This question is, or at least should be, a contradiction.
But every now and then I’ll reluctantly flip on the television. It isn’t too often I’ll do this, as I really can’t stand being force-fed the garabage the writers at cbs, nbc, fox, or whatever other network think the “modern family” is like. But then I see something else. A commercial with a talking hamburger, or that weirdo “berries & cream” guy. But I feel as if these companies aren’t just throwing truckloads of money at the advertising guy and saying “do whatever you want”. No, I feel it runs much deeper than that. What I believe is that these big business guys are talking around a nicely polished wooden table and saying “okay so, target seems like it’s a rougher alternative to wal-mart. How can we capitalize on this?” So then they put out commercials that are pretty out there with little dogs with the target logo on their face or girls with white hair. Why? Not because they want to create a more alternative society; but because they recognize that people, whether they’re a middle-aged dad or a young hipster college student, respond to things better that are different from what’s commonly found in the mainstream media.
Let me give you an example. Think of those newer iPhone commercials. Now think of the aforementioned commercials with the bizarro characters and settings. Which are people more prone to talk about? The iPhone commercial where a guy talks about reading his kid a book & sharing pictures of him and his wife, or the runaway burger king guy. Obviously it’s going the king because he’s new and fresh, and well, funny, but humor is a whole different aspect of marketing that I won’t get into. But the fact remains that people are more prone to the “rebel” or counter-corporate products even though they still are supporting big corporate business just by shopping in certain places like wal-mart. Myself, I usually will shop at the local thrift store or make my own products (I have home-made shoes that i used old strips of leather and string to make). Sure, nobody is perfect, I buy things that support big business like a PS3, but that’s just because they’re fun. It’s certainly not an attempt to rebel against a 360 or something stupid like that.
But I’m off topic again. The bottom line is that people are responding more and more to counter-culture products, and as a result, think they are rebellious or whatever other stupid idea gets in their head. I hate people.
Noise is something completely indescribable, so I am not even going to try. First, before you read this blog, listen to this…
Now I’m sure you probably went “what the hell? Who would ever listen to this?” but you must first realize that this is the basis of all noise, whether it be your run of the mill sonic youth song or full blown harshnoise. I’ll explain it all in this article, so don’t fret.
First off, what you just heard was something called white noise, which is the main component in noise or lo-fi music. If you listen to any noise rock, this is the “ssssshhhhh” sound you hear. Basically, all frequencies that a human ear is able to comprehend or “hear” are transmitted through the use of a computer or other technological device (such as a tv when your cable goes out). What is a frequency you might ask? You know how the hip kids at school have these “mosquito ringtones” (that only someone under 20 can hear) nowadays? Or when your dog or cat starts freaking out over something that you couldn’t hear if your life depended on it? Those high and low pitched sounds, as well as every other pitch on a scale of frequencies, are transmitted to your ear if you listen to white noise. All of them. Some white noise can be calming and relaxing as it is a solid base of all sounds, and is good for falling asleep or relaxing in a hammock in a field of daisies or something. A popular analogy for white noise is that it is like white light, which contains all spectrums of light in a given area of perception (like, this room, or this beam of light, is filled with white light)
No, I am not talking about Dark Side of the Moon, even though that’s probably instantly what you thought of (that album blows btw). The theory of white noise or white light (I will refer to white noise as white light in this analogy) is that as a beam of white light hits a prism that separates colors, all the colors in that beam of light are released. So if all the frequencies of sound (ever) reach your ear without filtration (things such as tone in voice, notes on a guitar, etc.), you receive the entire “beam” of light. Interesting, isn’t?
Pink noise on the other hand is extremely radical. What it is is a sound produced within 40 - 60 dB (decibels, or the volume of a sound), containing all frequencies, similar to white noise.
Unlike white noise however, the sound pressure level does not depend on the Hz (hertz) within the range of 40 - 60 dB. Hertz is a unit of measurement that can be used to describe either the level of perception a human can hear or more simply, a frequency. Humans can hear anywhere from 12 Hz to 20,000 Hz (or 20 kHz). This is why dogs freak out over sounds within 16 - 22 kHz. If you’ve heard anything within 16 - 20 kHz, it can be quite bothersome. But when it is used in conjunction with white noise, it is actually quite nice, although prolonged amounts of it can lead to headaches or even ear nerves (also known as ear “hairs”) becoming damaged or even destroyed, which will produce a very high frequency sound that is constant and very annoying for 2-3 days (it happened to me once before and it was not pleasant at all). But you would have to listen to it for at least a few hours to get any result like that. Longer periods could intensify these effects, but keep in mind that noise is still really contemporary, experimental, and very underground, especially as far as documenting people sitting down and listening to it for a long period of time, so these side-affects are not completely researched as there is next to nothing on this subject. I am just reporting on a past experience.
An additional example of pink noise
Sorry to get off topic like that, but I thought it was necessary to explain what this chart means to the common person. As you can see in the above picture, once the sound waves hit 40 - 60 dB, the Hz become increasingly erratic and varying, while still remaining within the projected white noise range. Keep in mind that the straight line represents white noise and is hypothetical as if it could remain without distortion from the 40 - 60 dB range. So what you end up getting is varying “white noise” levels of frequencies within a sample of pink noise. What this means is that when you see a vertical line on the graph it is multiple samples of white noise at the same time, but at different levels of “base” frequencies or octaves, which are usually used to describe levels of notes (high octaves are high-pitched (not high frequency) sets of notes, like ones on a piano)), but here they are used to describe different Hz levels. Here is an example of pink noise at varied 10 dB increments.
"But what does all this have to do with music or listening to noise?" you might ask. Well, most/nearly all "bands" (bands meaning one person with a soundboard, with the exception of noise rock bands which of course need more than one person to get bass, guitar, pedals, etc.) add even more distortion to either (for the most part) pink noise (harshnoise) or white noise (regular noise). There are also other "base" noises that are used such as blue noise, brown noise, or a number of other ones, which can be found here. These can be anything from your standard distorted ‘notes’ to something very experimental and usually home-made that I don’t even know how to explain, because constant developments are being made in the genre of noise, as it is very new. It is definitely something interesting to look into, and I highly recommend it.
Oh wait, that guy’s already crying. Hehe.
“WHADDAYA WANT FROM ME!?”
We want you to shut the fuck up, Adam Lambert.
Couldn’t agree with you more about pop music, Bob. Music isn’t about expression anymore, it’s about making money. That’s why pop music sucks.
And i’ll swing it around back to you man. Cause i’m nifty like that. Although i would have to disagree with you in saying that all new music is about selling out. There still is a strong number of really great bands out there. Sure, maybe not as much as the 70’s - 90’s eras, but still a decent amount. Of course, there’s always going to be bands that suck, and in turn, bands that suck but millions of people “loooove omg kuddle kiddle whatever the fuck the ‘cutesy’ kids are saying on myspace these days”, but that’s just music. In the 70’s there was disco. And millions of people loved it and went to disco bars. Sure, there’s probably still that one 60 year old who likes to ‘boogy it down’ with his wife on the weekends, but that guy is just so cool that it doesn’t even matter if disco died out within five years of starting. Honestly though, I love people like that. And the 80’s had its ‘spandex era’, and sure 90’s pop was influenced by bands like nirvana, but there’s still, what i call, the ‘saved by the bell’ music.
Crankin’ it 90’s style
The music that’s being chewed out now seems to be just another fad to me. Every genre of music that “is better than today’s stuff” / is today’s stuff / stuff 20 years from now started/starts out as (for the most part, there is a large number exceptions, but this article is more about pop) as an underground sub-genre that eventually hits mainstream success then dies out. Some last longer than others, and there are always going to be an older generation that says “what you kids be listenin’ to? C’mere lemme play ye some beatles” or whatnot. This can even be observed with 1920’s jazz. Before the beginnings of jazz, music was predominately blues. And before blues, it can be traced back even further to folk, which is the grandmother of all music. See here. But for example, when things like this first came out, which is what in turn influenced all pop culture for the most part, it can easily be observed that it wasn’t “mainstream” in anyway, shape, or form. This can largely attributed to the fact that radios weren’t used in households until the 20’s, but I think it’s safe to say that the beginnings of blues were played in dusty southern taverns without any acknowledgment from the rest of America. So from blues came jazz which spawned off rock n’ roll which produced the more psychedelic and experimental explosion of music in the 70’s after the beatles made Sgt. Pepper’s. Then came punk rock, which spawned hundreds of different heavier genres/sub-genres.
But the problem I have with today’s music is not only the auto-toning and the over-production of it all (see anti-folk (link coming soon)), but more the hipsters listening to their top 40 and nothing else. I know most people will look at a link recommending music and not click it because they’re happy with their nu-metal (also garbage imo) but here’s an example of the music I have been listening to lately. It’s a mixture of lo-fi avant-garde psychedelia and elements of post-punk and noise rock. The “ah, oh, ahhh” sounds are actually a voice, they just add a decent amount of distortion to their songs. So, while there is a large number of absolutely terrible pop music, there still is a solid base of really great music out there.
Right now, I have in my ‘drafts’ section an upcoming blog called ‘an introduction to noise’ which will show how to appreciate/listen to something that is completely ground-breaking in the music world and really mind-blowing. Stay tuned!
~ Bob (Smoked Onions)
Jeff Wall. Great photogropher. Love this one. I think it’s better for whoever looks at art to interpret it, rather than have somebody tell you it, so I won’t say anything. That, and the message is pretty clear I think.