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Why is music no longer recorded the way it used to be? [translation]

When the old fans complain about songs that have been nominated for a Grammy this year, there’s a reason.

It’s time for the annual Grammy awards, and as always, Sunday’s ceremony will highlight the generational difference: “the Music that is being written now is not what it used to be,” grumble baby boomers and gen Xers.
And they are right. For the most part, modern music is fundamentally different from what was recorded in the nostalgic 70s and 80s.last year, the industry marked an important milestone in sales. The recording industry Association of America confirmed that” their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) ” by the Eagles was the best-selling album in the United States of all time, with sales of 38 million.it Should be noted that records, CDS and online purchases were taken into account. So purists will have to close their eyes to the fact that the greatest album was not an LP.The album, released almost 43 years ago, was the first to receive platinum status (sales of 1 million) – a reminder that once songs were valued so much that millions of people continued to buy them in reissues. It was also seen as a quiet victory by those who think the music is too loud today.
A scene from “volume War” Compression of the dynamic range of pop music has been used in recording studios for decades. The more aggressive use of compression in recent years is illustrated by these two examples. In” This Is America”, the peak levels are cut off, and the average volume fluctuates less than in”What’s Going On”. The distance between the peaks (red dots) and the middle level (green graph) shows how much the song’s range was compressed, and is six decibels more in a Marvin Gaye song than in a Childish Gambino song. Even more examples can be seen later in our material.

Charts illustrate the peak and RMS volume of each song every half second during a 20-second sample
By “too loud,” I don’t mean the Eagles ‘ music, which was turned on full blast. I’m talking about volume as the level of sound intensity within a particular recording. Our ears perceive the volume in the environment, reflexively noting the dynamic range — the difference between the quietest and loudest sounds. In this case, the environment is the recording itself, not the room where you play it.
A loud commercial may make us lower the volume, but its audio peak/maximum sound level is no higher than in a normal program that it interrupts. It’s just that advertising is much more likely to use the maximum allowed volume of sounds. A radio station with classical music can broadcast a signal with the same power as a hip-hop channel, but it just uses the maximum sound peaks every few minutes, while a hip-hop radio — several times a second.Triumph of loudness these 30-second samples of 15 popular songs, sorted by year of release, illustrate the trend towards more aggressive mastering. Many modern songs have clipping on signal peaks and have a higher volume compared to older tracks.
The charts show the peak and RMS volume of each song every half second for thirty seconds of the sample, starting one minute before the song starts. Some tracks may have been remastered after their original release
In this case, the loudest recording is the one whose dynamic range is limited (i.e. the ratio between the loudest and the quietest sound is reduced). For many decades, musicians and sound engineers have resorted to compression of the dynamic range to achieve a richer sound. Compression boosts the quieter sounds and reduce loud, creating a more narrow range. Historically, what compression is usually used at the mastering stage — the preparation of the records for commercial release.
In the pre-digital era, the mastering engineer was responsible for this process. In the case of digital recording, just a few mouse clicks can dramatically compress the dynamic range. As a result, the music becomes more aggressive by ear, just like in TV ads.In the 90s, when digital technology was introduced to the recording process, some engineers resorted to compression, competing for the loudest sound. This phenomenon, called “loudness war” in the industry, was caused by the interconnection of aesthetic and economic demands. A louder recording attracts attention and will always, or at least initially, be perceived as being of higher quality compared to a less compressed album. That’s why the musicians didn’t want their product to seem weak compared to others. Maximum volume was considered a prerequisite for commercial success.

The charts show the peak and RMS volume of each song every half second for thirty seconds of the sample, starting one minute before the song starts. Some tracks may have been remastered after their original release
The fight got so heated that some sound engineers went even further. They not only compressed the dynamic range as much as possible, but also drove the loudest parts of the soundtrack beyond the maximum peak in this format. At such moments, the sound wave is distorted in its shape — clipping.
This effect is sometimes used intentionally for certain artistic purposes — it can even contribute to some curious dissonance that will only benefit the music. But in the ‘ 90s, clipping became just another weapon in the pursuit of loudness, which was focused on commercial appeal rather than artistic challenges.By the end of the decade, engineers who stayed out of the fray were losing customers. Recording engineers and record producers often found that their carefully crafted recordings were rejected at the mastering stage. Over time, as listeners increasingly listened to music through headphones and cheap computer speakers, many engineers and producers found themselves working for nothing in search of the rich sound diversity inherent in the past.

The charts show the peak and RMS volume of each song every half second for thirty seconds of the sample, starting one minute before the song starts. Some tracks may have been remastered after their original release
While many are overwhelmed by the volume of the recording seems to benefit from this gambling on compression. The 1992 album “the Chronic” by rapper Dr. Dre and the second Studio album of the British Oasis “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?”these are the most frequently mentioned high-profile recordings that have achieved commercial success. Everyone knows other major releases: “Californication “(1999) Red Hot Chili Peppers,” Vapor Trails “(2002) Rush and” Death Magnetic ” (2008) Metallica, squeezed so much that at the time caused complaints from fans.
All of this volume manipulation had a potential drawback. Many professionals claim that excessive volume causes auditory fatigue. We may not notice this consciously, they argue, but it reduces the likelihood that we will listen to music for a long time. Although this is difficult to prove, it cannot be denied that the reduction in dynamic range has limited the sound palette of recordings.When compact discs were first released in the ‘ 80s, one of their advantages was their ability to cover a larger dynamic range than in vinyl records, but today’s popular recordings have a smaller dynamic range than recordings made in the analog era.Grammy nominees Record of the Year 2019 30-second samples of these eight songs show that the trend of strong compression is still strong. Tracks are sorted by the distance between their peaks and the average volume.

Charts show the peak and RMS volume of each song every half second for 30 seconds of the sample, starting one minute from the beginning of the song
A few years ago, Chris Johnson, a developer of audio software, tested a theory supported by some anti-loudness activists that the industry-wide hypercompression was partly to blame for the artist’s career decline.
Based on the list of the best-selling records of all time, he reorganized them in order of “commercial importance”, assigning each a score obtained by multiplying the number of platinum certificates in the album (how many millions sold) by the number of years it was on the market. These are records that were not just popular, they also continued to sell successfully over the years. Then he used software to analyze the” sound character ” of each album.Johnson was able to discover that they had one thing in common: these albums, regardless of genre, had a high dynamic range. The most commercially important albums had many “high-contrast “moments when” sharply changing instruments”, like short bursts of energy, stood out from the”background space where the instruments are placed”. This was especially noticeable on vocals and percussion (one of the most intriguing similarities is between Michael Jackson’s ” Thriller “and Pink Floyd’s” the Wall ” album).

Charts show the peak and RMS volume of each song every half second for 30 seconds of the sample, starting one minute from the beginning of the song
Volume plays a role, but most of us like it when there is time for a break in music, so that our eardrums can delight in small bursts of sound. In a tight, compressed recording, the music can quickly run out of steam.
Tops Mr. Johnson’s list, just ahead of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, “their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)” by the Eagles. “It’s great news, but not unexpected,” Johnson said, ” to find that the most successful album in history contains some of the most striking dynamic contrasts known to pop music.”

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