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BBC: “How engineers create artificial sounds to fool us” thoughts on media literacy

July 25, 2011 , , , , , , ,

Thanks to blogger Larry Ferlazzo for bringing this BBC article to my attention.

An interesting article about how companies engineer sounds to manipulate perceptions about their products. Examples included creating a more substantial “thunk” to a car door’s closing, or the “potato-potato” cadence of a Harley Davidson’s exhaust.

It strikes me that paying attention to the characteristics of sounds in this way is really part of media literacy. In my music appreciation classes, we read an essay by Michel Chion “The Three Listening Modes”. Within the context of sound in film, Chion offers us three ways to approach a sound.

1. Causal Listening: Identifying a sound’s source abstracted from other cues to the sound.

2. Semantic listening: listening to a sound for it’s symbolic meaning, not it’s acoustical properties, as in language.

3. Reduced listening: named by the composer Pierre Schaffer, this refers to identifying the qualities of sound itself, independent of it’s causal or semantic meanings.

It interests me that, according to the article, Harley Davidson sued Japanese motorcycle manufacturers claiming that the Japanese exhaust notes were too similar to the Harleys. Through Chion’s lens of “modes”, Harley Davidson believes that its exhaust sounds have semantic meaning as brand-identifiers!

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comments

Sound reception is really a strange phenomena. For me it is (only) important, when I hear it for the first time and I can not identify the source. Later on I hear it “by the way” and know what it means. So a Hearley Davidson is a sound I can distinguish.

What is more interesting is the way that I hear: An audiophile person seems to hear which “fuse” on his audio tower is only silver and not gold. For me when I hear music after a short time, I do not hear the sound, I hear the “pure” music. So in the end it does not matter anymore if the medium comes from a high end audio engine, a mp3 or youtube.

http://hajos-kontrapunkte.blogspot.com/2011/07/q-do-you-hear-what-i-hear.html

Hajo

July 25, 2011

I understand what you are saying, and I agree for the most part.

I differ with you regarding compression. I think that higher resolution formats certainly offer a richer sound and emotional experience than high-compression formats like mp3, even at 320kb!

I think Chion’s modes are more about cultivating sonic awareness or literacy, so as a producer or consumer, there is added depth to the experience.

When developing reduced listening skills, there is the aesthetic layer with all of it’s associations and meanings which might be independent of the sound heard.

sspeciale

July 25, 2011

Of course you are right. Sometimes you have to write more if you want to make yourself clear.

I was talking especially about hearing music of J.S. Bach. And I most of the time hear this music with the score on my lap. So it are the eyes and ears and when I follow the music the actual sound vanishes. It is like “lost in music”. I became aware of this point when I started to listen to old interpretations of Brendel, Rubinstein, Gould, … were you have no choice to get a better sound.

But of course the better the interpretation and the sound -(picture) the easier it is to follow. So in fact I talk a sideway to your post 😉

Hajo

July 25, 2011

I agree with you.

I am a record collector as well. I am finding it interesting how older recordings somehow have this greater “fidelity” to the sound of an artist.

Sometimes I think it might be that the particular distortions of an era make me hear certain artists as sounding a particular way. But I get a mental image of the way the artists you mentioned sound just by reading their names.

To your list I would add Horowitz, Gieseking, Cortot, and Arrau as musicians whose sound I can identify over a broad period of recorded history.

sspeciale

July 25, 2011

And that’s for you:

Hajo

July 25, 2011

Wonderful! Thank you. Your blog is very interesting! Thanks for the friending on Google+, too!

sspeciale

July 25, 2011

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