Bring the noise

Will the crunchy sonic artifacts of the MP3 audio compression process become as beloved as the warm crackle of vinyl records or the lulling hiss of magnetic tape? For some listeners, it already is.

[Stanford music professor Jonathan] Berger then said that he tests his incoming students each year in a similar way.   He has them listen to a variety of recordings which use different formats from MP3 to ones of much higher quality. He described the results with some disappointment and frustration, as a music lover might, that each year the preference for music in MP3 format rises.   In other words, students prefer the quality of that kind of sound over the sound of music of much higher quality.   He said that they seemed to prefer “sizzle sounds” that MP3s bring to music. It is a sound they are familiar with…

Our perception changes and we become attuned to what we like […] The context changes our perception, particularly when it’s so obviously and immediately shared by others. Listening to music on your iPod is not about the sound quality of the music, and it’s more than the convenience of listening to music on the move.  It’s that so many people are doing it, and you are in the middle of all this, and all of that colors your perception. All that sizzle is a cultural artifact and a tie that binds us. It’s mostly invisible to us but it is something future generations looking back might find curious because these preferences won’t be obvious to them.


from “The Sizzling Sound of Music,” by Dale Dougherty, O’Reilly Radar, 1 March 2009 :: via Daring Fireball

Originally published at culture-making.com.

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