Fieldwork Enter The Noise Field


I can’t tell you how often I am told that I’m full of crap, or am painted out to be a complete charlatan because I use terms like "Signal Science". I remember between one and two decades ago, an interval of time when I was harshly criticized for everything that came out of my mind, my mouth, or my hands. Now people regard the work I was doing back then as patently brilliant. I can only assume that ten or twenty years from now, people will appreciate what I am currently doing.

There he goes again, the arrogant, pretentious ass! Right. Try putting yourself in my shoes, for a moment. So now I said "Fieldwork" and posted an image that looks like the result of a child playing with Photoshop for the first time or an elderly person who accidentally dropped and lost their digital camera in the snow one winter only to find it the next spring with ridiculous pictures exactly like this one.

I’m aware that not everyone will like what I do. I get that. It’s not a matter of liking or not liking to me. It’s a matter of heart, of the heart. I am preparing myself for what will likely be a long winter. I am already several months into my new production-year, and things are going so good I have to un-pinch myself to make sure I’m still dreaming. Life is wonderful and the inspiration and strokes of genius make all the hurt and pain dissipate and dissolve like it never even happened.

I discovered the Noise Field. I thought it was a play on words, an enchanting little phrase, like a nickname you’d give your dog, "Bo Didley Charleston" or something slightly less solemn and serious. But it’s turned out to be something worthy of the Nobel prize in physics. I’m forced to learn the math so fast it caused me to break modern data compression and discover the entire history of electrical engineering and telecommunications went in the wrong direction, at least as far as I’ve concerned.

MP3. The MP3 wasn’t even out yet when I was studying computer-assisted sound design. Neither was the DVD. They were merely ideas being thrown around, at least the DVD was. Some people had come in contact with the MP3, but it wasn’t hailed as anything all that spectacular. I just realized how nasty it really is. Everything about it goes against the grain of the work I’ve done the last decade and a half in sound design. Now I am experiencing the "loss" in "lossy" and its difficult to bear.

Forget music for a second. The "lossy" part in most modern forms of audio data compression is exactly the part that is so meaningful and significant to me. They rendered digital audio entirely inert. They took out the most amazing and important part of sound. They wanted to keep it clean, but they dehumanized it. They sacrificed so many important artifacts, I struggle now to find ways I can make people hear what I hear. It’s almost not doable. Unless you’re in the studio by my side, you’re not likely to hear anything at all, because the codecs and compression took the art out of audio.

Most people don’t have a very big appreciation of Noise, of what noise can be, how beautiful and elegant it can be, and how extremely useful it is in such a wide range of cases. Something went wrong in the 20th century, in the switch from analog to digital. As I was working in the audio recording industry, I felt it hit pretty hard. It wasn’t the MP3, it happened long before that with the death of the vinyl and then the audio cassette. When we moved from tape-based modes of storage and baud and modems and whatnot, something was irreversibly lost. For a sound designer doing analog synthesis for the last two decades and digital synthesis after that, I think most people have forgotten how wonderful, how beautiful the analog world once was.

Remember dual tones on the telephone? Actual bells ringing when someone called before that? Remember real party lines on your street in the village? Remember the first days of broadcast radio? There was a time when geophysicists had to go to Antarctica to work on their undergraduate degree, or work on their thesis. They might still do that, but they certainly didn’t have to build the equipment themselves, put it together by hand. You take a plane and it’s more or less like staying at the Ritz, just a different city.

This is my image of the Winter of the Soul. The library at night, in the Paper Archives, scribbling on index cards. May this production-year be great for one and all! Good night!


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