Seoda na n-Oileán

By Marcus Hernon and Johnny Connolly

Four comments

Marcus Hernon and Johnny Connolly: Seoda na n-Oileán (Island Treasures)

A lovely flute and melodeon duet recording from Connemara, which was released in 2010.

Marcus and Johnny are accompanied by Tim Edey on the guitar and Brain McGrath on the piano. Marcus’s sons Prionsias, Breandán and Labhrás appear on a couple of tracks as guests.

Available from Custy’s: http://www.custysmusic.com/product-info.php?pid479.html
and All Celtic Music: http://www.allcelticmusic.com/music/99b687e0-f0c0-11df-9d53-12313b076c61/Seoda_na_n-Oilean_(Island_Treasures).html

“Marcus Hernon and Johnny Connolly: Seoda na n-Oileán” ~ Goosed!? :-P

Sadly, as lovely as this recording is, and I love it, it seems that in the final processing, for whatever reason, it suffers having been ‘goosed’, my meaning that in the hands of the techies, or whoever, the tempos were raised. Testing track, 6, based on normal tuning, that’s by a semitone and a half, 150 cents, a half semitone more than if they’d been paying Eb tuned instruments. My assumption and expectation is that they were in normal tuning, somewhere around A440, based on the pictures, flute and melodeon, and my own sense of it, and having enjoyed the music of both of these musicians elsewhere, including other recordings.

But, this is still a lovely recording, I only wish the speed obsessed would leave well enough alone. This kind of after-treatment is nothing new and isn’t rare, but this lovely recording would have been much better without that diddlin’ for speed. For me there’s a disrespect in such treatment, for whatever reason, a disrespect for the musicians, for the music, for the tradition…

I forgot to mention my suspicions here, and they are supported by the CD, which is full to the brim, evidence of this from the underside, a generous collection of prized listens, around an hour’s worth. A very old system of ‘compression’ going back before digital to 78s, was to shorten audio by speeding it up, to fit onto a very limited medium, the various types of early 78s, and something also used to fit more on to later LPs. I guess it is just something, and option, taken for granted, without thought, other than possibly ‘best of intentions’, to fit more into a limited space, on to a limited medium, CDs also having a size/time limit.

In this digital world it is easy to reduce the speed of a track without the pitch being affected, lowered, without any noticeable damage, within limits. It doesn’t work well the other way round. Speeding up a track while also choosing to keep the pitch ends up damaging the track, resulting in odd little noises referred to as ‘artifacts’. So, when a knowledgeable and generally ‘respectful’ knob junkie adjusts tempos upwards, guessing in this case to compress the tracks as to length, to fit more on to the CD, they will just adjust the tempo upwards and just allow the pitch to rise with it, damage limitation! Their respect remains for the basic audio, not to damage it, but they fail to consider ‘tempo’ as something also that needs respect, for the original audio, for the music, for the musicians and the tradition ~ to present it as honestly as possible, that this ‘goosing’ is a kind of damage too, worse because of its subtlety for some, going unnoticed, but still affecting notions about this music, these traditions.

I accept that my response to this might seem harsh to others. While not necessarily dishonest, and more than likely done ‘with the best of intentions’, in my mind it is an ignorance l of this side effect of this form or compression that does not excuse it from being disrespectful, however common and taken for granted this type of treatment might be. It does not result in an honest recording, something I value highly, as I do solos and duets, trios too, small groupings, the music relatively raw and full of life, heart and humour. Speed has a tendency to roll right over that, to get in the way of a direct connection with the situation, the musicians and the music. There are also some curious choices in the balance between the two tracks and instruments as well that also detract from the likely reality of it all, and are likely also about the processing of individual track before the final burn. It all muddies things, and is in my mind lacking full respectful of the situation, micro and macro, the room and situation where it originated, and this recording in the wider world.

I’ve messed around with this some myself, not professing any great expertise, but the experience is here with audio editing, past projects, and half a dozen projects currently in process, some damned difficult, the quality of the recording that bad, the consequence of that being that a couple are way overdue, but still in process and guilt. :-/ But I avoid this form of compression, other than experimentally, my goal to present whatever I work on as honestly as I can, as the recording I’m working on allows, with minimal damage. That want to clean things up as best I can without damage does get in the way of hoped for time restraints, and no doubt tries the patience of others, sorry…

This is a great recording, no two ways about it and the joy of friends and family making music is there. Speeding it up, even if it means more can be put on the CD, does not do it justice, does take away from the fuller pleasure I get listening to it brought back down to ground, the speed reduced to the likely more reasonable reality of it.