Jan 25 | Recordering & Mics | Listening Due


Read Before Class

Optional:

In Class

Listening Exercise due.

  • “Cage Talk” (introducing facilities, responsibilities)
  • Discuss the readings.
  • Introduce the history of sound recording (Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville’s phonoautograph, Edison’s phonograph, Berliner’s gramaphone, tape recording, etc)
  • Explore some different contexts in which recordings are situated (via Chris Watson, Steven Feld, Hildegard Westerkamp)
  • Intro to recorders: basic recorder info like menu settings, level control and monitoring.
  • Intro to microphones (dynamic/condenser and polar patterns, stereo techniques)
  • Intro to digital audio formats: uncompressed (WAV. AIFF) and compressed (MP3, AAC).
  • Go out in groups and record!
  • During cleanup, practice the ancient Zen art of cable-coiling!

Screening

  • Photos and recordings from early recording devices.

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