Golden age of recordings

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Paul McGowan: Mark Waldrup of AIX Records, Cookie Marenco of Blue Coast, Keith Johnson of Reference, Bruce Leek of Studio in the Forest, Peter McGrath of Wilson, Tod Garfinkle of M and A and John Atkinson of Stereophile are among a handful of excellent recordists who care that music sounds as if it were live in your room.  There are many, many more but these individuals and their brethren have a closer eye on sound quality leaning towards live than most recordists – yet have less access to the big name musical talents in the world.

But it wasn’t always this way.  Many of us have treasured LP’s and CD’s of years past where big name artists were recorded beautifully in a live sounding space.  Most of the old Living Presence RCA’s, the Mercuries, Deccas and labels of the past went to great trouble to capture the best musicians of the day in the best recording venues possible.  Why does that not seem so today?

My guess is that we’ve gone through a bit of a paradigm shift of goals.  In the 1950′s and 60′s, when the aforementioned labels were at their height, high fidelity recording was new – stereo Long Play records were just invented – and most music was heard live.  My guess is that the new and struggling record label industry of the time did their level best to prove to folks that they could capture, preserve and reproduce that which most music lovers were used to – live performances.

So despite poorer microphones, recording equipment and reproduction kit, the “golden age” of recordings, so treasured even today, lives on as an example of what proper microphone placement can really achieve.

Now that the opposite has happened, music is listened to more often through a recorded media rather than live, the mainstream recordists and labels seem to have lost their focus on the reproduction of live – in place of reproducing what many engineers and artists consider “the better”.

The same can be said for television – where TV affords us a view unobtainable from being at an event – so it is “better”.  We’ve even augmented our live music events with TV so we can enjoy both the live event and the “better” TV view.

Methinks this needs some thought and discussion.

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