Arrangment is Mixing in the Musical Domain

I’m sitting in my control room, listening to Beck’s SEA CHANGE in surround while working on graphics for a SIGNAL FLOW class…

SEA CHANGE creates wonderfully interesting textures by mashing up traditional rock instruments – guitars and synths, dynamic and organic drums – plus really cool orchestrations, some with the Indian tinge. No matter whether listening closely or casually, surround or stereo, Beck takes me on a sonic journey. I’ve even created a ‘Beck channel’ on Pandora so I can listen while cooking.

The August issue of MIX is about Mixing and to me that starts with the arrangement. All technical stuff aside, the most interesting mixes are deceptively simple and in that simplicity is space – the sonic real estate that allows the effects and the processing to be subtle and enveloping. I love when the musician / arranger carefully chooses the instrumentation and the frequency range of the notes – it’s so much more efficient than ‘engineering the space’ with EQ. Instruments shouldn’t fight each other!

Recordings that have depth draw the listener in – and especially for engineers, it’s like listening with fresh ears. It’s somewhere between ‘how did they get THAT sound, OR, how can I get THAT SOUND. Back in the day, The Beatles, Steve Miller, The Moody Blues, The Beach Boys and Sopwith Camel are just a few of the bands that come to mind. Their records were experiments on multiple levels.

The idea of the ‘concept album’ while not new, emerged, flourished and was shared back when FM radio was in its brief free-form (underground) period. This was before ‘corporate’ came up with Album Oriented Rock (AOR) and other niche formats that ultimately destroyed personality-driven radio and created the narrow genres that in some way have hurt music by not expanding the listener’s boundaries.

Truth be told, I do miss the DJs that wove the oddest things together – from spoken word to early blues, topical comedy and off-the-beaten path modern. Social media has replaced the creative radio DJ in that people can easily share their playlists.

Of course, Audio is not just about music. At one time we could be myopic about our respective crafts, but these days there’s a lot of multimedia cross-pollination, and that’s a good thing. Music that is created for films and games is like FM and AM, Classical and Pop.

I’ll be back to update this after classes…

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Related Topics: Ask Eddie

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