April 21, 2023
First a brief introduction for those who have never heard the term Lo-Fi. It defines the intention of a piece of music in terms of sound quality and is a provocative contrast to Hi-Fi, which aims for the highest possible quality. So much for the tip of the iceberg.
At first glance, it seems to be a romantic reminder of crackling vinyl records and old radio experiences. That may be the starting point, but it involves profound consequences regarding the result. While the demands of hi-fi resulted in an ever-widening frequency band with a focus on the edges (deep bass and sharp highs), lo-fi focuses on a darkly colored middle with intentional crackles.
Philosophically, Lo-Fi is a departure from the “higher and further” of our world. At a time when even Hi-Fi is no longer enough for many, and Dolby Atmos (multi-channel instead of stereo) is establishing itself as contemporary, the Lo-Fi trend takes on an almost revolutionary air. I would like to highlight 2 aspects of Lo-Fi that underpin this claim.
The fact that constant growth and a belief in technology do not necessarily lead to a more peaceful world has already become known to some people. In addition, we can suspect a growing overload behind the ever-increasing numbers of depression sufferers. But what is it about Dolby Atmos, for example, that overwhelms us?
Do you still remember the heyday of IMAX cinemas? A truly overwhelming cinema experience back then. Why hasn’t that become the standard? Well, the answer is quite simple, “It doesn’t pay!”. People don’t want to be overwhelmed all the time! They are already overwhelmed by their struggle to survive, and a very expensive ticket doesn’t make their case any easier. The highlights want to be well dosed, and this does not generate enough economic mass.
Dolby Atmos in music will face the same problem, but it has an ace in its sleeve – it’s headphones! While an Atmos experience in a room requires an expensive music system, good headphones can mimic a spatiality through psychoacoustic effects. “Psychoacoustic” also means extra work for the brain, though!
Now our brain is constantly in search of coherence, which simplified means rest. With constantly increasing demands by our environment, however, it hardly comes to rest. The excessive demand grows! For the musical enjoyment of Dolby Atmos productions, it is therefore necessary to largely switch off other demands. When do we still manage to do that?
Interestingly, Lo-Fi has been impressively successful in a classic headphone application – music during work, meditation or a workout. The deliberately reduced attention demands of Lo-Fi productions make room for other demands on the brain. Matching the listener’s main occupations, there are two main strands of Lo-Fi genres: “Lo-Fi Chillout” and “Lo-Fi House” (along with subgenres) – simplified: slow and rhythmic.
Now, as a music producer, you can go one step further. What happens if there is no main occupation of the listener at all? Well, an enormous free space is torn open! Maybe this is exactly the free space we urgently need to get in touch with our soul? Yes, that’s exactly how I see it! If it is possible to add some musical “waymarks” in this music world, it would be a very satisfying environment for every creative artist who is concerned about the soul in music. I have just made the first step in this direction.