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Audio mysticism

soundmodel
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515 posts since 28 May, 2010, from Finland

Postby soundmodel; Tue Aug 01, 2017 4:29 am Audio mysticism

So this is more a soft-thread, but about a phenomenon that I've perceived in some forums etc.

That we could call "audio mysticism".

Even when (at least as a developer/engineer) one can be rational about that there's nothing supernatural about audio processes, it's not as it always appears to the users of those processes.

Particularly, there's an aura of mysticism surrounding techniques or sounds whose creation the audience cannot conceive. That's when some grant such sound a status of having been created in some mysterious or masterful ways.

An easier example could be the belief that people give to gear labeled or designed to appeal as high-end. That the gear does "magic".

What do you think about this? Have you recognized audio mysticism?

Even I was prone to this kind of thinking before I came to understand a lot of the real techniques behind stuff. I used to think that granular synthesis was some sort of laborous DAW-magic (that the guys were cutting the stuff by hand) until learning that it's an automatic process.
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nonnaci
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215 posts since 7 Feb, 2017

Postby nonnaci; Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:23 am Re: Audio mysticism

I'll throw in this quote:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
--Arthur C Clarke

Closed-source black-boxes like soft-plugs cater to this mystique. And even if the authors were transparent about the inner workings, some of the underlying mathematics will still defy comprehension unless you have sufficient background in the art.
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whyterabbyt
Beware the Quoth
 
25127 posts since 3 Sep, 2001, from R'lyeh Oceanic Amusement Park and Funfair

Postby whyterabbyt; Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:35 am Re: Audio mysticism

Fluky wrote:Even I was prone to this kind of thinking before I came to understand a lot of the real techniques behind stuff. I used to think that granular synthesis was some sort of laborous DAW-magic (that the guys were cutting the stuff by hand) until learning that it's an automatic process.


An understanding of 'the real techniques' would surely have indicated that granular synthesis was originally laborious. And tape based.

http://www.granularsynthesis.com/hthesis/xenakis.html

Handwaving away techniques with 'DSP' and 'automatic process' is a flavour of mysticism in and of itself.
"The bearer of this signature is a genuine and authorised pope."
soundmodel
KVRian
 
515 posts since 28 May, 2010, from Finland

Postby soundmodel; Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:43 am Re: Audio mysticism

whyterabbyt wrote:
Fluky wrote:Even I was prone to this kind of thinking before I came to understand a lot of the real techniques behind stuff. I used to think that granular synthesis was some sort of laborous DAW-magic (that the guys were cutting the stuff by hand) until learning that it's an automatic process.


An understanding of 'the real techniques' would surely have indicated that granular synthesis was originally laborious. And tape based.

http://www.granularsynthesis.com/hthesis/xenakis.html

Handwaving away techniques with 'DSP' and 'automatic process' is a flavour of mysticism in and of itself.


As per my listening of music with granular synthesis, I don't know if anyone went to such extremes in hand-editing as is possible with automatic processes. And I've listened to e.g. Squarepusher, which I consider to be one popularizer of the technique (and back when there were no granular plug-ins that I know). One actually has to take only a small step to make granular type sounds on a drum machine or a sampler that has some controls for sample length and e.g. start position. But even this kind of use was once considered ingenious, because not everyone figured it out.
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whyterabbyt
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25127 posts since 3 Sep, 2001, from R'lyeh Oceanic Amusement Park and Funfair

Postby whyterabbyt; Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:57 am Re: Audio mysticism

Fluky wrote:As per my listening of music with granular synthesis, I don't know if anyone went to such extremes in hand-editing as is possible with automatic processes.


And yet they did. Xenakis. Read the link.
"The bearer of this signature is a genuine and authorised pope."
stratum
KVRian
 
1296 posts since 29 May, 2012

Postby stratum; Tue Aug 01, 2017 2:46 pm Re: Audio mysticism

This is a more general problem about human perception and isn't restricted to audio. It is known under the terms 'qualia' and 'the hard problem of conciousness' (the term is often attributed to David Chalmers) whenever so called 'qualitative aspects of subjective experience' is being discussed. A more typical example is color perception, and a well known paper about the subject is 'What Is it Like to Be a Bat' by Thomas Nagel. You can find introductory textbooks about the subject by Paul Churchland and it's being discussed under the title 'philosophy of mind' in general.

It's quite natural that such poorly understood phenomena can lead to controversies, be used and abused, etc.
~stratum~
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FabienTDR
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921 posts since 23 Feb, 2012

Postby FabienTDR; Tue Aug 01, 2017 3:28 pm Re: Audio mysticism

I once started a somewhat related thread over at GS' mastering forum.

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/masteri ... nding.html

The only difference between noise (in the popular sense) and music is bias. Well, a whole bucket of biasses. Listening and enjoying music is basically the art of surfing on your own perceptual distortions. :)

This musical knowledge becomes a problematic distraction in engineering. I remember reading an interview with Daniel Weiss (maker of very high quality digital processors), stating that he doesn't value listening tests during product design! He simply doesn't allow his ears to decide.

But it's easy to find charlatanry and belief for super powers. Dither or super hi res samplerate debates for example are probably the most obvious and ridiculous ones.
Fabien from Tokyo Dawn Records

Check out my audio processors over at the Tokyo Dawn Labs!
Oden
KVRist
 
214 posts since 30 Oct, 2010

Postby Oden; Tue Aug 01, 2017 3:43 pm Re: Audio mysticism

Fluky wrote:So this is more a soft-thread, but about a phenomenon that I've perceived in some forums etc.

That we could call "audio mysticism".

Even when (at least as a developer/engineer) one can be rational about that there's nothing supernatural about audio processes, it's not as it always appears to the users of those processes.

Particularly, there's an aura of mysticism surrounding techniques or sounds whose creation the audience cannot conceive. That's when some grant such sound a status of having been created in some mysterious or masterful ways.

An easier example could be the belief that people give to gear labeled or designed to appeal as high-end. That the gear does "magic".

What do you think about this? Have you recognized audio mysticism?

Even I was prone to this kind of thinking before I came to understand a lot of the real techniques behind stuff. I used to think that granular synthesis was some sort of laborous DAW-magic (that the guys were cutting the stuff by hand) until learning that it's an automatic process.


Aah, a topic about the sales strategy of monster cables...

Sure is a lot of BS out there, but that being said, there are lots of sounds that are too difficult to replicate. Just because someone can do it, doesn't mean it's obvious or easy, or that there weren't pure accidents/randomness involved.
soundmodel
KVRian
 
515 posts since 28 May, 2010, from Finland

Postby soundmodel; Wed Aug 02, 2017 1:28 am Re: Audio mysticism

Oden wrote:Sure is a lot of BS out there, but that being said, there are lots of sounds that are too difficult to replicate. Just because someone can do it, doesn't mean it's obvious or easy, or that there weren't pure accidents/randomness involved.


Yeah well this is another thing.

I've perceived there to be an aura of mysteriousness attached to some parts of what some people like to call "sound design". In the digital age "talent" in the arts has become more ambiguous since some portion of it is given by the tools that are now available. In addition there being a lot of room for random accidents, stumbling upon and so on.

I actually learned that after I let go of the idea that doing art has to be "procedural", I've managed to create a lot more interesting stuff. By relying on chance, randomness, gut feeling ... Rather than consciously directed effort. There's place for rationalization, but it's not all rational.
sascha
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970 posts since 1 Oct, 2001, from Berlin, Germany

Postby sascha; Wed Aug 02, 2017 4:59 am Re: Audio mysticism

FabienTDR wrote:This musical knowledge becomes a problematic distraction in engineering. I remember reading an interview with Daniel Weiss (maker of very high quality digital processors), stating that he doesn't value listening tests during product design! He simply doesn't allow his ears to decide.


That might be ok considering the type of gear he designs, as most of this stuff can be measured objectively and doesn't need any perceptive or empirical approach. But can you imagine him doing a reverb this way? I can't.
Sascha Eversmeier
u-he | digitalfishphones | samplitude (past)
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antto
KVRAF
 
2474 posts since 4 Sep, 2006, from 127.0.0.1

Postby antto; Wed Aug 02, 2017 8:06 am Re: Audio mysticism

why not?
there are quite some examples of deaf composers..
It doesn't matter how it sounds..
..as long as it has BASS and it's LOUD!

irc.freenode.net >>> #kvr
Keith99
KVRian
 
1190 posts since 15 Mar, 2007, from Yorkshire, England

Postby Keith99; Wed Aug 02, 2017 8:42 am Re: Audio mysticism

FabienTDR wrote:Listening and enjoying music is basically the art of surfing on your own perceptual distortions. :)


I like that! Really everything is noise until you understand it.
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FabienTDR
KVRian
 
921 posts since 23 Feb, 2012

Postby FabienTDR; Wed Aug 02, 2017 1:31 pm Re: Audio mysticism

sascha wrote:
FabienTDR wrote:This musical knowledge becomes a problematic distraction in engineering. I remember reading an interview with Daniel Weiss (maker of very high quality digital processors), stating that he doesn't value listening tests during product design! He simply doesn't allow his ears to decide.


That might be ok considering the type of gear he designs, as most of this stuff can be measured objectively and doesn't need any perceptive or empirical approach. But can you imagine him doing a reverb this way? I can't.


Indeed. This anecdote just impressed me a lot, given the results he achieved. I grabbed this over at GS, where this quote definitely seemed to trouble several high end "fans". They definitely expected more crystals, meditation and golden ear superpowers being involved. :)
Fabien from Tokyo Dawn Records

Check out my audio processors over at the Tokyo Dawn Labs!
VariKusBrainZ
KVRAF
 
6709 posts since 16 Dec, 2002

Postby VariKusBrainZ; Wed Aug 02, 2017 1:54 pm Re: Audio mysticism

whyterabbyt wrote:
Fluky wrote:Even I was prone to this kind of thinking before I came to understand a lot of the real techniques behind stuff. I used to think that granular synthesis was some sort of laborous DAW-magic (that the guys were cutting the stuff by hand) until learning that it's an automatic process.


An understanding of 'the real techniques' would surely have indicated that granular synthesis was originally laborious. And tape based.

http://www.granularsynthesis.com/hthesis/xenakis.html

Handwaving away techniques with 'DSP' and 'automatic process' is a flavour of mysticism in and of itself.


I used to timestretch manually, chop a file into segments and then duplicate chuncks, was very satisfying but I was surprised when I learned that the people I listened to used automatic processes offered by their Samplers and was a little disappointed that they were so lazy hehe
I just thought : wheres the satisfaction in that ?
The future is yesterday
deastman
KVRAF
 
6435 posts since 6 Aug, 2003, from San Francisco Bay Area

Postby deastman; Wed Aug 02, 2017 5:32 pm Re: Audio mysticism

I don't believe in magic. I was always the one who genuinely wanted to know how the trick was performed. Same with audio- I want to understand as deeply as possible the underlying principles of the algorithms.

I first stumbled across the idea of granular techniques on my own, long before I ever heard the word. I would fire off a rapid series of 24th or 32nd note MIDI triggers from Studio Vision to my Emax, while manually sweeping the sample start point. I realized that I could take a very short sample and stretch it out as long as I wanted without altering the pitch, albeit with some cool, interesting artifacts. Never seemed like magic though.
Incomplete list of my gear: 110V AC to 12V DC 1.5A power supply (+ tip)
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