Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Noise is the Rest

The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want

A Book About Noise
by Garret Keizer

This was a little more technical than my usual reading, a book about the wanted and unwanted effects of noise, along with a short history. Keizer, an associate editor at Harper's Magazine, gives anecdotal accounts of the way noise is perceived not merely as a nuisance, but also as an expression of power, and as a byproduct of the modern age. The book is well written, but as the author indicated numerous times, noise is in the ear of the beholder.

While reading I was struck how noise (or loud sounds) have played a part in my life. Doing sound reinforcement with rock, pop and and R&B groups for many years I grappled with issues of amplified sound, how it could enhance or destroy a musical experience. I ran into circumstances where I was told to turn it UP as well those times I was asked to turn it down. After a point (I'd say about 95dB) the music ceased to engage the brain and became an exercise in the stimulation of the adrenal gland. Little wonder that lately I have been taken with the music of Amiina and Pascal Pinon, with the latter group playing a show last year that might have been less than 70 dB!

Yesterday I embedded the video of Pascal Pinon playing in a bedroom- completely natural, with the electric instruments turned down to match the human voices and the acoustic guitars. This is the reverse of the usual procedure of turning the amps up, then miking the vocals, then miking the drums, then turning the amps up again, then adding monitor speakers- a vicious circle. I plead guilty to these crimes myself!

Of course a bar or a concert hall is a completely different environment than a girl's bedroom. But with every bit of audio "gain", there is also a "loss"; a loss of humanity.

I'll close with the same quote as yesterday's post, only in English this time:

It may well be that this was the only time in my whole life that I ever really heard singing, because this singing was so true that it made all other singing sound artificial and affected by comparison and turned other singers into frauds; and not just other singers, but myself and the rest of us as well...

By Professor Batty


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