William Orbit discusses an artist's experience.
5th January 2018
You know you’re an audiophile, but are you really an artist?
It’s a question that all inventors asks themselves. “Is my invention finished and is it any good?”
The problem was addressed recently by music producer William Orbit, in discussion with portrait painter Jonathan Yeo, on BBC Radio Four’s Only Artists.
Yeo and Orbit talked about the techniques they use to monitor the success of the projects they’re working on. Yeo finds that looking at one of his portraits for too long makes mistakes invisible, so he looks at it in a mirror to make it unfamiliar again.
Orbit agreed that music production was not so different. Any time he hears something that he feels is the best in the world, or even the worst, he performs Yeo's mirror equivalent—running the music backwards, putting headphones on the wrong way round, listening from another room, or letting other people listen to it.
In short, if, as a music composer or producer or, dare we say, an audiophile, we think something’s great, we shouldn’t accept it as fact immediately. It’s all too easy for our brain to ignore problems and indulge our ego, to focus on something to the exclusion of other opinions, and to end up with a self-indulgent mistake.
But is it possible for us audiophiles to detach ourselves from our own opinion to obtain an objective perspective? There are techniques…
Go and listen from another room and you may hear what you’ve been missing for weeks. Wives, brothers and friends can be irritatingly direct in pointing out the “obvious” problem and they are usually right.
It’s an approach that works well at audio shows; listen in the room, then from the corridor, ask someone else’s opinion, then listen in the room again.
This process of re-listening in order to tease out hitherto invisible aspects of a musician’s work is something we all do whenever we can. A new cable or amplifier has us playing all our familiar bands and finding delight in previously “hidden” voices or guitar strings, or even that squeaky drum pedal. It’s likely these sounds were not completely invisible before, but a change in perspective nudges the brain to appreciate them anew.
What’s great is that finding these new aspects in a favourite piece need not demand the expense of one new piece of equipment after another. Our range of cables for example allows you to alter the presentation of your favourite music with the insertion of one or two spacers, creating a new perspective on much-loved music tracks without any loss of recorded detail.
Can we say, then, that we audiophiles are artists in our own right, using the medium of recorded sound to explore the musical experience? I think we can and long may it continue.
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