Quality (Sound and Otherwise)

Here, in this entry, I'm looking for a way to casually and intelligently — and perhaps even humorously — mention sake–soaked wood cone speakers. Because sake–soaked wood cone speakers are weird. And interesting. And funny. And that kind of weird, interesting, funny stuff needs to be pointed at and teased, wondered upon and caressed. But I will fail at being clever about it, I will throw subtlety out the window, and I will just blurt it out at the start.

Now that that's over with, I'll go on to say that this entry is really supposed to begin by referring to Clifton's excellent thread, "Live or Wired?"

From there, I'll tell you about the first time I realized a live concert could actually have "good sound." It was in 1998 at Irving Plaza. Sonic Youth were playing songs off of then–new A Thousand Leaves. Michelle and I pushed right up to the front of the stage. The music met us there and danced with us all the way back to our dorm room.

After a bit, I'll link to an excellent and beautiful article by Nick Southall concerning quality (sound and otherwise) and consumption. I'll quote the particularly pertinent passages — for instance:

It started when I was about sixteen and listened to "I Am the Resurrection" through shitty headphones out of a shitty boombox while trying to write an essay for school, straining to hear all these sounds buried in the song that I could faintly perceive but had never heard before when wheeling around my bedroom air–guitaring like a delirious fool. That moment planted a seed in me, made me want to hear everything possible, every detail in every song, soak it in and lose myself in it. For the last eleven years [That makes him twenty–seven years old, by the way — two years younger than me. –SM] I've been trying to find that sound, and the equipment that will make it for me.

Compressed CDs grab your attention in the same way that people who shout grab your attention, and they're just as tiring and annoying in the long run if you're standing too close to them.... I can't bear to play back some of my favourite records from the last few years through my hi–fi and pay them full attention, and this is upsetting.

And then I'll probably link to a couple of pieces on our own site where we discuss the crapitude of recorded sound. Such as this sassy bit of work by JA, written way back in 1989. Even if you're not bothered, he is:

I am convinced that the public has been trained to anticipate so little quality from recorded sound that they are now not bothered by the fact that they often receive no quality whatsoever.

Or this soul–searching piece composed ten years later:

I am fortunate to have grown up in a family involved in live music making, and to have spent my formative time playing in orchestras and other acoustic ensembles. And my active involvement in rock music came at a time when the sound of acoustic, unmiked drums set the volume level for the rest of the band. I know what the real thing sounds like, and I can recognize the effects of studio tricks like compression. However, if all people listen to at the turn of the millennium is rock recordings like the new Beck album [At the time: Mutations, however any Beck album will do. –SM], and Classic FM and its American equivalents, then I begin to worry about the purpose of the High End.

And, after all of that, I will be tired and a bit worn down and on my third cup of coffee, stressed by the feeling that there just aren't enough hours in the day, and thinking also of my therapist who tells me that when I shut myself up and get all introverted and intellectual and whatnot because I can't decide which of the many fragments floating in my mind is the one that actually needs to be expressed — it's not the song I'm singing and it's not the mundane, leaving me with three or four other options — that I must choose the most emotional fragment.

If I didn't have an appointment to see her tonight, I'd have more time to write this entry. But maybe I'll get around to it tomorrow. Like I said, the blog form works well for me. I'm scared of you. Music is lonely and writing is, too. I'm still standing, like Billy Joel. My dad never hugged me. When we look at each other, I think of growing old. I want to be hit. I love you.

Jonathan Scull's picture

You *are* a hit.And your readers love you too.

Gerald Clifton's picture

Thanks. I had never heard of Nick Southall before your mention. Now I want more. My old man never hugged me, either...hit me a couple of times, whether I asked or not. I don't THINK I'm any the worse for it, but how would I know? At a recent White House Correspondent Dinner, Stephen Colbert acknowleged the presence of our President and complained of instant drowsiness, then wanted to be pinched to stay awake. Then hit, then shot in the face, regretfully noting the absence of Mr. Cheney. Goodness. I hope THAT's not how the sequence goes. A friend of mine e-mailed me the transcript -- I'll send it to you. It's a genuine hoot. I hope they don't send Colbert to Gitmo. Clifton.

Stephen Mejias's picture

>You *are* a hit. And your readers love you too.Aw, thank you, J-10. That's very sweet of you. I have some excellent teachers.

Stephen Mejias's picture

>Please also consider sake-soaked listeners Hee hee hee. A much better idea, indeed.