KICK THE CAN
I'm writing regarding “Production Music Libraries” (September 2001 issue). As the article began, “When Mix looked at production libraries two years ago,” I suddenly remembered that I meant to write to you then.
What possesses you, as purveyors of information on the production of music, to promote, glorify or even discuss the concept of prerecorded, i.e., canned music? The argument you used back then was that the use of this “music” saves time and expense in the studio for producers. Excuse me? I thought the idea of having a studio was to capture and create music ourselves, not just paste together generic chunks that someone else did.
You need to teach people the value of making sounds and music that solve the unique problems of each project. You need to honor the talent of a composer and challenge the skills of the studio engineer to bring the best and appropriate sounds to our ears.
At a time when studio bookings are decreasing and customers are already discovering that they, too, can paste together CD-quality sound on their own home computers, don't you think this is the time to promote the special, important features of professional recording in professional settings?
San Rafael, Calif.
Eddie Ciletti's recent “Which Witch” article in the September issue was very informative and provocative! I have only one thing to add: The thing that gets me every time about antique/vintage/stone-age tech, and/or the “Macrobionic” designs (and that could represent two soup cans and a string!) is not the way they sound, so much as the way they make you produce music. These items are very limiting. This can be really positive toward the outcome of the finished recording.
Let me set up a scenario for you: Your studio for a new project consists of piles of old German mics and 10 or so SM58s, an old drum kit, a bad upright piano and a '70s Twin. You've got two limiters, a plate reverb and some EQ, an old 8-track deck and a 16-track console.
First off, there is no way you can even contemplate working with talent that isn't extremely talented. Second, what the band sounds like is what you get. You can't fix it later, so they have to get it right. Little mistakes get left in. I mean, you give a guy Pro Tools to futz with and — unless he's working with Beck or Ween, who are really making fun of all the new, meaningless choices — he will waste time tweaking stuff that isn't worth tweaking.
I think what people frequently mean when they say “warmth” is actually “human”; that is, lots of mistakes.
Ted Moniak and El Jackson
WEB RADIO HIGHLIGHTS
I appreciated Paul D. Lehrman's commentary (“It's Still Rotten Sound to Me,” July issue) on the generally poor state of streaming audio on the Internet. It is true that the vast majority of online stations have horrible audio quality and that most of the Internet-only stations have no personality and worse programming.
However, I feel compelled to point out that not all is doom and gloom on the Internet audio front. Shoutcast (www.shoutcast.com) is notable in allowing people to create their own self-programmed stations and stream them (fairly reliably) at multiple bit rates to thousands of listeners. I've never had any problems connecting to a station there because of too many subscribers, and they stream in standard MP3 format that any computer should be able to handle. Many of the stations stream at speeds of up to 128 kbps, and some go even higher.
One in particular that is worthy of mention is Radio Paradise (www.radioparadise.com), which is self-described as “eclectic, intelligent rock.” Every hour of the day is uniquely programmed by a DJ who left the regular radio business because of the stifling nature of the business, and it's a treat to spend my working hours listening to everything from Ani DiFranco to XTC to Josh Joplin and everything in between. Remarkably, it's being supported by listener's donations and by money from listeners' CDNow purchases. In addition, the Radio Paradise Website has a thriving community of commentary and ratings based around a constantly updated playlist. Try it, you'll be surprised by how good it is.
THE TECHNICAL IS POLITICAL
I look forward each month to Mix for its industry insights, gear reviews and bleeding-edge technological coverage. The editorials can be fun too, even if my opinion or experience with gear is contrary to the writer's. What I don't like is when someone strays from his area of expertise and offers ill-informed, misleading opinions on things he is clearly unqualified to talk about.
A case in point is Paul D. Lehrman's “Insider Audio” column. On more than one occasion, he has used his editorial position to espouse his left-wing liberal agenda. In July's issue, he was doing fine discussing the problems with streaming audio until he ventured into the politics of the industry's struggle to increase bandwidth. I will gladly bow to his expertise in the technology, but I'm not interested in his political views. For him to assume he understands enough about the cause-and-effect relationships in economics to account for the impediments to progress in this field is arrogant at best. Economists from varied schools of thought make it their business to analyze policies and regulations that lead to “monopolies” and other stifling industry practices. (And few would be in agreement with Lehrman's assessment.) But they spare us their non-expert opinions about audio technology.
I'd be happy to discuss and debate these issues with Mr. Lehrman, but I don't think Mix is the appropriate forum. Nor do I think it's very professional for the magazine to give him that much latitude.
Although we are technical people, we don't operate in a political or moral vacuum. Economics and politics infuse all that we do professionally, and as creators and purveyors of entertainment and marketing messages, what we do makes an impact in those spheres. For you to disagree with my views is healthy. For us to ignore the realities of the world we operate in is not.
— Paul D. Lehrman
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