There is a sense of nostalgia and times past, such as reflections on the fact that in an internet age there is really no longer a sense of the local record shop or library...
The film also shone light on the environment in which many classic albums in my collection were recorded. From the 70s, 80s, and 90s a lot of what I know very closely was recorded at Sound City, something I hadn't previously appreciated.
However what resonated most with me was the discussion around three quarters though the film, where focus turned to the struggles of Sound City as a tape-based recording studio in an increasingly digital and Pro Tools-based music production world. I loved the commentary surrounding this, such as reference to the way Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails used digital technology to manipulate sound in new ways, rather than simply using the available tools to emulate or correct poor original recordings.
The phrase "we'll fix it in the mix" was in my mind as I watched. The essence of Sound City as presented in the film was that it was a place of music creation, where humans interacted and enjoyed the process of making music together. This is something increasingly lost in the digital age, as the ability to create broadcast quality music is able to be done in isolation as an individual with a laptop and a pair of headphones.
I enjoyed the reflection on how music should be a human experience. A live experience.
Music should not be an exercise in tweaking and editing.
The same day I watched this film, I had a conversation with a friend about what seemed a completely separately matter. We were discussing Adobe Photoshop and how it is used i.e. those with little creative talent but with access to the tools can make an average image appear great. This parallels with the ability of a digital studio, via AutoTune, quantization, sampling, and endless multi-tracking to achieve a good result (to many ears) when the input itself may have been quite poor.
Digital tools, when used considerately and with a creative vision, can be fantastic and achieve amazing things. However, technology should not replace creativity.
In conversation with my friend today, I mentioned how I have moved away from processes of loop-based composition and data-based recordings, and returned to the increasingly niche musicology of recording live performance and getting the feel of the live recording right. Not a "fix it in the mix" mentality.
I once sat down at a piano in a music store, only to have the owner of the store overhear me and comment "Oh, you're a real piano player". He had become used to the window-shoppers who liked to scroll through soundbanks and samples, and hear what the technology could offer them, rather than see what they could do with a responsive instrument.
I do feel that playing live, by feel, and with others in a room is becoming increasingly uncommon. What do you think?
Paul Doolan provides online keyboard recording sessions for bands and solo artists.
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