Friday, February 15, 2013

sound city.

Dave Grohl has directed a documentary about the legendary Sound City Studios. Formerly in Van Nuys, California, Sound City produced more than 100 gold and platinum albums from 1960 until closing in 2011. Artists included Neil Young, Buckingham Nicks, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Pat Benetar, Rick Springfield, Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash, and more. Grohl intertwines first person accounts from the artists and employees with historical footage and a soundtrack of songs recorded at the studio.

What really resonates in this film is the technological shift from analog to digital and its influence on the studio, artist, and recorded music in general. The Neve 8028 console was innovative in 1973 at the time it was purchased by Sound City for $75,000. It played a large role in fostering the unique production and drums present in recordings. Problems arose when analog techniques could not stand up to Pro Tools and its earlier incarnations. Computers came into the picture, tape turned to compact disc, and studios were expected to do a complete overhaul to keep up. Sound City kept afloat as long as they could after the change, but in the end they simply didn't have the funds or business to stay open. Grohl ended up purchasing the console and producing a reunion album bringing together Sound City artists.

The debate on digital v. analog is complex. There are obvious innovations made possible by digital recording techniques. It is easier to fix mistakes or chop up parts of a track and put them back together. From hip-hop sampling to auto tune these new possibilities leave me with mixed feelings. A part of me prefers analog methods because it forces the artist to be good at their craft. As a singer, I think it's important to actually be capable of performing the music that is being put out under the artist's image. Otherwise, I'm supportive of new additions allowing music to progress in different directions. Digital technology has progressed to a point that home recording is a reality for the masses. I truly do appreciate that I have professional-level production at my fingertips for a nominal fee.

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