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Knox Harrington

Anyone else think 90s film scores sound the best?

Anyone else think 90s film scores sound the best?  

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  1. 1. Anyone else think 90s film scores sound the best?



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Lower dynamics/more relaxed playing leading to a warm and broad sound.  Lexicon on everything.  Todd-AO in its heyday.  Natural dynamic range.

 

The 80s were tinny.  Everything before that is crap quality whether you like it or not.  You might be nostalgic about the sound of Star Wars 77 but it is shit sound.  Shore's trilogy from 2001-2003 was the last great example of pinnacle 90s sonic quality.  Since then dynamic range has suffered, playing techniques have changed and made things harsher.  Overall aesthetics are different because of the widespread hybrid approach, and it sounds great with that stuff, but even straight orchestral music is being treated differently.  What's the last symphonic score that really sounded good on every front?  Silvestri's Avengers, the first one?  The end credits on that rock.  Nothing else really stands out.  I welcome recommendations. 

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It's a very interesting thesis. I wonder what qualifies as a really good sound to you. Could you list "good 1990s recordings" and "bad non-1990s recordings" of some major film scores?

 

And what do you think of the quality of these: CE3K, Star Trek TMP, ESB, E.T., Amadeus, Cotton Club, Batman? I have never had a reason to complain about the quality of the 1980s...

 

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49 minutes ago, Fabulin said:

I wonder what qualifies as a really good sound to you.

 

In terms of symphonic music - little dynamic compression if any, little or no reliance on spot microphones, a certain school of musicianship with a more nuanced handling of dynamics and balance than is now common (possibly this is a result of how often scores are striped and players, especially brass, feel like they can/are asked to cut loose more when on their own), and a balance of presence with space.  It's rare that this is all met 100% but I look for at least most of these things.

 

49 minutes ago, Fabulin said:

CE3K, Star Trek TMP, ESB, E.T., Amadeus, Cotton Club, Batman

 

The first two are ok but could be better, ESB and ET are grating - the former more than the latter.  No opinion on the others.  Star Wars 77 is a prime example of what I don't like.  It's right on the edge of the time when scores had obviously inferior sound (and frankly playing as well) and when things started to improve a little bit but it falls into unpleasant territory for me.  

 

The 90s were the goldilocks zone for symphonic film music.  After the low performance and sonic standards of previous decades, and before new production methods came along that are fine for some things but not for this type of music.  Notable recent disappointments are John Powell's works.  Even Hubris has an unpleasant EQ shape to it.  His music is wonderful, but the production doesn't work for me.

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They master these newer scores with people's tinnitus-inducing iPod earbuds in mind. I didn't get a chance to listen to modern scores on my beefed up hi-fi system, but I did get a chance to listen to the ToD OST, and Justin's gonna kill me for this, but although the dynamics were fine, it had such distant imaging that it just didn't pop like I thought it would. Instead it just sort of lingered around in the upper mid-range and didn't want to come alive. Same story on the Red Seal editions of Gerhardt's SW recordings.

 

Not so on scores like The Shadow or ID4. Those friggin things are killers.

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Yep.  I think alot of people want to deliver something of the highest quality regardless of how most listeners will encounter the music but then at some point it gets thrown to the mass consumption phase of production and someone insists that it be tailored to earbuds or Beats by fuckin' Dr. Dre. 

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I am not an expert in this department.  I can, however, hear some thing delectable in the way 90s scores were recorded.  Very warm and inviting.  

Today's recordings can be a touch overwhelming.  

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Princess Mononoke

[Insert the original Track 01 that's ~1 minute long]

 

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey

 

Aladdin

 

The 13th Warrior

 

Jurassic Park

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In terms of sonic qualities, I don't really know. Was a bit warmer and fuller then, perhaps, but I like the clarity ot today's recordings too.

 

But the 90s will always be my favourite decade in terms of film music. Hard to avoid, when they are my formative years as well, I guess. We humans are put together that way; it's hard to dislike the contemporary stuff you first discovered when you came into your own. 

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It totally depends on the room, the engineer, mixing engineer, and the mastering engineer. I mean, can you believe the same guy who recorded all those great Silvestri scores (Dennis Sands) recorded Army of Darkness, which sounds dreadful.  Or Dan Wallin, who is usually pants, made Joel McNeely's Iron Will sound brilliant.  And then you have Shawn Murphy who had various different recording techniques for each composer and each room he recorded in.

I always loved what Stephen McLaughlin did for Michael Kamen.

 

IMO, nothing beats the Gerhardt's RCA Classic Film Score series, recorded by the late, great K. E. Wilkinson.  And those 80's to early to mid-nineties Kunzel/Telarc recordings were stunning.

 

-Erik-

 

 

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5 minutes ago, Erik Woods said:

IMO, nothing beats the Gerhardt's RCA Classic Film Score series, recorded by the late, great K. E. Wilkinson.  And those 80's to early to mid-nineties Kunzel/Telarc recordings were stunning.

 

-Erik-

 

Yes!

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6 minutes ago, Richard said:

Does anybody else like the sound of TOTAL RECALL? It's modern, but with a classic "dry" sound.

 

It sounds like it belongs on a VHS copy of the movie, if you get what I mean.

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2 minutes ago, Nick Parker said:

 

It sounds like it belongs on a VHS copy of the movie, if you get what I mean.

 

One of those old CEL tapes of old public domain movies you'd find at the two dollar shop.

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28 minutes ago, Erik Woods said:

IMO, nothing beats the Gerhardt's RCA Classic Film Score series, recorded by the late, great K. E. Wilkinson.  And those 80's to early to mid-nineties Kunzel/Telarc recordings were stunning.

Shouldn't it be easy to equal or surpass these old recordings with today's technology? I cannot understand it

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10 minutes ago, Nick Parker said:

 

It's not so much a matter of recording technology but philosophy.

 

 

Considering that we can listen to music almost every second of the day, in almost every conceivable place, there are so many variables to account for: are you going to mix and master for headphones for the public commute listeners, are you going to mix and master for the car driving listeners, are you going to mix and master for the listeners playing music through their phone speakers? The list goes on and on. So producers tend to compromise, creating a product that can "speak" and get the job done in as many scenarios as possible. 

 

Barbra Streisand has her albums mixed so they sound best in a car.

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10 minutes ago, Nick Parker said:

Considering that we can listen to music almost every second of the day, in almost every conceivable place, there are so many variables to account for: are you going to mix and master for headphones for the public commute listeners, are you going to mix and master for the car driving listeners, are you going to mix and master for the listeners playing music through their phone speakers? The list goes on and on. So producers tend to compromise, creating a product that can "speak" and get the job done in as many scenarios as possible. 

 

They forget the hi-fi audio aficionados.

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2 minutes ago, Stefancos said:

Barbra Streisand has her albums mixed so they sound best in a car.

Ah, yes, the cassette tape-car stereo sound.  

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I think most industry professionals are way past teary-eyed remembrances of a 'better' past. Scores like 'How to Train Your Dragon' or 'Crimes of Grindelwald' - recent scores by very different composers - have the same wall-of-sound approach that plagues scores since the mid 2000's. It has bled into the writing as well. 

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I wonder if thats because those labels take the recording of their music more seriously than Hollywood, who rather had it done on the cheap and as quick as possible. The sound effects are just gonna oscure the music anyway.

Just now, The Illustrious Jerry said:

Seven Years in Tibet

Jurassic Park

 

Two great examples.

 

Jurassic Park sounds great, but doesnt Tibet have that 90's Murphy bass, drowning out all the detail.

Hook has it, Nixon too. I can't recall if Sleepers has it. 

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The original Jurassic Park OST has an artificial "silky" sort of reverby sound. Alexcremers knows what I'm talking about. The remaster is drier and punchier and I prefer it, although Datameister doesn't agree. Murphy's work with JW in that era was certainly questionable. Many scores suffer from excessive treble and drowning bass, at least on album.

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39 minutes ago, Ghostbusters II said:

The original Jurassic Park OST has an artificial "silky" sort of reverby sound. Alexcremers knows what I'm talking about. The remaster is drier and punchier and I prefer it, although Datameister doesn't agree. Murphy's work with JW in that era was certainly questionable. Many scores suffer from excessive treble and drowning bass, at least on album.

 

JP doesn't sound that great on the original MCA album (muddy bass), Far and Away, recorded one year before, also has a strangely old-fashioned sound which i noticed because all other albums i got (Shaiman, Silvestri, Goldsmith, Horner, Barry) sounded more 'modern' for the lack of a better word. 

1 hour ago, Knox Harrington said:

 

Those film music albums by classical labels were always fantastic. 

 

I will add 'Altered States' and 'Revolution' to that list.

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The very first 1996 OST to ID4 has an extremely muddy and overwhelming bass that drowns out the mid and upper range detail, I thought there must have been something wrong with the recording. That is until I acquired the 1997 gold CD version, which seemed to have tidied up all that booming muddiness and it sounds better for it. The 2010 LLL is a tiny bit less dynamic but it the "attack" is still there and it's a bit drier.

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Too many overall terrible scores in the film industry I think that have great sound quality. I think my standards of composition are much too high currently to worry about the more minor details of mixing.

 

"Sounding" is an interesting use of the term, as I listen to MIDI synths and find them to be some of the best-sounding I ever heard, based solely on the composition outweighing any defect in sound quality. Usually "sound quality" of today's music doesn't do too much for me. And hearing MIDIs is actually how I prefer to analyze and compose much music; I like their sound because it's clear and can attest to the underlying creative process much better.

 

The only thing which mostly concerns me in mixing is how to make a synth instrument sound real. If it sounds real enough and performed accurately, then I'm happy. If it sounds amazing but the score is too ordinary (like 99% of music I hear) then it belongs simply in the trash (or hopefully burned!)

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23 minutes ago, Borodin said:

 

"Sounding" is an interesting use of the term, as I listen to MIDI synths and find them to be some of the best-sounding I ever heard, based solely on the composition outweighing any defect in sound quality. Usually "sound quality" of today's music doesn't do too much for me. And hearing MIDIs is actually how I prefer to analyze and compose much music; I like their sound because it's clear and can attest to the underlying creative process much better.

 

The only thing which mostly concerns me in mixing is how to make a synth instrument sound real. If it sounds real enough and performed accurately, then I'm happy. If it sounds amazing but the score is too ordinary (like 99% of music I hear) then it belongs simply in the trash (or hopefully burned!)

 

Musicians preferring the "clean", perfect sound of their samples is a problem in current day music.

 

They would rather not have it performed by another artist.

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But it's not like the majority would suddenly be 'good music' if they had better instruments or mixing, IMO. It would still be terrible music :lol:. Composition and creativity stands out the most, personally, when I seek to enjoy something.

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15 minutes ago, Stefancos said:

 

Musicians preferring the "clean", perfect sound of their samples is a problem in current day music.

 

They would rather not have it performed by another artist.

 

I was actually just talking about this with a relative who is younger and more knowledgable about samples.  He reckons dumb kids who don't know how orchestras actually work are churning out unbalanced demos and expecting that from reality.  Doesn't help that apparently samples aren't adjusted to have proper dynamic scaling so if you don't know how to do that everything is off.  Glad I don't tinker with that shit anymore.

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16 minutes ago, Knox Harrington said:

 

I was actually just talking about this with a relative who is younger and more knowledgable about samples.  He reckons dumb kids who don't know how orchestras actually work are churning out unbalanced demos and expecting that from reality.  Doesn't help that apparently samples aren't adjusted to have proper dynamic scaling so if you don't know how to do that everything is off.  Glad I don't tinker with that shit anymore.

 

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