March 12, 2011

Honest lying...


I was simply curious to hear how much musical value Sony got for their $3,000,000.00 advance paid to this musical midget, so I brought the "Lang Lang live in Vienna" CD home from the library.  What I heard on this CD told me unequivocally that Sony got about as much for all that dough as (I would guess) one could get for a few hundred bucks from a Las Vegas whore: a cynical and vulgar substitute for the real thing.

But it is not my impressions of the artistic merits of Sony's business deals that is the point here.  The point is this:
       On the back of the CD cover the recording is promoted as a "historic document" - filmed and taped "live in concert".  Everywhere in the booklet there are signs of considerable, even faintly desperate effort to create the impression that you are buying "the real thing" - the actual concert as heard by the audience.  All those blurbs on the cover (live!  in concert!  actual concert recording!), all those booklet photos of Lang on the stage surrounded by the adoringly clapping audience...   There is even one photo of the entrance to Musikvereinssaal with the posters on the wall announcing Lang's concert - with the boldly printed date FEBRUARY 28, 2010 clearly visible.  Yet at the very, very end of the booklet, in very, very small print one can read: RECORDING DATES:  FEBRUARY 27 - MARCH 1, 2010.

And so many sorry assholes who call themselves "record critics/reviewers" talk about Lang's "phenomenal technique" and "electricity of a live occasion" in discussing this recording!  That they can't hear - this much I already knew.  But now I also see that they can't read either...

As for Sony - well, this is as close as one can come to "honest lying": the truth is hidden in the smallest print deep inside, and the lie is boldly stated on the cover.  Well... better than outright lying, I suppose, but not by much...

One last gem: The man - James Jolly - who wrote the liner notes for the above Lang album is the EDITOR IN CHIEF OF GRAMOPHONE  MAGAZINE!  Just think about it: the head of the publication that REVIEWS recordings hires himself out to the very businesses who stand to profit from laudatory reviews.  And I thought that the days when a music critic (e.g., Olin Downes of NY Times) hired himself out to the musical businesses he was reviewing (e.g., writing concert programs for NY Philharmonic) were long over...  Lets hope Mr Jolly invested his financial gains from that musical rag into Bernie Madoff's hedge fund...

Just to make things perfectly clear: I have no problem with any kind of (competently done) editing in recordings!  This is the artist's choice and no one can dictate to the artist what recording techniques she should and should not employ.  But the coy or downright fraudulent practices of so many record labels peddling fake "live" recordings make me think that the recording industry feels about editing the way general public feels about self-gratification: everybody does it, but no one ever wants to mention it (at least outside Farrelly Brothers films).
   
In the end the truth, I think, comes down (as it always does in business) to money: It seems clear that neither the record companies nor the musicians are interested in offering to the public "documents" of actual performances.  Instead they are after saving money: the artist gets paid for the concert, the record label saves money on studio sessions, and a few short patching sessions with some time in the editing room finish the "product".  That's the real reason for the proliferation of fake "live" recordings in recent years:  You have to convince your customers that they should put up with occasional audience noises, and what better way to do this than to convince them that they are witnessing the actual event (just like people in the concert hall were).