Jim Alfredson

Rudy Van Gelder interview from 1995

249 posts in this topic

I think it's worth considering that the ideas of documentation, the presentation of art as product, and the act of producing art are not (necessarily) mutually exclusive. I don't think that there's any singular, comprehensive praxis for how music is created in a given social, cultural, or economic context.

There's no news there--but in terms of the notion that "all art is commerce"--well yes, but by levels and degrees. Not all commercial music is made with strictly commercial considerations. Not all--or even any--non-commercial (or outsider, or experimental, or avant-garde, or what have you) art is created in a vacuum devoid of monetary considerations. 

One of the chief arguments in the ongoing debate about musicians v. promoters/clubs/etc. is that performance comprises services rendered and that this should (in and of itself) guarantee pay of some kind. The rub here is that not all music operates under the same social and commercial pretenses. If you're running a low/mid-sized commercial establishment, you're often guaranteed more patrons for hosting a touring band rather than a local band. For any number of reasons, you can often (but not always) expect a larger audience for electronic dance music than free jazz. So is it fair and economically sound under profit-driven conditions to treat free jazz the same way you would EDM, or a local musician the same as a touring band? If you book these musicians under the pretense that you will make money, is it fair to expect a free jazz musician to promote the show effectively enough to bring in numbers that equate to that of a DJ? 

Trade is a two way street. The degree to which working musicians are conscious participants in the broader art and entertainment economies is pretty debatable, but often (admittedly not always) you, as a performer, must make some decision about the content and value of your musical practices. As Serious As Your Life is not just a sad story about a bunch of great guys who never got paid for their work--it's (also) a narrative about musicians who made hard, often deliberate choices about their relationship(s) to commerce and audiences.

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What was it Duke told Columbia...It's my job to make the records, it's your job to sell them.

And..."I've made this, I wonder if any body's interested" and "let me make something I know I can sell" are not even the same thing. And there are a lot of points in between.

I mean, I love Reese's Cups, and you can sell peanut butter and chocolate on their own from now until the day after the end of all time, but peanut butter is not chocolate, ever, and no, I don't always want a Reese's Cup. and more than that, try making mole sauce with Reese's cups, but seriously, no, don't try that, what are you, stupid?  Post-ironic deconstrutionist? Either way, just don't try that.

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After dinner, the "music business" can be thought of as a kind of relay race, everybody's got their leg to run, and not all legs ask for the same thing at all times. And handoffs can get botched by both givers and receivers.

But...In both "music" and in "business" you got motherfuckers  who say fuck a baton, never mind the cats who say fuck the track, I'm running in the woods  And some cats do shot put. Go figure them.

Music Business. Two words, not one, a necessary distinction, not an unnecessary repetitive redundancy. 

The math, she speaks for herself.

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8 hours ago, ep1str0phy said:

There's no news there--but in terms of the notion that "all art is commerce"--well yes, but by levels and degrees. Not all commercial music is made with strictly commercial considerations. Not all--or even any--non-commercial (or outsider, or experimental, or avant-garde, or what have you) art is created in a vacuum devoid of monetary considerations. 

Yes. But we talk about it as if there's a line that can be drawn between the two poles on the scale, mainly because everybody CAN identify a line over which they won't or don't want their favourite musicians to step. But everybody's line is in a different place so the reality is, there ain't no real place for the line; it's all a matter of a pinion.

MG

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On 9/8/2016 at 4:26 PM, JSngry said:

I've probably yet to hear a truly perfectly accurate recording of anything, and, really, some records, if they were truly perfectly accurate of how they sound while being made, you would not want to hear that, cats in booths and behind baffles and shit, showing up one year to add to something from last year. Thank god for the assembly of an inaccurate finished product there, analog or digital! 

You're conflating the act of capturing the source with the presentation of the final product to the listener. What RVG is talking about is the presentation of his finished recording to the consumer. In other words, he made certain aesthetic decisions for whatever reasons (including the wonky piano and wacky reverb) and he wants the listener to experience those decisions on the final master as close as possible to the way he intended. It's like a photograph of a painting. You want the photograph to accurately capture the colors and texture of the original as closely as possible.

Therefor what he is saying is that linear digital is a much better medium for that than analog, specifically vinyl. In order to cut the vinyl, you have to make substantial concessions to your lovingly created master in the vinyl mastering process. And even then the final product deviates from the master further due to the quality of the pressing and also each time the vinyl is played (adding more surface noise and pops and clicks).

On 9/9/2016 at 8:59 AM, AllenLowe said:

my caveat, however, (and it is significant) is that analog has a depth of field which digital is incapable of replicating

Sorry but this simply isn't true.

On 9/9/2016 at 8:59 AM, AllenLowe said:

and by the way this is complete bullshit and technically incorrect:  "linear digi­tal has no attributes. It's just a medium for storage. It's what you do with it. A lot of this has to do with the writing in consumer magazines. They've got to talk about some­thing.

and a little shocking than any engineer would even think this. If it's all the same and has no attributes than 8 bit digital would equal 16 bit would equal 24 bit; and all converters would sound the same. They don't and they don't.

I'm pretty sure he's referring to the CD standard here, 16bit 44.1kHz, which is more than enough for the final mastered product. 

On 9/9/2016 at 8:59 AM, AllenLowe said:

I do agree that, at 24 bits, digital has finally found a way to match analog in basic sonic warmth and appeal.

I do not. 24bits is pointless for the final product. 16bits is more than enough. The increase of bit depth has nothing to do with warmth.

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Conflating, or acknowledging the difference?

I'll maintain with neither animosity not hesitancy that most people would not want to hear what most records sounded like as they were being made, precisely because recording parts from the inside for assembly is a different logistical act than recording a full ensemble from out in front/above.

Now, most people might love being in the booth or wherever they do it these days, but to be on the floor itself, where all the parts are being captured, pretty sure that most fans would head for the booth sooner rather than later.

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You might have, but it wasn't that much of a point to begin with. :g

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G'bye. Don't let ....

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Sigh, g'bye. Had enough, at least for a while. Friends can stay in touch via email or Facebook. I have work to do.

Edited by Chuck Nessa

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Jim, I'm a little bit shocked. Are you saying you don't think 24-bit as the original source recording is better than 16 bit? To me this is not even an arguable point, even when brought down to 16 bit, and  if you can't hear that then there are issues with your monitors or something else in the chain. Are you still recording at16 bit? I can hear the difference even in consumer recorders, geez it's not even subtle. As for depth of field, once again, it may not even be a quality issue  for most people, but analog audio tape has an obvious depth of field that digital just cannot replicate. It may not matter to most people, but it is there. Though I will say that 2496 comes close.

Edited by AllenLowe

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5 hours ago, AllenLowe said:

Jim, I'm a little bit shocked. Are you saying you don't think 24-bit as the original source recording is better than 16 bit? 

Yes.

24bit is only useful in the recording process, not for the final product. The only difference between 24bit and 16bit is the dynamic range. The dynamic range of 16bit is nominally 96db which is already far more than any final product needs or uses.

The reason to use 24bit in the recording process is because it allows you to fudge your gain staging and not worry about it. So yes, I record at 24bit because it allows me to not necessarily worry about my gain staging when recording dynamic music like jazz or classical. I shoot for about -12dbfs (about halfway up most digital meters) as my peaks and even if the signal is much quieter, the noise floor of 24bit is so low that you can increase the gain after the fact and it won't suffer from quantization errors, aliasing, etc.

But for the final mastered and delivered product, 16bit is more than enough. 

Here's a great article on why and it even touches upon the subject of the usefulness of dither.

http://www.head-fi.org/t/415361/24bit-vs-16bit-the-myth-exploded

From the article:

So, 24bit does add more 'resolution' compared to 16bit but this added resolution doesn't mean higher quality, it just means we can encode a larger dynamic range. This is the misunderstanding made by many. There are no extra magical properties, nothing which the science does not understand or cannot measure. The only difference between 16bit and 24bit is 48dB of dynamic range (8bits x 6dB = 48dB) and nothing else. This is not a question for interpretation or opinion, it is the provable, undisputed logical mathematics which underpins the very existence of digital audio.

So, can you actually hear any benefits of the larger (48dB) dynamic range offered by 24bit? Unfortunately, no you can't. The entire dynamic range of some types of music is sometimes less than 12dB. The recordings with the largest dynamic range tend to be symphony orchestra recordings but even these virtually never have a dynamic range greater than about 60dB. All of these are well inside the 96dB range of the humble CD. What is more, modern dithering techniques (see 3 below), perceptually enhance the dynamic range of CD by moving the quantisation noise out of the frequency band where our hearing is most sensitive. This gives a percievable dynamic range for CD up to 120dB (150dB in certain frequency bands).

5 hours ago, AllenLowe said:

 I can hear the difference even in consumer recorders, geez it's not even subtle. 

Again, I'm talking about the final product, not the recording process. By all means, record at 24bit. Many times it will sound better but that's because you don't have to worry about the gain. Case in point, I recently did an audio/video mix of a classical percussion duo from Michigan State. Unfortunately they recorded it themselves using a Zoom audio recorder / camera and some other GoPro style cameras. The Zoom was their main audio recorder and it was set to 16 bits. When they set the recording levels, they did so using the loudest part of the piece as their guide. This was fine for that particular movement, but unfortunately the first movement of the piece was orders of magnitude softer. And because they recorded it at 16bit, which does not have the extended dynamic range of 24bit (which is really just extended detail at very low volumes), when I gained up the audio there was all sorts of nasty quantization errors in it. I added some dither but the damage was done. If they had recorded it at 24bit, it would've been fine. Of if they had been more careful with their gain staging, it would've been fine.

Also, consumer devices don't exactly have the best analog front ends. Most conversion chips are the same and don't have a sound. It's the analog electronics in front of the ADC and after the DACs that make the difference. 

 

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right, but that's my point - you record in 24 bit because bounced down to 16 it sounds way better as the original source. Better than starting at 16 and staying at 16.

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It depends. For multi-tracking and using any kind of in-the-box processing, 24bit is better than 16bit for the reasons outlined above, mainly as a safeguard against bad gain staging. But if you were recording something say in stereo with no overdubs and very little post-processing and you set your levels correctly, 16bit would be fine. But most everything today is designed to record and sound best at 24bit (again, the analog side makes the biggest difference) and storage costs are low so why not use it?

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15 hours ago, AllenLowe said:

right, but that's my point - you record in 24 bit because bounced down to 16 it sounds way better as the original source. Better than starting at 16 and staying at 16.

Two words: expectation bias. 

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shut up Scott; you know nothing about sound or recording. Trust me. I have been doing A/B ing on audiophile speakers for years, have recorded in 16 bit since the 1990s with people like David Baker, at major and minor recording studios, have recorded in 24 bit since about 2007, have used numerous consumer machines, pro machines, analog machines, microphones, multitracks, small tape, large tape; have masted 1,000 projects big and small including my own and have restored thousands of hours of recordings old and new. Jim and I disagree, but we understand the process.

though Jim, I will say I have A/B'd on 2 track digital, 16 vs 24 and heard the improvement. It may be for the reasons you say, but in a way that is the point; if 24 bit is not as fussy about levels and dynamic range, that tells me it is a better and more accurate medium. Am I missing something here?

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I was just explaining the phenomenon to you, Allen. 

it's really no different than most things in the audio world. 24bit > 16bit = 24 bit is sonically superior to 16 bit. 

Kind of like 12AWG speaker cable "sounds" better than 16AWG speaker cable. Not necessarily. Unless you're dealing in 50ft runs or longer...

Well, as Jim (someone I do believe has at least a passing experience in recording and production) has tried to explain to you... 24bit > 16bit? Not necessarily. 

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14 hours ago, AllenLowe said:

though Jim, I will say I have A/B'd on 2 track digital, 16 vs 24 and heard the improvement. It may be for the reasons you say, but in a way that is the point; if 24 bit is not as fussy about levels and dynamic range, that tells me it is a better and more accurate medium. Am I missing something here?

Unless it was a double-blind test, I would be wary of drawing any conclusions. Confirmation bias is very real and very powerful. If you know you're listening to 24bit, and you believe 24bit is better, then 24bit will sound better to you.

The extra bits are just for low volume information. Essentially you are lowering the noise floor and pushing any quantization levels way way down there. For tracking, it's great (though with careful preparation and gain staging, 16bit sounds just as good). For the final product, there's no perceivable benefit. 

Here's a great video outlining the difference between 24bit and 16bit. This guy does a null-test (phase reversing a 24bit track and a 16bit version of the same track made from the original 24bit file). The result is nothing but noise that is -83db (ie, not even audible...the natural noise of your room is far louder than that).
 

 

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Jim, that's great stuff. But did you mean to say expectation bias, not confirmation bias? 

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No, I meant confirmation bias. From wiki: 

" Confirmation bias, also called confirmatory bias or myside bias,[Note 1] is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one's preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities.[1] It is a type of cognitive bias and a systematic error of inductive reasoning. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. The effect is stronger for emotionally charged issues and for deeply entrenched beliefs. People also tend to interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing position. Biased search, interpretation and memory have been invoked to explain attitude polarization (when a disagreement becomes more extreme even though the different parties are exposed to the same evidence), belief perseverance (when beliefs persist after the evidence for them is shown to be false), the irrational primacy effect (a greater reliance on information encountered early in a series) and illusory correlation (when people falsely perceive an association between two events or situations)."

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Fair enough. I guess my hang up is that confirmation bias relies on cherry picked external information, whereas expectation bias is essentially bullshitting yourself into believing something. 

In this situation: 

Expectation bias = I believe 24bit is superior to 16bit, therefore when I did an A->B test I indeed heard a difference. 

Confirmation bias = I've read blogs from other people who reported hearing a notable difference between 24 and 16bit, therefore my own feelings on the matter have been confirmed. 

 

 

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