Monday, July 21, 2008

An Open Letter to Mark Knopfler

Posted By on Mon, Jul 21, 2008 at 9:34 AM

From a Scene reader:
Mark, I've been a wildly enthusiastic fan for over a quarter century. Your work is surpassingly intelligent and artistic, and it includes some of the greatest guitar solos in rock history. After viewing your concert at Ryman last Tuesday, I remain completely puzzled. Did you not realize that the sound levels were inhumanly high, virtually deafening? Now, I can make allowances for large venues (and I have, as I had my eardrums literally blasted during two of your appearances in Vancouver) But this was Ryman! A medium sized venue with great acoustics!! Why would an artist who creates emotion through the power of his beautifully crystalline, intricate playing and wonderfully melodic chording choose to distort the sound and place his entire audience on the verge of auditory pain? What a wasted opportunity! What I heard was horribly distorted, except for a few moments of acoustic bliss near the end. I came to hear Mark Knopfler, and instead I heard a massively distorted facsimile. Sure, I suffered through it. Seeing you live was great. And, you were in top form. Please consider your fans, and DROP THE VOLUME! We want to hear YOU! Jim Steiger Brentwood, TN
Okay now, hold the Brentwood jokes for a minute. To Mr. Steiger I would say, first, that the performer doesn't necessarily know how loud it is in the house, so this open letter might be misdirected. Granted, that performer may choose a stage volume that is so loud it forces the sound person to mix everything up to match, resulting in a very loud show. But then, that leads me to my second point, which is: Rock music tends to be on the loud side, and that's how I like it. But, to qualify that statement, (and this is kind of obvious) it's true that The Ryman is good for quieter shows, and not so great for louder shows—the room magnifies certain frequencies that can really enhance an acoustic or relatively quiet performance, but that don't need to be magnified when people are playing through powerful amplifiers. As someone named Jack once said, "Rock shows at The Ryman sound shitty and boomy as hell." Or something like that. To Mr. Steiger's point, Cake's John Mcrea has said, at various times and in various ways, that some music just isn't supposed to be loud, and most music would probably sound better at lower volumes: "For me it’s a practical thing: Can the human ear access this information? Beyond a certain point you're just getting a lot of noise and rumble. To me I'd think you'd want people to have get the information transmitted." (Cake play their shows at a volume most Iron Maiden fans would consider a whisper.)

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