Friday, 13 May 2011

Mastering audio: The art and the science [Repost]

Mastering audio: The art and the science
Publisher: Focal Press | English | 2002 | ISBN-10: 0240805453 | 319 pages | PDF | 61 MB

At over 300 pages, Mastering Audio — The Art And The Science is written by Bob Katz and published by Focal Press. The author is probably already familiar to most people reading this, but for those who haven't come across the name before, he is one of the best-known and most highly regarded mastering engineers in the USA.

He also appears to be very well connected, as there are numerous short contributions in the book from many fellow mastering engineers and producers. The topic of mastering is a hugely diverse and surprisingly complicated one, involving — as the book's subtitle suggests — both art and science, in roughly equal proportions. But whereas it is relatively easy to define, explain and document the scientific and procedural aspects of mastering, trying to get across a meaningful impression of the art and aesthetics involved in music mastering is a much harder challenge. I'm pleased to report that Bob Katz has managed to progress much, much further in the latter than the authors of any previous book on mastering that I have read — and I've waded through a fair stack in my time.

While many books ostensibly about music mastering discuss the technology involved, Katz talks primarily about how to use the technology, with practical advice and examples in many cases, and all with such down-to-earth common sense and logical argument that even complex issues seem obvious. Best of all, Katz is clearly a man who likes the sound of music — pretty much any music — for its own sake, and is a vehement defender of real musical dynamics.

A good impression of the level of detail to be found in this book is presented on the very first flyleaf of the book. A fold-out reproduction is provided of a hand-drawn chart made by EJ Quinby at Carnegie Hall in 1941, showing the relation between musical pitch and notation, frequency, and the ranges of all the instruments of the orchestra, singing voices, piano and organ. It is a work of art in its own right, but the information it conveys actually underpins much of what this book is all about.

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