Sep 14 | Modernity | Recorders & Mics


Read Before Class

Optional:

In Class

  • “Cage Talk” (introducing facilities, responsibilities)
  • Introduce Acoustic Ecology and its proponents.
  • Explore some different contexts in which recordings are situated (via Chris Watson, Steven Feld, Hildegard Westerkamp)
  • Intro to signal flow between audio devices.
  • Intro to recorders and mics: Mic types + patterns, basic recorder info like level control and monitoring.
  • Intro to digital audio formats: uncompressed (WAV. AIFF) and compressed (MP3, AAC).
  • Go out in groups and record!

Screening

  • Chris Watson – TV interview (10min) & tracks from “Outside the Circle of Fire” CD. (raw recordings presented as-is)
  • Steven Feld recordings from “Voices of the Rainforest” CD (layered recordings edited “dialogically” with participants)
    See next week’s interview with Feld for follow-up 
  • Hildegard Westerkamp’s “Kits Beach Soundwalk” (raw recordings are brought into studio, processed, recontextualized)
  • If we have time: Loss of context: How did Hugo Zemp’s Solomon Islands recordings become a hit for Deep Forest and later for Jan Garbarek?

Useful trivia: The MP3 compression system was developed at Fraunhofer IIS in Germany. They used the acapella version of Susanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” to tune the algorithm (see Vega’s blog post, ). A human voice is complex, but it’s a lot simpler than a full band, and much easier to compress. Here is an analysis of the sonic mangling of data-compression (with bird-songs and pretty graphs).

Why you should never record in MP3 format…

Melodian Toy example

WAV file: uncompressed original, with sharp attacks and complex buzz in the background

320k MP3: highest quality MP3 option, generally indistinguishable from the original

128k MP3: typical web stream setting, smeared attacks and swishy unstable background noise

64k MP3: whoa, is that your cell phone!

 

Paris Subway Station example

WAV file: uncompressed original, with dense crowd noise and occasional sharp bursts

320k MP3: highest quality MP3 option, generally indistinguishable from the original

128k MP3: typical web stream setting, smeared attacks and swishy unstable background noise

64k MP3: whoa, is that your cell phone!

 

Further Research