How much does "the intention of the artist" factor into music?

Discussion in 'Music' started by d64chad, Sep 11, 2018.
  1. d64chad
    DISCLAIMER: I'm not an expert in musical production (or know that much about it), so if there's something I need to be corrected on, feel free to let me know.

    This might be an extremely dumb question, but it was something I was thinking about.

    Usually, I read about this particular aspect when equalization is mentioned. People say that they don't want to touch an equalizer at all, mainly because it gets in the way and distorts how the original producers and artist intended the music to be. After giving it some thought myself, I've been thinking... how much of music in general is actually presented in exactly the way artists and producers intend?

    Might sound dumb, but whenever I hear about the artist's intentions, I somewhat feel that implies that ALL music and ALL mastering is created under a completely specific blueprint that was created solely out of a detailed vision, as in a complete experience. I know for certain that there are people out there that have written and created music with a completely detailed vision and idea of what they want to portray, and have put everything they've got into it... but at the same time, not all music is even like that.

    There's a handful of songs out there that were thrown together without much into it. A few people gathered up the equipment they had, and almost threw a few songs together, some with more thought than others. Granted, I've never truly been in a band, but I can almost picture that a particular group of music is NOT created in the form of "hey, if you do this and that, it will give the feeling of this and that", but rather "hey, I wrote this particular riff/melody, and think it sounds good, let's try it". Then again, I could be completely wrong.

    Then there's also the equipment used to record. In a traditional "rock band" sense, there's a wide range of guitars, amps, drums, mics, singers, and so on and so forth. If the final product was recorded into an inexpensive microphone, no quality of headphones, amps, or DACs will be able to make it sound like the "real" product, even assuming realism is ideal in the artist's vision for the track. Plus, the same composition can sound quite different with alteration to the equipment, and so on and so forth. (Not to mention that the mastering process can even ruin tracks.)

    Assuming this is correct, is there really any reason to account for "the intention of the artist" when there's the potential of having a lot of unaddressed variables in the creation progress that almost make the intention nearly null and void? Maybe the question I ought to be asking is, how do we know for sure what the artist is truly intending?

    Once more, I am not an expert in this, and could be WAY off, but I felt it's worth asking.
  2. ADUHF
    Your questions are all very good. These are problems the music and recording industry have been wrestling with basically since their inception. The smartest guy on this subject is probably Floyd Toole, formerly of Harman. According to Floyd, the "circle of confusion" makes it extremely difficult to maintain the fidelity of a performance from the recording to the listening environment... This is why good sound engineers get paid pretty good salaries.

    Recently there have been attempts to virtualize performances to produce an exact reproduction (or as close as possible) at the ear, using various forms of 3D/binaural/immersive audio technology. I haven't kept up with it, but you can probably read about the tech on T. Hertsen's site, Inner Fidelity.

    What if there is no live recording space though, and the music is mostly or solely created using samples or synthetic sounds? That creates a different set of problems. And then you to start think about differences and relationships between the mastering and listening spaces. That can be a trap as well though, because the intended listening space may be very different acoustically than the space in which the music is authored or mastered. When it comes to the artist's intent, I tend to feel that the intended listening space is more important than the recording or mastering spaces. But that's just me.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2018
  3. ADUHF
    Don't quote me on this. But I believe Floyd and the researchers at Harman reached the conclusion that tone controls (EQ) could be a useful tool to compensate for differences in sound authoring. I recall reading a white paper where they suggested that a bass and treble control could be useful for that purpose.

    I use a compact mixer with bass, mid-range and treble controls to compensate for both deficiencies in my HP's response, and also variations in the content I listen to. Probably more for the former than the latter. It is possible I've become too reliant on EQ for all the above. My headphones sound pretty awful without it though.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2018

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