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ARSCLIST  November 2012

ARSCLIST November 2012

Subject:

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

From:

"Richard L. Hess" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 22 Nov 2012 09:41:20 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (144 lines)

Happy Thanksgiving to all in the U.S.A. There are so many things to be 
thankful for--remembering those things today (and everyday) seems like a 
plan.  This is a continuation of the thread "Stuff of which dreams are 
made" I've left the first two posts in this for continuity.

I think you guys may be on to something. Another side of the argument is 
in attempting to reach "perfection" it is possible to over-reach. I had 
this reinforced with my recording of last Saturday of our local 
community orchestra. I had added a third mic (TLM103) to my usual stereo 
pair (4006TL) and recorded it on a third channel (Fireface UFX) because 
we had two singers singing a total of three short early opera selections 
(Gluck and Hayden) and the acoustics in the church are good for 
orchestra but are not always predictable for solo voices.

There was a total of about 30 seconds where my recording mentor Don 
agreed that adding the soloist mic covered a time when the artist turned 
away from the main stereo pair...otherwise his advice to me was "If it 
ain't broke, don't fix it."

I'm afraid we sometimes try to fix things that "ain't broke." In the 
early 2000s, U.K. record label was re-releasing one and a half albums of 
rather high-quality Anglican church music from a major NYC church that I 
had recorded in the late 1970s which were Dolby A, 15 in/s two track. 
When I heard the mastered version I was shocked at how lifeless the boy 
choir sounded. I think I described it to the choir director as sounding 
"wooden". When I discussed this with the mastering engineer he 
complained that my tapes had a lot of tape hiss and that the record 
label had standards for removing the hiss. I suggested to him that there 
was no significant amount of tape hiss but what he was hearing was wind 
chest noise from the organ (which is now, finally, undergoing a complete 
rebuild). It is what we hear in the church and it is what I recorded. He 
grumbled and did turn down the noise-reduction knob for another pass 
which was acceptable to all (and probably not the first choice of any).

Finally, this reminds me of another live recording I made at a wonderful 
church in Harlem (NYC). The choir was recording Randall Thompson's 
"Alleluia" and one take was really quite good, except in the last third 
they had drifted off-pitch. It is not a short piece, so the director 
felt that a pickup of the ending would be fine. They wanted a playback 
(from the back of the church) to match pitch at the playback point. I 
had not been thinking and during the original take, they had the organ 
on (as most pieces were accompanied by an interesting combination of 
theatre/church organ). In order to better hear my playback from the rear 
of the church (we didn't want to waste time for me moving the speakers 
if I even had enough cable with me), they shut off the organ. When the 
LP was released, the edit was jarring because of the abrupt change in 
background noise (I wanted to have the LP cut from a first-generation 
tape). When I remastered this for a CDR to memorialize the conductor in 
a few archives, I must have found the uncut backup masters (also first 
generation) and did a Samplitude fade between the two halves--less jarring.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cheers,

Richard

On 2012-11-22 8:50 AM, Carl Pultz wrote:
> There are so many angles from which one can consider these ideas, technical
> and aesthetic. Looking back on my own reaction to early CD reissues, for
> instance, the flawlessness that seemed to be a commercial requirement for
> promotion of the new medium also removed the content further from actual
> experience. It may have been the flaws in analog media that helped its
> mechanical nature to seem more organic, and helped us to suspend disbelief.
> Is it any wonder (social aspects aside) that the Grunge aesthetic soon
> followed the new perfection of recording techniques, along with the
> continuing re-adoption of imperfect old studio tools?
>
> As a devotee of Walker Evans, it's not hard for me to make this leap. It is
> the imperfections of age and use that give objects their humanity, symbolic
> of lives and experience. Perhaps this is true even when those humanizing
> flaws are technical side-effects rather than artifacts of human touch.
> Having long ago accepted mechanical substitutes for actual experience, we
> still rebel against inhuman perfection, a rebellion made more urgent and
> necessary as the lived experience of living becomes ever more challenged by
> the relentless substitution of perfected media representation.
>
> Allow me to give thanks today for all that I've learned and the ideas born
> from the discussions and arguments of this remarkable community. Best wishes
> to all.
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Association for Recorded Sound Discussion List
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Art Shifrin
> Sent: Thursday, November 22, 2012 7:25 AM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: [ARSCLIST] Stuff of which dreams are made
>
> Static (meaning fixed media, not their artistic content) works of art and
> engineering that have significant damage have long been cherished despite
> their material / structural flaws.  These include buildings, statues,
> graphics, and a probably unlimited range of objects.  So it's completely
> reasonable and reassuring that miserably made and or worn & damaged
> recordings can be appreciated by those who can 'filter out' what's wrong.
> I include 'reassuring' because if such appreciations were not occurring,
> then the artifacts would be even more likely to be discarded and or
> destroyed than if not.
>
> At first thought I was thinking that the noises, distortions, and or
> perturbations of recordings might be analogous to cracks in the media
> (paint, wax, ink, et. al.) of graphics, or the materials of objects.  But
> given how such things are 'seen', that's not necessarily so.  Given
> adequate light, especially for large or enormous things if viewed from
> adequately long distances, the flaws can even disappear.  Listening to a
> mangled recording
> far enough away from its transducer, and or with other acoustic impediments
> might be comparable.
>
> Tom's proposal to achieve improvements via modifying virtual grooves should
> be extended to restoring what's missing, not 'merely' (the word's NOT
> intended to be sarcastic or derisive) smoothing out flaws.  I presume that
> sufficient computing power (software not included) exists can be mustered
> to simulate the audio contents that were replaced by the 'side effects' of
> the damage: make the grooves 'appear' as they did (or probably did) before
> they were altered.  Then, when all of the audio's read back by the
> image-to-sonic process, differences between the portions that underwent
> various extents of repair / replacement could be minimized if not  be
> distinguishable from one other.
>
> A simple example of this principle is replacing the disruptions in 'silent'
> (a misnomer) portion of a recording.  Slugging in state-of-the-art 'silence'
> amongst any kinds of audible noise results in much more noticeable dropouts
> than inserting the same kind of noise and room tone.  This should even
> include periodic problems such as thumping that can't be completely
> suppressed.
>
> I think that it's comparable to film and video tape tape restoration when
> production stills and captions replace what's missing.  It's noticeable but
> less jarring than the alternative.
>
> Think of each sample and bit depth as an audio 'still'.  String enough of
> them together, play 'em fast enough, and they could hopefully sound as if
> the grooves had never decayed or been damaged.
>
> Happy Thanksgiving from
> Shiffy, Marlene & Spencer
>

-- 
Richard L. Hess                   email: [log in to unmask]
Aurora, Ontario, Canada           (905) 713 6733     1-877-TAPE-FIX
http://www.richardhess.com/tape/contact.htm
Quality tape transfers -- even from hard-to-play tapes.

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