Saturday, August 24, 2013
Breaking - Norman Lebrecht gets it completely right
A reader has pointed out that support for my assertion that classical music has been covertly dumbed down comes from none other than Norman Lebrecht. In his review on Sinfini Music - hey guys, when will you link to On An Overgrown Path? - of percussionist Kuniko Kato's new album Norman concludes by saying "The sound, recorded at 24-bit/192hz... is outstanding... why can’t all records sound this good?" Cantus by Kuniko Kato is released on Linn; the label is a provocative champion of lossless audio files and an interview with their MD Gilad Tiefenbrun was linked from my post. The coincidence of a trail leading from Sinfini Music to Linn Records and back to Universal Music should not detract from the revelation in that interview that "Linn Records, has also teamed up with Universal to create a back catalogue of the music giant’s records in studio master quality".
There has been an astonishingly large readership for my posts on potential links between ultrasound and audio quality. Despite the absence of comments and discussion recently noted by both Elaine Fine and Tim Rutherford-Johnson applying to these posts, their wide circulation on social media indicates general receptivity to my views on the shortcomings of low resolution audio. In keeping with a parallel trend, there have been a few comments from abusive and anonymous trolls of the - quote - "your assertions are complete twaddle" kind. I am no longer publishing and spending time refuting these, not because they disagree my views but because they have no place in civilised debate.
Those who interpret my posts as no more than rants about the compromised quality of low resolution audio files are missing the point. My exploration of how ultrasound may affect audio quality develops the long-running theme On An Overgrown Path that classical music is an infinitely complex set of interactions that cannot be adequately expressed in today's binary lingua franca. There are many things about classical music that science alone cannot explain. One is why a Stradivarius violin has a unique sound that cannot be replicated by modern instruments lovingly constructed using state-of-the-art technology. Another is why digital audio fails to capture the magic that so many fine musicians dedicate their lives to creating.
As another Norman so eloquently reminded us last year, we are by nature analogue beings. Classical music demands more from a listener than simply the possession of an iPod or MP3 player; it demands some preparation, some effort, a journey to a special place, saving up for a ticket, some homework on the programme perhaps, some clarification of the ears and sharpening of the instincts. And if those words sound familiar, it is because they are a contemporary paraphrase of Benjamin Britten's Aspen Award acceptance speech; the original text can be read here.
Header image is reproduced from David Blackmer's article Life beyond 20 kHz, one of many valuable contributions to the ultrasound debate. Because no freebies were involved in the writing of this post I have not heard Cantus by Kuniko Kato; but, just this once, I will take Norman Lebrecht's views as accurate. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.