Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Albini, Death Cab Together in One Article

Steve Albini and Chris Walla agree on something. Pro-Tools sucks.

Wired has the article (disregard goofball author Dan Goodin's attempt to dismiss their concerns as being technophobic) - here's the clip:

"These machines cannot be trusted to make aesthetic determinations about music," he says. "Because it's so convenient to do circus tricks in the digital domain, it's sort of done pro forma."

Take, for instance, what's called tempo alignment. Using digital editing software such as Pro Tools, engineers routinely slice a song's drum beats and align them with metronome pulses. The effect may ensure that the percussion is perfectly in sync, but, he says, it creates a rigidity to the time keeping and removes one of the key differentiators among bands, which is the way their drummers play.

Another of Albini's beefs: auto tuning, or the practice of correcting the pitch of a track's vocals so they are perfectly in tune. Ella Fitzgerald, he says, was said to have perfect pitch, meaning she could hear a note in her head and, without the aid of an instrument, sing it exactly on key. But even her singing had minor inflections that would have been corrected by digital tools routinely used today. He says the result is vocals that take on a robotic quality and lack the feeling of a live performance.

And Walla:

"The world of tape really rewards talent and it really rewards a work ethic," Walla says. "The digital world, at least in rock 'n' roll, tends to reward insecurity and a lack of drive."

He uses the term "option anxiety" to describe the unease he feels when presented with the overwhelming number of features in Pro Tools. The program also has a way of hijacking the recording session, he says, eliminating the chance musicians get to catch their breath while waiting for tape to rewind or introducing a shimmering glow from a computer monitor that, like a TV in a restaurant, is impossible not to look at.

Death Cab's fifth album, Plans, released four weeks ago, is its first to use digital recording. But rather than use a computer, the group used a simple stand-alone device that has play, rewind and fast-forward buttons just like a tape machine and doesn't require a monitor


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