The hills are alive, with the sound of …Griswald – Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
I am a huge fan of John Gorka. He is a pretty good musician, but an exceptional song writer and singer. His voice is amazing. Turns out that Gorka’s on-stage schtick is almost identical to Tommy Smothers, which isn’t as funny as the crowd thinks, but I listen for the music, not the jokes. By sheer luck, I happened to be reading the Derry paper on Friday morning and saw that he was playing that night at Tupelo. If you haven’t been there, it’s an awesome venue. Old converted barn, maybe 250 seats, great acoustics, intimate setting. The best part, and another reason I love NH…it’s BYOB. So I picked up a ticket.
I got to talking with a couple next to me during intermission. They had seen him before and asked how I got turned onto the music. Here’s where the story gets a little…nerdy. I used to listen to a podcast called Home Theater Geeks. During one episode the MC, Scott Wilkinson, interviewed Mark Waldrep, the founder of AIX Records. During the interview, Waldrep had talked endlessly about a recent HD recording session with Gorka. And that’s how I learned of this semi-famous folk singer from New Jersey.
Waldrep is a pioneer in recording music in high def, which is categorized as anything above 96 kHz/24-bit which is the DVD-Audio multi-channel (>= 5.1) standard that came out in 2000 after the success of DVD-Video. That quality is also achieved on Bluray disks for the audio component and why Bluray movies sound so awesome at home. To put this in perspective, your old school CD records only 2 channels (left and right, aka “stereo”) at 44 kHz/16-bit. Trust me, anyone could DEFINITELY hear the difference.
This got me to thinking about why audio quality today has taken such a back seat to convenience. The codec that chops even more of the CD quality music to fit on your iPod, kills the sound. You lose a ton of the high and low. And yet kids are buying $200 Beats headphones and listening on their phones walking down the street. I can only assume because the devices have a label with “Dr Dre” on it. That is crazy. It’s the very definition of “putting lipstick on a pig.”
Don’t get me wrong, I love the convenience of thousands of songs on a phone/iPod and being able to stream lossy compressed audio over internet sources. But there are times when I want to sit in a comfy chair surrounded by really good speakers cranked really loud, sipping a glass of whiskey or scotch, my eyes closed and actually enjoy the sound of the music. There is so much great music out there, I don’t know why no one wants to buy equipment to actually enjoy it. Yes convenience is great, but for me it is also about the experience of the music itself, not just music as part of some multi-tasking effort when focused on something else.
Try it sometime. You might be surprised. Maybe if Julie Andrews had been recorded in HD, I would be so enamored that I wouldn’t have Chevy Chase stuck in my head.