Persona Digital Music

The Musical Brain


Of all noise, music is the least offensive. (Ambrose Bierce)

Noise is loud, unpleasant and annoying sounds, often mixed together from several sources.  Humans are noisy creatures. In groups, impressive levels of noise are achieving by talking, laughing, shouting, clapping hands and stamping feet. Human machines escalate noise beyond annoyance to levels that raise blood pressure, confuse the brain and cause hearing loss. Urban environments are characterized by continuous background noise, with bursts of noise peaks such as car horns, sirens, un-muffled motorcycles, and construction machinery. The ability to amplify sound adds to the noise confusion.

Loudness is the perceived intensity of sound. Objectively, loudness is the pressure of sound waves applied to the ear drum. The decibel scale (dB) is used to measure loudness. The lower limit of audibility is 0 dB. An upper limit is defined as loudness with the potential to cause hearing disability. The ear can be exposed to short bursts of loud sounds up to 120 dB without permanent harm but longer exposures to sound levels over 80 dB can cause permanent hearing loss. The ear is most sensitive to sounds in the 1 kHz and 5 kHz frequency range.

In my view, noise is often presented as music. It is easy to make noise. It is difficult to make good music. I call all  bad music "mnoise." City people will actually pay to leave the noise of the streets to enter crowded spaces where mnoise levels are deafening. The loud mnoise has a pulse close their heart rates; they bounce up and down and from side to side more or less in synch with the pulse. Some actually attempt to converse, but  nothing makes sense when you are drowning in mnoise.

Musical instruments are carefully created to produce sounds at the right pitches with interesting timbres. Good musicians  practice for many years to produce music rather than noise. When the sounds of instruments are combined, there is a risk of noise, so that a conductor of a group must know how to blend musicians and their instruments to produce a pleasing mix. Similarly, a recording engineer sitting at his mixing board must have the knowledge, taste and tools to arrive at a good mix. A music performance venue should be designed for good acoustics so that the audience hears pleasing sounds rather than mnoise. The audience attending a serious performance also must cooperate by remain silent and attentive listeners.

All the people who work hard to record good music are disappointed when their recordings are played through poor quality equipment in poor acoustic spaces. Recordings in stereo are created so that the mix sounds good to a person who is facing 2 speakers a few feet away. Two rear speakers can be added to a room if the recording is designed for them or electronic wizardry creates the appropriate surround sound signals. A good headset eliminates the room problems and creates correct stereo separation.

Even good stereo recordings will turn into mnoise when broadcast through public address systems with multiple poor quality speakers. The citizens of the Sunshine coast where I live, spent 25 million dollars to build an Aquatic center in a highly resonant metal building with no acoustic damping. The sounds of children and adolescents playing in the pools reverberate and create a remarkable noise level. To make noise levels much worse, twelve overhead speakers broadcast mnoise from above creating a toxic mix of confused and confusing sound. Even if the best quality music were chosen ( which is not the case), 12 overhead speakers would turn quality sound recordings into confusing noise mush.

A sensible person would turn off the public address system and invest in sound damping equipment to make the Aquatic center a pleasant environment to enjoy. 

See Harmful Effects of Noise  and  Noise in Sechelt

The Musical Brain and other topics presented at Persona Digital Studio
are from the book, The Sound of Music by Stephen Gislason.
Click the Download button to order the eBook from Alpha Online

persona mandala

Persona Digital Studio is located on the Sunshine Coast, Sechelt, British Columbia, Canada.

All the recordings are arrangements, performances and recordings are completed in house by Stephen Gislason.