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Re: Loud music
The story about Pete Townsend is totally apocryphal. Townsend was an early fan of Marshalls, but so were Clapton and others. Marshall amps were developed as a lower-cost alternative to Fenders, and in fact were based on the Fender bassman. Also, Townsend was hardly being heckled, as he was one of the most popular musicians in England at the time.
Also, the effect at high volumes is not totally due to compression. Amps sound the best in the range in which the amplifier produces the most odd order harmonics, and that is an engineering issue. Compression adds some sustain, but also the nasty even order harmonics.
As for the whole discussion about the music industry, it seems to me that most comments on the auditory list in that regard are about twenty years out of date. The music industry has fractured and split apart, so that no one knows who is in control anymore. There are successful subgenres of music (e.g. all the manifestations of techno and hip hop) that never see the conventional light of day but thrive through the Internet and word of mouth. They are DIY in nature and the supporters are as rabid as those in the heyday of rock or jazz. And it is not just about selling drugs and booze (ever hear of the straight edge movement?)
Brian Gygi, Ph.D.
Speech and Hearing Research
Veterans Affairs Northern California Health Care System
150 Muir Road
Martinez, CA 94553
(925) 372-2000 x5653
From: David John SMith [mailto:smithd@xxxxxxxx]
Sent: Friday, September 24, 2010 08:27 PM
Subject: Re: Loud music
To my knowledge, the Marshal amplifier was the "gauntlet thrown down" to start the loudness wars. It
was developed at the request of Pete Townshend because Pete didn't want to hear the audience. I
assume they were heckling the band.
I believe most of the "effect of loudness" is due to compression in the auditory system.
Rock is quite likely the most encompassing genre term, much more diverse than, say, European
classical music, and has probably evolved more forms in the past 50 years as any other culture has
in a few hundred - mostly due to commercialization enabling a large number of practitioners and
technology enabling fast exchange of ideas. But, as is reasonable to expect in any endeavor,
- research papers come to mind here - about 80% are just uninspired, there are very few
works of genius...
Mostly alienated kids and dropouts listen to rock? Ha!!! Have you listened to a college radio
station recently? Gone to a college bar? Walked through a dorm?
That said, I agree that there has been a downturn in the quality of rock - read "commercial" - music
though I put it beginning in the mid '70s. A few reasons come to mind: a) Music is necessarily a frontier.
As territory is claimed exploration becomes more difficult. b) The corporate structure that grew around
the music has no need for great music or the accompanying risk and expense- they just need something
to sell. c) It's easier to "market manage" forms of music which can be played by replaceable talent. and most
dishearteningly d) Rock and jazz "yer local bands" are not about music, they are about selling booze
I don't go into any rock music venue without hearing protection. I feel warnings should be required, sound levels recorded, and class action law suits begun. But then I use hearing protection if I'm going to be in a car for more than a few minutes. The levels over longer durations, in some frequency bands, in "yer average auto" are harmful - but to fix this we would be messing with the auto industry and they are way more powerful than "the guys" running the music business.
As things now stand, anyone can ruin your hearing and get away with it. Music is a small part of that picture.
From: Bruno L. Giordano <bruno.giordano@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Fri, Sep 24, 2010 7:28 pm
Subject: Re: [AUDITORY] Loud music
you make interesting points, and I respect your opinion.
However, I don't agree with your statement that since the 60's rock has evolved along a single path towards simplicity. Contemporary "rock" is the product of a diaspora that has given us a large number of genres, only part of which are as structurally primitive as you describe.
Concerning mainstream music, I doubt that the Beach Boys were way more sophisticated than, say, Lady Gaga: if listening habits have the strong psychological impact you describe, today we have as many opportunities for becoming alienated and intellectually dull as we had 50 years ago (and fortunately more opportunities for choosing not to).
On 24/09/2010 7:02 PM, Linda Seltzer wrote:
> In the early years of rock music, musicians such as Jimi Hendrix and the
> Jefferson Airplane turned up the volume to arouse political or social
> rebellion against a repressive and superficial culture. The musicologist
> Richard Taruskin said in classroom lectures that after the violence of
> World War II there was a reaction against the unbridled emotions of
> expressionism. Postwar musical culture emphasized the control of emotion,
> as emotion was not considered something to be trusted. The evidence of
> this in classical music was the rise of twelve tone serialism and the
> aesthetic of mathematical structures. Even a mystical composer like
> Messiaen turned to serialism and other unemotional structures. The
> rebellion against this in classical music was postmodernism, with
> composers such as Glass or Goercki. In popular music, controlled emotion
> was epitomized by Frank Sinatra and even, in jazz, by Louis Armstrong.
> The rebellion took the form of the return to emotional _expression_ by
> Hendrix, Janis Joplin and others.
> However, rock music today has taken a different direction. With the
> increasing cutbacks of music education in the schools, music has become
> more primitive structurally even if this is hidden behind increasingly
> expensive and complex technology. There are rock performances involving a
> large degree of spectacle, where the music often consists of the singer
> repeating the same note, occasionally making a departure to sing another
> note or two. The audience does not notice that there is no melody present
> because the attention is directed to the spectacle. Similarly, the rhythm
> is very repetitive and a 1-2 rhythm with the accent on the second beat is
> considered as novel by the audience.
> Aesthetically such music feeds into the increasing forces of conservatism
> opposing sensitivity in our society. People are accused of being
> oversensitive if they complain about a slur based on race or gender.
> Reality TV shows feature authority figures who are granted the power to
> insult the contestants, who are supposed to be able to take it and even
> appreciate it without being hurt. Workers are supposed to be like
> interchangeable parts with no preferences or feelings about their office
> space or their work environments.
> Loud, repetitive music stamps out sensitivity or the ability to perceive
> and react to subtle differences or variations in the social environment.
> What passes for music actually has the opposite effect of what we normally
> consider to be the purpose of music. Whereas we have traditionally
> thought of music as something that stimulates elevated toughts, puts us in
> touch with our feelings, and increases our sensitivities, this so-called
> music has the opposite effect of protecting the listener from such
> feelings, which may impede one's ability to function as an interchangeable
> part that does not make any demands on the system. Remember that for
> people without college degrees, work often means having to produce
> repetitive tasks in small spaces, with the output monitored by computer.
> Factory workers and mail sorters, for example, have their work monitored
> and they can't drift into the normal ebb and flow of slower and faster
> outputs in the course of a day. Retail workers are forced to listen to
> whatever music or muzak the management chooses to broadcast over the
> loudspeakers during the entire time they are working, and they never have
> the right to silence. Silence is the pathway to introspection and
> analysis, which such freedom of thought being a luxury commodity available
> to those with access to leisure time and a quiet living environment.
> For this reason I question whether the current loud rock "music" is
> actually music at all, or, to put it another way: perhaps the varities of
> uses of organized sound are so diverse that there is no such thing as
> music, and several of the different cultural approaches to organized sound
> and its effect on people are different phenomena. This a question that
> may be answerable by numerous scientific studies in the future.
> What can be said at present is that the current forms of loud rock music
> result from the decrease in quality of our educational systems and the
> increase in the percentage of students dropping out of high school, in
> some areas, 20%. For such individuals music is a means of numbing their
> emotional responses to the alienation and stress they experience on the
> outskirts of society and of toughening themselves for a society that does
> not tolerate their humanity.