[f_minor] Remastered GG edition

Jörgen Lundmark jorgen.lundmark at mypost.se
Tue May 12 16:12:55 MDT 2015

Very interesting comments on sound quality, Robert. Something Gould 
himself no doubt thought a lot about.

I have to say though that your own example of Caruso makes the idea of 
sound-improvement valid. If you compare the original 78s with the very 
best (most sensitively made) digital remasterings I'd be very surprised 
if most listeners wouldn't agree upon the superiority of the latter. I 
wouldn't say it's a question of trying to achieve something that was not 
there in the first place. It's not a question of making perfect, but 
making the original shine the best it possibly can. And since we are 
dealing with technologies that has been improving over the years -- you 
can show that say the best modern microphone is better equipped to 
register sound than the equivalent produced 50 years ago for example -- 
this is not a question of wishful thinking.

Now, this is not the same as saying that every new edition is better 
than the previous one. In popular music you have the stupid idea of 
increasing the mean volume by reducing the dynamics; in classical music 
too many releases of historical recordings sound lifeless because the 
background noise has been too severely cut. It's a question of 
sensitivity and knowledge by the person making the remastering. There 
are many excellent examples of contemporary remasterings that do sound 
better than previous editions: "Horowitz at Carnegie Hall", Karajan's 
1960s Beethoven edition and his Mahler 5th to name three examples. And 
of course there are several other examples that is actually less impressive.

The very idea of improving something digitally is I would say is very 
much in Gould's spirit. Changing the original -- ignoring the "sacred" 
original -- was something he approved of. Since I prefer Gould to stay 
Gouldian I wouldn't want producers to go that far. But if they can 
manage to bring me closer to the original masters I would be very happy. 
What that constitutes is of course open to debate. Sound quality is 
sometimes a tricky area to agree upon.

> 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.
> Bob
> 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.
> P.P.S.
> What up recently, if anything, with lossless digital technologies like 
> *News, Global Warming, Mozart, Sports, Intergalactic Travel, sausages,
> VOLCANOS!!! opera, PIRATES!!! Filth in Extinct Lingos, *
> *Big Integers & BOINC: **http://VleeptronZ.blogspot.com/*
> *Remarkable Older Stuph: **http://Vleeptron.blogspot.com/*

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