|Persona Digital |
History of Audio Electronics
In the 20th century, electronics changed the way humans experience and managed the world. Recording and broadcasting voice and music were two of the most powerful influences of electronics. Recording studios are the unseen controllers of acoustic and video experience for the whole word. Radio, television, movies and recording media broadcast the creations of studios. Until recent professional recording and editing equipment was expensive and required both talent and a technical education to use effectively. The major change was the advance of digital technology into sound and video creation, recording and broadcast. Digital circuits can be programmed and desktop computers can be converted into professional level recording and editing devices. Recording studios are moving toward computers and software mixers. Computers with fast multi- core processors, large amounts of RAM and fast SATA hard drives are now common and relatively inexpensive. With the right software, they can do multitrack audio and video mixing and editing as well as professional equipment. Old obstacles to computer based recording have disappeared. At the same time the compressed digital audio files can be transported through the internet quickly with little or no loss of fidelity.
Microphones are essential to human interactions. They are found everywhere that humans live, work and play. Microphones change sound waves into electric signals. The output of a microphone needs amplification. A simplified network of sound capture and playback is sound source > microphone >input amplifier>recorder> output amplifier>speaker>sound reproduced. All wired and wireless voice communication, all broadcast, all recordings, all movies, all television and most live performances depend on microphones, electronic sound processing, amplification and reproduction.
A distinction can be made between electronic recordings of musicians playing acoustic instruments into microphones and recordings of instruments that have audio outputs. As soon as an acoustic instrument's sound wave production in air is captured by a microphone, the music path is electronic until the electronic wave is returned to air waves by a speaker. We do have acoustic instruments and microphones at Persona Studio, but 90% of the music recorded here is produced by keyboards playing electronic instruments and other instruments such as electric guitars that have audio outs. The language of music communication among our instruments is MIDI. We do use written or printed music scores as source material, but MIDI scores are preferred when we receive pieces for development into finished arrangements.
Electronic Music Obsolete Term
The music category "Electronic" has become obsolete since all recorded music is electronic and performance instruments in all popular genres are now electronic. In the good old days when acoustic instruments were in still commonly used, electronic sound production was experimental and intellectual. Progressive universities developed electronic music laboratories and computer geeks collaborated in new ways of music creation. The investigation of acoustic physics and psychoacoustics advanced rapidly as commercial interest in recording, sound processing and electronic instruments advanced in many directions.
There were different schools of progressive music. Composers of symphonic works dabbled in new scales and dissonances; audiences expecting more Mozart and Beethoven were not pleased. Similar notions of scale experimentation emerged in modern jazz. Some performers left their audiences bewildered or offended mostly by long solos that wandered too long in the realm of dissonance and atonality. As synthesizers evolved along with computer composition (sequencers) all possibilities became possible. Algorithmic programs moved toward complexities that human performers could not match. Often, the innovations produced noise rather than music. An important distinction is easily forgotten: Noise is ugly and confusing. Music is informative and pleasing. The best music restores you love of life.
By now, very sophisticated digital workstations and computer programs provide an generous palette for sound creation. The price of admission is not only the cost of equipment, but more important, the need for advanced understanding and skills. We would claim to have sophisticated understanding of sound production and of music theory. This advanced understanding does not translate easily into popular music, which is relatively primitive and repetitious.
In addition to samples and simulations of existing instruments, synthesizers excel as tools of instrument invention. While acoustic instruments evolved slowly over centuries as sound producing devices, electronic tools permit new instrument invention in minutes to hours, depending on the knowledge and skill of the synthesist. Synthesizer sounds transformed jazz, rock and roll and by now all popular music. Some electronic sounds cannot be produced by any other instrument, other sounds are variations and extensions of acoustic instruments. The instrument designer can combine acoustic instruments at will. An oboe can be layered with a guitar or a piano with a kalimba or bell. String sections can be replaced by a diverse range of sustaining sounds. An electronic instrument can be adapted to the expressive capability of a touch-sensitive keyboard with a joystick controller and perhaps a ribbon controller. All of the performer's expressions can be captured as MIDI commands. All the tools of a composer and conductor can also be captured as midi commands. Never has orchestration been so facile and open to creative inspirations.
Music and Video
There is an inevitable connection between seeing and hearing. All live performances have the extra dynamics of seeing performers, interaction with them and live shows often include many of the features of theatre – costumes, scenery, dancing and light shows. Opera, ballet and Broadway shows established a standard for audio visual entertainment. Movie musicals extended the reach of Broadway shows. Television appearances soon became the best way for singers and bands to gain popularity. Music videos added movie options including actors, animations, and kaleidoscopic editing. For a brief time, portable MP3 players, iPods, and internet access to music downloads made just music listening viable, but as I write this report, portable devices, especially smart phones, are becoming multimedia devices that feature video and audio integration.