The state of modern...
 

The state of modern music  

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Douglas Blake
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10/07/2019 5:52 pm  

Looking to get a handle on modern music and why most of it really sucks?

This pretty much covers it...

 

And then there's this... a data base of how highly compressed modern music is...

http://dr.loudness-war.info/album/list/year/desc  

AND... don't even get me started on Autotune...

People wonder why I still listen to good old 70s and 80s rock and roll, there it is.


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123Toid
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11/07/2019 11:30 pm  

The truth is, I enjhoy music when it is from the heart and full of purpose.  If there isn't any of that, then I want to hear just music with no words.  I get tired of catchy tunes that have no real meaning. They were written for the sole purpose to make money and that is it.  But take a song like The Sound fo Silence by Simond and Garfunkel and you have a brand new appreciation to what good music is.  It is deep, thoughtful, from the soul and you can feel it. 


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TVOR-Ceasar
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12/07/2019 1:16 am  

Music. 

Where to start?

Where to go?

Hmmm,.. Well, let me get this out of the way. Wife and I saw Peter Frampton on his Farewell tour last night. Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Evening opened up. It was at The Met in Philadelphia, from what I can tell is a refinished Opera house. Even in the "nose-bleed" seats, the view and the sound was great. 

Jason and co. played his father's music with a passion not seen in many of today's younger crowd. I do believe he was playing for his father, and it showed.

Peter, well, for a man who has been at it for as long as he has and is dealing with the onset of a career destroying disease, it was as if his music came out of every fiber of his being. Good God was he on fire! And it wasn't just about playing the song, it was about being the song and taking it so much further without seeming like it was contrived. Rather, it felt as if it was a part of the song you knew was there but had been waiting to hear forever.

Which brings me to the point of this post. 

Good music can be found today, and I don't mean just catchy Tunes with earworm lyrics. I mean well written, thoughtful, and for the most part, decently recorded. The thing is, you have to look away from the main industry and find these artists at live venues, or online via, at first, Youtube, and then more than likely on to either SoundCloud or Bandcamp.

Me, I love great classic rock, as evidenced by the concert last night. I also love great Progressive Rock, Folk, bluegrass, good jazz, fusion, protest Rock and Acid Rock, what used to be known as heavy metal such as Deep Purple and Rush, big band and swing along with other standards from from the 40's and 50's, even some classical music and soundtracks. I know there are a few genre I've missed. All over the place, but you can see where a lot of my interests lay. What do all of these styles have in common? The music speaks to me on some level, whether it be lyrically, melodically, or a mix of everything. It has to hit me and keep me. Today's pop just doesn't.

I see the alternative avenue recording artists all over the place wrt recording style. Some want their sound as compressed and sonically full as the ill-fated Metallica  album  to those who have fallen in love with the old vinyl pressings that pushed their dynamic range to the limit. You just have to get out to a live concert to see the opening acts and enjoy the main act. Talk to the youth at the coffee shop. Check out the music (instrument) shop on a Saturday morning or afternoon. Plug a genre into YouTube and see what comes up. But don't look to the old stalwarts of the music industry to be your salvation.

It's there, but just like gold or diamonds, you have to dig for them.

-Charlie


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Douglas Blake
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12/07/2019 10:15 am  

Thanks for the replies, guys.  Hopefully some of the others will weigh in on this one as well...

Yes, the Sounds of Silence is an all time favourite of mine... There's no doubt they are feeling it as they perform it and, so do I.

The points about the commercialization of music production are well taken. That is what has happened and now with high end computer tools to make almost anyone a musician or singer it's becoming a race for money. The notions of art and variety are all lost in the fog of greed... and it shows.

Classic rock, produced in the 60s, 70s and 80s, was a highly diverse genre where everything from weeping ballads all the way to smashing guitars on stage was fair game. You would listen to the radio and be taken right across the full spectrum of feelings, ideas and sounds in less than an hour and it was good

Even Country, Jazz and (well, okay...) Disco from that era was involving and interesting. Think "anything from Emerson Lake and Palmer to Joanie Mitchell" and you'll get the idea. Toss in some Willie Nelson and maybe a smidgen of Chicago and you had a very enjoyable afternoon.

So what happened?  

We can't blame the development of the CD format. Technically CDs are capable of far better sound than vinyl, having more dynamic range and better frequency response without the need for compensation or pre-emphasis. Engineers had a bigger and better play space to produce their music than ever before. It should have opened a whole new world to artists and audiophiles alike.

We CAN blame the music production houses and even some of the artists. They took the new medium and immediately locked on to "So we can be louder?" setting all other possibilities aside in the lust to turn a buck. Beginning in the mid-1990s music started getting louder.  As the compression increased, first to get ahead and then (once everyone was doing it) to keep up, music became more in your face, more aggressive and far less human.

Eventually this landed us where we are now... Behind the compression, quantization and autotune there is still real music trapped in the blare. Much of it would be every bit as good as the classic stuff we all know and love... were it not commercialized to the point where, in the end, it all sounds alike. 

And this is our loss because a lot of talent is being manipulated and twisted by marketeers out to bump up their share prices and publish glowing quarterly reports, forgetting entirely about the people who simply want to enjoy their music.

I've long held that if compression is necessary for a radio broadcast or mobile listening it should be done by the radio stations or the mobile devices. Similarly if autotune is required to keep a singer on key, they should look for a new singer.  This is not something the CD producers and studio engineers should ever have taken on themselves. 

The death of variety poses a whole different issue... One that may be attached to a single basic problem ... You cannot Google an original idea... and our increasing reliance on external information is limiting our creativity. And, yes, it shows.

 


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CAP
 CAP
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12/07/2019 1:59 pm  

I'd argue that you can't blame the loudness wars.  The simple fact of something being louder or more compressed may give it the impression of being better in the relativity of a genre and side by side, but at it's core, good timbre and catchy hooks will do a song justice, no matter how loud or compressed it is. The loudness wars were a result of standing out in a saturated market.

I look more towards gate keeping and the barriers to entry as any source of musical change. Music technology flourished in the middle of the 20th century and the barrier to entry into the music industry was lowered from where it previously stood. Follow that trend today and all you need is a laptop and an interface. Due to the barriers and gatekeeping of the past,  one needed to be a musician and therefore have some music theory to be a good one. That's not the case anymore. One can lay down MIDI notes in an arrangement that they intuitively feel is good and work from there. An aspect of the change in gatekeeping is the promotion. All you need now is a cult following on social media and you're partly way there. It's possible to even fake it.

I don't really find this to be a downfall of the music industry or music in general. It's beneficial, if anything, due to the ready ability of anybody to be a musical artist despite their background. I look at the decline of complexity as more of a homogenization due to the lowered barrier....like a limit or convergence of a function.


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Douglas Blake
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13/07/2019 1:35 pm  

@cap

It is very difficult to argue that the Loudness Wars don't matter. They do. At first the goal was to stand out, be louder, now that it's becoming the accepted norm the goal is now to keep up and that is literally sucking the life right out of our music.

When I listen to my 70s and 80s music I can tell, without question, there's a live musician playing that music. The unevenness of some notes, the occasional flubbed note, the way the music builds and wanes all very human and lifelike.  But on modern recordings literally every note is perfectly timed and exactly the same volume... not at all human or lifelike. 

The loss is ours. As I said, this isn't something the audio engineers should have taken upon themselves. If sound needs compression for listening on the street or for broadcast the compression should be applied in real time at the media player or the radio station. It should not be burned into the disk itself as that robs us of the full experience when listening at home.

The loudness war is basically an attempt to make more money and to heck with the art or talent of music. Similarly the death of variety can be traced back to a couple of things, first that most of it's written by a very small number of composers and second, that making it sound familiar also makes it easier to sell.

I guess what I'm saying is that some things just shouldn't be commercialized in this way.


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123Toid
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14/07/2019 11:45 pm  

@cap

It's beneficial, if anything, due to the ready ability of anybody to be a musical artist despite their background.

 

That is an interesting way to look at it, that I have never thought of before.  Thanks for bringing that point up.   It is true that computers and even the simplicity of music has made it easier in some respects.  Good thought.  Thanks for sharing it.


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Douglas Blake
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15/07/2019 5:16 am  

@123toid

Trust me on this one ... Music is anything but simple. This I know because beyond a deep appreciation of music in my life, I don't have a single musical bone in my body. I used to play drums occasionally with a local band but even that proved beyond my musical talents. They called me "the robot" because it was so mechanical.  

There is something to be said for raw talent.

Yes home studios do give a lot more people access to the market, especially on Torrents and Streaming sites... but how many of them would make it in the concert or bar scene?

Having the tools doesn't mean you can fix the car.


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123Toid
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15/07/2019 2:28 pm  

@douglas-blake

It's hard to say.  Because there is a lot that have made it that way.  Think Justin Beiber, almost every artist on NCS and even the Froggy Fresh 😀  I get what you are saying, but I also think @cap also has a good point.  I've already admitted I like earlier music to today's, but that doesn't mean there can't be an appreciation for it. 


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Douglas Blake
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15/07/2019 5:41 pm  

@123toid

I dunno, maybe it's me... but I find the highly compressed, plastic sounding stuff from the last 15 years or so to be utterly unlistenable. I have fairly good system in my living room and that stuff takes it right down to "cheap transistor radio". The sound is grating, aggressive and not even remotely musical.

I understand where you and @cap are coming from... but I just can't bring myself to agree.

Something very human and intimate has been lost.


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CAP
 CAP
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18/07/2019 6:18 pm  
Posted by: @douglas-blake

It is very difficult to argue that the Loudness Wars don't matter. They do. At first the goal was to stand out, be louder, now that it's becoming the accepted norm the goal is now to keep up and that is literally sucking the life right out of our music.

If music was built off crescendo and decrescendo alone, I would agree with you. Unfortunately, there's a lot more going in a song. The only places I see those aspects of music being used is in jazz and classical, which suites the genres and is used appropriately. I'm not going to act like pop, rock , and EDM isn't smashed and "in your face". It totally is, and it's important to note that it's ok that it is. The loudness wars just happened to push the envelope too far to where the dynamic effects used distorted the audio to a point that it affected the mix and mastering and now it's time to dial it back a little bit to find the balance, which has been going on and is currently done using the LUFS system. Add to that, streaming platforms have employed relative scaling to audio that punishes heavily limited audio. The "pushing the envelope" loudness wars are pretty much over, with the exception being edm. I'll double down on my comment stating it's useful and used to stand out in a saturated market. If you want your music to be heard and have a "pro" sound, it better sound like what the pro labels feel comfortable releasing and marketing.  To circle back to my starting statements: given that music is much more than dynamics, I'd argue that "the life is sucked out" due to compression is a poor conclusion. Relative to classical and jazz, yeah, it's missing an aspect, but "life being sucked out" is hyperbolic. Take Billie Eilish for example, her music is tremendously bass heavy and mixed dark. The assumption, since she's some form of pop, is that her music is compressed and limited, which wouldn't surprise me in the least. The distortion in her songs sounds like artifact from compression but it's supposed to sound like that; it's artistic direction. But it's good and it has life in the fact that what she's decided to do enhances the dark and creepy aspect of her music. The notes, vocal quality, effects, mixdown, and texture makes the song. Not the crescendo, decrescendo. And yes, there are still little ghost notes or sounds in some of her songs. So, the life hasn't been squashed. Now, lets roll over to a different style of pop. Now, to flip over to the Jonas Brothers - Sucker. Everything is upfront and has a place in the mix and is meant to be heard because each aspect has a part to play. In pop music, and edm for that matter, there's no room for a massive amount of little tracks in the background. It bogs down and masks the mix. So, in return, each instrument is created, recorded, and mixed carefully to bring out the best of each channel of the mix. On top of it the hook is catchy and the lyrics aren't stupid so you get a good song out of it. The bridge is a down part but not by descrescendo by instrument. Elements are just taken out of the mix and a drum loop is played and you have an obvious downpoint despite the overall peak volume probably not changing much. Overall, the life isn't sucked out of the mix and it translates well between different devices. Humanization, decrescendo, and crescendo aren't necessary requirements for a song to be good. 


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Douglas Blake
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18/07/2019 6:39 pm  

@cap

For clarity I'm not talking about light to medium compression which is common in rock, jazz and western genres.  I'm on about the brick wall, solid max amplitude compression of the loudness wars....

Top good ... bottom bad.

To my ears this is just torturous to listen to.... and the sad thing is that I'm probably missing a lot of really good music because of it.

 

 


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CAP
 CAP
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18/07/2019 6:48 pm  
Posted by: @douglas-blake

@cap

For clarity I'm not talking about light to medium compression which is common in rock, jazz and western genres.  I'm on about the brick wall, solid max amplitude compression of the loudness wars....

<img src=" removed link " />

Top good ... bottom bad.

To my ears this is just torturous to listen to.... and the sad thing is that I'm probably missing a lot of really good music because of it.

 

 

And my position is such that the top is untouched and the bottom is not bad if done correctly. Like a lot of things, it just depends. 


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Douglas Blake
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18/07/2019 6:52 pm  

@cap

I know people who actually like that much compression ... but I'm not one of them.

Of course it's all subjective, like most of life's experiences.

Thanks for the replies.


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