Random thoughts about our hobby

Discussion in 'General Audio Discussion' started by k4rstar, May 19, 2022.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    This is what happens when one gets so good that they get bored.

    It's not as bad as you make it out to be. You sound like a rebel who wants to be a rebel or the sake of being a rebel. If all equal temperament music is so boring that you don't really want to listen to it, then make your own.

    My kids and I can sing you Taiwanese folk songs which don't exactly fit the western scale (the notes can be made to kinda of fit), although I would say this performance would be more worthy of Tik Tok as a political message against the Chinese Communist Party's hegemony than high fidelity music reproduction.

    There are some gems, but it's pretty much shit, especially post WW2, maybe post 1970. Structure is needed for human beings. There's a reason for equal temperament and meter. Sonata form for the win. Unless you choose to be homeless which is true freedom, no constraints, no strictures, to be like an animal. I won't get too much into my conversations with homeless people on the streets of Bezerkly, CA. Some make it a conscious choice which makes them seem insane when in fact sometimes I wonder if we non-homeless people are the insane ones.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2022
  2. animus

    animus Almost "Made"

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    Now this is just silly. The concept of creative expression was not magically born with Beethoven, there are plenty of instances of composers prior to him that wrote music that was considered questionably modernistic by the time's standards that is greatly revered today, or even the reverse case: dated by the tastes of the average nobleman. The most famous example of the latter was none other than Bach with a capital B; the galant style that Haydn and Mozart would become synonymous with was already in vogue by the time Bach was maturing as a composer, and yet he stuck to his old fashioned Baroque aesthetic to the bitter end. There's a reason why none of his sons took after their father directly.

    And regardless, whether or not you agree with the expressive aesthetic of the common practice era has little to do with why it's valued historically as it is. The central canon has an unparalleled craftsmanship to it in form, harmony, counterpoint, motivic construction and development, and there really isn't any other music in history that has much emphasis on horizontal development over time. Are these all extremely eurocentric standards upon which to judge music? Yes, but that doesn't mean that it's magically worthless because other standards exist, and attempting to reduce it to merely being pandering to royal tastes of a bygone era is just ignorant.

    Believe me, you're preaching to the choir. I don't remember the last time I sat down and listened to a post-war composer for my own pleasure. And honestly if I were to attempt to criticize it here and now I would just be repeating some pretty tired talking points as well regarding excessively serial music or music that attempts to break from form and pitch material entirely. There's not much to be said that hasn't already been said by someone else in a much more thorough and well thought out manner than I would care to attempt at the moment.
     
  3. wbass

    wbass Almost "Made"

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    Many of them do incorporate electronics. I'm of two minds about difficulty and extended techniques. It can be really neat to see someone pull off a truly hard piece and perhaps even push our conception of an instrument forward a little. But, at other times, in a grumpier mood, I wonder if the focus on instrumental technique is a crutch and a replacement for writing something truly interesting.

    As always, it's incredibly case specific. And sometimes you can hear a performance of a difficult piece that falls flat and just feels like unnecessary flash. And then you can hear it played again, and it's excellent. My sense is that contemporary composers are often/sometimes writing with specific musicians in mind, so that it becomes a collaboration, which I think is neat.
     
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    My seventh grade teacher taught me that if something was boring, it was because I didn't understand it. Best lesson ever.

    When one is learning how to play an instrument, one is required to do a lot of boring stuff, play shit that you hate or you think sounds lame. My daughter was learning the drums to Survivor Eye of the Tiger. Oh geez, I hate that song. Didn't stop me from getting into it, playing the bass line along with her, and teaching her the rhythm to the drum fills.
     
  5. wbass

    wbass Almost "Made"

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    No worries. Healthy disagreement and all that.

    It should be said that Ensemble Modern has been playing this sort of music for forever, and they really seem to be able to dig out what's interesting and engaging and moving in it. I also like Mahler a lot, FWIW.

    Speaking about all of this as a reformed musician and music student, an engaged non-expert to be sure. I'm probably the semi-rare (occasional) listener to new music that isn't actively part of that world. Though I do have a few composer friends who are big-ish deals and a few very connected musician pals. Chicago is a good hub for new music, and so I can see the Spektral Quartet, Third Coast Percussion, et al fairly regularly.

    On the whole, I tend to find "difficult" (spiky, atonal, experimental, what have you) stuff an interesting corrective to more conventional tonal stuff. It reminds you that this thing we call "music" is all a cultural construct. That said, I can't un-hear or un-know how a diminished chord affects me emotionally. And gamelan, etc sounds intriguingly "different." There's no sense, to me, in enjoying only one thing or another, b/c the other reminds you of the context in which you enjoy your baseline stuff.
     
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    Last edited: May 29, 2022
  6. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: E.T.A Headphones

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    Sure, maybe I was too hasty to make such sweeping claims about equal temperament. I still casually enjoy plenty of equal temperament 4/4 content. I like that it's accessible to anyone to learn and to engage with - it possesses undeniable utility (as it was designed to). It's like water, but sometimes I have an itch... There's no principle to my spouting off so much as I have severe ADHD and when I hear something new-to-me (even if it's a new texture rather than new musical content), it piques my attention. I crave that feeling at all times.

    Most of the time, I feel most engaged when the content - regardless of how harmonically / melodically / rhythmically familiar - is arranged in an unfamiliar-to-me way. Where the arrangement/editing itself is the 'content' of the music as much or more than elements that can be captured on a page of sheet music. And often using samples of recordings that already exist. I'm thinking J Dilla, Knxwledge, that sort of thing. I find my stimulation in that vein much of the time. Or even stuff where the spectral distribution of content is just beyond what I normally hear - like hyperpop, even if it is just GenZ kids bitching into their macbooks with an ordinary trap beat and digitally clipping the outputs on purpose with stacks of FX for 'shits and giggles'. Maybe the most engaging stuff (to me) has elements both of the familiar and the unfamiliar. It's not that this music is 'better', in fact, often it sees itself as a shitpost and requires very little by way of musical 'virtuosity'... with music, i truly do value quantity over quality. An accelerationist-ish stance, you could say. Or again, just personal struggles with ADHD. No universal truths to be found here.

    I dream of music that's fully unfamiliar but also fully engaging, but I concede that's a bit of a pipe dream / impossibility just due to how human pattern recognition and appreciation of music is culturally informed, and there's no culture around things that are wholly unfamiliar.

    Sounds like things a computer algorithm have the capacity to do superior to a human being. Already, there are computer-generated Bach pieces that Bach scholars cannot differentiate from a genuine composition. Same with Chopin. Why not jump to the finish line of this supposed horizontal canon and engineer software to make the most fractally intricate, but harmonically-informed (according to traditions of whatever time period or composer you prefer), while also being humanely playable with non-extended techniques, with some self-referencing melodic lines tossed into the salad for the sake of motif development? The audience and relevance of classical canon grows smaller by the day.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2022
  7. animus

    animus Almost "Made"

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    This is another problem I have with new music, unrelated to artistic differences. There is a near 1:1 overlap between the people who listen to it and the people who are actively involved with it. My big break with trying to be trying to be overtly modern as a composer came about the time when I had a discussion with one of my previous composition teachers about this, and I began to realize how unsatisfying being locked in a niche like that would be. Obviously it's not a hard and fast rule, but it's a trend that unnerved me greatly when I began to notice it.

    I don't disagree, but something that's always stuck with me regardless of what I'm listening to is a desire to hear some sort of innate craftsmanship in the music. I don't mind atonal music by any stretch of the imagination (my own music is atonal, if that's any indication), but my preference is definitely towards music with a comprehensible sense of craftsmanship and thoughtfulness in its construction, as well as all the standards one would typically have in terms of expressive reach and depth. The problem then comes with music that has excessive obeisance to the concept of craftsmanship to the point of being divorced from any human standards of pleasantry or music that tries to discard these ideas entirely. Those are the two brief and broad-stroked representations of my problems with most if not all of the new music I've been exposed to.
     
  8. animus

    animus Almost "Made"

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    A computer algorithm wouldn't have been able to do it without Bach having done it first, and it's not like I'm advocating for imitation or endless stagnation over innovation in and of itself. The reason modernism (and I mean modernism by the core definition of it, not just modernistic music) was invented is because composers were always innately aware that there had to be something new brought to the table with each successive generation, and composers like Brahms always struggled with attempting to do this while also upholding the standards and traditions of the past. The debate then comes with what innovations were successful and what wasn't, and whether or not the compositional rules that were gradually but increasingly cast aside in the 20th century should have been considered obsolete.

    Software is capable of surface-level imitation, but as is it's hardly capable of not just working with a ruleset but expanding upon it with tasteful license while having a distinct voice and a meaningful contribution. What you're describing is essentially not possible with today's technology. Look at the hilariously botched attempts at AI completions of Beethoven's 10th symphony or Schubert's Unfinished, no one is sold on these because they sound like poor copies, which they basically are. With the example of Bach, what an AI is capable of replicating is his harmonic and contrapuntal style in an extremely simplified chorale format, but an AI wouldn't be able to write an entire Passion on its own regardless of sample count. At least, not yet.

    Even if it were the same question would apply to all art with no real exception. If classical music by these standards can be churned out by an AI, virtually anything can, and the only limits are the parameters set. You're really just creating a zero-sum game where everyone loses equally.

    And the audience for new music is virtually nonexistent in comparison and certainly isn't growing fast enough to meet replacement rate. If this were a popularity contest then the victorious genre of music would be pretty damn obvious, and I don't think anyone here is about to advocate for the artistic supremacy of Lil Xannie or BTS.
     
  9. k4rstar

    k4rstar Britney fan club president

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    Music nerds are 100x worse than audio nerds
     
  10. animus

    animus Almost "Made"

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    We all know you're secretly just annoyed that I dissed William Fartwrangler one too many times while shilling Szell's Beethoven cycle. ;)
     
  11. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: E.T.A Headphones

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    You see this theoretical end-stage as a tragedy, I see it as an ideal.
     
  12. animus

    animus Almost "Made"

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    I see more value in being able to take a set of standards and be able to successively develop upon it with each generation than I do in constantly trying to reinvent the wheel. I guess it all boils down to personality.
     
  13. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    I listen to a lot of gamelan orchestral music in my spare time. |\/|

    I should track down some on vinyl actually.

    And my favorite composition of the 20th century is Music for 18 Musicians. I’ve also seen Einstein on the Beach performed in full live twice. There’s an audience for modern compositions, although obviously not as big as the audiences for pop.
     
  14. wbass

    wbass Almost "Made"

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    What I want to hear isn't the music AI makes for us. Come the singularity, I want to hear the tunes it makes for itself. Now that would be different.
     
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  15. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    Even more interesting to me are the tools to create. We've thought we've been using novel methods to create music using digital technologies for a half-century plus some, but what would Skynet use to make music that it likes? Further, how would it replay the most "realistic" reproduction of that musical event?

    In other words, a small portion of us humans still seem to think scraping a piece of rock through grooves in soft plastic is the most "real" technological interpretation of a musical event in time; what do the robots think?
     
  16. wbass

    wbass Almost "Made"

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    Human decisions are removed from strategic defense. Skynet begins to learn at a geometric rate. It becomes self-aware at 2:14 a.m. Eastern time, August 29th. Two hours later, it starts to wonder if it should upgrade its DAC.
     
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  17. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Very seriously hesitated to drop any thoughts in this thread. Was even scared to read opinions written in semi-normative tones (thus sorta avoided to do so lol). But one friend encouraged me to share thoughts in a private message and very unfortunately he convinced me. Sorry folks, please blame him if this post reads offensive or disgusting. Half-joke!

    I’m also highly appreciating this comment. This really helps me in understanding this thread in a better way.

    I am going to show an example of extremely heretical conclusions that a sbaf member could come to. I’m also showing how categorically we may differ in this hobby. Hope no one loses humanity. lol

    Thought #0-a: If you think any of the following thoughts are wrong, false, or idiot. You’re right and I am wrong. Feel free to add me to your ignore list.

    Thought #0-b: I’m a chicken. So, I’d declare all the following thoughts are only applicable to me. For the safety purpose, I recommend not to regard any of those as pieces of wisdom at all.

    Thought #0-c: I favor a simpler life. All my personalized conclusions are strongly influenced by my strong desire to rule out human errors and uncontrollable factors.

    Thought #0-d: Maybe the most important to me. I love the music I hear. And my grand theme of this hobby is to maximize my experience, all the challenges and obstacles in recording/mastering given (e.g., compressed dynamics, non-natural mic’d, etc). That’s why I started to be enthusiastic about this hobby 12 years ago. Still unchanged.

    Enough disclaimers. Let me start to drop BS.

    Thought #1: (Amps and Dacs) Why not SS, Why not NFB, Why not chips?
    • Since I joined SBAF, I considered these keywords (particularly for the later two) semi-evil for a long time. But avoiding them seemed to create more false negatives than I thought. I examined if I truly hated those. In both sighted and blind tests (non-scientifically conducted), it turns out I prefer current Chifi trends.
    • Except for a few poor products, I almost always hear details, nuances, and transients much better and easier with dacs with Ess chips and amps with op-amps and presumably complicated feedback loops.
    • At this point, I lost most interest in a lot of classically favored approaches. Some of them sound interestingly different to me though (caveat: all such things never come cheap).
    • When I realized this, I sold all my prior components in the main rig and started over with the audition survivalists in late March this year. I’m still content with my decisions.
    • I don't think buying blind solely based on measurements is a good idea. Instead, I use objective results (preferably from GoldenSound or L7Audio -- cross-measured products are prioritized) in shortlisting for auditions these days.

    Thought #2: (Headphones) For my socioeconomic status, Headphones > Loudspeakers
    • Loudspeakers seem cheaper, but they indeed require huge costs if I factor in housing and space.
    • Within reasonable constraints (space like my prior apartment in TX), I frankly found sound-staging was the sole benefit over headphones. With headphones, my analytic listening was way more confidently done to pull what I was looking after from recorded music. Even my brain sorta auto-adjusts sound-staging to the extent I don’t bother much.
    • Headphones enable me to enjoy music anytime I want. Speakers are more socially restricted (volume, time, etc) because I am not rich enough to afford a dedicated soundproof listening room and permanent housing.
    • TBH, I have not experienced any 2ch sounding better than my humble totl headphones rig, regardless of the price levels and acoustically calibrated listening space. My audition probably was too limited. I am still fantasizing there will be eye-popping 2ch moments some day.
    • Additionally, I know I am not an IEM person at least for now. But I may have to re-consider them more seriously if my life pattern changes in the future.

    Thought #3: (Efficiency) Inefficiency > Efficiency
    • First of all, I think any dedicated SS head amps and 2ch power amps are powerful enough. Most easily satisfy [email protected]
    • I wasn’t content with my laptop or computer audio outs. Apple did a bit better job, but I always take modi stack or dx3 even with fairly efficient headphones (Grado, ETA, etc). This thought, to a lesser extent, applies to portable DAPs I experienced.
    • And to my preferable listening level, efficient headphones need substantial attenuation in either analog or digital domains. Inefficient headphones could operate amps closer to their comfort zone. This benefited my perceived notion of noise, distortion, and pot balance.

    Thought #4: (Media/Rig) Digital > Analog
    • My general prejudice is that the mechanical domain inherently introduces more human-dependency, larger variance, and laborful medium managements. And anecdotal observations could not reject my view.
    • HW-wise, I haven’t auditioned a good enough TT/vinyl rig that motivates me enough. Let alone vinyl limitation. I don’t have much audition experience but this indirectly suggests to me that good results may not be guaranteed.
    • SW-wise, I can easily see myself hate high searching costs in analog media. I abandoned all the paper books for the same reason a few years ago. Never regretted it. I don’t think I can live without Ctrl-F, electronic annotations, and immediate addition to the playing ques.
    • So far, I don’t think I need more than the red book.

    Thought #5: Etc.
    • I found myself preferring moderately compressed tracks (e.g., anniversary edition of Abbey Road was my favorite over all the prior CDs or LP-extracted files) . Most such tracks come with a reduced gap between upper bound and rms levels so that I don’t have to mess with volume as frequently. With good headphones, microdynamics and microdetails were fairly equivalently recovered to my ears.
    • There are some audiophile virtues people associate with classical types of HW or SW. I’m obviously leaning toward new schools but most of the claimed benefits were obtainable to me in the way I currently enjoy this hobby. Not enough experience accumulated on me to strongly claim this is the generalizable way to go. But neither do anecdotal evidence to reject my thought.
    • Enjoying a live performance or concert is a totally different story. I value it enough to allocate budget but don’t want to piggyback into audio gear hobby discourses.
     
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    Last edited: May 30, 2022
  18. crazychile

    crazychile Eastern Iowa's Spiciest Pepper

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    I liked @Vtory 's post not because I agree with all of it, but because it shows that whatever you're into, just fucking OWN it in all of it's peculiarities if that's what makes you enjoy the music. I've been enjoying this thread reading about the different beliefs and paths people take. Personally i'm in a different place than where I was 20 yrs ago, and I try to remain flexible if I encounter an approach that surprises and challenges my established biases.
     
  19. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    My post was a half facetious response. It's serious and a "best method" because it's what worked best for me. It's not serious because what works for me may not work for others; and any hint of self-righteousness or elitism was pure intentional. I reek with sarcasm and people forget this.

    I do think there is one almost absolute truth or perhaps tendency - at least from what I have observed.

    People who keep their systems consistent over time and who only change components deliberately (slowly and with due care): they are the ones who are with the magical sounding systems.

    By magical, I mean that emotional experience that sucks us in. As if a real performance was taking place in our living rooms (or inside our heads) and as such makes us unable to simply walk away (or put our headphones down) and do something else. I'm not talking about systems for listening to music while we do work. I never listen to music from my main system while I do work because I wouldn't get any work done. Instead, I use the crappy headouts from the MOTU or use the JBL LSR monitors.

    Many times I see this magical aspect found or being approached all so close among hobbyists, only them for them radically reboot, and then continue on a lifetime of continual sidegrades. It's as if people are lost. The plethora of good gear today doesn't help either. But we aren't talking about merely good sounding. We're talking about magical sounding. This is why SBAF is one of few places where you will hear the phrase: stop sidegrading.
     
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  20. dubharmonic

    dubharmonic Friend

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    My inflammatory hot takes:
    • Music is all about emotional communication. A better chains result in stronger emotions for the listener.
    • If trying new things feels exhausting, maybe it's time for a different hobby. At least cut back on the cycling.
    • There's not a single ideal path for each of us to take. We can enjoy multiple topologies and transducer types. The tribalism is idiotic.
     
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