Noise vs Real Estate
As one annoyed compat said, my smelly rented room was my studio. One cassette to another. Noise, some singing of songs, etc.
Nowadays, computing power and memory get cheaper. Physical space, owned or rented, living and/or working, gets more pricey, gives new and poignant meaning to "prohibitively expensive".
For a while, as an accident of circumstance, I lived in a whole house. And when my then spouse was out, I'd goof around, mostly with larger noises and some musicalish things. And record.
I'm no performer, great muso. Those who are will want to get a performance. Focus, if not dead quiet (strictly speaking) is handy to capture that. The more live and room defined and dynamic the performance, the more that real space and quiet are super handy.
Close micing and direct recording can obviate some of that, but for a lute player not so into the beady sound of a piezo mic'd soundboard/bridge/whatnot, there'll be no air there. No room. And if on or near a noisy street/neighbor/whatever, good luck with getting and keeping that sweet fresh take with feeling.
All that and the psycho-ergonomics of not wearing too many hats at once will bring the lute player and the death metal band alike to a studio with soundproofing, engineers, and mics and mic stands and preamps and such. Ever read Tape Op magazine? There you go, check it out or Mix etc. and come back. Lots can be done by folks who know their own specific tasks and don't try to do it all alone.
But sorry, not that person. Ever.
Read all that stuff but really could not be the true blue anything. Jack of all, master of none, etc.
So in that solitary control addiction necessary to create "Grunt Grunt Pig"_and_(albeit much much later) "On The Fall Line", I have worked mostly in adapted home space. Some were very provisionally adapted ("oh, hey, no one's around") or in an extra room set up to record ("oh, hey, no one's around").
Getting older and playing with a muso/writer/performer friend who was getting into Phil Ochs, Jacques Attali and life without a PA set up, I was never really in love with loud. Apocrypha #1 -- when I quit a low-volume-ish no PA band, one fellow more or less remarked "how you gonna find someone plays that weird so quietly?" A. #2 -- Later when hearing a perfectly functional Merzbow CD at low volume (how else?) it sounded as if the speakers were being clawed out from the inside. My words then and now were "loud at any volume".
Anyway, forget me and mine. Brit sci fi writer Brian Aldiss had it all covered in a short story decades back, "Supertoys Last All Summer Long". Kubrick wanted to make a movie of it. Later on, Spielberg did (A.I.). Movie's groovy, but really the story does more and beats out the Matrix and what not in terms of "hey, who/what/where the f*ck are we?". Um. Hard enough to say then. Before the empty swimming pools of occupied Singapore returned to haunt JG Ballard (again, jack of all, no expert here), Aldiss had our kind living in the virtual vistas wherein any and all are up for questioning. As for answers, well.
In this small corner of human concern, making and sometimes recording noise, the virtual vistas open on Bandcamp and YouTube and beyond. The old weird web is subject to ongoing monetization, but even the basic intro versions of the newly priced virtual has way more casual server room than the globe has affordable and useable real estate.
Not one to do more than to imply stuff for others to use to draw their own (hopefully useful) conclusions, I'll leave at that. Head space, processor and memory space, is all that's growing.
[EC founder Hal McGee does this in spades. Bandcamp releases, yes. Also, the Apartment Music, other non standard noise venuation (a real word? Well, now . . . Spelling variable.) As adapted real space events, for sure. Putting space as is to more varied purpose. Plus later, along the lines of this essay, sharing as video presentations, online releases. Again, not the expert here nor inclined to play one on the Internet.]
Were I more than a crypto-Mormon (drinking water, but not coffee, soda, tea--very matter of factly, for no particular reason), I'd applaud this continuing frontier expansion. Leave it to a late middle aged, nominally middle class 'Merican white guy to find such space. But creators of noise and other such who make/save/share in digital formats can be of any and all kinds. As a Trek addicted type person, I will have to invoke that Vulcanism -- IDIC -- Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. As an Electronic Cottage contributor, will simply say this space is your space [mine, ours -- What Would Woody Guthrie Do?].
To end on a goofy, long, if related tech note.
In the age of analog and cassettes as the cheap option with which to record, for music and sound recording (as in field recording, getting samples, etc.), the noise floor was something to get over and above of. By the time of better field recorders and cheaper and more portable digital recording etc, aside from going over digital zero and whether one had the patience or wherewithal for greater than 16 bit depth recordings to give more resolution and headroom, it was the sounds of the world, the competing sounds, that became the noise floor. The field recordist who promoted the "one square inch of silence" idea was fighting the ubiquitous sounds of jets flying over, etc.
The other side of this issue is someone like John Cage, who'd go in the woods mushroom hunting, but lived in Manhattan and sought a more open ended and Zen like rapport with all the sounds around.
Granted as human listeners with ears and minds, we don't function like any kind of recording device I know. We can focus on one thing we want to hear (say a bird song) and push aside, to some degree at least, some other thing we don't (maybe dogs barking). The choices vary, but we do this so routinely that a recording with any gizmo can be odd to hear in playback. "What? There're dogs barking? [Birds tweeting? My coat sleeves rustling?]" Indeed, the aforementioned field recordist mentions in a documentary how still one must be to record. (Gordon Hempton. Funny to think of former Cabaret Voltaire member, Chris Watson, as another such quiet stalker of sound.)
Kevin, I’ve really enjoyed reading your article. Living and creating lo-fi music in a small space in a big noisy city like NYC gets me thinking about what you are addressing in your article. Thanks for your posting!
Leave a Reply.
noise maker, aesthete at large, provisional poet, ex-songwriter