Conversation With Eric Madson

To: Eric Madson <emadson@cray.com>
From: Ron Pellegrino <ronpell@microweb.com>
Subject: Re: Musicians
Date: 8/21/98

Hi Eric:

Thanks again for your response to my essay Why Are Audio Engineers the Enemies of Our Ears.

Madson - I have just finished reading your essay on "Enemies of our Ears". I
>have to say you have definitely brought up some very good issues but I
>think some of your finger pointing is misguided.

Pellegrino - Given that the function of an audio engineer is to serve the music being conveyed to the audience and that the audio engineer is the last person who has control over the quality and level of the audio going out to the audience, the audio engineer must accept responsibility for the sound the audience is hearing. Convincing all the people who need audio direction definitely requires a solid knowledge base in music, physics of sound, and psychoacoustics plus strong communication skills on the part of the audio engineer. An audio engineer needs to be more than a technical specialist. The fact is that to achieve excellence it´s a very demanding job on numerous levels - musical, theoretical, technical, physical, and social.

Madson - I have been involved in Sound Reinforcement for approximently ten+
>years, and yes, my hearing has definitely suffered because of it. I know
>from being in a situation, of being exposed to 100+ SPL frequently, that
>a majority of the time the volume was out of my control. Musicians have
>all grown up with a falacy that the bigger, the louder, the better. Most
>Sound People( Being politically correct) have to constantly struggle
>with Musicians, who have stage volumes easily in excess of 100 DB, and
>refuse to turn it down. The Front House person always knows immediately
>their in trouble when the two guitarists stroll into the Gig with their
>double, four twelve Marshal stacks, in a club that maybe seats a hundred
>people. I have dealt my whole carrier with musicians who refuse to turn
>down and they give you the preverbial "I can't hear myself". They never
>ask why they just turn it up more. A Front House person needs to have
>some room to squeeze in their mix but 9 out of 10 times I find the band
>does not give me that luxury. You have to realize that the Front House
>mixer is working for the band. The band is their boss.

Pellegrino - It´s true that often musicians make a significant contribution to bad audio. Some are hearing impaired. Many are clueless as to what constitutes good sound for the audience. Some have an aesthetic based on overpowering the audience. Some don´t even care enough to do a thorough sound check. Unless an audio engineer enjoys being an animal trainer it´s best to turn down the gigs with those musicians that specialize in conditions that lead to bad sound. And of course if there´s no way out, you just make the best of it and vow not to work with them again.

Madson - The next time your listening to a band at a club and they are too loud
>try to determine why. Is it from stage, the PA, or both? Yell at the
>band and let them know you are angry that they are exposeing you to
>something you are simply not enjoying. Often this will give the
>sound-person leverage with the band to get them to turn down their stage
>volumes. If you recieve an attitude from the band or the sound-person,
>ust don't go see them again, and let management know why.

Pellegrino - When it´s that bad I wouldn´t even waste energy writing about it. The fact is that I very rarely find myself at the sort of music venue you describe; and if I do, I wouldn´t spend much time there. One only has the highest audio expectations for the music events I attend. That´s why I´m so upset when the audio engineering work is so blatantly offensive.

Madson - I am happy to see that peoples attitudes are starting to change
>torwards Live shows and it is refreshing to read articles such as yours.

>Thank You
>Eric Madson

Best of luck with your audio work.

Ron Pellegrino


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