Caution: See Page 10 Before Playing

Today I did something I rarely do anymore: I purchased a CD, Star Tracks, by Erich Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. 
As I liberated the CD from it’s cellophane tomb, my eye caught this notice in bold red letters on the back of the CD:

CAUTION! Before playing, see page 10

More intrigued than afraid I turned to page 10 of the included booklet. 

Damage?  Really?  Out of curiosity I popped the CD in and yes indeed the opening track entitled, “Proto: Introduction” jolted me.  While no damage was done to my speakers or my newly acquired SVS SB13-Ultra subwoofers, I did become nostalgic for this one element that seems to have gone by the wayside in modern mixes: dynamic range. 

The Telarc CD is ancient, from 1984, but wow did it pack a wallop! The drums on the “Imperial March” from Empire Strikes Back rendered the piece with the best energy and dynamics since I heard John Williams conduct the piece live a decade ago.

All this got me to start thinking and pondering. The lack of dynamic range in much of today’s music has left us impoverished. Compressing dynamic range assumes, in my mind, that music is a background activity. We’ve taken out such an important, emotive aspect of music. Dare I even say that compressing dynamic range makes it sound more like a recording and less like a live performance.

More than any CD in recent memory, this Telarc CD with it’s intriguing warning has reminded me once again how important a recording and it’s subsequent mixing can be to bring music to life and make it as though I’m experiencing it live.