Pure, not poor!
The evolution of digital audio workstations over the past years led to an enormous rise of smaller, project based music production facilities taking advantage of the benefits digital technology provided in order to create functional and productive workspaces at a fragment of the budget traditionally needed. Large format analog consoles and endless rackspace filled with expensive state of the art outboard analog gear were replaced by a simple computer running complex music creation software accompanied by an audio interface. Real human performance gradually got replaced by the excessive use of sampled and virtual software instruments and the majority of the music production procedure became practically an entirely virtual and software based series of actions contacted by the user/producer however defined by the pre-programmed software.
The importance of defining up to now, factors like recording spaces, mixing choices and techniques and audio engineering skills is becoming more obsolete every day. It may sound a bit dystopia, however it is quite the truth: Music production becomes every day a pre-arranged and pre-configured procedure leaving a little if not at all creative space for the music producer to truly interfere and interact with the music provided by the artist. I know that this may come in contrast with the “reality” we all seem to encounter every day: literally millions of available and affordable tools, in the form of software plugins promising to expand our creativity in the studio. But do they?
Well, the truth is that they could but most of the times they simply fail to deliver… and the main reason is this exact transformation of music production as a procedure. I will only stand on a simple technical aspect of this transformation and leave all the rest (possibly of equal or even bigger importance) all the rest out of this article… in a modern DAW based workflow the main burden of producing creativity is placed in the mixing stage with recording being downgraded as simply procedural, something quite natural if we consider the differences in the signal chain in the modern DAW environment compared to its analog predecessor. Nowadays, the recording signal chain has Benn oversimplified in the form of “mic to audio interface” with digital processing promising emulations of classic analog recording signal chains in a later stage. There are even people that promote this trend as the absolute “pure path”… however is this pure or poor? The truth is that back in the analog days of limited available tracks to record, a sound engineer struggled in order to print track as “mix ready” as possible not only due to the track count limitation itself but also due to the limited processing sources available. However these exact limitations led to a more creative approach demanding precise decision making while on the other hand gave the producer a better understanding of the projects build up. In the same way the interaction between performance and certain recording spaces was (and is) a creative decision leading to a personalised sonic signature, a fact of tremendous importance in the life of a music producer. So…is it pure or poor? Just food for thought!