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.