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CLASSICAL  November 2006

CLASSICAL November 2006

Subject:

Re: Spatial Paradox in Recorded Classical Music

From:

Rick Mabry <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 24 Nov 2006 09:43:19 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

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Bill H writes,

>So is it really a "loss"?  If anything, a recording offers the *potential*
>to realize a listening space that better matches the acoustic to which
>the music might have been conceived.  But the devil is in the details
>(such as knowing what that acoustic is), and the realization is hence
>often less than that potential.

A fairly pedestrian observation, but it never stopped me before: In spite
of any loss or paradox, our brains compensate tremendously.  Think of a
photograph.  Without our large visual cortices, most pictures could be
(non)rendered meaningless, due to perspective problems, etc.  But we
translate pretty well.  It's different with sound, of course, due in
part (I guess) to the fact that the directionality we perceive with sound
depends greatly on the frequency.  Pretty complicated stuff.

At a concert last week, I had the opportunity to ponder some related
psycho-acousto-geometric effects.  (In spite of the Mozart, I had time
to contemplate such things because I was at times able to temporarily
suppress my concentration on the actual music, thanks to a cell phone,
some fidgety people in squeaky chairs, crinkling candy wrappers being
oh-so-carefully unwrapped by a conscientious listener, and a scene in
which one man scolded parents who had brought three restless, tiny
children to the concert, followed by an usher asking the parents to
remove said infants.  Oh yes, and the imbecile sitting next to me who
was cracking his knuckles.  Yes, cracking his knuckles!  Let us give
thanks for recorded music, whatever the problems.)

The problem I was thinking of is that of the finite speed of propogation
of sound.  Now I do not mean the obvious effect of the mere distance
between performer and listener.  (Or not-so-mere in my case, up in the
nose-bleed section of the balcony, in the cheap seats, a geometric
placement that partially accounts for the previously described psycho-acoustic
issues of babies and knuckle-cracking, knuckle-dragging knuckeheads.)
What I am thinking of is the small, but not negligible distance between
the performers themselves.  The distance between players can be as much
as, what, 60 feet for a large orchestra?  The speed of sound is about
1100 feet per second, so that's a delay of around .05 sec.  Pretty
important then to watch the conductor as opposed to just listening, I'd
guess.  Can any players here comment on this problem, if it is one?  And
then, even if the snare drum and trombone sound their notes in unison
with the conductor and with each other, the sound reaches different
audience members at different times, depending on the location of the
players themselves, with differing relative delays for those sitting on
different sides of the orchestra, even for (especially for) those listeners
in the front.

Yeah, pretty hard to pack those effects onto a CD. Fascinating problem.

Rick

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