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What John Hill said ... this is very interesting, because it focuses on the subjective
aspects of our memories and expectations of heard things.

We tend in this dialogue, both musicians, music lovers and musical engineers, to chat about and pursue some sort of Ideal of perfect recordings.

But in actuality, when we hear a live concert, if it's a half-decent or better hall, we
bring home a huge subjective package of memories far greater than just the
musicians playing the right notes. We remember our companion and the pleasant
feelings we had with and about our companion. Like a family Christmas, we
remember the Smell of the Hall. We remember a little bit of the ambient coughing
and fidgeting and how it resonated. We remember the excitement of the special
occasion of going to a concert in an unfamiliar place like New Haven (a little plug
for my conductor pal's Orchestra New England just announcing its new season:
www.orchestranewengland.org ). So a concert, and even the first time we hear a
new recording, are far more than well-engineered mathematical sounds and
sequences -- they are far more Proustian experiences, or in the psych jargon,
synesthetic experiences, crossover tangles and jumbles of hearing, sight, sound,
smell, touch, all triggering and tickling rare corners of our memories and emotions.

Ordinarily these subtle and unique little extras are way in the background. But
perhaps I love The Hum because another unique aspect of Gould was to
intentionally play with the Official Balance between Foreground and Background, between Phenomenon and Negative Space, we all were formally and rigidly and unimaginatively trained to accept, where every patron's cough is Wrong and Bad, the smells (say, of an apple pie baking in the kitchen while we first play a new CD) are officially Totally Beside the Point. But of course being human, they're not beside the point at all -- they can't be separated from the Etude; they are part of the human thing which is larger than the Etude: the Experience.

With computers and electronics, we should have been able to produce Perfect
Music -- take a Bach score and just have the computer play precisely the right
tempo, precisely the right frequencies, precisely the right wave shapes, attacks,
sustains and decays. And completely banish bad microphone placement, bad
acoustics, coughing, fidgeting, and certainly humming. I know lots of people who
own Carlos' "Switched-on Bach" -- but I know no one for whom
computer-generated keyboard music is anything more than just an oddity in their
collection of human-generated "Imperfect" music.

Bob / Droog4 / Elmer Elevator

  Baldwin, Daniel wrote:
  > I have begun to acquire some CDs on labels such as Pearl (Edwin Fischer's
  > recording of WTC), Dutton Labs (Beecham's recordings of Mozart symphonies)
  > and Arkadia (an Italian label-- I just purchased Cortot's recording of the
  > Chopin etudes) -- all of these are transfers from 78s. The Dutton and
  > Arkadia recordings are remarkably free of surface distortion; they have a
  > kind of unearthly purity which almost sounds real, but not quite.

John Hill replied:

  This can happen when *too much* of the surface (and other) noises are
  removed.  Since the ambience of the original recording is buried down there
  in the noise floor of the original 78, it too will be removed when the digital
  algorithm for the de-noising is employed.  "Unearthly purity" is a good
  description, because real pianos in real rooms or halls just don't sound
  like that.  The brain knows this inherently and tells you that something is
  not quite right when you have a recording that sounds like it was done
  in a dead broom closet.