The Sound of Things

02023-09-04 | Photos, Studio, Technology, Touring | 10 comments

It was great playing duets with Jon last week. Three cities, six shows. Can’t get much simpler than a guitar and an upright bass. We can do a lot with that… Well, we had a good time.

I saw this in the window of a bookstore in Kent: I returned yesterday evening and today I threw myself into binaural surround sound mixing, using SPAT Revolution. I watched a video and then pulled up a piece from Rain Poems to experiment. It was very frustrating at first. All I got was distorted sound. I’m still not sure what I did wrong. I messed with some faders and clicked some software buttons and suddenly it was working. It’s a whole different game, isn’t it!? I think this surround sound mixing will require making drawings and diagrams and using automation and and and.

The excitement over Dolby Atmos at Apple Music always seemed over the top to me. I find it’s a lot like pushing Blu-ray over DVD. The story of a film captivates me more than sheer technological brilliance and pixel count. In addition, DVD was old technology and therefore accessible to more movie productions worldwide and I don’t often watch Hollywood films anyway. So I never bothered buying a Blu-ray player. Similarly, melodies and the musical performance are more important to me than hearing something in spectacular quality. It’s a trade off, isn’t it. I mean if you can dedicate a room to listening, and outfit it with 50-100k of great equipment and loudspeakers, I am sure it would be glorious. I might come for a visit but it’s not really for me. (wouldn’t it be cool if one could rent a room with an amazing sound system by the hour?)

My first impression is that the SPAT Revolution software is really impressive and that I should keep working with it, to see where it can take the music, but stereo is pretty damn good and compatible with more ways to listen. What’s your favorite way to listen to music? Loudspeakers? A surround sound speaker array? Headphones? The car? A mono bluetooth speaker?

I’ll end this post with a photo from Indianapolis:


  1. Dave Kirschner

    The majority of my listening is in the car.

  2. Steve

    >What’s your favorite way to listen to music? Loudspeakers? A surround sound speaker array? Headphones? The car? A mono bluetooth speaker?

    I have a very nice sound system in my truck, but I also have an excellent little rig with a high resolution DAC and some IEMs. The IEM system is the primary one right now, but that will change when camping starts up again this autumn into winter.

    I commute by bicycle, and around here you cannot have IEMs in while riding- Too dangerous.

    I confess that I don’t fully understand the raison d’être for Dolby Atmos (or any other surround scheme for music playback).

    • ottmar

      I enjoy the artificial head album Up Close we made a long time ago. I wasn’t sure whether I would like the algo-binaural of the SPAT system but I think there might be something there. It’s worth going after.

      • Steve

        Yeah … that one was excellent. I still listen to that all the time. So do you consider binarual to be “surround” …?

        • ottmar

          Binaural is the people’s surround. All one needs is a closed pair of headphones .
          How many people have 5.1 or larger speaker arrays, you think? One in a hundred, one in a thousand, or even less?

          • Steve

            >How many people have 5.1 or larger speaker arrays, you think? One in a hundred, one in a thousand, or even less?

            Well, my view is very skewed because I spend so much time around people in the 18-24 age group, and for the vast majority of them a simple monophonic bluetooth speaker is just fine.

            But even for those in my age group 50-65, I would bet that it is even less than one in a thousand, and the proportion just goes down exponentially as the speaker array complexity goes up.

            So, yeah, I really DO like binaural recording and playback but I guess I hadn’t considered it a “surround” format until … uh, now.

          • ottmar

            You are totally right. I wonder whether it is related to how valueless music has become? I remember how important it was for me as a poor twenty-something to have a stereo system with speakers that did the music justice. I dreamed of Stax Earspeakers from the time I saw and heard them at age 19. I was in my mid-thirties when I could afford them. There must be a correlation between how important or valuable music is and how important its reproduction is to us.

            Oh, and I decided that binaural was surround sound when I heard the effect of me walking around Fritz, the binaural head! It was so realistic.

  3. anne

    I would think a pair of closed in headphones – most people have?
    (Sales/marketing data from any manufacture should provide useful insights into market size/demographics etc. )

    If high end stereo sound is vastly superior to closed in headphones – then your idea about renting time to listen to great music, is an interesting one. ……makes me wonder what music i might select.

    • Steve

      >I wonder whether it is related to how valueless music has become?

      I think that’s part of it, but I also think that it has to do with attention. What I see is 18-24 year old people walking around with one ear bud in, half listening to music, half listening to the environment, but not truly paying 100% attention to either. Or: they are out in the commons listening to a monophonic bluetooth thing but not 100% either. Contrast: I was 18-24 between 1979 and 1985. I’d get a new recording, and put it on and sit there and listen intently while I read the liner notes on the jacket. It was always 100% attention until I had the album pretty much memorised. But I suspect the culture was vastly different then. For one thing, the smartphone apocalypse hadn’t happened yet.

  4. Kimberlie

    An interesting conversation for sure….about music and culture….and how you discuss the difference in values and attention , or in my interpretation, giving anything full Presence and Connection or lack of it. Then that photo above I kept being drawn to over and over again:

    “Educating the mind without educating the Heart, is no education at all.”

    For me, it seems that no one really “teaches” anyone anything. We “guide and shape and role model” hopefully with a safe healthy creative environment & information so that individuals can absorb & use the new information to integrate and build new patterns cognitively into LTM via their unique learning style. But learning is first emotional, even in a cognitively genius brain. Heart. Our Hearts have a “brain” of their own, that seems to be wise beyond the mind-brain and ego.
    So it’s beautiful how it seems to me that it’s not about “educating” the Heart so much as it’s about allowing the Heart to educate us via learning emotional intelligence…which interestingly enough not many up until recently have given much energy and focus and credit toward. And culturally, for centuries, in our societal conditioning today in most places on the beautiful planet, the idea of giving our Heartfelt Wisdom “leadership” in public domain, such as in business and government etc. is seen as “weak.” Somehow, vulnerability got associated with weakness instead of strength. Perhaps that came from literal cave days, but it has always seemed to me, that Heart, full Presence, and full Connection with anything or anyone was the deeper key for individuals feeling healthier, and deeply satisfied and successful in their lives in every area for sustainably longer durations and for continued expansion, even when more challenging times” arose. There were many “albatrosses” like Leo Buscaglia and John Bradshaw, Marianne Williamson, and others that had the audacity to actually bring out this topic publicly in many forms, one being a USC non credit class simply called, “Love.” Of course the class had a huge wait list and catapulted into a “self realization/self-healing movement”, which did not make traditional professors at the university happy……..yet the seeds were planted for self-help workshops worldwide and it helped masses to uncover self questioning and more self awareness of our natural Heart’s wisdom beyond the conditioned ego thinking that neatly trailed behind it to keep that wisdom contained into “safe & accepted boxes” so as not to “scare” the status quo of living feeling not fully Present or not fully Connected to Source energie, and without healthy role-models to learn how to be emotionally intelligent.
    It’s a strange thing that we humans think just because we can explain or understand something that means someone is an “expert”, which usually translates that that person is very human and simultaneously aware and willing to be vulnerable enough to challenge their own “shadows” in order to shift the decades-old ancestral energie that obviously didn’t bring our ancestors sustained satisfaction and joy, presence, and full connection in life. I guess we all have to reconcile in our own time (lifetimes?), but I do innerstand (new word I’m replacing for the word belief) that any sort of education will always lead back to Heart wisdom and literally depend upon it…and nowadays, learning Emotional Intelligence, translated to mean to learn how to navigate our own Emotions in our daily lives authentically and with wholehearted courage. This is better than any AI, any day, as it will ultimately lead the majority of humans back to sustainable full Presence and Connection, more of the time in their lives, which leads to feeling more satisfied more of the time for longer durations…..which can create an incredible energie of support for ourselves and others, replacing the ancestral pain & stuckness that never got to be transformed into something more satisfying, healthy and expansive;))….and this old energie has seemed to keep an unhealthy residue layered over the planet for a few thousand years up until now. So thru music, education, headphones, etc, maybe it’s all coming together as people are beginning to “wake up” and return to Love from outdated, non.FeelingGood old resistance. Seems this whole process and all humans, even music need a huge pinch of loving compassion, patience, and open-minded open-hearted support as we learn literally, How to Be the role-models we never had for centuries. And this does respect and acknowledge that not everything or everyone was wrong or bad, or that their healthy qualities & energie are to be discarded. There was a road created, rough, but created with Heart intent by many before us. Now it appears the masses will wake up to this incredible Heart truth to actually live it and learn to perhaps “engineer it” further, more sustainably, more satisfying, with added individual & collective Love energie to everything.


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