Zen and the Art of Music Consumption August 29, 2015 16:25

If you're as old and weird as I am, you might have once read Robert Persig's seminal book, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". If you haven't, you should! It's a real page turner although the dissertation on the subjective meaning of 'quality' does get a tad stodgy at times. Nonetheless, it's as valid a discussion as ever these days, especially when it comes to listening to music. Time was when your pals would brag about their new hi-fi, their new set of earthquake inducing speakers or the hallucinogenic sonics of Pink Floyd's latest record. People would sit together in a room and ritualistically listen to entire albums from start to finish, some would even continue to discuss the record afterwards!

These days however the quality of the music we listen to, both artistically and technically, seems in the mainstream anyway to have gone the way of the dodo bird. I've been told many times that the popular consensus is that as long as it's cheap or ideally, free and of a small enough file size to fit on the latest iNose-ring, nobody really cares about quality. To me as a musician, record producer and sound engineer, this is a tragedy. We slave for many hot months distilling out art into finely honed nuggets of aural deliciousness, often using tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of equipment, vintage valve mics etc, etc in the process, only to have it all reduced to a nasty sounding washy, grainy mp3 which will be listened to on little white earbuds with retarded frequency response and all the dynamic range of a pencil sharpener. In fact, you might as well stick that sharpened pencil in your ear. The results will be more emotionally evocative I can assure you.

Indeed the audiophile listener has been relegated to the most distant fringes of the now supposedly en-vogue nerd collective. And there's an ironic madness to it all, internet speeds are faster than ever, storage space cheaper than ever yet still most music is purchased in horrible compressed formats. At best, the diminishing CD format is still delivering quality far inferior to that at which music is recorded in the studio. There has been little progress in this area at all, CD's are a 30-year old technology and rather than building on it and delivering higher quality formats to the consumer as is the case with TV and movies, we take a giant leap backwards into the shady realms of the mp3 instead. It's easy to see how this happened during the early days of online commerce but surely it's now time to set a new standard?

For these reasons I'm hoping for a revolution and that we're not breeding a generation who have no idea how good something can sound, who've never heard real depth and warmth in a recording or felt goosebumps from the broad dynamics of a well presented crescendo. So here, I am attempting to do my bit, 24-bit to be precise and when possible, at 88.2kHz (twice the sample rate of a CD). I'm calling it 'Super High Definition Audio' because comparatively that's exactly what it is. At the very least, when limited by the format of the original masters, I'm offering full CD quality downloads in WAV format. You also get the mp3 options because there are some with old devices and limited storage space or who genuinely have no desire for any of this. But there is one thing I will insist upon which is that here we don't sell individual tracks unless they have been released as a single. You can buy an album or a single because that was the intent of the artist. An album has a flow and aesthetic all of it's own and to sell it piecemeal, in little easily digestible chunks is something akin to buying a print of the Mona Lisa's bottom lip as that's the bit you like best. If after all of that, you still want track 7 only and you really don't care about the quality or artistic intentions, then I'm sure iTunes will look after you just fine.

Viva la revolution! And feel free to drop us a line with your thoughts on the subject - I'm sure there will be some interesting opinions.

Thanks for reading and happy listening!


Peace, love, music,

Harvey. X