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Recordings as simulacra

My job has been accomplished then if I reduced someone's enjoyment of music. That after all is the purpose of science and ASR.

Just kidding. Maybe with some more time you'll just forget to worry at all about how realistic the soundstage is and soak in the music.

it's not only the soundstage, I hear that everything is close-miced, no matter how well they mask it in post. Nothing sounds like a band playing in a space.
I’m not quite sure how you’re defining “purist techniques”? Chesky certainly employed minimalistic mic’ing but routinely edited between takes, edited out wrong notes/recording errors (using a DAW), mixed (at least EQ’ed) and mastered their recordings and HDTracks routinely applied additional compression to their “standard resolution” (16/44) versions, etc. I’m not sure how any of that qualifies as “purist” except maybe only in terms of the minimal mic’ing? Sheffield Labs was also famous for “purist techniques”, yet also edited and mixed their recordings (although they were mixed “live”) and eventually dumped the minimal mic’ing nonsense and used more advanced techniques. Harmonia Mundi certainly made some lovely recordings but likewise they generally weren’t particularly “purist”, just *somewhat* minimalist. “Purist” is essentially an audiophile marketing term.
I think I've already said I don't consider editing out mistakes to remove one from stage 1 and that some may disagree. Purist to me is two microphones (for stereo), no EQ, no compression. An attempt to get the closest connection to direct reality of a real sound in a real space. While noting that even that isn't directly any reality. Chesky at least initially didn't do any EQ. What HD Tracks did is irrelevant and why I didn't buy much from them. I don't know if Sheffield was ever quite so purist as that though maybe they were. They were famous for complete direct to disc recordings. I've recorded small groups thinking the complete takes had more energy and were musically better. Musicians can only hear their mistakes and cringe at the idea people will forever more hear them making those mistakes. So they want mistakes out. Again it is a starting point for abstraction away from reality. The fact such recordings were few in number makes no difference for purposes of this discussion.
I’m not entirely sure how to interpret category 2, certainly early recordings were direct to disk (or cylinder) using a single horn and no editing or processing was possible. So they were an entirely faithful copy (as far as fidelity of the technology of the time would allow), although balancing was manipulated and achieved acoustically by moving the musicians around, relative to the position of the horn. So, not “real” in the sense of how the piece would be performed live.
Maybe my use of early recordings was a poor decision. Those would be stage 1 to the best of the technology at the time. I had in mind when tape became available and you could mix and process after the fact or during the fact of recording. When EQ, reverb, and such were in use for most recordings. Then later you had multiple microphone and even multiple sessions with musicians not altogether at once. Still stage 2 in my thinking of it.
I’m also not sure exactly how category 3 should be interpreted. I presume that “pretends to be a faithful copy” refers to acoustic music genres, mostly classical (or jazz) but that doesn’t fit because there is an original. I don’t see how category 3 can apply to most popular genres, especially from around the mid 1960’s onwards, when stereo and mixing/production techniques started to become almost ubiquitous. For example, I don’t see how a drum kit or a keyboard spread across the entire stereo image can “claim to represent something real”, nor many of the other processes typically applied. Certainly many rock and other genres consider and present something “believable” but I’m not sure, beyond marketing implications, that many claim to represent something real. And of those that do, most do in fact have an original, although again, the recording is not an exact or “purist” copy of it. So relatively few recordings belong in category 3 as far as I can see.
Stage 3 is when you are making a sound that is perceived as if it could have been real, but it isn't. Take the drums, spread wide across the whole soundstage it still is obviously a drum set, and one could perceive it as if a huge drum set was recorded. Obviously getting pretty far from reality, but sounds as if it could be. Or pretends to be. It is an unreal drum set or keyboard, but will be recognized as a drums or keyboards playing. People like the effect it isn't that anyone is claiming it as real in fact just the reverse. It is sourced from something real, but presented in unreal manner. So a connection to reality though a couple steps abstracted from it.

Stage 4 is something that no one hears as a reality. Often sourced from completely made up sounds that don't occur. A purely created from nothing soundscape.

Here is one that is hard to pin down. All of the "music" in the background of the HBO series Chernobyl sounds made up for a mood. Sounds like a purely stage 4 creation. Yet every bit of it was composed of real sounds recorded in various nuclear reactors. The basic source is completely real. None of us would hear it that way as we don't get to traipse around inside nuclear reactors to have heard any such.

I think it is an excellent example of how considering your level of abstraction being a guide on recording decisions. The situation at Chernobyl was an other-worldly, un-human experience. They wanted an ethereal sound to set that mood. Yet, Chernobyl really happened and those people lived that. So someone decided to create what is an other-worldly sound using real sound sources. I don't know if they looped sounds, or did lots of processing, maybe sped some things up or slowed them down. Maybe they just did editing in which case it may be a stage 1 recording. I'd guess it is stage 2, but don't know.
No, I didn’t get the idea you were necessarily pushing category 1 as a reference of what is best, I did get the idea that you thought that category 1 actually exists though (or was more than an extreme outlier). While you’re correct that it would be “the manner of recording most directly connected to a reality of sound and performance”, why would that be desirable? The reality of sound and performance is that it’s full of frequencies, peaks, dynamic ranges and spurious noises, many of which an audience would never hear or be aware of, and which would therefore not sound like their expectations of the instruments being played. Furthermore, in most popular genres the “reality of sound” is pretty much the last thing we’re after! Ever heard a live, unmixed/processed drum kit in a room? That’s certainly not the sound we’re after with virtually any rock, metal, electronic or other popular genre (although original punk rock was probably the closest to the “real sound”).

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