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Embrace Imperfection
By Andrew H - 06/24/2007 - 10:59 PM EDT

In the current day, a large number of musical artists want that 'perfect' sound. That spatially filtered, equalized to sonic 'perfection', with every beat snapped to an appropriate subdivision of the beat, and in this case, perfect sound refers to the use of computers, rack effects and general manipulation of a recording to improve or augment the final musical effect from the original. The big question is: Do musical artists appreciate why they are going for this 'perfect sound'?

The first reason for wanting sonic perfection could be the culture associated with the meeting of music and technology. New and better technology, in the realm of music recording and production, is often heralded as providing the user with an easier, faster and more fluid creative flow. To an extent this is true, with systems such as MIDI coupled with samplers allowing one person to realize their own orchestral works, without the need for a conductor, fully trained orchestra, and substantial funding. But with new musical technologies, as with other technologies, comes a growing disconnect of appreciation for what these technologies mean.

And therein the problem lies: There is a distinct lack of appreciation for why musicians go for that perfect sound. Considering this website is geared towards musicians starting out or looking for help in harnessing their musical talents, this is the perfect venue to be discussing such a topic. But it is probably best to lay out some groundwork first.

In the vein of pro-perfection, that 'perfect sound' allows for the musician's expressions to be best captured and reproduced in any musical environment. The manipulation of the sound allows for the musical ideas to be expressed in a manner closest to the musician's original conceptions. Adding to this, the clarity of the final mix allows for the sound to be reproduced with minimal discrepancies from the musician's original vision. The 'perfect sound' means a musical artist can create the best presentation they can produce.

The problem is, that with these new technologies comes a new illiteracy: Musicians tinkering with their original sound in attempts to improve their recording - often trying to fix what is sometimes lacking, or in an alternative possibility, demeaning something of value. Sure, should a musician alter something and not like the outcome they can hit Undo, but just playing in audio editing software to make something 'sound better' begs the question - what and why does something have to be made better?

Perhaps at this point, the question of why the musician is recording themselves comes into question. Is the recording meant as another outlet of expression for the artist, allowing the musician to explore things they cannot do in a live performance? In which case, the goal may be partially to gain that 'perfect sound', but at the same time they are exploring the recording medium. Another reason for recording musical expression would be to put out that expression to an audience. In which case that 'perfect sound' should not be an attempt to fix something lacking, but instead to balance the musical expression to best complement the music.

Returning to the question - what and why does something have to be made better? If this question arises while recording, perhaps the purpose of the recording, and the quality of what is being recorded should be assessed. Take some time, practice some technological literacy, and think about what and why you are recording.

Listening to current music, the 'perfect sound' has become a staple. A huge portion of major recording artists pump out CDs with beautiful, acoustically sound, 'perfect' recordings. As beginning musicians, or those on a small budget looking to get their sound out, try and appreciate how much work, understanding and money goes out into working those CDs to make them with that 'perfect sound'. Instead of going for that sound, work first on making what you have better, as realistically, you cannot sound better then you are.

Embrace imperfection, work on making yourself better, and when it comes time to record, make sure you know for what purpose you are doing so.

At this point you are invited to provide your opinion on the article, as by no means does this article provide a concrete and final worldwide opinion, only the opinion of one quasi-educated individual. So with that in mind, please head to the forums and put up your informed opinion, poke holes and help create a greater overview on the topic at hand.


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