Friday, 1 August 2008



ode to bus travel.
bus olng 22

Earlier this year I was considering the options of the portable generation/manipulation of sound/music (eg using a laptop on the train), and apart from battery life, the main issues was being able to hear what I was doing and its associated generated subtleties. In the public arena ambient sound is an issue, and one cannot hear the subtleties unless they are louder than the ambient sound and even then one cannot be sure that the subtleties are not created by the ambience.

Even earlier than that I purchased my first mp3 player and its associated lifestyle/freedom, I then quickly gave up listening to certain musical style/genres (eg almost anything with drums) because of my inability to enjoy them against the background of public transport . This led me to adapt my public listening to sounds of a more ambient nature that could easily meld with the the general ambience without needing to be cranked (eg Acreil).

Here lies one of the key issues regarding the noise levels of shared portable listening; to actually listen to some music in a public space it must be louder than the ambient noise....

This implies to me that public listeners whose earbuds are audible from a distance are attempting to overcome background noise so as to fully appreciated the subtleties of their musical choice. And possibly that others whose listening is at more discrete levels are perhaps not listening as hard, but rather using the music as an enhancement to their surrounds rather than seperate themselves for their surrounds.

Of course this does not take into account the use of mobile phones as tinny boom boxes, where sound quality is not even worth mentioning. Perhaps here, the essence of popular music is revealed as not being embedded in the sound quality but rather melodic/rhythmic/lyrical content. Perhaps even its associative memories account for more than sound junkies would like to admit...

[1] Stephen Whittington, "Music Technology Forum: Semester 2 - Week 1 ". Lecture presented at the Electronic Music Unit, University of Adelaide, South Australia, 31st July 2008

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