I agree very much with your points.
There seems to be an engineer/technologist driven lust for clinical or "perfect" sound nowadays,
especially in carefully-made classical products. This may well be a "super-fidelity" version of what
took place at that recording session, but I'd argue it usually isn't very exciting or gut-grabbing
like the great older recordings.
If you're a fan of the "classics," take your favorites among them and given them a good listen with
fresh ears -- consider it a New Year's gift to yourself. Then think about this -- exactly what seat
in any concert hall would you sit in to get that same aural/emotional experience? I'd argue -- NONE!
That's the whole point of a great recording, to give you a super-realistic experience so you can
play it many times in many places on many playback setups and get the same feelings. Thus, the music
has to be much more polished than most live performances can hope to be. And the very best
conductors understood how to imprint their distinct personality on the recording without going off
the cliff; when they pulled it off, they have the listener's emotions under their complete control.
And, the recording should be cleaner and clearer than the sound would ever be in a roomful of
shuffling, sniffling, sound-muffling people. And the perspective of the recording will usually be
sharper and, for lack of a better term, bigger than is heard from any one seat in the venue -- in
the best cases it is all the good of all the good seats with no drawbacks.
So what is this magic? My goodness, it's PRODUCTION. Yep, your favorite recordings were most
definitely PRODUCED, not "documented" by white-coated lab technicians with calibration-grade
equipment carefully placed in theoretical positions. The whole problem with too many modern
classical recordings is that there seem to be one of two bad goals from the outset -- 1) to produce
a complete artificial reality, using many mics and all sorts of mixing and production techniques but
discarding the age-old values of ambient room-tone, conductor-controlled dynamics and giving
acoustic instruments the air and space for their sounds to flower. Or, 2) to "document" a
performance with clinical-cold "perfect" equipment and yet manage to capture not one ounce of the
soul and vibrance of a human being playing a beautiful piece of music with passion. I think also
there is either a lower level of skill and art or a false modesty among too many conductors and
orchestras. They just don't let it rip anymore!
This is all one man's perspective, but I will say I've listened to MANY classical recordings, and
listened very carefully. What I seek in the listening experience is to be uplifted and touched, for
the recording medium to transmit to my soul what the musicians were "saying" that day the recorder
rolled. You can't fake it with over-production and you can easily miss it with a clinical-technician
approach. Somewhere in the middle live the best recordings, the ones that stand the test of time.
Happy New Year to all of you.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "[log in to unmask]" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, January 02, 2008 11:56 AM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] How not to mike an orchestra/the death of high fidelity
In recent years, I have been working with several small CD labels, which specialize in
resurrecting long-out-of-print recordings from the dawn of the LP era. I have also been in
broadcasting since 1966, and have noticed that, as fine as many new CD's are, they seem to lack the
"personality" of many of the old analog recordings, many-of-which were one-take, incredible
performances, issued without credits, or hokey names, on numerous budget labels. The new recordings
may have more polish and "gloss", but these old discs have a face...an energy you can sort of
feel...which newer recordings usually lack. Steve Slezak