Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Offensive Technique

In my field recording class, we recorded a 3-piece rap/hip-hop/dj sorta thing with a jazzy rhythm section. It's safe and honest to say this music s out of my normal territory. I get so little of it that you'd be fair in saying I don't get it at all. The usual simplified rhythm and shortage of musicality, based on the restrictions was typically overbearing, but I can live with that. Back in the 70s and early 80s, I recorded a collection of "poetry" performance artists in southern California and that was a similar experience: lots of angry women and upset boys cursing the bad luck of being born of educated middle class parents and suffering the usual slings and arrows of affluence. All done with a background of meandering saxophone "jazz" or electronica. Rap is more authentic than that, so I can sympathize if not appreciate. I don't love it, but I'm OK with it.

The usual black on white conflict was a good part of the act, but that doesn't bother me. Most of that complaint is true and I sympathize and appreciate that struggle. Ever present were the strings of four-letter words, apparently intended to shock either the college-age audience or the small percentage of instructors in the room. I work on my own mechanical devices and electrical/electronic equipment. I can cuss the chrome off of a Harley and strip the bare metal suitable for primer. Nothing any kid can say will come close to the noises coming from my garage when I smash a finger or drop some expensive piece of hardware. I'm ok with that.

After the show was over, the mc came back to FOH to thank us for doing the show and asked if he'd offended us with the language.

"Nope, I was offended by your mic technique, though."

It's a fact, I am not OK with that lack of skill. Design engineers work hard to design microphones that convert acoustic energy into electrical signals. It's not a simple task to accurately reproduce the movement of air into electricity and back again. When an "artist" disrespects the effort that goes into the equipment they use, I can be offended.

For some reason, a generation of modern black artists have decided to toss off the skills of 40 years of R&B and imitate a marginally talented white boy. Mic Jagger taught scores of R&R kids how not to use a microphone and that lousy technique seems to have filtered across genres into rap/hip-hop/dj/whateveryoucallit. Worse, the music they are promoting is, supposedly, all about the lyrics. Since they have banished melody and harmony, and the lyrics are unintelligible, it seems to me that what hiphop is selling is noise and attitude. Nothing new there. Teenagers have been making noise and pretending to be something they aren't for centuries.

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Wirebender Audio Rants

Over the dozen years I taught audio engineering at Musictech College and McNally Smith College of Music, I accumulated a lot of material that might be useful to all sorts of budding audio techs and musicians. This site will include comments and questions about professional audio standards, practices, and equipment. I will add occasional product reviews with as many objective and irrational opinions as possible.