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Author Topic: One more question about the "documentary recording" philosophy  (Read 11546 times)


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Re: One more question about the "documentary recording" philosophy
« Reply #60 on: April 14, 2006, 01:47:04 am »

Generally agree on your points, Steve...

One caveat comes to mind, which is that recorded music is more lingua franca than it is singular vox. An engineer or producer with a long and varied background of observing how certain chronic recurring issues are resolved by the bands with which he's worked may have a little more insight than the insulated group of 5 guys who are stumbling through their career, reinventing the wheel of social cybernetics. Particularly if they're related. I've seen brothers in bands drive into the wall repeatedly and NOT be able to resolve it. And the ability to state clearly the issues on the table sometimes was the job of a neutral party, whom they hired and fired until they got somebody they trusted to state their case for them.  I think it 's the band's decision to make whether to solicit those opinions, and it's the engineer's sacred responsibility to assure that his own fucked-up biases are not what's driving the insight he might impart...the old Kant Critique of Pure Reason deal of knowing thoroughly yourself and your idiosyncracies as the best road to the tightest-knit relationship between intention and effect. I hate the idea of an engineer as dictator, but if I were the artist I'd strongly consider anything Phil Ramone might have to offer. OTOH there's a whole shitload of other guys I wouldn't even want in the room, that have worked on a lot of hits.

What about the fact that for better or worse, stylized sounds are part of the vernacular? If the band dictates that they want the drummer to sound like Bonham, then i'm not going to ask them if I should use an LA-2A set just so, I'll just expect the engineer patch one in and twist it until they're happy. And if they're unhappy I'll ask them to clarify what they're hearing through specific examples, metaphor or sign language. If they're unhappy when Mr Engineer's happy too often he's gone. But I don't agonize over what they mean at the outset, because much of the time we're quoting other sounds from other players from other days.  I'm paid to know the language. I don't resist using what I know to be the common moves in the trade, if they're requested.

Here's a gnarlier case:  If the band is now thrilled and the drummer looks uncomfortable, i don't know if it's my job to passively leave the thing patched in if he hasn't the verbal chops to dictate another approach. I'm not sure in that case it's correct to just let the band (not) work it out. I think it's possible (without falling into the poker metaphor) to be aware of the stone fact that speaking through an instrument is a direct communication often in a language that is the only mode the artist can manage. He might be a deaf-mute who plays beautifully, and can't express a coherent thought. It's still my job to help him achieve his goal.  So self-consciously maintaining the purist neutral zen master may potentially fail to fill a vacuum, and that is not, by my lights, always the best service I can give the artist. That, too, is a self-referential stance, and I'm not sure that i completely endorse it therefore. I would presume there's a nuanced POV that you'd interject here that would help me understand.

My concern is when I observe a band dynamic that is crushing the daylights out of one very creative and key but conflict-aversive member... because the singer is verbally adroit and a bit of a bully... and loved Ron Nevison's hairstyle from some old magazine... or dreams of dripping concrete crypts because of some lyric he's working on that we won't see until next month and he's forcing that environment on the drummer... Isn't it in their best interest for me the producer (or absent that me the engineer) to help make the best record possible by reading the drummer's facial expression and asking if he (not they) might like to try a different approach? Maybe you find out 2 days into it that for better or worse the domineering singer has the band's sound in his head and he's right? Isn't it our job to also read that and switch tactics and respond accordingly? Or is it just to stay out of all of that, put up a neutral set of flat mics and press record and let the kid get run over by his bandmates, to their forever-edified deficit? Are all we to do is document potential failure, or are we allowed by dint of varied and carefully earned experience to occasionally intervene? Again, not meaning to be argumentative: I'm sure there's an answer and we could learn from hearing how you cast the response.

I dunno. I'm asking. Speaking plainly,  i don't see how one can be too aggressively recessive and still do a good job. Overbearing? Fuck That. When I feel that coming on, i reread the Kant.

Curious to hear your thoughts.

Jamie Howarth
plangent processes

"Typically the first reaction to hearing our flutter reduction system is "WOW!" and we say, 'nope, not anymore' ".
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