Why Listening Matters

I am not a heavy YouTube user. At the most, I will look at chunks of concerts by my favourite musicians or possibly a long interview. That said, I have been glued to YouTube for about two and a half hours listening to round table discussion with Steve Berkowitz (Senior Vice President of Sony Legacy), Greg Calbi (Mastering Engineer), Evan Cornog (Audiophile), Michael Fremer (Editor of Stereophile Magazine), Kevin Killen (Record and Mix Engineer), and Craig Street (Record Producer). The panel span the music production process from inception to playback.

Music as a Rewarding Experience

First, they talked about how people need to set aside time to listen to things. In our modern listening world, everything is done in a rush; probably more so since this video was recorded. Services like Spotify and TuneIn are amazing for allowing us to listen to what we like, when we like. However, the chances are that we will mostly listen to them while we do something else. Music is not seen as an enriching experience as much as it should.

Technology and Music

Interestingly, the question of technology advancing and whether the standard of low quality MP3 would move on and be replaced by something better was raised. The panel were mainly positive that it would; however, one person felt that there is no demand for anything better as no one knows that there is better; which, is a fascinating thing to think about. The term “sonic junkfood” was extremely apt. I would be confident in saying that the breakthrough in the ability of storing more music than you would ever want in your pocket greatly outweighed any sonic disadvantages which were inherent. One good sign is that since this was recorded, the emergence of Spotify and its premium 320mbps streaming service has taken quite a hold; which is definitely a great place to start. Hopefully, this will become the norm for free subscriptions.

The panel asked could the digital recording process recreate old analogue recordings? For me, this is one of the audio myths. If a single performance is simultaneously recorded with analogue and digital (properly), I am of the belief that both performances will be captured adequately. In fact, I would go as far to say that the democratisation of audio production to the masses is what gives digital systems a more negative reputation that deserved as productions can be more often than not, low quality. This democratisation is also the most positive development in terms of promoting music which may not have otherwise gotten out into the world.

An interesting point touched on in the video is how DAWs nowadays give users almost limitless possibilities with huge track counts and processing that would have been considered magic in the olden days! Perhaps we have reached a point where we need to combine the working methodologies of analogue and digital, which is what I do everyday as a sound engineer. If a song can’t be put down in 24 tracks, then chances are, there needs to be a rethink!

The Video

The video has been muted by YouTube due to it having real life songs played as musical examples. I have re-uploaded the video without these musical pieces in the hope that YouTube does not mute it again, so apologies if you are disappointed by the back of musical examples.

 [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAz1aObRkjM&w=560&h=315]

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