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Reflection about Music uniqueness

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Reflection about Music uniqueness

Postby Nowhk » Sat Sep 30, 2017 11:21 am

Hi all,

I'm new to this community, and I'd like to start having a fancy (even if heavy to discuss) talk with you. Hope in a good outcome. Unfortunately English is not my native language, so sorry if I don't get some point and if I write like a horse :thumbup:

Well, let start.
Being involved in music production and mixing for hobby since many years, I've start to ask to myself the purpose of my work in terms of music ontology. I'm making pure electronic music (with any kind of synthesis technics).

For definition: music can be see as organized sounds. It can be expressed as the way we perceive it: rhythm, melody, harmony, timbre, loudness, dynamics, and so on.

From a physics point of view, from sound design to mix/master, going to medium/playback, than to our bio status, the input that brain will elaborate for make these perception will always change a bit.

What does it means this? That every step of this chain will "shape" the perception we have of what we will listening. Placing a FX on the mixdown (like a reverb or compressor; major changes), or choose a different medium for playing back the recordings (speakers with room and reflections, or flat treated studio, or headphones; (minor change), or just having a different mood, ALL of this shape our perception.
I don't talk about different perception between individuals (everyone have its own), but different perception between a single individual experiences.

So my uncertainty become quite obvious:

1 - as producer/musician point of view, on what exactly are you working in your opinion? All is going to change/shape at every experience? Even if you do a FINAL recordings, the medium that will play it (choosed by the listener) will add its own color, messing in some way your work.
2 - as listener point of view, how would you define a piece if you experience/perceive it differently every time you consume it?

The whole could be applied to most things in life, but since I'm a music enthusiastic, I find it a nice example.

Happy discussing, and thanks for your time!
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Re: Reflection about Music uniqueness

Postby Guest » Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:52 am

A good tune is a good tune regardless of any technical short comings in the recording/producing or listening environment.

It’s the intervals that move, inspire or irritate us, not the quality of the recorded medium.

Hope this answers your query, that is if I got the right end of your stick as it were.
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Re: Reflection about Music uniqueness

Postby desmond » Sun Oct 01, 2017 12:29 pm

I think at the end of the day, commercial considerations aside (as those always muddy the waters), most creative people working on their own art work hard to do something that pleases them, that they are proud of, and that they are willing to present to the world.

How the world then receives, consumes, and judges it is no longer anything to do with the artist - you have zero control over this once it's "out there".

Every individual will then have their own unique perception of the work, shaped by their own experiences, tastes, and environment, and that's how it's always been.
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Re: Reflection about Music uniqueness

Postby blinddrew » Sun Oct 01, 2017 12:52 pm

As a musician (ha!) and song-writer I think I'm trying to do two things: firstly to tell a story of some kind, and secondly to elicit some kind of emotional reaction to it with my listeners (double ha!).
As a recordist/engineer/producer (running out of ha!s here) I'm trying to capture the emotion from the performance so that it comes through when it's played.
As Desmond says, how people then choose to interact or react to that is outside my control.

In terms of the listener's perspective, I think this probably drops into two camps.
There is a small (and decreasing*) pool of people who are actively listening to the music (whether live or recorded). For most people it's background noise, nice noise if you're lucky, but it's really something to fill the silence.
For this latter group you are unlikely to ever really trigger a reaction or a change in perception.
For the first group, I think this is where the skill of the producer / engineer comes in. I might be listening on my phone earbuds on the train, or through a wireless mini-speaker in the kitchen, or in my car or even, rarely, sat properly in front of my hi-fi. The good producer can work the technical aspects of the track such that it does its damndest to evoke the same reaction in all those different places - and as a consumer I shouldn't notice a thing!

I have no idea if this is remotely what you were expecting as a response! :)


* 50-60 years ago there were only so many demands on your entertainment dollar and music was a huge market. Most of that music probably came from the radio so you were constantly exposed to new music and you probably listened to it. Now people have less disposable income and pretty much every household has multiple ways of accessing the internet, 200+ channels of TV, computer games, social media etc. Music plays a much smaller role in people's free time, and when it does, it's generally via streaming services - so you listen to more of what you know rather than experiencing anything new. This is all largely irrelevant other than to say we're all chasing a decreasing share of a shrinking market and sometimes I wonder why I bother getting up in the morning.
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Re: Reflection about Music uniqueness

Postby job » Sun Oct 01, 2017 1:01 pm

I don't think what we enjoy needs a justification. I find your first question to be coming from the idea that assumes that there's some ultimate purpose to it, i don't agree and would therefore consider it not a good question to ask. Not sure how i'd define music that satisfied your second question... interesting, novel, cool, or something along those lines i guess :thumbup:
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Re: Reflection about Music uniqueness

Postby CS70 » Sun Oct 01, 2017 2:27 pm

Nowhk wrote:1 - as producer/musician point of view, on what exactly are you working in your opinion? All is going to change/shape at every experience? Even if you do a FINAL recordings, the medium that will play it (choosed by the listener) will add its own color, messing in some way your work.
2 - as listener point of view, how would you define a piece if you experience/perceive it differently every time you consume it?

Uniqueness or originality is generally an illusion. When you're born, you know nothing on music. Growing up, whatever comes your way first and catches your liking will be unique, original and unforgettable - simply because it's the right piece of music at the right time for you.

The same piece heard by someone who's been listening to music for 30 years would likely sound - to him or her - trite, already-heard or nothing worth remembering.

That's the trick of commercial music - find out what can be "new" to a segment of the market and concentrate on it, and the hell with the rest. Since we all age, once you've found a formula it works for quite some time - hence the gazillion copycats.

So yes, your experience colors both the music your make and the perception when listening. We also mature, but that's imho not really that powerful. Memory lane is very nice road to walk on.

As a producer, the only thing you can do is to make music you consider good, and that depends on what has influenced you. It's almost unavoidable. Yes you can try and be influenced from different/new types of music, but the power of freshness (which is not a property of the music, but of yourself) is very high, so it's really hard to "get" into some new music with the same intensity you experience in your first listening years. So not really much to think about.

As a listener, no - the whole point (I think) is that every time you listen to a piece of music which has at some point hit you, it brings you back to that point. So - assuming you like a piece and find it memorable - you will tend to re-live the same experience all the time.
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Re: Reflection about Music uniqueness

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Oct 01, 2017 3:57 pm

All music was original once, musical innovators still exist but as more and more new ideas see the light of day there remain fewer and fewer avenues for originality.

I have been lucky to live through, possibly, the greatest period of innovation in popular music ever, the '50s to the '70s. Starting with Rock and Roll, via The Beatles and The Stones, Pink Floyd, Genisis, Yes, Tangerine Dream, and too many others to list that 30 year period probably contains the roots of almost ever popular song/recording around today.

Cat, pigeons?
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Re: Reflection about Music uniqueness

Postby John Egan » Sun Oct 01, 2017 5:42 pm

blinddrew wrote:As a musician (ha!) and song-writer I think I'm trying to do two things: firstly to tell a story of some kind, and secondly to elicit some kind of emotional reaction to it with my listeners (double ha!).
As a recordist/engineer/producer (running out of ha!s here) I'm trying to capture the emotion from the performance so that it comes through when it's played.
As Desmond says, how people then choose to interact or react to that is outside my control.

Absolutely. For most of us making a living from music in the late '50s and '6os, we were privileged to be doing something we enjoyed - something which we would have done for free if that was what it took. There was a huge number of live music venues in every town and usually they were full to bursting point with potential fans. Getting your music heard in your home town was relatively easy for semi professionals and professional bands with management could play one night stands almost every night up and down the country and beyond. Getting the respect of our peers was what mattered - along with the huge enjoyment of gigging. Recording and publishing were in the hands of the big corporations and opportunities were far fewer. The cult of celebrity in its present form was largely absent. Fame was a by-product of the music making - often welcome but sometimes not.
Today, the opportunity to create and record original music in high quality and at reasonable cost is remarkable. We would have killed for it. But the opportunity is hobbled by the lack of gigging opportunities and national and international exposure is as much as ever in the hands of large corporations who,it appears, have a much more powerful grasp on the development and shaping (and homogenising) of new talent.

So the most important and satisfying thing, it seems to me is still the respect of our peers.

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Re: Reflection about Music uniqueness

Postby Nowhk » Sun Oct 01, 2017 6:03 pm

Lots of replies here! Many thanks dudes for you effort and time!!!

Anyway, I was talking about somethings a bit more "tangible" :)
I try to put it in short.

I think I would define Music as (organized) sound.
Said this, sound (as physical stuff) will always be distorted (colored) a bit by medium (and by us when we get it, due to our bio status and such).
This distortion (I think; but maybe I'm biased) have impact on how we perceive the piece of music.

Let do an example, just listen to this short extract (even if the whole discussion is about music driven exclusived by timbre, as electronic producer; but it fits the case):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKELodcHIxo
How I'm "impacted" by how the sound hit to me change the way I can see the whole instruments and their timbre/dynamics.
Yeah, that's different (raw vs mixdown, major changes), but I think also mediums will add its own color in a similar (even with less dosages) way.
Frequency response as EQ, compression as speaker's transient, reverb by room's reflections, noise bv ringing, and so on.

If you find "raw vs mixdown" too heavy as comparison example, simply checks between different mastering:

https://youtu.be/clC-ImA8sLk?t=6m53s
The sound CHANGE in both, thus I think also Music itself will be shaped.

So, if you can't preserve it (the sound, thus the music)... isn't this a inconsistency? A problematic? Are you just working on some kind of "bases"?
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Re: Reflection about Music uniqueness

Postby job » Sun Oct 01, 2017 11:06 pm

Nowhk wrote:Said this, sound (as physical stuff) will always be distorted (colored) a bit by medium (and by us when we get it, due to our bio status and such).
This distortion (I think; but maybe I'm biased) have impact on how we perceive the piece of music.

This seems like a mistake. You appear to be defining 'sound' as something objective and then calling our perception of it subjective, but sound is only ever subjective since it's the perception of a mechanical wave by the auditory system of a, in our case, human. Does a tree that falls in the woods make a mechanical wave? Yes. Is that mechanical wave a sound? Only if it's heard.

The medium that the actual wave travels through before it hits our ear is air, but how would we ever know if it's been coloured by it since we never perceive it without it? And the medium of music is this wave, i.e. sound.

Or maybe i'm just failing at grasping your point... :headbang:

Nowhk wrote:Anyway, I was talking about somethings a bit more "tangible" :)
I try to put it in short.

I think I would define Music as (organized) sound.

I think we need to add a time element to your definiton for something to be called music. I'd probably say it's time or rhythm based auditory art.
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Re: Reflection about Music uniqueness

Postby Nowhk » Mon Oct 02, 2017 9:20 am

job wrote:I don't think what we enjoy needs a justification. I find your first question to be coming from the idea that assumes that there's some ultimate purpose to it, i don't agree and would therefore consider it not a good question to ask. Not sure how i'd define music that satisfied your second question... interesting, novel, cool, or something along those lines i guess :thumbup:
Yes, I agree. I'm able to enjoy music and make it without find a justification :) But reasoning a bit, it seems there are some "faults" we are ignoring, or simply I have some misunderstand of what I'm doing, that's all ;)

job wrote:This seems like a mistake. You appear to be defining 'sound' as something objective and then calling our perception of it subjective, but sound is only ever subjective since it's the perception of a mechanical wave by the auditory system of a, in our case, human.
Taking the wiki defintion:

"Sound is defined as "(a) Oscillation in pressure, stress, particle displacement, particle velocity, etc., propagated in a medium with internal forces (e.g., elastic or viscous), or the superposition of such propagated oscillation. (b) Auditory sensation evoked by the oscillation described in (a)."

So it can be considered as both physics and psychology thing I believe.
Than, my consideration: since (b) depends "also" by (a), and (a) will always be distorted a bit by how things works in the nature (mediums, our ear, bio, and such), I see logical to reason about the impossibility to preserve intact the work we are making.
Or where am I wrong with this assumption?

job wrote:The medium that the actual wave travels through before it hits our ear is air, but how would we ever know if it's been coloured by it since we never perceive it without it?
This confirm even more what I'm trying to achieve: sound (thus music) depends by the medium used to playback it, since it affect itself.

job wrote:I think we need to add a time element to your definiton for something to be called music. I'd probably say it's time or rhythm based auditory art.
Yes of course. The fact is that element such as melody, rhythm, harmony and so on can be perfectly preserved across setups (quality or not).
I'm talking about other elements that seems to mess by the environments (timbre, dynamics, reverb/reflections, and so on), also between quality setups comparison.
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Re: Reflection about Music uniqueness

Postby slewin49 » Mon Oct 02, 2017 10:52 am

It might be worth having a quick look at this long-running thread on KVR before spending too much time on this question https://www.kvraudio.com/forum/viewtopi ... 9&t=485328

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Re: Reflection about Music uniqueness

Postby job » Wed Oct 04, 2017 6:37 am

Nowhk wrote:Taking the wiki defintion:

"Sound is defined as "(a) Oscillation in pressure, stress, particle displacement, particle velocity, etc., propagated in a medium with internal forces (e.g., elastic or viscous), or the superposition of such propagated oscillation. (b) Auditory sensation evoked by the oscillation described in (a)."

I think the wiki is also somewhat mistaken here; it's using the same term to describe 3 different phenomena in 3 entirely different domains - it's gone from particle physics to neuroscience using the same terminology without blushing. This can lead to confusion unless we're all on the same page to begin with, i.e. we all know that what we want to consider is sound, such as when we search for the definition. A sound is something that's heard, and the term sound is used to label, describe and make sense of something in the human domain (or in the domain of other creatures/beings that have such a perception). Sound isn't the particles of the medium through which the wave travels oscilating around their rest position (that's the physical wave, which results in sound only when or if the occurence hits our ear).

Of course, for the sake of being succinct in dialogue we can say that sound is this physical condition (if we're on the same page), but going further and saying that this is the ultimate, pure form of sound, and then surmising that anything which we hear that comes from this has been tainted and distorted is going too far. Consider hitting a piece of metal. The force excites the particles around the strike point and off the wave goes through the material. The sound isn't 'the metal' in this state, but rather the perception of the energy that's been transfered from this state of the metal into the air and onto our ear drum. We can never hear 'the metal', only 'the sound that metal makes'. Yes, this is pedantic, but sometimes that can help.

Or maybe what you mean is that sound exists independently, 'out there' as it were, and then the medium, e.g. metal, glass, etc., taints and distorts 'sound' - because it sounds like metal or glass, and glass and metal are not the sound of sound? I don't know how this could be since there is no sound particle. Sound comes from particle displacment.

job wrote:The medium that the actual wave travels through before it hits our ear is air, but how would we ever know if it's been coloured by it since we never perceive it without it?
Nowhk wrote:This confirm even more what I'm trying to achieve: sound (thus music) depends by the medium used to playback it, since it affect itself.

I never meant to imply that a playback medium doesn't add distortion.
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Re: Reflection about Music uniqueness

Postby Nowhk » Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:58 am

job wrote:A sound is something that's heard, and the term sound is used to label, describe and make sense of something in the human domain (or in the domain of other creatures/beings that have such a perception).
...
Sound isn't the particles of the medium through which the wave travels oscilating around their rest position (that's the physical wave, which results in sound only when or if the occurence hits our ear).
But aren't those related? If the "physical sound" (particles) changes (also due to the medium), this doesn't mean that your "perception" will be alterated a bit? I think that's pretty straightforward, isn't?

job wrote:Consider hitting a piece of metal. The force excites the particles around the strike point and off the wave goes through the material. The sound isn't 'the metal' in this state, but rather the perception of the energy that's been transfered from this state of the metal into the air and onto our ear drum. We can never hear 'the metal', only 'the sound that metal makes'.
Let say I'm a producer that like that metallic sound. So I rec it, and maybe I "post process it a bit", than I record it. Days later I'll play it in different environments: it won't sound always the same. I will always perceive it a bit different (reverb, reflections, medium distortion, my mood, and such). So, as a producer, what I've done? My work (sound design/mixing/recordings) manifest itself differently every time.
I'm cope with the fact that there isn't a defined arrival point...

job wrote:I never meant to imply that a playback medium doesn't add distortion.
So you know that your work will always be distorted (a bit), by external factors.
How could you describe your work if you know there isn't a unique representation of it?
It seems that "how it sounds, so what it is" (i.e. what you perceive) is unpredictable, and always depends by the context.
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Re: Reflection about Music uniqueness

Postby blinddrew » Wed Oct 04, 2017 4:55 pm

Nowhk wrote:
job wrote:So you know that your work will always be distorted (a bit), by external factors.
How could you describe your work if you know there isn't a unique representation of it?
It seems that "how it sounds, so what it is" (i.e. what you perceive) is unpredictable, and always depends by the context.
I think it comes down to degrees of variation, and the human ear is very good at putting up with all kinds of nonsense and tuning in to the sound it expects.
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Re: Reflection about Music uniqueness

Postby Nowhk » Thu Oct 05, 2017 8:13 am

blinddrew wrote:I think it comes down to degrees of variation, and the human ear is very good at putting up with all kinds of nonsense and tuning in to the sound it expects.
Not sure if I got what you mean.

Are you saying that despite distortion/color introduced by medium/environments, our brain are able to makes up a common perception from different sources?

If so, WHY do you use and choose different mediums to play music? Whatever one you pick (and you get used for) would accomplish the task :shock:

Otherwise, it seems that people select their own setups because they LIKE to "shape" the sounds from the records, obtaining what they like the most (i.e. boosted bass? smiley response? soft transient? natural room reverbs?).
But if you see it from this point of view, listener seems to implicitly do an additional "mixing" to your job :shock:

In both case I'm concerned... :headbang:
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Re: Reflection about Music uniqueness

Postby Nowhk » Sun Nov 05, 2017 10:14 am

Bump? :angel:
Still interessed by the replies of job and blinddrew...
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Re: Reflection about Music uniqueness

Postby Sam Spoons » Sun Nov 05, 2017 11:27 am

Nowhk wrote:
blinddrew wrote:I think it comes down to degrees of variation, and the human ear is very good at putting up with all kinds of nonsense and tuning in to the sound it expects.
Not sure if I got what you mean.

Are you saying that despite distortion/color introduced by medium/environments, our brain are able to makes up a common perception from different sources?


We still hear the song as the song, even if it sounds different, I've been complimented on how well my band played "Sultans of Swing" ('exactly like the record'), we are a trio, I played a Les Paul with a pick, and I used distortion on the solo (to fill it out a bit in the absence of a rhythm guitar). The audience hear the song and fill in the gaps themselves so what they 'hear' sounds 'just like the record' even though what I play doesn't.

If so, WHY do you use and choose different mediums to play music? Whatever one you pick (and you get used for) would accomplish the task :shock:


I think most choose the medium based on convenience/quality/involvment. A phone and earbuds or bluetooth speaker is super convenient, a pair of decent monitors in a good studio environment is not but sounds very accurate (if not always pleasing) and is designed to expose detail that may not always sound good. OTOH it's well known that hifi systems are usually designed to flatter the recordings (make them sound as nice to listen to as possible by colouring the sound in a pleasing way). A good analogy to the latter is the electric guitar and it's amp, a good amp will colour the guitar sound (which is bland and uninteresting on it's own) in a way that pleases, it distorts in a way that sounds in harmony with the music with even order harmonics rather than odd order which clash and jar with the fundamental note.

Otherwise, it seems that people select their own setups because they LIKE to "shape" the sounds from the records, obtaining what they like the most (i.e. boosted bass? smiley response? soft transient? natural room reverbs?).


See 'HiFi' above

But if you see it from this point of view, listener seems to implicitly do an additional "mixing" to your job :shock:


Maybe an additional 'mastering' process (which is why we are advised to listen to a mix on as many different playback systems/environments as possible

In both case I'm concerned... :headbang:
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Re: Reflection about Music uniqueness

Postby blinddrew » Sun Nov 05, 2017 12:25 pm

Ah, sorry, I had forgotten about this thread.
Fortunately Mr Spoons has already covered all the key points.
In terms of the listener turning things into the sounds it expects, just have a think about most live performances with acoustic guitars. A lot of the time the 'acoustic guitar' really sounds nothing like an acoustic guitar - it sounds like a piezo through a PA - but we've become used to this sound, and we see someone on stage with an acoustic guitar, so our brains then interpret this as an acoustic guitar. The only people in the audience even thinking about this kind of thing are the people who read forums like this... :)
For most people, most of the time, music is just pleasant background noise. My prediciton is that in ten years or so, most music that people hear (hold music, lift music, shopping centre muzak, TV music, Ad music) will all be AI generated from start to finish.
And 99.99% of people won't care.
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Re: Reflection about Music uniqueness

Postby job » Sun Nov 05, 2017 5:31 pm

Nowhk wrote:...

Sorry, i forgot about this thread. I also have a habit of only looking at the side bar and the mixing and Windows forums so if something isn't in these places i can miss it.

As for my response, i think i misunderstood you. I took you to mean that you were saying that sound is the physical wave, and that anything we hear that comes from this is necessarily distorted because it's an interpretation of that physical wave. I disagree and think that (at least from a literal standpoint, but not necessarily pragmatic), this is an incorrect way to think. Rather, sound is an interpretation of a physical wave. The intermediate stage in the first sentence isn't necessary and just adds unnecessary complexity. I won't develop another argument to try and argue this point again because i don't think this is what you're saying after all.

Nowhk wrote:How could you describe your work if you know there isn't a unique representation of it?
It seems that "how it sounds, so what it is" (i.e. what you perceive) is unpredictable, and always depends by the context.

I also think i'm going to misunderstand you here as to me it sounds like you're trying to invoke some kind of 'pure form' of music again. But hey, maybe i'm totally off the mark. I don't think there is a pure form of music. Unless this pure form is simply what is meant by each frequency being played back at the exact same level it was recorded at. Well, the better our speakers the closer the playback will often approach this ideal.

Either way, i think the sentence is more accurate as just 'It seems that how it sounds... depends on context.'

:thumbup:
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