Sunday, October 08, 2006

Adventures in Audio Editing

I came across a couple of interesting pages recently, both of which rely on a close analysis of audio files. They are very different and very heroic in different ways. One is a study of Armstrong's first words on the moon. The other is a study of every, and I mean every, audio edit Jimmy Page made in constructing the sound files for "live" Led Zeppelin videos.

Peter Shann Ford's analysis of Armstrong's words is here. (Be warned - it's graphics-intensive and takes a while to load. ) He concludes that Armstrong did say, "One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind," and the sleuthing he had to do track down that first inaudible "a" is fascinating.

Eddie Edwards' The Garden Tapes is a website dedicated to deconstructing the final audio files for Led Zeppelin DVDs and working out where each part came from in the original concerts. The original concerts ran over several nights and rather than taking the best example of each song from the several examples available, Page takes the best example of each word and each note from the several available to him. Unlike Shann Ford, Edwards doesn't show his working, but it's a heck of an achievement.

Eddie Edwards on The Song Remains The Same's Black Dog: "This riff is from the 29th, as is almost all of "Black Dog". This is an incomplete version, of course, with a substantial section cut from the middle of the song. After the "ah-ah" call and response, as we expect the "Hey baby, oh baby, pretty baby" section, we are instead taken straight to the guitar solo that closes the piece. This gives a rather unbalanced feel to the song, although the brilliance of the guitar work and the spectacularly exciting stage act soon make us forget that. Still on the 29th, then, until near the very end of the song. After the return to the riff and the "beginning of the ending", there are two big chords (C and D) - these, and the last 15 seconds of mayhem, are from the 27th." He continues: "Now on to the album. This is a bit more complicated."

Peter Shann Ford on "Electronic Evidence and Physiological Reasoning Identifying the Elusive Vowel "a" in Neil Armstrong’s Statement on First Stepping onto the Lunar Surface.": "[A] comparison with the phrase "for a man" shows the clear presence of an additional sound wave between "for" and "man" in the phrase "for a man" and the absence of any such sound wave between "for" and "mankind"."

When Pagey used to say that he was "still mixing" tapes for the DVDs I thought he meant he was spending a lot of time getting the sound balance right. Silly me. I was so 20th Century. Now I know better.

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