Perspectives. Musicians have very odd ones when it comes to the sound of their instruments. So odd in fact that they're shared with nobody else. Take a clarinet since I've played one for nearly 20 years. The mouth piece is tightly pressed against your upper teeth, the vibrating reed against your lower lip. Every tone you make vibrates an air column inside the bore of your blackwood. The column's length is determined by which finger holes you open. The oscillating shaft of air couples directly to your lungs, the vibrations of wood and reed through your upper teeth into your skull. Your upper body resonates. You are in the eye of the cyclone which is sound. Except it ain't still in there but louder than anyone else will hear it.
If I were to use this active perspective as guide on the mixing console, the recorded sound of my clarinet would be nothing like you heard it in the passive audience perspective 20 feet or more removed. The key clacks, finger slides, reed buzz, spittle rush, covert inhalations - all the other extraneous sounds that to the player are part of the experience really are of little relevance to the audience and mostly inaudible from the distance. A microphone pickup drilled into the bore below the mouth piece does capture those noises - but the composite result still wouldn't sound how I heard myself while playing, skull bones activated, lung/diaphragm cavity under pressure, finger tips sealing that pressure, at a loudness that combines data from the ears with other bodily senses "from the inside" to be more intense than any external listener could ever share.
Or take the sheer force required to hold down an upright bass' strings while exciting them. It's a very painful eye opener to anyone not already endowed with the toughened skin, finger strength and skill of experience. Does the live connection with a resonating cavity or string affect how players hear themselves? You bet. It goes quite beyond just hearing. This is the key reason why musicians as a species don't do hifi. It'll never sound like how they experience themselves. By definition, it cannot, now or ever. No musician can hear herself as though in the audience while playing on stage. No musician can hear himself in the passive perspective - because by then, the playing has already stopped. And hearing a colleague play or a mic feed of oneself is not the same thing.
For the same reason, a pianist for example could adore the sound of a close-miked piano recording played back over an ultra-resolution class D amplifier. What would be an extremely unnatural sound to the audience who could prefer a triode system's way with space, dimensionality and farfield softness of transients does in fact approach how the pianist perceived herself; in the eye of the cyclone, microphone suspended straight down the middle of the maelstrom: loud, sharp, crisp, direct. Details without losses.
If much of modern hifi attempts to clone the musician's perspective with all the latter's "no-field" detail (it's not even the nearfield which already is directional - the player is in the center of the sound), riddle me this: How should we relate to recordings that feature more than one performer yet which still go on with this hear-it-like-the-player-heard-it focus? It's impossible to hear a performance from the simultaneous perspectives of multiple musicians. Aren't multi-miked recordings with spot mikes on each instrument in many ways exactly that? They generate a completely impossible perspective. It's not even shared by a symphonic conductor facing an orchestra of 100.
Perspectives. It makes sense to question which one you value before you embark on costly audio adventures. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with the approximate musician's perspective even though already that is artificial for anyone but that musician. Going beyond a solo instrument or vocal is more impossible and artificial still for as long as human consciousness remains imprisoned by an individualized nervous system that cannot share, as though massively paralleled, what many people experience in a given moment, together. No hive mind for humans yet. And it's not just the system you build. Cueing up complex multi-tracked recordings that pursue this massively paralleled, be-multiple-performers-at-once perspective commits you to extreme artifice no matter how pure and non-editorializing your components are. Which is all fine and good. After all, this is a fun hobby. We're free to get creative and artifice away to our pleasure. It's when we claim absolutes, talk about reality and get all haughty and intense... it's then that a bit of perspective can remind us that it's all perspectives. None of 'em is absolute and musicians, by definition, must have one that's different from the listener no matter how close the latter may be to the players...
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