Neil Young’s Lonely Quest to Save Music

Discussion in 'The Sound Hound Lounge' started by diego, Aug 20, 2019.

  1. diego

    diego Member

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    This article could use some editing, but...

    "Neil Young’s Lonely Quest to Save Music: He says low-quality streaming is hurting our songs and our brains. Is he right?"

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/20/magazine/neil-young-streaming-music.html?action=click&module=Editors Picks&pgtype=Homepage&login=email&auth=login-email

    Since it is loooong and there will be comments based on the single sentence above... a small excerpt:

    'At ground level, which is to say not the level where technologists live but the level where artists write and record songs for people who care about the human experience of listening to music, the internet was as if a meteor had wiped out the existing planet of sound. The compressed, hollow sound of free streaming music was a big step down from the CD. “Huge step down from vinyl,” Young said. Each step eliminated levels of sonic detail and shading by squeezing down the amount of information contained in the package in which music was delivered. Or, as Young told me, you are left with “5 percent of the original music for your listening enjoyment.”

    Producers and engineers often responded to the smaller size and lower quality of these packages by using cheap engineering tricks, like making the softest parts of the song as loud as the loudest parts. This flattened out the sound of recordings and fooled listeners’ brains into ignoring the stuff that wasn’t there anymore, i.e., the resonant combinations of specific human beings producing different notes and sounds in specific spaces at sometimes ultraweird angles that the era of magnetic tape and vinyl had so successfully captured.

    If you want to envision how Young feels about the possibility of having to listen to not only his music but also American jazz, rock ’n’ roll and popular song via our dominant streaming formats, imagine walking into the Metropolitan Museum of Art or the Musée d’Orsay one morning and finding that all of the great canvases in those museums were gone and the only way to experience the work of Gustave Courbet or Vincent van Gogh was to click on pixelated thumbnails.

    But Young hears something creepier and more insidious in the new music too. We are poisoning ourselves with degraded sound, he believes, the same way that Monsanto is poisoning our food with genetically engineered seeds. The development of our brains is led by our senses; take away too many of the necessary cues, and we are trapped inside a room with no doors or windows. Substituting smoothed-out algorithms for the contingent complexity of biological existence is bad for us, Young thinks. He doesn’t care much about being called a crank. “It’s an insult to the human mind and the human soul,” he once told Greg Kot of The Chicago Tribune. Or as Young put it to me, “I’m not content to be content.”'

    'Young’s immersion in a program of intensive therapy for his son Ben led him to become obsessed with new ways of hearing and modulating sound. His album “Trans” was a monument to his attempts to communicate with Ben and to find a musical language that could convey what Ben was hearing — and perhaps even serve some therapeutic purpose. As Neil put it to his biographer Jimmy McDonough, the album was “the beginning of my search for a way for a nonoral person, a severely physically handicapped nonoral person, to find some sort of interface for communication. The computers and the heartbeat all have to come together here — where chemistry and electronics meet.”'
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2019
  2. fetishfrog

    fetishfrog Member

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    He's wrong.

    He has selective, nostalgia driven memories of the 'sonic quality of vinyl' that's he's decided is superior for whatever reason, and all of his conclusions are driven on that premise.
     
  3. DGA

    DGA Member

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    Why doesn't he just write some new music?
     
  4. gigs

    gigs Member

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    He means it is hurting his wallet.
     
  5. Jazzandmore

    Jazzandmore Gold Supporting Member

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    I have asked people what it is they are listening to in a song. Most say the singing and then say something generic about “the music”. I think they want a convenient media for music. But as to sound quality, it could be the gym, a loud booming car, headphones, a large open concert, whatever. I don’t think folks really care about the quality of sound reproduction honestly.
     
  6. Dave Shoop

    Dave Shoop Member

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    He's 73 and can probably get to the finish line on his annual income and a guesstimated net worth of 60 plus million. He's always been a marching to his own drummer kinda guy. Right or wrong who cares ? At this point I doubt ( but could be wrong ) but I doubt that money is the root of his opinion. He could have made a ton more than he did if he would have wished to work with CSN more.

    With all of the drugs those guys have done in their lifetimes it doesn't surprise me that some of their perspectives might be a little suspect or off the wall. If he believes the quality of the music is suffering it's ok with me. I think as some have stated the majority of the listeners don't nitpick it. Give em volume and a booming bass and it's all good for a large part of the populous. Long may he run.
     
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  7. MilwMark

    MilwMark Member

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    I like vinyl because of the experience.

    Pull out the record. Look at the jacket. Put it on, drop the Needle, pop on nice headphones, AND listen to the entire side. Flip and repeat.

    I have no illusions that the sound quality is superior, other than that my decent headphone amp and a decent headphones probably maximize the sound and experience.

    If we are cooking, or have a party or whatever, I just use Sonos and it sounds just fine.
     
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  8. diego

    diego Member

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    There are a lot of things that we don't notice but that have an impact on us.

    Certainly it's good that people enjoy music in any way.

    Some folks are more sensitive to the way sound makes them feel than others, therefore the Gear Page!

    Personally, I've been shocked to hear the difference in quality between streaming and other types of reproductions. Or even between the sounds that OK players and really evolved musicians create.
     
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  9. rolandk

    rolandk Member

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    I listen to standard .mp3's on an old iPod with $20 headphones and can clearly hear everything going on, even getting a clear image of front to back. I don't know how you can do much better than that.
     
  10. ieso

    ieso Member

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  11. FPFL

    FPFL Member

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    Brickwall mastering is the root of all evil. I wish he’d just focus on that. It hurts music in every medium from FM and LP to CD and mp3.


    The rest of his stuff is old man yells at cloud.
     
  12. Jayyj

    Jayyj Supporting Member

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    There's a fascinating book called Perfect Sound Forever that consists of half a dozen extended essays on subjects relating to how we listen to music. It tackles exactly what's in the above text, attempting to break down the digital vs analogue debate, looking at mp3s and other lossy formats and discussing the loudness wars - all popular topics for audiophiles. I'd recommend it to anyone that's curious about this stuff.

    Personally, I'm not convinced. As a child I used to listen mainly to hissy cassette copies of albums I got out of the library; all my albums that weren't new releases were knackered second hand vinyl that crackled and popped like there was a forest fire in the next room (to this day, when I hear a pristine copy of Blood On The Tracks it sounds wrong); and nowadays I listen to a lot of stuff on mp3s. It's the content that matters to me, and a good performance will side through whatever the medium. Think how poorly recorded so many of the early blues and folk recordings are, but we don't bemoan the idea that we're robbed of the ability to appreciate the quality of Robert Johnson's music because of the crude quality of the recordings.

    I've argued this before, but I firmly believe that we live in revolutionary era for music in that there's never been an era where so much is available to us so easily. It really is incredible to think how much music there is at our fingertips right now, and that wouldn't be the case without digital technology.
     
  13. FuzzyAce

    FuzzyAce Member

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    It'll always be about the song. There are arguments to be made that popular music isn't what it used to be, but as far as tools available to produce sound go... we are at a great place now and it's only getting better. At the end of the day it's always going to be about the artist and how they use their palette to create great music. The down side to all of the tech is it can make us lazy and complacent and make choices that aren't in the best interests of ourselves or the art. But that's on us.
     
  14. Amplifier Owner

    Amplifier Owner Member

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    He saved music when he quit CSN&Y, and released all those solo records with the Horse.
     
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  15. NorCal_Val

    NorCal_Val Member

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    Never a fan a of vinyl.
    pops, surface noise, scratches.
    What's to like?
     
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  16. rhumbob

    rhumbob Supporting Member

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    My intro to music was an am car radio through a dashboard speaker or a transistor radio. From bubblegum on KFRC or KYA, to a mix of soul and jazz on KRE or KDFA. Not hi fi but it took me to another place. That and science fiction novels were the touchstones of my youth.

    It's the music, not the medium.
     
  17. tiktok

    tiktok Supporting Member

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    The market has overwhelmingly voiced its preference for convenience over audio quality.
     
  18. katuna

    katuna Silver Supporting Member

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    This, for sure.

    However, I'm surprised at how many people here are saying "he's wrong..." Regarding sound quality and amount of information and detail that comes through, I think he's right (but as the poster above me says, no one cares, anyway). It's obviously a ymmv situation, but I don't think Mp3s deliver a very good impression of what was recorded vs other mediums. They all have their pros and cons and, of course, a scratched vinyl record isn't delivering very well either, but I know for my own recorded music, the truest sounding versions of it are the vinyl and the high quality digital tracks I get from the masterer.
     
  19. Jonny G

    Jonny G Member

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    ^^^what he said.

    Am frankly surprised at the level of tone deaf response here

    I’ll leave now :hide
     
  20. markjsmith

    markjsmith Member

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    The reality is we (mostly) all love the format we grew up with! Vinyl was great in many ways, but had a sound! CD's sound different (more high end-to my ears at least). MP3's have gone through several incarnations some sounding pretty good, some terrible.

    That said I think if one cares about listening to quality you start with the system on which you listen first! Everything sounds kind of meh on earbuds at the gym or in the car, but the realty is that's where most people listen these days. Having a dedicated space set up to properly to hear the stereo field correctly let alone the time to just listen to music is a luxury for a lot of people! That said if you do have a great system to listen on you will definitely hear a difference in formats!

    For me however as much as I appreciate quality, it's not practical! I remember George Massenberg at some audio conference going on and on about how surround sound would be huge and all records would eventually be released in surround and sound far superior. Steve Albini followed and said that most folks don't even have their stereo systems set up properly and don't even care!
     
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