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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 
final battle?

"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.