Entries in dynamics (1)


Louder + Faster != Better

What ever happened to space? As I review music for my loud rock radio show at KGLT, I don't get much breathing room. Modern day heavy music is fast and its consistently loud. Musicians in heavier styles today can play excruciatingly fast, to the point you almost can't believe that humans are capable of this. Similarly, modern music has squeezed itself into the upper registers of dynamic range (see Loudness war). In essence, us fans of heavy music barely have a clue what silence is.

It's interesting to think about this from the perspective of musical notation. There are two equally valid sets of notation symbols, one for notes and one for rests. If you learn to read sheet music, you need to know how to read them equally well. You don't get to focus primarily on notes and simply downplay rests. Modern heavy music, however, seems to tremble in fear over the slightest thought of a rest, at least any significant period of silence or reduced dynamics.

I think that's unfortunate. Once I've listened to an entire album of high tempo, nonstop pedal-to-the-floor metal, I'm drained. I'm also left less impressed with the speed and intensity because all I have to compare it to is speed and intensity. Speed and loud dynamics are powerful when they are compared to something. When a band can play slower pieces, with more open space and -then- shift gears and play a barn-burner, that'll get my attention. If a band can lull me to sleep with a nice quiet passage, -then- they can truly shock me by hitting the red on the meters.

Modern technology makes it easy to create more of things. Most processing gear and algorithms is meant to take something and make it sound different. Silence is like zero. It's the lack of something, and we have a tendency to want to fill it with something. I don't think that's a good thing. I think we should recognize the value of silence and its partner, quiet, when it comes to generating truly memorable music. The intricate interplay between sound and silence is what leads to real beauty. Imagine building a beautiful custom home and forgetting leave any living space. That's the way much of speed and loudness wars leave me feeling. I ache for moments of open space, of calm and of varying texture, without letting go of the Heavy.