The world is full of creative people. It takes training, experience, craft and inspiration…and sometimes money…to produce something that has artistic merit. There are traditional arts such as painting, sculpture, music, theater and poetry. But artists express themselves in more commercial enterprises as well. While I marvel at the musical output of composers such as Bach (my all time favorite), Beethoven, Stravinsky and Adams, I also appreciate the genius that can be clearly seen in the works of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles and Peter Gabriel. The inner spark that makes someone pursue an artistic life can be found in a very wide array of individuals and across a variety of disciplines.
So after examining the DSEE process from Sony (and their are others by Yamaha and Denon) and the aggressive timbral and dynamic modifications that the Max Sound Company offers with its process of “music enhancement”, I started wondering about the relationship of the original creative product and any subsequent “enhancements” that a particular creative work might undergo. There is an important difference between the motivations behind the DSEE process and that from MAX-D.
When a creative work is completed and offered to the public, I think it’s safe to assume that the artist believes it requires no additional changes. This is true for music, film, the visual arts and written words. I know there are certainly cases where artists have gone back and changed the original and reissued a new version but let’s put that aside for now.
There are processes such as DSEE that are designed to “restore” a music track back to its original fidelity. When the CD or final release format was made available for sale, it was what it was. The fidelity of that selection met the artistic requirements of the creators (subject to commercial norms and business demands in many cases AND of course, the technical limitations of the era). The fidelity was what it was.
In the case of online or web-based digital files and cost effective distribution, the original music track is compressed and undergoes a format change. Some of the original “artistic intent” is lost. Most artists are not pleased about this but understand and accept the limitations of the technology. The DSEE process makes an attempt at restoring the sonics after the change to MP3 or AAC. Programs like No Noise from Sonic Solutions allowed me to scrub layers of noise out of older recordings…restoring a Nat King Cole recording or wiping a layer of grim off a Renaissance painting is at least attempting to bring the original artistic intent back.
However, when the process simply uses the original creation as fodder for further “enhancement”, I think it’s a hit or miss undertaking. Is colorizing a black and white movie an acceptable thing to do to a classic film? Do you think Frank Capra would approve? How about taking the “Wizard of Oz” and painstakingly turning it into a 3D film?
The sound of an individual musical track can certainly be altered after it’s released. I’m sure we’ll all played with the treble and bass controls on our playback equipment. I know there are some AIX customers that add reverberation to my recordings because they find them a little dry. That’s not my intent but I’m certainly not going to put warning stickers on my discs that say the fidelity police will come knocking if you change anything.
But we should all be sensitive to the original artistic intent of those people involved in producing art. Maybe, just maybe the experience they intended is really the best one.