Saturday, February 20, 2010

VAMP: The devil dines on the details

Indeed. And so here wallows my pendanticism; prepare thy feet for the guggliwugs ...

The main objective behind VAMP is essentially a fairly simple one: to preserve a musical performance's original dynamic in its eventual recording. Admittedly, however, proof of my having done this was the true motivation, although initially only because this seemed to be the approach taken by several other groups similarly disheartened by the 'sound' of contemporary music.

Again, I am in NO way an authority on this matter - beyond being a musician with ears, that is; which to critics may seem a convenient use of a literal interpretation under the guise of a subjective one.

Anyway, an excellent article pertaining to this subject (entitled ‘The Death of Dynamic Range’ and written by Robert W. Speer of CD Mastering Services) can be found here, which discusses the 'noise war' currently being waged in the music industry. From my rudimentary understanding, there's a tendency for contemporary releases to have as much 'volume' squeezed into each track as possible, which naturally comes at the expense of dynamic waveforms. Essentially it's art sacrificing its essence in order that it might be heard above the rising noise of its rivals; phyrricism.

Prior to my re-discovering of the above article, I'd spent many hours trawling through various internet discussions and arguments, most of which seemed to be based around an impressive array of numbers and calculations, which did nothing but result in my already tenuous grasp on the subject diminishing rather rapidly ... and along with it, any hope of confidently displaying my allegiance to any one truly desirable protocol ...

The simple, graphically displayed information contained within Robert Speer's article though (revolving around screenshots of actual waveforms as opposed to merely bombarding one's senses with a mass of convoluted figures) instantly seemed like an obvious solution. Perhaps a little too obvious for an impatient layman such as myself, and so I'm somewhat prepared for this concept to be proved virtually worthless in the very near future ...

I was hoping to make the argument for my album’s effective dynamic range fairly transparent by way of providing a PDF containing a screen-capture of each track's waveform as it appears on the album. And I polished the idea with a name and a logo too, because, well, why not?

Long story short (albiet in mention far, far too late!) - I'm hoping for a screenshot to be worth a thousand words.

Soooo, if this makes any sense to you at all and you want to become involved, or if it makes absolutely none whatsoever but you want to offer me some suggestions on what to do differently, please feel free to email me at

Listed below are some sites attempting to address the same issue, all of them far more organised than mine!

And for those who've just tuned in and don't know what the hell's going on, here's what all my fuss about, yo.

The first image is a screenshot of In the Old Attic, to save the City, build a house of your own by Cnut Whispers.

This next image shows the heavily-clipped waveform from another project, which by today's standard's isn't particularly severe. Still, with every clipped wave, dynamics are lost.

The top waveform will obviously be quieter when played on a stereo, but if you raise the volume it's played at, it will sound far superior to the second one; more movement, more depth, and more of the essence from the original performance will be present - which, as a listener, assuredly brings me into closer contact with the more alluring aspects of music: those mercurial frustrations known as intangibles.