Wednesday, January 10, 2007

It's About the Sound!

I am tired of hearing music critics tell me it's about the music not the sound when they hear a recording.
Well, it's not. It is about the sound.
Why? Because, what is music?
Music is just the organization of sounds. In the natural world there are sounds all around us. The natural order of the world's sounds is chaotic. A composer rejects this world and organizes the sound into a form that he or she thinks is aesthetically pleasing to the ear. In the modern world of recordings we cannot separate sound from music anymore. In the old days when we had limited technology, this could be overlooked, but not today when we have the means to reproduce sound with such precision.

The Double Standard!

Lets go back to the first line, It's about the music not the sound.
Well is not tonality a big part of music?
Why is this very important aspect of music entirely overlooked by most reviewers?
I would think that a great violinist works lifetime to achieve a beautiful tone. This is why we hold Stradivarius and Guaneri violins in such high regard, for their beautiful tones. The tone is the poetry that moves our souls when we hear music. We can read the notes on the page if we want to know what the melody, harmony, or counterpoint is, but it is the physical sound of the instrument that moves us. When you go to a concert hall you expect this from an orchestra. For years people always said, -"I love the rich sound of the Philadelphia strings"- when referring to that orchestra!
"They loved their tone !!
They loved their sound!!
So why is it acceptable for orchestras to sound like they are playing on instruments that are made of plywood when they make a recording?
Why do I need to hear loud down bows that can rip my ear off and do not resemble anything I consider pleasing on many classical CD's?
I want my orchestra strings to sound real and rich like in a live concert hall,
this is why we spend so much money constructing beautiful sounding concert halls. If a concert artist produced a sound like I hear on recordings that many magazines rave about, they would be run out of the business! I recently bought a new stereo system for my home. I love to listen to music at night. But I will tell you this, I do not care how good the performance is, if it goes on my main system and it sounds bright and hard, it immediately is shut off.

Why ?

Because this is not what I consider to be my esthetic concept of what beautiful music should be. If it is bad and I still want to hear it, I will play it on my little system in the kitchen and listen in the distance where the flaws of the recording do not irritate my ears! When I do play something on my system I want to be moved by the sound of the music. I want to hear the same beautiful tones coming from my speakers as in great concert hall. I would not expect less in a concert hall, so why should WE expect less in our homes? So it is about the sound!! So the next time I read a review in a magazine that tells me how great this CD is and I buy it, it better sound great or I will be mad! This is why we at Chesky spend so much time on sound. Because sound is music, and one cannot go with out the other in the modern recording world. I think with the new AREA 31 recording we are getting closer to the absolute sound more than anyone else to date. So in the end it is not about being an audiophile or not an audiophile. Maybe we're right, and just maybe they are just wrong!

David Chesky