Artifacts of India
April 24, 2006 8:29 AM   Subscribe

What makes the older recordings of Indian music sound so distinctive?

There's a certain quality of older (pre-digital) Indian music -- a distinct type of distortion and equalization -- that gives it a particular sound. The closest analogue might be old (20s or 30s) recordings of Delta Blues musicians, which have a particularly scratchy, distinctive sound given the recording techniques and microphones used -- but the sound of Indian music is much different, and the recordings are much more recent. It almost sounds like the recordings were re-recorded from the analog optical soundtrack of feature films, but I'm not sure if that's the case. Does anyone know what specific equipment or recording techniques gave it this sound?
posted by I EAT TAPAS to Media & Arts (5 answers total)
Is it that sort of "I'm not listening to my stereo, I'm listening to the public address system at the county fair" quality that you mean?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 9:21 AM on April 24, 2006

Right, PinkStainlessTail, that's a decent description of what I'm referring to.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 9:58 AM on April 24, 2006

Hmmm.... any mp3's out there I could check out?
posted by hermitosis at 1:50 PM on April 24, 2006

Indian music loves the use of echo.
posted by fondle at 2:17 PM on April 24, 2006

I have actually pondered this before after an evening of Bollywood soundtracks from the 70s. I tried to recreate the sound one day and recorded a couple of things really hot. Not clipping but just sizzling. I had to compress it to maintain the high signal without frequent clips. When I did the mix I took the really hot signal and mixed at the appropriate volume. It wasn't exactly right by any means but led me to think they recorded stuff super hot.

That is total hypothesis and could be far removed from the actual method, but its a start.

My 70s phase pedal also had the right feel to it, so I concur with fondle, they weren't shy about using effects either.
posted by spartacusroosevelt at 6:18 PM on April 24, 2006

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