A Clash of Values? Page 3
One day—quite by accident—the engineer pressed the "solo" buttons on the console, cutting out all sound from the monitors except for the signal from the coincident stereo "room sound" mikes. He was shocked to hear that they did a much better job of capturing the sound than the multi-miked, pan-potted, EQ'd, and artificially reverb'd technique. If he hadn't accidentally "soloed" the coincident pair that day, he could have spent his entire career not knowing that there was another way to record a horn section.
But can the audiophile condemn the recording engineer who makes products for mass consumption—products made at the expense of qualities the audiophile finds important?
Anthropologists hold that one culture should not be judged by the values of another—for example, an Eskimo visiting New York City and deciding that New Yorkers are stupid and unsophisticated because they don't know how to hunt seals. Likewise, audiophiles working with one set of values should be wary of condemning recording engineers because most of the latter hold a different set of values. The engineer's techniques—and the resultant sound—are entirely appropriate within his value system.
But look at what happens when the gulf between the values of audiophiles and recording engineers is bridged. Engineers like Keith Johnson of Reference Recordings and Bob Katz of Chesky bring an audiophile sensitivity to recording, elevating it from technique to art. They capture the music in a way that can only be described as magical. Their work, and the work of a few other like-minded engineers, dramatically illustrates the width of the value gulf separating sensitive listeners and most recording engineers. More important, their recordings reveal how much better the music can be preserved when this gulf is bridged.
This gulf needs bridging more often.