Original Music 2017

Machine Winter

 Machine Winter

4 minutes 36 seconds| In the middle of this winter’s journey, I produce the rapid-fire snowflakes one should imagine generating from the mind of Nineteenth Century Russian composer Mily Balakirev. Generally this cello-led ensemble is evocative of a snowy Russian winter (as presented in this mysterious painting by Nineteenth Century Russian painter Ivan Aivazovsky). The final phrase turns sweetly, depicting evaporating snowflakes. The coda sounds an ominous note in the kettle drum, as surely the winter storm will intensify.

Time stamp: 12/06/17.

Record Icon High verses Low Fidelity When Mixing Music: Differing listening experiences require different approaches in mixing. High Fidelity may be thought of as a valley separated by two hills: one hill being comprised of bass frequencies; the other, high treble. Midrange frequencies (200 Hz to 5,000 kHz) carry most of the sound in a recording, but if any one portion of this bandwidth here gets too loud, a variety of unpleasant effects ensue: scraping metal sounds toward the top end; droning, thuddy sounds toward the low. By sculpting out middle frequencies and letting treble and low bass float, a warm bell tone quality is achieved, which possesses both crispness and a round smooth tone. Additionally, spaciousness is imparted where loud instruments are perceived as being set far apart. High fidelity takes full advantage of stereophonic deliveries systems, including full-range speakers and headphones. Classical music and traditional jazz particularly benefit from hi-fi mixing since they are made up exclusively of acoustic instruments whose midrange tones can be overpowering when they get too loud or are too closely mic-ed.

Both hi-fi and lo-fi recordings are improved where bass and mid-bass hertz are trimmed from most instruments, not only from acoustic instruments such as brass and woodwinds, but also from strings, piano, etc. Tones falling within the range of 100 Hz to 750 Hz may add fullness and percussive heft to small ensembles, but in larger groupings they are gobbled up by the bass and drums and are not heard at all. Similarly this range of tones suppress the overall volume of a piece and create mud where it can do little else. When these frequencies are removed from an instrument with a high pass filter, such as with a flute, which can be trimmed to 1,000 kHz or higher, the instrument loses little of its character or volume. Moreover the sound of the music may brighten considerably where the instrument has little competition within a narrow band to frequencies.

One must guard against removing too much midrange, however. These frequencies work like an anchor on treble frequencies, preventing them from becoming loud, shrill, and thin. The effect is the reverse of too much midrange: Whereas the music is peaking at a lower volume than desired in these initial cases, the music is perceived as being intolerably loud where the treble runs wild, even if the music is nowhere near peaking.

Most listening experiences fall within the domain of low fidelity, including AM radio, smart phones, and iPods. Here volume is needed to overcome low wattage and small speakers, and it is impossible, in many cases, to get high fidelity specifications loud enough. The music hisses in tiny speakers, and nothing of the balancing bass is heard. Midrange frequencies, especially 1,000 to 7,000 kHz, carry the presence of the music and should dominate in challenging listening environments, such as a moving automobile. Lo-fi recording techniques translate well (if not optimally) to high fidelity delivery systems.

When looking at rock music recorded in the Nineteen Seventies, modern ears may judge this music as lacking brigthness. This is because it was mixed for volume, where it had to be audible on car radios, or worse. AM radio is no longer a preferred listening music for most people. Beginning in the Nineteen Eighties, high-end treble began to appear, and the overall quality of recorded music improved.

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