Sunday, February 10, 2008

From the mailbag...

Eli writes:
First of all, as a musician myself (keyboards and percussion), I appreciate your blog and your unique view of the state of Jewish Music today. Thank you and keep up the good work.

Second of all, I read your post regarding bans and could not agree with you more. Bravo for talking about the extremist white elephant that is trampling over good old fashioned Yiddeshe common sense. Halevai more people would have the guts to say what most of us are thinking.

Finally, Disclaimer: I am an "out of towner" from the hicks and sticks of Baltimore, MD. I had the occasion to be at a Chasuna in NY recently and was astounded at the amount of talking and general background noise that was going on during the chupah. Maybe it's a New York thing... I don't know. Also, the wedding had a star-studded 12 piece Negina band (a string quartet + 8 pieces for dance, + 1 singer.) As a musician, I was in heaven. It was absolutely beautiful. I was surprised, however, at the amount of "goyeshe" music that was played... apparently if one sings Nachman M'Breslov or some variation of that, it turns techno dance music Jewish... Don't get me wrong - It was nice, but after a while I thought that I was on a treadmill listening to my IPod as opposed to at a Jewish wedding. I still "can't get [that song] out of my head"!

Just my observations. Keep up the good work.
Jordan Kaplan writes:
Dear D Minor (well-chosen key for Jewish music),

Thought you might be interested in checking this out...

Kol tuv,
David Feman writes:
There is a song that is sung usually on shabat with an amazing soulful tune...."kol mikadesh shvi". Do you know who wrote this tune or where I can hear it?
Pinny Gilden writes:
I'm not sure how this happened. One day I turned on the radio in my living room, it just happened to be Jewish Music on 87.5 FM in the NYC area. I figured it was just a one hour radio program dedicated to Jewish music.

I came home from work, and turned it back on, and the music was still playing to my surprise for HOURS and HOURS. It doesn't pick up anywhere else but my living room, but it seems like it runs 24/6 with really great assortments of Jewish music.

Just thought I would share this with you, I live in Queens, so I am not sure about the surrounding areas, I'd be curious to know who runs this wonderful broadcast and if anyone else can pick it up on their radio.
Someone emailed about this a while back.

Zal Schreiber writes:
Hi, Zal here.

I just wanted to comment on something close to my heart… Music Mastering.

I was setting up my (home) studio with a new piece of gear, a Mackie BigKnob Studio Command System, which is a sound listening center for studios to listen back to the various playback devices…all coming through a central listening system. Great for switching back and forth between devices to compare before and after sounds…listening between CDs and DVDs and Digital Audio Workstations, reel to reel tape machines or a turntable if you still happen to have one, etc. Very handy.

And so, I was listening to the CD I listen to most often when I evaluate music systems. I’ve done this at Dale Audio in NYC through hundred thousand dollar playback systems, and at my professional place of work (Atlantic Studios) and in my home studio. The one song I use for this system evaluation (a music track without the vocals…”At the Beginning”) has great musical dynamics, and full audio frequency spectrum, and is a big $$$ production (the song was in the animated video “Anastasia”). It really fits the bill for sound system analysis.

And so, after listening and adjusting the Mackie to get it to be right-on, my son came into the room with a highly acclaimed Jewish CD. Noted engineers, producers and musicians were on the CD. I asked my son to get it because I was tired of listening to the type of “Jewish” music my kids bring home. As I like good music, I though this CD would be different. OK, I’m not going to comment on THAT issue. Let me leave that for another time, as I don’t need to have tomatoes tossed my direction. I'll wait 'til when I plan to cook up some tomato sauce.

And so, I expectantly put up this Jewish CD to the same listening level (volume) that I had just listened to with the “test” CD I had just played and calibrated my system with… back to back… that close. And as I’m listening to this lauded CD, I find myself pulling down the volume to listen to it more comfortably. And I kept bringing the listening level lower and lower. And finally, I walked out to my son and mentioned that the sonics (sound quality) were a bit harsh to my ears…and he said,” Oh, yeah, that’s right. I didn’t want to mention it to you when I gave you the CD”.

Hmm. So it wasn’t only in MY head. The sound was brash as opposed to the sonically smoother “secular” song I had just listened to, the one that always seems to hit that musical spot just right. Hmmmmm.

I went to the CD liner notes to check where the CD had been mastered. Well, it wasn’t mastered anywhere. It was recorded and mixed, but that was it. It just wasn’t mastered. The mixers evidently were the last ones who left the final sonic impression on the music. So be it.

This was not the first time I have come across big-name releases and found that they were lacking at least some consideration for art’s sake, to the music, artist, and the public, concerning the proper mastering of Jewish Music. Mastering takes a group of songs and makes it into a cohesive, unified project, ironing out the raw edges, adding sweetness, specifically tapering it for the medium it is on.

Many years ago, when I was looking to branch out, and thought to offer my services to the Jewish artists and companies – and public, I sent out letters to most of the Jewish record companies and producers- offering my services, and I got not one reply. Someone called me to do some menial sound task (for minimal remuneration) but no one bit. I called up one of the real biggies (at the time) and spoke to one of the owners, and asked what his mastering budget was. He said $150-175…I said, hey, that pays for just about the transfer from analog to digital (just about no-one records on analog nowadays). He said, yeah, you’re right. So, no consideration was given for sprucing up the sound, formatting it correctly, and just enhancing the final sound of the musical project. Zilch.

Believe me, music mastering can make a BIG difference to the ultimate quality of sound on/of a musical release. You would consciously or unconsciously listen to a well-mastered disc more than other CDs in your collection, as it would be ultimately more pleasing to and kinder to the ears, if the music merited it, of course. Everyone is familiar with the expression “music to my ears”, right? Listening to music should be pleasant not irritating. (Music mixing… now that’s a whole other topic, right folks?)

It was some years ago when I sent out my music mastering promo, but, I’m sorry, not much seems to have changed over the years, at least as far as mind processes. As far as technology, everything’s changed. Everybody has gear that can record music. But does everyone know how to use it properly? Have they mastered the subtlety in/of producing music that is fulfilling not only performance wise, but ambience wise as well? Are they sensitive to the psycho/acoustical impact of digital sound on the listeners? Of ANY sound on the listeners? I fear not. Actually, I KNOW not. Sorry guys.

While I’m off on this tangent, let me ask you this. When you go to a Chasunah, does the music level exceed a healthy volume level? Do your ears hurt not just after you leave the wedding some hours on, but while the music is being played? Do you find your ears ringing for some time, OR DAYS, after you attend? Well, I’m beginning to bring my sound pressure level meter to see how over the level really is. In Israel, they (the Rabbanim, mind you) have passed a law concerning loud music at Simchas. We, IY”H should have many, but we should be able to hear as well as we came into the Simcha as when we go out…

We are destroying our hearing and poorly mastered music projects and dangerously loud Simcha amplification is deleterious to our aural senses (hearing). If the sound hurts, it is doing damage.


And watch your headphone levels !

Just some thoughts on an important issue. Your hearing health, and, secondarily, your listening enjoyment.
I intend to write a follow up post to "Handel Ehrlekh - A Wigged-Out Photo Blog", which will include emails received on that post.