SOUND REPRO 2012
THE SAD TRUTH
For four decades The Anstendig Institute has been waiting for digital sound reproduction technology to equal or exceed analog sound recording with the expectation that the great treasures of analog sound would finally be made available to all in digital recordings. That has not come to pass even though digital sound recording technology has caught up with analog technology and might even be able to exceed it.
Instead of concentrating on making the great sound treasures of the history of sound recording available to all in adequate technology, newest advances in sound recording technology have centered on dumbing down the quality of the sound in the interest of selling more sound recordings in ever smaller spaces. Hundreds, even thousands of songs on devices the size of a cell phone are now the rage of the day. And none of them is capable of even the original CD sound that The Anstendig Institute has explained to be incapable of accurately capturing the emotional expression of sound, especially not of fine music. And if the emotional expression is not accurate and is lacking in detail, the sound does not have anything even close to its possible effect.
What the world does not comprehend is that, for the human being, emotional qualities in all their enormous varieties are what make life worthwhile. They are what all people crave in one way or another. But the human being is capable of a wide range of emotional qualities. And the finest, most refined, subtle emotional qualities are capable of the deepest, most moving, most piercing, most ecstatic effects. And what everyone craves is not just typical ecstasy, which is usually short-lived and fleeting. Once the human being has experienced ecstasy in its typical short-lived forms (sexual, religious, etc.), he or she craves ways of prolonging and intensifying ecstatic experience. And the most viable means of extending ecstatic experience is music.
In the 19th century, into the first half of the 20th century, composers like Mahler and Richard Strauss experimented with extending ecstatic experience. In his opera Die Frau Ohne Schatten, Richard Strauss went “as far as I want to go” in prolonging ecstatic experience of both kinds, the gentle exquisitely piercing kind, in the gentle Barak scenic interludes, and the kind incited by louder, full orchestra and voices, in the last scene, in which, when the performance works, intense ecstatic experience is extended for more than 10 minutes (both kinds are contained in Karl Bohm’s studio recording with the Vienna State Opera). Mahler has many lengthy ecstatic sections in his works. Examples are the last two movements of the 4th Symphony in Abravanel’s and Klemperer’s recordings, and, especially, the last movement of the 5th Symphony in Barbirolli’s recording, which is sad, like crying babies; the sweetness of the childlike expression is especially piercing, when well reproduced.
Those are only a few examples of epitomes of sonic possibilities for highest- level human experience and the differentiation of finest emotional qualities.
An enormous amount of extraordinary emotional depth and value has been preserved in the recordings of the past century, and The Anstendig Institute has expected that the improvements in recorded sound would result in the world’s having these treasures of human possibility available to it for all to experience. Unfortunately, that has not come to pass.
The universal digital trend to reduce sound recordings to their tiniest size in order to get as much sound onto tiny machines like iPhones, miniaturized computers, and such has resulted in most of the world hearing and experiencing its musical and other sonic experiences through dumbed down recording formats that can provide hundreds of songs and other works on media that can fit into a shirt pocket and smaller but is incapable of capturing the actual emotional qualities of the sound as it was originally recorded.
The sound in these dumbed down recorded formats changes the emotions of the original, coarsening them and removing the depth of experience captured in the better original recordings. And this trend is now no longer just a trend. It is a reality.
Pretty much the whole world is experiencing most of its sonic and musical experiences through these expressively limited forms. Those listening to these recordings are not aware that they are being conditioned to experiences that are not even a shadow of the possibilities, but are, rather, simply low quality, undifferentiated falsifications of the original experiences. Although the songs and sounds they hear still move people, one way or another, people have no means of comparing what they are hearing and experiencing to what is really possible as contained in the originals before the sound format was dumbed down. That comparison is complex and demands much time and disciplined listening that most facilities do not have the means of making possible.
It is a sad tragedy to those who know what the possibilities are and how they would enrich human life in general. And it would be hard to convince those enjoying dumbed down music of its dangerous consequences. The papers of The Anstendig Institute of the last decades warn of degradation of sound due to poor recording media/quality and the effects of this degradation. We warned against the defects of CD sound. But these new dumbed down formats, like MP3, are infinitely worse. And the whole world is losing the finest of its possible experiences.