The Music Of JC Harris

positively the most intelligent progressive rock on this here planet

positively the most intelligent progressive rock on this here planet

Rants By Topic

The Steroid Scandal Of The Nineties (Part II: The Other Problem)

In Part I, I ranted on about the evils of compression. How it has been used to make records louder and louder to the point that they are not only far less musical but also almost painful to listen to.

The flip side to this has been that music is itself changing in response to the technology. As I pointed out, this started out as a subtle enhancement to the pulse of music… aka ‘disco’, but now the effects are far more dramatic.

In fact, I’d suggest that things went so far afield that the music that so thrived during the heyday of CDs… culminating in rap, with the thundering 808 kick drum, has now been superseded by music that can have no bottom or top because, frankly, we’re all listening on ear buds while doing other things.

In other words, the music itself is changing to reflect the fact that music is a background activity; listened to (if one can call it that) even in a crowded place. So, what kinds of […]

The Steroid Scandal Of The Nineties (Part I: The Problem)

Last time I talked about why records made in the seventies sounded so goooooood. Punchy. Danceable. And also, why the music started to suck. One factor… the widespread use of ‘compression’.

But there has been a second compression scandal which began in the early 90’s and continues to this day. This is commonly known as The Loudness Wars.

Now when CDs first came out, they were mastered a lot like vinyl. Sure the dynamic range is much greater, but the actual perceived volume of the CDs was quite similar to good ol’ records.

A funny thing started happening though. Like most drug habits, it was subtle at first, but over time, it turned into a monster that ruins lives. Little by little, CDs (the new ‘records’) became louder and louder.

Now technically, they didn’t get ‘louder’. They can’t really get louder. The strongest signal a CD can handle is exactly the same loudness as the strongest signal a record player can. But what can and does happen with digital tools is that the dynamic […]

The Steroid Scandal Of The Seventies

OK, I’ve been finally listening to a gift I got at the Salvation Army about three years ago… Time Life’s “Super Hits From The Seventies ‘Have A Nice Day”. Twenty Five CDs with everything that made the seventies, er… whatever they were.

But whether or not you swoon (or run for the loo) when you hear ‘Billy Don’t Be A Hero’ you can’t help but be impressed by the sound of all the best recordings of that era. It truly is the Golden Age Of Recording for all devotees and it can be summed up with one word. No not cocaine–that was the 80’s, dude.

The word is compression.

Compression is the steroid that made everything sound good. In fact, I’ll go so far as to suggest that it is the answer to the question of ‘why?’

A little history and a little theory. A compressor is a device which automatically adjusts the volume of audio signals. In it’s most basic form it is much like the governor on an engine… it keeps the […]

Razors Vs. Blades

I saw a very interesting post by John Mellencamp the other day in Huffington Post (of all places—who knew he was so literate).  He made some very articulate points on the music biz. To both paraphrase and use a well-worn marketing metaphor, he suggested that, back in the day, touring was the razor and ‘records’ were the blades. Musicians toured in order to support a record. That was how we talked about it. We supported the record. You didn’t worry so much about making money on the tour because the record was the thing that brought home the bacon.

However, today, he posited that this equation has become reversed; it is now it’s the music which is almost the give-away, which tries to lure customers to the  tours (and ancillary merchandising deals) where the real money is made.

Why the shift? Several reasons:

1. Money (duh). For quite some time, the artist’s share of CD revenues has been shrinking, not to mention the fact that sales of CDs themselves are falling off a […]

Mastering 101

The new record, Beautiful Sounds has now been passed off to that master of mastering, Ed. ( Who has passed it back to me. We’re doing a lot of passing.

For me, mastering is an excruciating process. Even at the best of times it is completely draining. What you do is sit in a very dark and quiet room on a very nice couch, behind a guy sitting at a desk listening to your stuff very intently. For eight or ten hours. Over and over and over and over. Every once in a great while he may say ‘hmmmm’ or perhaps. ‘Ahhhh’. It’s like your nightmare of a visit to that inscrutable therapist who’s only words are ever, ‘And how does that make you feel?’ or perhaps, ‘I see our time is up. See you Thursday.’

Maybe it doesn’t read as all that bad, but you’ve been working on this thing for a year and now the guy is noticing every zit you missed or […]

December, 2008
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