To begin with, my name is John Hausmann, and I am in the second year of my masters at the University of Louisville. My research interests include Russian/Soviet music (my thesis is on Dmitri Shostakovich's 13th Symphony), humor in music, popular music, and ways musical meanings are created by different audiences. Some of my future blog postings will hopefully include ruminations on pop music, a discussion of Christopher Small's Musicking, and a consideration of how people listen to and perceive music that will dovetail nicely with my graduate seminar in music after 1960. If I had to make listening recommendations, I would recommend (in chronological order) Bach's Cantata BWV 78, Schumann's Fantasiestücke, op. 12, Pierre Boulez's Sur Incises, Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion, and Fanfarlo's Reservoir.
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I would like to take this opportunity to share some thoughts about the recent Beatles remasters. For those of you who (*gasp*) aren't Beatles fans, a quick catchup: the entire catalogue was remastered and re-released (in both mono and stereo) on 9/9/09 to coincide with the release of the Beatles edition of RockBand. I managed to find a record store to sell them to me early, and purchased Revolver, Sgt. Peppers, The While Album, and Abbey Road. I instantly noticed the difference, as did some of the other Beatles fans I played the albums for the next day. However, I figured the best acid test would be someone who hasn't heard the albums dozens of times experiencing a side-by-side comparison between the original and the remaster. I experimented with the non-major History of Rock class, and most of them were able to both hear and articulate differences. Most obviously, everything is simply louder. This is noticeable especially the drums and bass (which seems to be much warmer than before). The overall difference in recording quality is enough to make it seem, as the helpful gent in the record store put it, "that they recorded these yesterday." I'd go so far as to say that, with a good stereo setup (I recommend appropriating a recital hall with good speakers for this purpose), it almost seems that the band is in the room with you.
Some of my only complaints involve the quality of the mixes, which at time simply aren't as good as the originals (and, I've only heard the stereo remasters, so I can't comment on the mono). For example, in "Yellow Submarine," the waves in the second verse are boosted up to the point they almost become a distraction (and in my headphones, the waves almost completely drown out Ringos voice). That said, I definitely recommend them if you are a Beatles fan. I don't know if the remasters will replace the original in my listening rotation, but they're pure ear candy. For me personally, it was also great to get excited about the music all over again, and this is the closest I'll ever come in my life to experiencing what it must have been like to get excited about the release of these albums. Briefly touching on commercial aspects (and leaving commercial exploitation aside, which exists in no small measure (how many times do I need to shell out for these same cds?)), there's also the fact that this move (both the re-releases and the RockBand edition) will probably introduce a whole new generation of people to this music, which has meant so much to so many. And, in my opinion, that can't entirely be a bad thing.