Why do people enjoy remastered recordings so much? See below...
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A Personal Note (Archive)
October 1, 2015
I'm working my way through Rolling Stone magazine's top 500 albums of all time. I'm up to number 359, which is Honky Chateau by Elton John. What is very noticeable as I've been listening to all these recordings is the prevelance of "remastering". So what is remastering?
I read a few articles, and tried to get my head around technical terms like wow, flutter and print through. I started to see that this subject was not a simple one. It seems that there is not some vault somewhere where the master recordings of great albums all sit. For a start, there is no single master recording. When a group of musicians in the Sixties set out to make a record, they recorded their efforts onto multi track tape, which was then mixed to produce an intial master recording, already at some distance from what actually happened because of the mixing process. Then a further master would be produced consisting of various adjustments to allow better audio reproduction on play back equipment. Then another set of masters would be made to send to regional pressing centres, where records would be made for sale in shops. So we have a number of masters now, which makes things tricky when we come to remastering. Remastering usually refers to a conversion of an analogue recording to digital. To do this, the best analogue master would have to be selected, and then various decisions made in the process of transferring the information from one form to another. More technical terms could now be thrown around, but I won't go into them.
The point is, this is an involved subject, which made me think of history. History is often a search for a master recording, a creation myth explaining what comes after. Whether it's boys picking up footballs at Rugby School and creating rugby, or a Lanarkshire miner creating the Labour Party by entering Parliament in 1874, creation myths are both popular and misleading. History is a convoluted evolution where countless strands are impossible to disentangle. With this in mind, it makes sense that we love to remaster things, to get back to that one original moment. Remasterings of recordings are big business, not because they make much difference to audio playback of an album, but because they meet a need for a creation myth, a desire to find a master moment from which all else flows.
Historical news for October
British road signs are the subject of a major exhibition currently running at London's Design Museum, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the British road sign system. The exhibition runs until 25th October. For more information go to http://designmuseum.org/exhibitions/50-years-of-british-road-signs
The National Media Museum's Widescreen Weekend takes place this month, with talks by industry figures combined with the screening of films on the museum's enormous widescreen. The event runs 15th - 18th October. For more details go to http://www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk/widescreen-weekend/promos/news/2015/real-film-really-big.aspx
Anniversaries for October
7th October 1777: During the American Revolutionary War, a British army led by General Burgoyne is defeated near Saratoga in New York State by American forces.
9th October 1986: The musical Phantom of the Opera opens at Her Majesty's Theatre, London.
10th October 1957: A fire at the Windscale nuclear reprocessing plant in Cumbria leads to the world's first major nuclear accident.
14th October 1962: The Cuban Missile Crisis begins when an American reconnaissance aircraft photographs the installation of missiles in Cuba.
16th October 1834: Most of the Palace of Westminster is destroyed by fire, which begins in a stove in the House of Lords. The government had decided that wooden tallies used for centuries to compute tax were to be replaced by paper records. The Clerk of Works suggested that the wooden tallies should be given away as fire wood to the poor, but it was thought more proper to confidentially burn them in a House of Lords stove. Too many tallies were stuffed into the stove, and a huge conflagration followed.
28th October 1962: Russian premier Nikita Khruschev, orders the removal of missiles from Cuba, ending the Cuban Missile Crisis
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