Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Wall-of-Sound Explained: Part 10

Arta responds to Part 8:
See, I totally agree with you here, when you say that "The Tonics are all producers." I think that's the approach you should have taken all along, but last time it really did seem that you were demarcating a division of labor between "musician" and "producer." If we realize that "musician" and "producer" are really just two hats worn by "artists," then we can go somewhere. But my problem with Spector is that I really don't think he saw it that way. He employed legions of session musicians and used a really rigid formula for his arrangements, making them pretty boring, upon repeated listening, to my ears. His whole approach is antithetical to the making of a flexible creative process between equals. You should really give more credence to the negative accounts of artists who actually worked with the guy -- a lot of people seem to think he was an anti-social, egotistical dictator.

If he was just composing music, that would be fine. As you note, a composer lives a solitary existence and has a lot of freedom to create his individual world. But a conductor, or a musician, or a producer, needs to be a social creature that understands consensus, flexibility, revision, and criticism. And I am convinced that Spector did not. He worked fine with artists who were willing to completely defer to him, like the girl groups composed of naive 18 year olds, but older artists (who actually composed their own music) and had a sense of pride in their work tended to hate Spector's egotism and arrogance. Anyway, I don't doubt that he was a smart guy. But I reject him as an object of adulation, and I think you could be a bit more critical in your analysis of him too. This all reminds me a bit too much of the "Clapton is God" stuff of the Cream era.

I think studying wall of sound or any other production technique is valuable to an artist, but only if we approach it with open eyes and an objective stance. Saying the wall of sound is the "best" way for a band to realize its musical potential seems like an obviously false statement to me, just like it would be silly for me to say that "impressionism" is the best way for a painter to realize her best artistic potential. Phil Spector and the wall of sound don't need apologists, in other words, the body of work can defend itself. A good analysis shouldn't be a defense, and it should take criticism into account.

And dude, be honest with me, don't you think the paragraph below sounds a bit authoritarian?

"You are in control of your musicians. If your musicians want to go and create their own records so that they would individually sound the way they want, they can do so. But right now they are working for the collective good, the wall-of-sound, and you are the organizer of this project."

That's what kind of pissed me off, because if anyone in our band had ever acted like that, the rest of us would have whooped him upside the head. And it really didn't seem like you were talking about a metaphorical "spirit of production" guiding the band, it seemed like a pretty literal endorsement of the Spector approach: one man, the Producer, is in charge of the Collective Good (the Wall of Sound) and makes decisions for the whole, free from criticism. If the people in the band aren't cool with that, they can get lost. Doesn't that sound a little USSR?
Phil Spector's nasty business practices, which included depriving many of his musicians a fair share of the royalties, are acknowledged and condemned by this writer. It is a challenge to this writer to study and recommend a production method invented by a man seen by many people as unethical.

Perhaps the next version of this essay should focus less on the production methods and more on the finished product, i.e. the wall-of-sound.

As far as I know, there has not previously been an attempt to describe the wall-of-sound in a way that would be useful to today's musicians who are trying to emulate the sound. This essay, however, has not been exactly neutral, and has been crafted hastily and sometimes recklessly.

It was important for me to get the words out there, in order to get feedback and identify the parts that need revision. There will be a much-improved second draft.

In Part 11, I will conclude this essay by proposing a recording setup that should produce the wall-of-sound.


Anonymous said...

get a room, you two.

you could cut the sexual tension with a knife.

Anonymous said...

yeah, you should see the behind-the-scenes pictures from the manhattan project -- all that discussion and research really gets a cock in an ass like none other.

your comment, in other words, was stupid.

Anonymous said...

your mom is fat.

Anonymous said...

how do you always know where my tears hide?

Anonymous said...

because you're easy.

just like your mom.

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