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Why contemporary music sounds terrible
This is an interesting article posted on the jazz guitar discussion group.
Jeff Kaiser and I had some interesting discussions about the abuses or
misgivings of compression and the quest for hotter levels in newer CDs
I was mastering the discs for the Boise Experimental Music Festival....all
the different ways you can increase levels (for CDs to sound comparable to
other professional CDs in your player), yet maintain natural dynamics,
Now, it has occured to me that often times when I hear a CD, especially
pop/rock CDs, and I think to myself, wow that is a really hot and "in your
face" level", the mix also doesn't have much of a dynamic range...some guy
is screaming his lyrics, or you can tell that is is practically blowing
brains out to get that tone out of his horn...but it is no louder than the
section where he is wispering poetry over an ambient section. It's like
compress, compress, compress, limit, limit, limit....turn that wave form
into a solid bar, and then raise it to 0db...in your face, 100% of the
Below is the first time I've seen this referred to as exhausting, but it
makes sense. Even if you turn your stereo down, there might be something
be said of giving the human pyche a break with natural dynamics and more
space. Tension....release....tension...release....louder....softer, etc,
This article/topic, could I suppose turn into the discussion of the
pschological results/benefits of adding more space to one's compositions
(not making the composition "better" or "worse," mind you). Can adding
space and natural dynamics put the human psche at ease? Is it more
to generating natural emotive responses? (natural meaning those that one
might expect on the bell curve of a person, day to day). Good questions.
suppose part II of the article below could explore this: "Natural dynamics
in music and 'Horror of the Vacuum'."
What would be hilarious, or maybe frightening, is if something happened to
our atmosphere, such that it added a form of compression and normalization
to 0db to all sound....imagine walking down the street, hearing a boy
to his mother, a man scream at his dog, a streetworker jackhammering, cars
beeping, etc...but everything never veered much from 0db....even the
ambience in the atmosphere (white noise) would be 0db. We might go insane.
I included some excerpts from the article below, as well.
----- Original Message -----
Everything Louder Than Everything Else: Have the loudness wars reached
"You listen to these modern records, they're atrocious, they have sound
over them. There's no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just
like - static."
- Bob Dylan in Rolling Stone magazine
"There's something . . . sinister in audio that is causing our listeners
fatigue and even pain while trying to enjoy their favorite music. It has
been propagated by A&R departments for the last eight years: The complete
abuse of compression in mastering (forced on the mastering engineers
their will and better judgment)."
"The mistaken belief that a 'super loud' record will sound better and
magically turn a song into a hit has caused most major label releases in
past eight years to be an aural assault on the listener," Montrone's
continued. "Have you ever heard one of those test tones on TV when the
station is off the air? Notice how it becomes painfully annoying in a very
short time? That's essentially what you do to a song when you super
it. You eliminate all dynamics."
For those already confused, Montrone was essentially saying that there are
millions of copies of CDs being released that are physically exhausting
listeners, most of whom probably don't know why their ears and brains are
feeling worn out.