Friday, 1 January 2010

Doo Wop Dialog[ue]: 51

(42/M/London, England)

The day is noisier - there was a perfect, early morning calm when I wrote the original, but I'll try to recapture the gist and hope that the good, unselfconscious rhythms kick in at some point and not worry that good phrases that popped up during the composition before are gone (I find I do feel quite annoyed about it still, because it brings in selfconsciousness to a way of communicating that's been very free for me up till now. Anyway...).

My posting was expanding, in part, what I'd already said in my reply to Mark, but is as much for Clarke, Brian, anyone who's into this conversation about ITSOTN.

Mark, you mentioned the mysterious thing going on with all these elements together and the way we don't just listen, we experience a song. It's the song, listener, group, past/present, yearnings, everything together.

But one thing we haven't touched upon in this series of postings is the sound itself - the actual technical quality of what was recorded in that New Haven church basement all those years ago. And we have to admit it's not, technically, "good," put up against the clarity of quite a few other records. Even on the best CD transfer I've heard it doesn't get much beyond an AM radio with the batteries low. But I think that's part of the magic, the mysterious. There are lots of "better," clearer records to like. But it's like hearing a friend's voice on a tape recorder. You don't care about the sound quality. Your mind fills in the gaps and you see the whole picture. And the amateurish quality seems to put it more within our grasp as well. There's no studio trickery - that is Fred and the boys, no more, no less.

But simple and unadorned as it is, there's something special about that recording. I heard a live version by the Nutmegs. And it was...fine. But it wasn't the Five Satins – and more to the point, it wasn't that murky recording.

When I first came on the net last month, I spent a mesmerising couple of hours at a website devoted to discussing which mono 45s could now be found in stereo on CD, and more or less saying that record companies had a moral duty to create a stereo version if the four track (or whatever) master tapes had survived, even if the recording had never, ever been issued in stereo on vinyl on LP reissues. I had some sympathy - two hours, after all - but I eventually tore myself away and haven't felt the urge to revisit since. There was an implicit love for the music in what they were doing, but it seemed to be getting lost by not being articulated clearly enough. Sure, I favour Ace and Rhino reissues (though there was a lot of bitching about Rhino favouring mono) and all hail Little Walter DeVenne, etc, but if all your energies are taken up agonising over the precise placing of the lead vocal in the stereo image that leaves out all the more elusive stuff that goes on when we listen, including - the essential point of this resurrected posting - the fact that how we first hear a record, the quality of the sound, can be an integral part of how we experience it ever after.

(continues - couldn't stand losing a mammoth posting again!)

I was referring to the Stereo Chat Board on Mike Callahan's Both Sides Now Publications website, which I have, ahem, returned to on occasion. (Set a timer before you explore.)

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