[f_minor] Remastered GG edition

Robert Merkin bobmerk at earthlink.net
Tue May 12 12:33:53 MDT 2015

This brings us back to a persistent theme in GG's art and pychology: perfectionism. His retreat from the concert stage and advance into the studio, with its technical wizardry, were his declaration of making perfectionism a central virtue of what he wanted to achieve.

I've grumbled before that IMHO, sterility is the unavoidable handmaiden of perfectionism. To achieve the perfect requires the loss of spontaneity, risk, daring, thrill -- like crossing Niagara on a guaranteed solid bridge with sturdy handrails rather than a tightrope.

So 33 years after he died, many of us still long and dream for an even more perfect edition of his keyboard work.

Although they, too, were ear art produced by the same brain/spirit and the same fingers, it's interesting that nobody ever asks for audio-improved "more perfect" re-masterings of the radio documentaries. It's facile to say, "Well, one was keyboard music, the other was dialogue montage."

One of my thrills in recorded music is early capturings of great talents. I have two editions of the first RCA Caruso sessions, both in 33 1/3 LP vinyl. The first was RCA/Camden (NJ)'s "standard" lavishing of state-of-the-art analog technology. 

(Caruso "made" RCA's phonograph; before his voice came out of the sound horn, the public had only mild curiosity about this new arcade gimmick. I think RCA paid the unknown Italian $25 to sing about 12 songs.)

The second, issued soon after, was the Stockham Soundstream version -- the first digital remastering of any music, the pioneering effort of the technology that soon nearly completely took over the recorded music industry, and nearly extincted the vinyl analog system. Digitizing Caruso produced no miracles by itself. But Thomas Stockham had analyzed the Caruso recordings and concluded that much or most of the squawk and noise and hiss weren't due to old age or 80 years of dust in the cylinder grooves, but due to the acoustic characteristics of "shouting" and pointing accompanying instruments into the giant sound collection horn in the era before electric/electronic microphones. (The horn mechanically wiggled the groove-cutting needle.)

This collection-horn trouble could be identified and filtered out mathematically by computer. The result "jumped" Caruso several decades toward the era of sensitive electric/electronic microphones -- from Caruso's recording tech to Billie Holiday's electric/electronic microphone tech.

Suddenly modern ears can hear what all the gossip and buzz about Enrico Caruso was all about. It ain't perfect -- still lots of crude squawk and hiss and noise -- but Stockham had rescued the lost spirit, the emotion, the concert thrill of Caruso circa 1903.

The whole issue of what makes a perfect or an aesthetically valuable recording, or what truly best represents a performing artist, is very under-discussed and under-thought-out. Some treasures are not rendered "better" by applying new popophonic dysenstereo 36-bit 12-channel audio techno. Their value or treasure had been there from the first, courtesy of the performers themselves.

I guess another way of saying this -- I started buying GG stuph around 1971 -- is I never heard a GG recording I didn't like. And never yearned for a new remastering that would technologically "improve" the old recording and make me love it more. I've bought and had Happy Thought about new editions, but the magic was in the recordings I first heard, the magic hasn't been improved since.

Massachusetts USA

P.S. Winter finally ended and boy am I happy. Off-list I'd be happy to dicuss the existence or non-existence of Climate Change, and Whose Fault it is.

What up recently, if anything, with lossless digital technologies like FLAC?

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