The World of Sound
The World of Sound
1 The Tonmeister's credo: What does "recording" mean?
Recording is the main subject of this book. Let me, therefore, put the emphasis it deserves at the very beginning; particularly as it is frequently mistaken. In the worst case people think it is like simply taking an acoustic photo; and using a camera is a widespread hobby. Everybody can do it. Is there really any difference when it comes to sound recording?
Now, if all that were so simple, photographers should long have discovered "multilensing" (as an equivalent to multi-miking 1 in audio); just take the subject with plenty of lenses and copy the mix, as audio people do with sound. Shouldn't that enhance the details?
No! It definitely doesn't; because in optics, the totally blurred contours would become obvious at first glance. In the acoustical domain, contours are blurred, too, but, because of the much longer acoustical wavelengths the resulting auditory cues are less easily perceptible – at least to the untrained ear. Listening to today's everyday audio results the question arises if there are still any really trained ears at work. There are so many digital gadgets to put even the most rotten sound right!
That is why the comfortable but self-deceptive notion could spread so wide that what sounds dull in front of the mikes can be made to shine in the post-mix. The disappointing result can be heard from almost all audio-channels these days: Instead of intelligible articulation – both in speech and in music – dull acoustical rubbish emerges, compressed to zero decibel mash; as if all know-how had gone down the drain.
No modern audio engineering can replace true musicianship, as it cannot replace conscious, knowledgeable, listener-controlled miking!
It is not by chance that evolution has granted mankind a most valuable ability – hearing. This is a faculty that outperforms everything that even the brightest engineering brain could ever construct. Hearing is one of the most elementary, useful, sensitive and substantial senses we possess. While working in a recording job it is essential to realize this elementary truth from the very beginning. This implies that it is an error to believe it may suffice to register a bunch of raw signals and to take it for granted that the digital work bench will polish them to perfection. Already in the outset of multitrack it was a misnomer when users praised the new possibilities by saying "we'll fix it in the mix!". The surrogates one gets in the post ops aren't any better (but any worse either) than the fake cheese that has recently been put on pizza. The food industry should prevent the consumers from mistaking the fake for Roquefort. The cultural values represented both by culinary and auditory enjoyment deserve the same degree of attention and care. Let's hope that successive generations will not disagree with these principles. Because of the actuality of this topic some critical remarks of a young student from Ireland may with his and the publisher's agreement be cited here (PSNE, 2009/2, p. 49):
"Creativity is being drained out of the recording process, and the Pro Tools Operator is to blame, states Brian Sheil.
You realise the music business has changed somewhat when you start hearing of 'recording colleges' and 'sound engineering courses' being offered across Europe. Each college seems to be trying to outdo the other in their slick advertisements for young students to attend their 'wealth of knowledge classes'.
It has even gone as far as someone standing over you and examining your proficiency in typing keyboard shortcuts, to see if you can copy and paste a vocal take. It seems implausible that someone can now walk out of secondary/ high sc