Live music mixes in the air. The sound vibrations from the tuba runs headlong into the snare drum. It’s a midair collision that works out like a tug-of-war for the same set of molecules.
When each instrument uses a separate microphone, and they all come together in a mixer, the collision of sounds happens in an electro-magnetic environment – behaving much like air and so it was done with multitrack recorders and tape many years ago.
Today, when we record digitally – a circuit measures the sound of each instrument – then records the numbers (not the sound). To mix, the computer calculates how the parts would have mixed – according to models, essentially adding and subtracting the measurements. This means we twice subject music to interpretation. Personally I trust air more than computers, and in the old vinyl jazz groups you can still hear and feel a room full of musicians all playing at the same time. In MONO, no less.
If I had the budget , I would record all music live – meaning we all play together at the same time. I would use a trusted old 24 track Studer with 2 inch tape moving at 15 or 30 ips. Then I would mix using an analogue mixer, like Neve to a two-track reel-to-reel. (Real-to-real, one may say) As a last step I would transfer that master to digital high-fez for the general market, and press a few analogue LPs. Vinyl records are not only still made, they are pressed with better vinyl (little or no pops) and gaining in popularity. I think I know why.
I am fond of pronouncing that there is no Soul in digital sound, but still – when listening to an MP3 of Benny Goodman’s quintet, I feel the presence of the musicians – even from a mono-recording. Back then it was all live in the same room and a fellow in overalls mixed the recording as they played. It was live, it was analogue, surviving the digital homogenization. Can we do the same today?