post by GMaq »

Hi,

Interesting discussion, some thoughts...

I think there is all kinds of room to develop your listening to discern certain nuances within the frequency ranges you can actually hear, but that is much different than training yourself to extend your actual range of detectable frequencies, that particular ability is determined by far too many age-related and 'mechanical' limitations of the ear physiology itself and therefore is biological in nature not mental, and therefore no amount of study and training will change it (unless you believe that the body is just a meat machine completely controlled by the mind which is another interesting topic...)

For myself I've determined that as far as 'loudness' goes there is unfortunately an existing world standard that has been determined by a lot of faulty methodology and counterproductive thinking, but nonetheless it exists and if I'm going to release music through those channels I'll need to put some effort into making an 'amplitude alike' product so I've invested in some mastering plugins and decent monitor speakers. As far as listening devices I refuse to make earbuds which are pretty much the lowest common denominator of the audio chain be the standard I mix to. It is bad enough that the loudness wars have bludgeoned the concept of dynamic range to death but making earbuds the mixing standard is like the tail wagging the dog :evil:

Truth be told a product that is mastered well should sound good through anything, including earbuds.

Anyway just some random thoughts...

jonetsu
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Re: Ability to create a sonic universe

Post by jonetsu »

The difference you bring between listening capability and extending the frequency range is interesting. Listening discernment stays within a frequency range that's already heard and, as I\ve experienced, can be cultivated. Today, a few months after starting the mixing course, I'm amazed at the differences I hear when a slight 1-2 dB EQ boost/cut is made. As well as differences in slight compressor settings that moves an instrument to the back of the sonic space. What's even more interesting, and I still have to work on this, is the interaction between all instruments from these minute changes done here and there.

As for loudness, one point that was brought here I think is that the listener will adapt and make adjustments. Someone who likes a variety of styles will certainly expect to make changes when switching from, say, a Rammstein piece to Paul Simon (interesting mix ... from "Du hast mich" to "You can call me Al" :mrgreen:

Here is a link to Ian Sheperd, a mastering engineer who has a 'radio' show on related topics, this episode about mastering for online streaming:

http://themasteringshow.com/episode-24/

It's a radio show, so there's some amount of shooting the breeze. Maybe to be listened-to in the kitchen 8)

He also has a 'sweet spot' chart for online streaming:

http://productionadvice.co.uk/online-lo ... RqGd70tgYV

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