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Monday, December 19, 2011

a possible aesthetic for acoustic music.

here's an idea for an approach. let's say you are a singer/songwriter/guitarist, or have a small acoustic type band, possibly based in some form of roots american concept, and you have some songs and you want to make a record.

if a person were to do some prior research, and listen to lots of current mixes in this field, principally what will be heard are lots of pristine recordings. many times, the schema of the reverb times, compression ratios, mic placement, eq, mixing etc. are very similar. eerily similar. in a stepford wife kind of way. [example, tune in on satellite radio, to a station that plays recordings of this ilk, and a sonic similarity will display itself after just a few pieces roll by, even though the tracks may have been actually recorded fifteen years apart. it's a very bland approach to the audio.] my thinking is that, things can only get perfect in one way, but things can be kind of processed and messed with in lots of ways. ergo, more interesting.
to me, the age of audio photo-realism in acoustic type music, or picking music or whatever you may call that, is over. it died in a giant box of 1000 cds that no one could sell, out in the garage of a band that forgot why they were playing music in the first place. about ten years ago.
it's time to liberate thyself from the audio version of portrait painting.
a way of creating interest in your music would perhaps be a lo-fi type recording. as an example, think of how many thousands of cds have been made of bands with a bluegrass type instrumentation where they go in and set up in a proper studio, and the instruments are isolated and the proper mics are placed, etc. lots of this stuff ends up sonically the same. and there are lots of engineers and local studios that are really good at making this happen. [no foul on them they are doing what they are paid to do.]
part of the "interest" of a recording, however, is the process itself, not just the music that gets played. so if the artist doesn't take advantage of this, they miss a great chance to do something of interest.
i would suggest this to the small acoustic ensemble: find an old reel to reel and have a go with that. perhaps even an old cassette jambox to record with. seek out an interesting sonic palette and see if you can bring that into the overall structure. incorporate environmental sounds. if a dog barks up the street, why edit that out? record as many things at once as you can, and do as much pre-mixing as you can. try and see. noise is good. leave it in. consider not using the right mic.
perhaps an interesting question to ask thyself: what audio mistakes [ inconsistencies, brushstrokes, errors] are actually adding to the overall effect of the work aesthetically? at what point does the audio polishing begin to take away from the meaning of the work, detracting from the overall experience?