Your point is very correct. I actually think that you and Parker and I are now saying different bites of the same pie.
For what it's worth, Mix mag recently had a long article on "Mastering Today" and several top-level mastering guys opined that the loudness wars may be winding down from their perspective. So maybe the end of it that I was talking about is less pronounced (maybe only because numerous A&R types have lost their jobs due to conglomeration and downsizing?). But what you're talking about starts with the band's own "studio" (generally an acoustically poor rehearsal space and their Mac with Protools). Throwing 50 different "slam it harder" plugins on every track ends up with the same mush, or worse. And we won't even get into the pitch-shifting and looping so no one actually has to play a whole song or do anything in tune anymore. Since I try to keep up with what's going on with the technology, today's new music sounds just about what I'd expect given what most of them use to "create" (I would call it "manufacture") it.
Hey, anyone who throws out a Tap reference must be right! Most of these new "musicians" will be residing in the Where Are They Now bin very soon anyway.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message ----- From: "Aaron Levinson" <aaron.levinson@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Saturday, January 06, 2007 8:47 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] It Goes To 11...The Spinal Tap Philosophy.
Both you and Parker are both better versed in the nuances of exactly what is taking place in the Loudness Wars, the two of you are both gifted engineers and understand the specific deficiencies that the signal suffers from and the many sources from which these errors are introduced. I am not disagreeing with either of you on that level. I concede that big label's are guilty of fostering this problem and with your exact and funny"my Britney" reference. That is indeed the level of intelligence that we are dealing with here.
But what I am saying is that just as the recorded signal is being deformed and to the detriment of all the music that is subjected to it, the Loudness obsession is originating from and being exacerbated by artists too and has been for a long, long time and offer you the historical evidence to make this claim:
*"It Goes To Eleven*"
This reference is probably instanly understood by 90% of people on this list. It is the most famous line from the infamous rockumentary Spinal Tap. I think one of the reasons that film has become the enduring classic it has after 23 years is, in large measure due to its depressingly accurate diagnosis of what makes a rock band bad. Really bad. And I think that the funniness of that line is at heart its absolute truth. I found it telling that both Parker and the youtube video signaled out rock music specifically as the emblematic genre for the problem. I know unequivocally at their core, many rock bands are obsessed with reaching 11 and have been since The Who. I think that the problem we are talking about has its roots as much in the musicians themselves, particularly in rock, where Credibility is still measured basically in decibels. I am respectfully submitting that while I don't deny the labels culpability I do think and have seen, from working with rock bands, that the unfortunate final result of "going to 11" is operating just as powerfully in the aesthetics of rock itself. You may still disagree with me and feel that the pressure really comes from Don Ienner or LA Reid or Lyor Cohen but I am equally convinced that Spinal Tap was utterly correct nearly in its characterization of Rock music and the Coolness of Loud. So, I'm just saying in this war we need to spread the blame around. I think that is probably a 50/50 tug in many cases from both sides, toward 11. As incredible as it seems, /both/ sides of the /music business/ see the War as a win/win situation. I think all three of us agree that the quality of music we must endure after the Loudness Wars is pretty bleak. We live in a loud age, it is one the indisputable facts of modern times. It is a shame to me that art has been made banal and identical by competing in a shouting match, but in my view, the artists and the suits are sharing the Kool-Aid pretty fairly. That is my essential point.
Tom Fine wrote:Hi Aaron:
I'm a fan of your work, and I think you'd sit there at a mastering session and fight to preserve dynamics (and the mastering engineer, if he's worth the space he's occupying, would agree with you anyway), but the whole Loudness War thing is mostly the product of record company hacks demanding "I want my Britney Spears wannabe to sound as loud as their Britney Spears wannabe" and passive mastering engineers just going along to cash the check and keep the client. Bob Orban, the inventor of most of what is used on way out of an FM control room today, wrote a detailed analysis of what radio stations should DEMAND an end to the "wars" (see link below). Unfortunately, the same breed of tool runs a typical ClearChannel region as runs a typical Big Music A&R department today.
Hey, kewl. I Googled "Orban loudness wars" and got ... me.
Two good articles linked here. And, another in a long list of my bitching about CD remastering "engineers".
Tom Fine wrote:
Here's a link to the actual article in case you want to print for the files.
Thanks Dave, this is a good presentation of a vexing self-inflicted wound.
I think we've run this issue around, but that might be the Ampex list. For more perspective, see Bob
Orban's excellent article:
which shows that these over-loud CD's sound even worse after being put through FM processing.
It's just disgraceful how 50 years of progress in sound recording and reproduction -- to where at
least a few recordings each year were truly life-like -- is being erased in less than a generation.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message ----- From: "Parker Dinkins" <parker@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Saturday, January 06, 2007 6:44 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Libraries disposing of records
on 1/6/07 5:02 PM US/Central, Aaron Levinson at aaron.levinson@xxxxxxxxxxx
The Loudness War is
really the result of radio stations compressing things to death and to
place the blame on the labels alone is really just a facile answer to a
more complex problem.
Well, we might disagree there.
Most of the mastering sessions we do are attended, and most clients insist
that their CDs be as loud as the one they bring with them for comparison,
without regard to the preservation of transients.
As for radio processing, see http://www.masterdigital.com/24bit/radioprocess.htm.
What radio stations do is much more than compression. Few audio engineers
have ever heard of phase rotation, yet virtually all audio you hear on the
radio undergoes this process.
Many years ago it was grounds for rejection at the CD pressing plant if
there were too many 0dBfs samples in a row. Now, it's not uncommon to see 20
or more in a row on commercially released product. And these CDs are being
mastered by first tier mastering facilities, with international reputations,
as well as in house mastering engineers at record labels.
Instead of radio, many people think the loudness war in CDs was created by
the CD changer.
Nevertheless, radio processing is also driven by the quest for loudness, but
rock CDs (for example) when broadcast are made much worse by being clipped
during the mastering process.
Radio processing lessens the level differences between various program sources; it doesn't increase it.
-- Parker Dinkins MasterDigital Corporation Audio Restoration + CD Mastering http://masterdigital.com