Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Modern Things. Bah!

I recently watched this video.

It's fine, right? No problem. It does the job it's supposed to do, which is keep a baby's attention and teach them some signs. For me personally, though, after about as many seconds as I am years old, I started trying to figure out whether the sound of the waves synced up with the actual waves because it doesn't seem like that pristine audio could possibly have been recorded on a windy beach. The rigid, repetitive, perfect sameness of the whole thing started driving me nuts. See what I mean?

Now I'm no audio engineer, but I am pretty sure she's lip syncing. She's doing it really well, which made me think there was probably a click track playing over speakers with the vocal when they shot the video at the beach. So what a baby is actually watching is a person lip syncing to a click track, probably some keyboards, and the vocal, all pre-recorded. An impossible illusion.

Later on, in post-production, my guess is they took out the sounds of everything except the vocal. Then they added in some quiet background waves. Well, fine, we just want the best end product, right? Just using modern tools. Nothing wrong with that, right?

Except that everything new is like this now. Everything is this digitally enhanced illusion of perfection. Long before this particular video was even over, I started thinking what it would look like if it had been taped for Sesame Street in 1974.

Susan's hair would be blowing around, her pitch would be wavering. She might crack up a little bit. You would hear the actual waves as they broke. She would be singing loud to be heard over the wind and those waves. It would be a real, one-of-a-kind, human performance. Factors beyond the control of the producers would have an impact on the final product. Watching her, you would think it was something you could do yourself. You would be right.

But back to 2013 (sigh). Every professional piece of video and audio that young people watch and hear now has this layer of digital illusion built in. They grow up in an acid bath of impossible, inhuman, auto-tuned perfection. And anything that hasn't been perfected by auto-tune is ridiculed. You're Star Wars Kid. You're William Hung. Ha Ha!

I wonder what cumulative impact this has on younger, more impressionable people than myself. Might they think, "Oh, I could never sing like that."? Because if they did think that, they would be right. But what if they stop trying?


  1. Three thoughts:

    First. I want to slam my head in a door after about my age in seconds of listening to her. Gah!

    Second. Ani Difranco (I think. Someone on the established edge of the establishment, anyway) talked about the ideal recording bearing witness to a particular performance at a particular moment, rather than attempting to embody the Platonic ideal of a song.

    Third. I imagine folks were having similar conversations when recorded music first became available.

    To paraphrase - "I started thinking what it would it look like if it had been performed on Vaudeville in 1924. Jolson's hat would keep falling off, and he would be sweating through the blackface. He might forget the words. You would be trying to make your way back from the bar with bootleg gin. It would be a real, one-of-a-kind, human experience. Every professional piece of music that young people hear now is a 'studio take.' They grow up in an acid bath of repetitive, monotonous, inhuman consistency."

  2. Fine. When I sat and watched it with the baby boy, he did almost every sign with her. Made it all worth it.