Anything that can get me away from my computer is, in my eyes. worth pursuing but look where I am now... back at the compy to share something interesting. I've been slowly subscribing to magazines because most of them are cheap and some free. The latter one being Tape Op, which is probably my favorite magazine because it doesn't dumb down it's articles and they carry the voice of the interviewee quite well. Subscribe but be warned they openly admit to selling your information:
"We also want to let you know that Tape Op does sometimes sell our mailing list to advertisers.".
There is an option to pay 30 something dollars to bypass the selling of information. Anyways, onwards to what I was going to post until I get a notice to take it down:
So during this development period (computers 25 years ago) - especially with the digital recording side of it - were there any interesting revelations made on your end?
Well, what was striking, especially in 1976, was the degree of control and resolution in digital and the relative absence of some of what I didn't like about analog recording. There are good things about analog recording, but when you're going for a particular sonic goal - creating a sound when you're working in synthesis and recording it, it was often difficult to capture it on an analog recording. For example, using old analog synthesis on a Moog - well, the good part about analog synthesis was that there were some rather pure sounds that were created there. So, you knew what it sounded like coming out of the instrument. But, when it went to tape, the sound wouldn't come back quite the same because had a lot of non-linearities in its recording process. Repeat that with a number of overdubs in the arrangement and the discontinuities multiply. When it went to LP disk, it got mangled even more. So what transformed between what was going on at the instrument output in the studio to what was finally out there for a record-buying public to take home and play on their turntables really was a pretty inaccurate version of what the original studio vision was supposed to be. The digital process - as soon as I starting hearing what was going with that - I realized that it stayed pretty much the same. Digital didn't induce phase errors, there weren't drastic re-emphasis and de-emphasis curves going on that were mangling the sound and screwing up the phase. There were plenty of things that drove us nuts about LPs - inner groove distortion, inaccuracies with speeds unless people had the money to buy the very best playback equipment. There wasn't a lot of democratization - it really meant the more money you had to throw into a home system the closer you could get to the ideal. But you still couldn't actually get there because it simply couldn't go into the grooves because of the compression and low-end roll-off and all of that. So for an electronic composer, it was sort of heartbreaking hearing all the thundering low end and the shrieking highs and the huge dynamic range that you could pull out of a Moog synth or later, a digital one, just not make it to the vinyl that finally got released. You kind of had to shoehorn everything first onto tape then into the LP. SO watching the chain from studio creation to end listener at hoe go to digital, to me, was a big improvement. I'm not saying digital is perfect - it's got flaws too, but revisions and refinements are always coming down the pike. At least there's an evolving way of getting sound from studio to the listeners' homes that had already plateaued with tape and disk analog. So that was one side of it for me - that digital was a purer electronic composer's record medium. And another thing I first experienced at Bell Labs in the 70's was that of digital synthesis and recording - my introduction to digital editing, or being able to reshape waveforms - going to resynthesis - you know, other techniques which are not necessarily a part of everybody's home recording rig even yet - those capabilities expanded the possibilities enormously. Just looking at it in 1976 or '77 as a composer from one side, and as engineer-producer from another - my thought was, 'This is going to be great... if it can ever come out of the laboratory!' I wasn't sure if it would ever become available in a cost-effective way for an individual person to use in my lifetime. So it's really a dream that it happened.
Written by Roman Sokal
In Tape Op No.38 Nov/Dec 2003