Communication Breakdown

Steve Guttenberg (Stereophile) writes:  Classical and jazz notwithstanding, an awful lot of new music is highly compressed, processed, and harsh, and it's about time we got used to it. Musicians, producers, and engineers are, in large part, on board with the sound, and any suggestion of making less-compressed recordings, with a wider dynamic range, is met with confused stares, or worse. One superstar producer didn't take kindly to my suggestion that he make two mixes for his new project: the standard compressed one, and another, less-crushed version. That didn't fly; he said there could be only one, the mix approved by him and the band, and that to them, a less-compressed mix wouldn't sound better. This producer is an audiophile, but he's not the least bit interested in making music for audiophiles. Harshness, it seems, isn't just a byproduct of compression; it's an integral part of the sound of today's music.

When I was nine or ten, I'd mistune my pocket AM radio to add distortion to the sound. The static fuzz fascinated me, but my mother couldn't understand what I was doing, and would leave the room. Clearly, distorted sound can sound good to only some ears, some of the time. If I'd been 40 years old in 1969 and a big Sinatra and Bennett fan, I'm sure that the music of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin would have sounded like noise to me.

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