In the Japanese workplace, there’s a philosophy called kaizen. The word literally means “good change,” but it is essentially the belief that there should be continuous improvement that reduces waste and improves efficiency. Originally, it was a philosophy that applied to manufacturing and engineering, but over time, other businesses, areas of study, and doctrines have adopted it. The more you read about kaizen, the more you understand that it is more about tasking workers with the responsibility of examining their own practices in an objective way and finding ways to better their own environments. As music lovers, why shouldn’t we apply kaizen to the way we select and listen to our music?
While I’ve always been a music analyst, I will freely admit to relating more to lyrics and vocals and not really understanding all the intricacies that go into making the tunes that pump out of my headphones. That’s why when a musician that I’ve come to really respect announced that he was launching a podcast about audio engineering, producing, and recording, I found myself intrigued.
Meet the Audio Astronauts: Deke Spears and Matt Rowles. Both fellas are accomplished musicians and studio gurus. Each Wednesday, these guys spend about an hour (depending on how chatty Deke is feeling) talking about recording equipment, processes, and techniques. They discuss albums, producers and engineers, playing examples and digging into what makes certain recordings great.
It’s really fascinating to hear them talk about records that I’ve literally been listening to for more than half my life and hear them from a totally different perspective because they steer me into listening to them with a different ear. Whether it’s hearing a new instrument that I’ve never noticed before, or understanding how individual producers influence styles and sound, I come away each week with a literal earful of new information. And while I might only really key in or understand two or three things that they talk about, each time I listen to a new piece of music, I’m hearing it through new filters. And, bonus, I’ve started listening to artists I might otherwise have skipped because it’s not “my type of music.” Talk about expanding my musical horizons.
The thing I love most (well, other than their rather endearing sound geek senses of humor) is that Deke and Matt are completely dedicated to getting people to not only appreciate, but to demand more, from the music they listen to. They expect it not only of themselves and others in their craft, but they are giving anyone who listens to music the power to improve their auditory environment. Musical kaizen.
I’ve embedded my favorite episode below for easy listening (and no, it’s not my favorite just because they give me a shout-out), but you can get to the podcast in any number of ways – by subscribing on iTunes, listening on SoundCloud, or on their webpage. They also love interacting with people in the community, so if you listen, be sure to touch base with them and let them know what you think.