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Re: Why it has to be played loud
since I believe that people enjoy "thrill" but not "pain", I would like to contribute two points from my own experience.
>From performing a lot of concerts of tape/electroacoustic music where the volume is obviously not suggested by the sound source itself, I could make some practical (albeit subjective) observations:
1) The threshold between "relevance" and "pain"
The best volume level for electronic music seems to reside at a threshold.
When the music is too soft, it doesn't seem to matter and fails to reveal perceptual detail, seems to be of no importance.
When it is too loud on the other hand, it becomes obnoxious and listeners tend to cover their ears with their hands.
Before that threshold is a range in which the sound becomes a physical presence, a notable force in the environment, something the becomes an entity of "interest" to the listener.
This of course depends on the signal/frequency response of the system/room etc., but also varies between individuals.
In case of electroacoustic music, it requires someone to sit at the console to make that decision/interpretation.
I often find myself on the more careful side on that continuum, but when sitting at the console and being in control, the threshold also seems to be somewhat higher than when one is subjected to the experience as an audience member.
I find it noteworthy though that there seems to exist an ideal absolute volume for an individual's subjective experience, even if the sound sources are "acusmatic" and unknown - at least that is the case for myself as an individual.
2) Ear vs. skin / tactile vibration
Saturation of the tube-based guitar amp and the natural amplitude of the drumset were the main practical reasons for the high volume of rock bands.
But this does no longer have to be true in the digital age.
Of course, there is the "thrill" aspect of exposing yourself to something "really extreme"... but it is highly ignorant of musicians and engineers to cater to this need by "unleashing maximum power on the audience" without ensuring their well being as painstakingly as other contenders in the "thrill industry" (such as roller coasters for example).
IMHO what makes live rock shows/dance events so interesting are tactile effects - too often generated as a "side effect" through a tragically ignorant focus on the "ear as information" receiver alone. These sounds evidently no longer address your ear: The ranges for dynamic ear-based perception are in effect overridden in most rock concerts/dance events.
Of course, tactile impulses alone without a corresponding auditory stimulus might not be very satisfactory either.
So, how could this sound engineering "for the body" actually look like?
I bet professional live-sound reinforcement engineers already have experience in this area.
When will we finally see ear protectors that will maximize the enjoyment while ensuring your well-being?
Protective devices that can be worn as confidently as one pulling down the shoulder harness on the roller coaster or watching out for your health in moments of intimacy.