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Interview with Sebastien Giniaux: "A lot is due to the way it's recorded"

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  • Bob HoloBob Holo Moderator
    edited November 2014 Posts: 1,252
    Although I do not question Sebastien Giniaux's ability or right of opinion, I think this comment is truly fatuous. I often wonder if gypsy jazz guitarists at his level get sick of Django being held up as the master (in the way Grappelli often did) and lash out with statements of this type.

    I don't think he meant it that way. That whole topic of conversation started with him saying that Django's stuff was so pure that it was like a slap. The interviewer asked him why (to clarify why is was so startlingly pure that he would equate it to a slap) and he began: (paraphrasing) "First, he doesn't want to bash Django, but there's a dynamic you don't find elsewhere and part of it came from the recording process..." which is, well, absolutely true. But that's all he said. It's not an insult to Django. In fact, it sounds like Sebastien is saying that as a preface to his answer to the "why it was so pure" question, but then he didn't get get to finish his thought because the interview quickly shifted topic. He's too smart a guy to say that something was so amazing that listening to it for the first time was like being slapped and then when asked to clarify, says: "Well, they had a good recording process." (Lol..) Seb is way too sharp to answer a question that way. He just didn't get his answer out before the interview moved on.

    Interviews are like that - like driving on icy roads - they're exciting and sometimes you find that things have spun and you're going in a completely different direction. ;-) You just have to speak quickly and hope you express yourself fully before the direction changes again. That's probably why politicians only speak in sound-bytes. Because a good interview is basically a frenetic conversation that touches on many points just enough to communicate their flavor and then hop to the next thing before the energy of the conversation wanes. A few years ago I did an interview with NPR and I made some offhand comment about most of the things people say about instrument wood quality being myth except for this one thing that was true... It was a setup for a joke, but the interview shifted gears and we never got back to it. So now instead of poking fun at those myths, I'm on record somewhere as perpetuating (one of) them. Ah well. Life goes on.

    Anyway, I suspect that's what the whole "dynamics" comment amounted to - simply an unfinished thought. The interview was nice and light and funny with some really interesting facts too - which is kind of what you would expect from an interview with Sebastien because he has a lot of wit, but underneath he is a seriously smart guy - and a big Django fan.

    adrianlukejazzBucoBill Da Costa Williams
    You get one chance to enjoy this day, but if you're doing it right, that's enough.
  • mandocatmandocat Santa Rosa, CA✭✭✭ Rodrigo Shopis, Baby Taylor
    Posts: 79
    Another good example for this discussion is on the Les Doigts album 1910. The last cut "Improsture #1" is clearly designed to sound like a Django improvisation, complete with pops and hisses. It blows me away that Olivier can compose and play something that sounds so much like Django. That being said, I also like the rest of the album a lot.

    I've got to confess that when I first heard Django I was impressed with the playing but assumed that he was playing on some crap guitar. After many more years of listening to the recordings I have a completely different impression.
    Wim Glenn
  • Jeff MooreJeff Moore Minneapolis✭✭✭✭ Lebreton 2
    edited November 2014 Posts: 476
    I've always thought there was something added by the mid and late recording process that captured Django.
    It's really doubtful that Sebastian meant: Django just sounded good because of the recording technique. That's absurd and just some unresolved artifact of the interview process.
    The recordings are amazing sounding and easier for me to listen to than modern recordings of great guitarists. But how much of that is subjective (music) and objective (sound) is not available. For me, there's no answer to why Django sounds better that the rest, but looking at the recording process makes sense. It obviously didn't hurt him at all, as millions are willing to overlook the popping and hiss and fall in love with the result.
    Christophe Lartilleux has been finding and using the same old equipment of that time with great results.
    I think the key is to find silk for the ribbon mic produced in pre-communist China and pre-amp tubes made in a micro-atmosphere of cigarette smoke.
    "We need a radical redistribution of wealth and power" MLK
  • scotscot Virtuoso
    Posts: 574
    I understand what the OP and others have said here. In the right circumstance, old recordings in their original form seem to have a unique and potent ability to "transport" the listener to a different place and time. Sitting on the porch of an old farmhouse in the deep south on a sweltering summer night, enjoying some local spirits, listening to Charlie Patton or the Skillet Lickers can be a really moving and transporting experience. Walking around Paris at dawn listening to Django on a headset can produce the same effect - at least it always has for me. Maybe this effect is what makes people like the sound of these old records so much, even if they don't realize it at first. Can this effect can be manufactured by design in a recording studio? I don't think so, no more than artificially aging a new guitar creates an old guitar - it just doesn't work this way. Those records that Fapy did back in the 90s sound dull and lifeless to me, even though the playing is the usual high standard. People have tried mimicking old recording techniques a lot in many kinds of music, and if it actually worked, it would be the standard way that "traditional" music is recorded today. Which it is not.

    I've been listening to old recordings of all kinds for over 40 years now, and it's true that after a while you don't even hear the imperfections any more, all you hear is the music and that's what counts for me anyway. It's interesting to note, too, that in the days when people of my generation (early boomers) first became interested in old blues and fiddle music, many did not want the old recordings cleaned up at all, even going so far as to listen to 78s on a gramaphone. The thinking was that an unadulterated recording gave a purer listening experience. That might have just been some kind of goofy hippie mumbo-jumbo, but in my experience, there's something to it.
    BucoBill Da Costa Williams
  • I rather expect you are correct @Tedd
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • cjlcjl
    Posts: 44


    It seems to be part of human nature that we're always looking for a 'magical' element to explain things that are often too obvious for us to take at face value.... I'm sure we're all familiar with the story of the emperor's new clothes.

    I was a recording engineer for many years, and quickly grew tired of journalists, record collectors and other obsessives (including a few musicians) over-analysing producers' studio techniques and the different types of 'fairy dust' they sprinkle over their tunes to get that 'classic' sound.

    What mics were used? What compressors? Did they really take only eight hours to get that snare sound? He must have taken that mixer to pieces and built it back up to his own spec....... and so the mythologising goes on and on..... as if those records would never have seen the light of day if they'd been mixed on a different desk, or if the tambourine player had taken the day off.

    In the main, great tracks are a combination of songs, musicians, rooms, equipment, engineers and producers (ie supervisors). All the elements play a large part in the process, and in different amounts and combinations.... and - something that most people choose to forget - for every hit track, there are plenty of flops, many of which were recorded at the same sessions with the same people contributing!

    Whether you like the balances and the eq or not - or whether you prefer a more 'modern' sound or not - the Django recordings are what they are .... great musicians playing great songs, all together in one room with little or no separation, with the sound - and the vibe (probably what Giniaux means by "dynamic") - captured to the best of the engineer's ability with the equipment he had to hand.

    What if they'd been recorded in other studios? ... by other engineers? ... at a different time?

    Would they sound 'better' ... or 'worse'?

    From what I've read, Django was usually playing with musicians he was used to playing with, and the arrangements are reasonably simple, even if perhaps they're not the way they would be played on the bandstand .... so you have a great mixture of comfort and spontaneity (especially if your star performer has just been dragged out of bed to make the session!) ..... just like any studio house band with a charismatic lead artist.

    For me the magic is in the playing - not the recording - but of course everyone's entitled to their opinion....

    BucoJazzaferriBill Da Costa Williams
  • A point to consider insofar as Django's recordings went. From what I have read and looking at a broad spectrum of recordings in a significant number, the personnel are not his regular crew. My favourite Django stuff at this time are several recordings made with Rex Stewart, Barney Bigard and Jimmy (??) Taylor on Bass.

    Other than that DHL I enjoyed your post. Insightful. Welcome to the forum.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
  • Wim GlennWim Glenn oƃɐɔᴉɥƆModerator 503
    Posts: 1,201
    I'm reminded of the premise of Midnight in Paris, which is that we always look back in time to find those times better - that the present is "a little unsatisfying, because life’s a little unsatisfying". The theme of the movie is nostalgia, and how it can cast a spell of illusion on us so we don’t see important things right in front of us.

    Nostalgia is denial. Denial of the painful present. The name for this denial is Golden Age thinking - the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one's living in - its a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.

    I reckon that some of the players we have kicking around Paris today, should they be transported back to the 30s, would really have impressed Django if not blown him away! Of course, they stood on the shoulders of giants, whereas Django had no equal at the time, he was a pioneer. It's worth more than just being a great guitarist. In the world of music, many people seem to place more value on what's novel than simply what's good.
    pickitjohnMatt MitchellBucoJonBill Da Costa Williams
  • TydidesTydides
    Posts: 30
    "A living dog is better than a dead lion. Shall a man go and hang himself because he belongs to the race of pygmies, and not be the biggest pygmy that he can?"

    It should be noted that while the theme of the movie is nostalgia, the quoted passage is certainly not the moral of the story! That is a quote from the villain and it was stated in the most pretentious way possible, specifically to mock him, which the movie does. It is of course a valid point, but a kind of dumb one anyway. The film does critique nostalgia, but it has to, because it's mostly a celebration of nostalgia. Naturally, Woody Allen is a hopeless romantic. Anyway, it's not a very deep film, it's just a very good time.

    Romanticism is inevitable, even if it harms us a little. Notice that Thoreau's quote doesn't dispute that men and women were greater in the past (that would be folly), but simply states that this is no excuse to create something great.

    This discussion does kind of cut to the quick of what it means to an artist caught between novelty and tradition. Novelty vs. tradition is a can of worms.

    Firstly, it starts in relative terms. No one scowls at Yo Yo Ma because he's not a composer. People compose for him. Classical has a tradition—interpretation of compositions, not improvisation—that performers can flourish in creatively and express themselves. And it's certainly not necessary to change instrumentation either. Jazz is only different in that the solo performer must improvise a story, new melodies, based on a theme. Everything else, it would seem, is secondary. I don't see jazz as being about new styles, but about new solos. Plenty of room for novelty just in how good you construct your story.

    The style, the instruments, the microphones, are a matter of taste, and there's an argument to be made for many different flavors. My original point in this discussion topic was that it's worth questioning a taste decision that's arbitrary to your purpose. That is, I assume everyone uses "high quality" microphones and media simply because everyone else does, because they can (the more fundamental drive in music being toward something closer to the live music experience, which was worth questioning since recording began—just as filmmakers question whether films have to be basically just recorded plays). Isn't that worth questioning?

    Thus, insofar as this music is about Django (and maybe in a lot of ways it's not, or it's not in a live setting), basically none of us has heard Django live. So if we like the Selmers, and the violin, and bass, why not the microphones too? Many of us do. Maybe we could experiment with that little more?

    Just a question.

    Thanks a lot for all the wonderful responses. Excellent insight in this topic.
    pickitjohnfabulousWim Glenn
  • Hey Wim...interesting quote but wayyy off the mark in many instances. I certainly think growing up when I did was simpler and easier than it is for the young today.

    I certainly think those who saw the horrors of WWI and the huge societal changes and unrest that followed were understandably nostalgic about the earlier times.

    Life is what one makes of it but there are periods throughout history when life going on around one is more or less difficult regardless of ones personal circumstances.
    The Magic really starts to happen when you can play it with your eyes closed
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