May 8, 2011

Medium != Message...

by Chris Randall

One thing I've often said, when confronted with the type of person that gets in to the minutia of the recording process, perhaps at the expense of the big picture, is that a good song will survive any production process, while a bad song can't be saved by the most sophisticated gear and recording techniques available.

This sort of idea is anathema to the Gear Queer, who is always certain that there is that one more piece of kit sitting out there, just beyond grasp, that will push things over the edge and make all the difference. We're each of us guilty of this behavior, of course. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone, etc. But the simple fact of the matter is that the work of art exists already, as a wave function, and whatever you need to collapse that bitch and bring shit out in to the cold light of day is what you need. There are records that wouldn't exist without a massive, and relatively expensive, modular synth and a fairly detail-oriented production approach (see: A Funneled Stone), and others that would sound fucking retarded if they were anything but a guitar and a vocal. (See: Robert Johnson's entire ouvre. Happy 100th b'day to Mr. Johnson, btw.)

Now, this entire approach could be perceived as my own way of justifying my several rather ridiculous recording habits, the which you're all perfectly aware of. I approach photography and music-making in the same way, trying to squeeze something interesting out of a device not really meant to do what I'm asking of it, largely via a trial-and-error approach rather than any cohesive planning on my part. My general philosophy with respect to photography is the Shakespeare/Monkey method: if you take enough pictures, some of them are bound to be interesting, and quantity has a quality all its own. No particular reason this can't be applied to music. (See: Wesley Willis.)

I guess what I'm trying to say, when it comes down to it, is this: I am of the firm opinion that there is interesting shit hiding in my brain. All I have to do is figure out how to get it out. While a new piece of The Shiny might make certain aspects of that chore easier, at the end of the day, the song lives in my brain, not in the gear. The medium is the messenger, not the message itself.


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May.11.2011 @ 11:44 AM
Yay for popcorn, boo for the "I won't comment" comment.

May.11.2011 @ 2:18 PM
@chad: c'mon, give us your thoughts. Tasty popcorn recipes aren't enough. Although hell yes I'm going to try your technique (my parents used to make popcorn in an old Dutch Oven with oil).

May.11.2011 @ 3:19 PM
mad ep
I agree that popcorn made in olive oil is the bomb.

May.11.2011 @ 3:25 PM
i like popcorn in the microwave just fine. all about finding the right brand though.

on the stove it's fine but i get bored sitting there shaking the pot.

plus.. some vegan always wants to put brewer's yeast on the popcorn.

May.11.2011 @ 3:33 PM
D' MacKinnon
But have you tried cooking popcorn in peanut oil?

May.11.2011 @ 3:56 PM
I'm no vegan, but brewer's yeast on popcorn - that's some good shit, lollipop!

May.11.2011 @ 4:28 PM
yeah the brewer's yeast thing is cool some times but i usually like it classic... buttered (not movie theater butter though)

May.11.2011 @ 4:57 PM
What about tools that have an implicit message within them? Let's face it, most of the Audio Damage plugins aren't what I would call generic or neutral. I would argue that much of the interesting shit in CR's brain (and Adam's brain) has made it into the Audio Damage plugins. Plus, a musician making gear that will help in their own music will undoubtedly shape that gear.

May.11.2011 @ 10:01 PM
@ Sean -

In my best Beavis and Butthead,

"U said Dutch Oven."

link []

May.12.2011 @ 2:50 AM
pierlu >So I really don't get the point. Unless you're making fun of audio engineers who believes in the esotheric properties of the latest compressor or eq. I don't think that an artist will ever think about it unless it's a producer itself. The artist will always think about tracks or tunes first.<

Can't agree. Every engineer and producer I know lives by the mantra "only the song matters" and has spent many hours trying to pound that into some artist who wants to debate which reverb/compressor/mic to use, but doesn't have lyrics written yet for the song you're about to record. It's usually a short debate, I know it is with me, because you can use any damn mic you want as long as you sing it good. Fucking kids.

The whole idea working with a strict set of parameters to create music instead of going with instinct to create the best you can = "having a theory". As in "Why does that record sound like ass?" "I think he had a theory when he did that one". I don't think that means it's going to turn out bad, but I think you have to be able to see the forest if you want a good chance of creating something someone might actually enjoy. Most people only care about your process if you've made something they really like. A learning moment for me was early on when someone played me something they recorded and said "check it out, no eq on anything!" Of course I thought it really needed some eq, and made a note to never do that.

The point I was sort of making in my other post is that people worry way too much about a "good" sound when I think it's more about the appropriate sound. "Young, Loud and Snotty" wouldn't be better if it was more Hi-Fi, "A Little Respect" wouldn't be better if it was more Lo-Fi.

BTW, I know there are "audiophile" engineers out there, I just don't talk to them.


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