6.21.2015 // posted by Michael @ 1:56 PM
Hi, everybody. Just wanted to let you know that flaudlogic.com will be undergoing a server migration in the next two weeks. Apologies in advance for any content that may break, although every effort will be made to prevent this. Happy Fathers' Day!
4.19.2015 // posted by Michael @ 5:30 PM
Dynamics, the "Loudness Wars," or "Why is Your Album so Quiet Sometimes?"
I've been meaning to write about this for a while; a couple of folks have asked me about this. They wonder why my album sounds so much more "quiet" compared to other things they listen to. They notice, for example, that when a Flaud Logic song comes up in their iTunes playlist or something, that they sometimes have to raise the volume on their device to hear it better. But then, a song from another artist comes on afterwards, and they have to lower the volume again!
I promise it's not some type of unique torture I devised! It actually exemplifies the results of a much bigger issue--the fabled "Loudness Wars." For those who are unfamiliar, it refers to the modern trend of "squashing" the waveforms that represent your album during the mastering process, thereby causing a reduction in dynamic range, but an increase in perceived loudness (Google 'Loudness Wars' for some great articles on the subject). This effect can be desirable in some cases and can be implemented artfully. The trouble is that nowadays, there's this sort of "competition" where an artist may ask the mastering engineer to make his or her album "as loud as possible," so that when heard on the radio or on a playlist, it appears to stand out. "You know that great album by ___insert artist name___? Make my record rock harder than that!"
Studies have shown that listening to music that's been mastered this way can lead to a phenomenon known as "Aural Fatigue". Think about it: With "squashed" music, this is the equivalent of stimulating a huge number of each ear's sensory receptors all at once, at high amplitudes, over long periods of time. Though not everybody is aware of how this manifests when actually listening to the music, those who are often describe it as, "The music was really great, but for some reason, I can't make it through the whole record in one sitting," or, "The best album that I never listen to." It's doing something on a subconscious level which can align the listener's preferences against that particular music.
For the type of music I'm writing these days, a full spectrum of dynamics is important. My hope is that listeners will "feel" something through my music, whatever that feeling may be, and I like to bring the listener on a journey. That means there will be "loud" sections, "soft" sections, angry, calm, tranquil, explosive. It made sense for me to attempt to maintain those aural contrasts in the music at the expense of it perhaps sounding like "the next best thing," or somehow dated. Interestingly, people have said to me that Flaud Logic, "...reminds me of when I used to listen to Yes albums on vinyl. The really quiet parts you sometimes couldn't even hear because the record fuzz and pops were louder!"
Is there a place in the world for rock music that still maintains its dynamic range in an era where noise on a record is conspicuously absent ("let's fill all of that now-empty sonic space!")? Does it sound really really weird for a rock album to be made using the latest technology but still have quiet sections that get drowned out when listened to through iPod headphones? I surely don't know the answer, but it is something that weighs on my mind in the production process.
8.9.2014 // posted by Michael @ 10:33 AM
August 2 –? 6, 2014. My best friend, a novelist, and I decided to take a break from the chaos of New York City and retreat to a remote location to focus on our writing. Each day began with breakfast, then we would split up for a morning writing session. Later, after lunch, we had an afternoon session. After a full day of creative work, we'd then cook up a nice dinner, crack a few beers, and just hang out. No TV, no internet (except for my mobile phone), no phonecalls.
It was amazing to have the freedom to focus on creative work and nothing else. I guess that's what it feels like for those folks making a living off of their music? In any event, It was a great exercise in discipline and goal-setting. I knew that I would not be able to finish the entire record in only a few days, so I had to choose a few key milestones and work towards completing those.
This time around, I also wanted to prevent myself from getting mired in the details too soon — an issue I faced when working on my previous album. Instead, I tried to do my composition using only drums and piano. This way, I could work towards blocking out entire songs while still having the flexibility to move parts around and so forth. As many of you know, a DAW isn't always the ideal tool for songwriting — especially for a prog album with its shifting keys and time signatures — so by restricting myself to only a few tracks, it will help me to retain some flexibility at this early phase.
All-in-all, this "experiment in isolation" was a success. It reduced stress, allowed me to focus solely on creative work, and it got me back into the flow of writing after a long period of reduced creative output. I also felt that the overall "silence" of the location (you could hear your own tinnitus /heartbeat /etc...), made each sound that I generated more special somehow, if that makes any sense. Anyway, thanks for bearing with me on this. I'll have some more details and things posted soon.