I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Chicago is waaaay too loud.
the brakes on cars here are the loudest, highest-pitched i’ve ever experienced. painfully so.
the brake squeals of the average Chicago vehicle from about 15 feet away:
there is no exhibit B. i could offer you plenty of squeaky brake recordings, i promise. i got about 8 of them in the two minutes i stood on a corner in downtown chicago. but would you really listen to them? once is way more than enough. in fact, i’m willing to bet you didn’t even listen to that example for fear of bleeding out your ears all over your fine new winter coat. lucky for you i did not choose the highest pitched one, or your dogs would have all just died.
i know, i know, Chicago has brutal winters that breaks concrete, ruins traffic and instigates citywide seasonal affective disorder.
the SAD is terrible, but people just drink or hibernate to get through it. the concrete is truly awful, but people just take different routes or use public transit. but the brakes, won’t somebody PLEASE think about the brakes??? i feel as if i’m being stabbed in the brainstem everytime (an average of 5 times a minute, depending on proximity to stop signs / traffic lights… but not pedestrians.. nobody stops for pedestrians) a car slows down in my general vicinity.
there must be a simple way to just clean out the crud from the brakes. maybe some enterprising individual would like to start a non-profit organization dedicated to the de-polluting of our airspace? please?
I just ran across this article on gamasutra.com by Duane Decker, a seasoned audio professional in the game industry, and was delighted to find on this topic two gem paragraphs that i’ve included at the bottom of this post.
It is a long standing gripe with audio engineers across production lines (game, film, even sometimes with musicians) that sound quality is overlooked until the last minute, if it is acknowledged at all. I have experienced first hand the classic situation where a director has asked for an audio consultation on a film to sit down and watch a nearly finished product. Ostensibly I was brought in on a project that needed some “touching up” of the audio, but on review it is discovered that this film needed a professional several months ago, and at this point in the process ADR is the only feasable solution. No director wants to hear that and I was passed over on a free craigslist gig for suggesting that I couldn’t just take it to my magic audio chamber and fix it.
This situation reiterates itself with infinite variety, but the problem is usually the same. Many people underestimate the importance of sound, and often either the product suffers or the budget suffers. Handled improperly, this can lead to tension between a director and an audio engineer who is perceived as having “done a bad job” when in fact there was no possible way of doing a “good job” without redoing the entire thing. This seems to be symptomatic of many corner-cutting production styles these days, where crews only pick up professionals when they have to, and then often finding that they’ve painted themselves into a corner by trying to do the audio without perhaps knowing what they were getting into.
So, as a great shout out on the topic, Duane Decker had this to say as a pre-emptive measure and explanation of the importance of working with professionals from the start who are trained to pay attention to sound quality and who understand what does or does not make a quality auditory experience in support of visual presentation.
from the article:
The nature of our visual senses makes it fairly easy to express what we like or dislike about the action we see on the screen. But unless you have studied music and audio at the college level, most people find it impossible to quantify why they like or dislike an audio experience. In fact, a lot of game reviews spend little or no time on the subject. Yet, this indescribable perception can make the difference between a hit game and a flop.
While it’s tempting to cut corners and let your programmer, who has a garage band, create audio for the game, it is also a very high-risk proposition. There is a reason that audio professionals have studied music and audio, earned college degrees in the subject and have spent countless hours honing their craft. Audio professionals are absolutely passionate about delivering the highest quality audio. It will usually take less time for them to produce the end product and it will minimize the possibility of mistakes that will cost time and money to fix.
Thanks Duane for pointing it out!
i’ve finally gotten around to listening to the beatles recently remastered box sets.
i must admit, i was skeptical at first, maybe even a little scared. i’ve been living with the recordings as i know them for so long, how could they be improved upon? or even if they were improved upon, maybe they would be unrecognizably distorted from the entities that have been the soundtrack to such a large number of memories that they no longer have individual attachments to moments, but have fused into a giant lump of festering nostalgia for a time that might be my youth, or could be from last year.
but in listening to the remasters, i have given in. truly, it was time for this to happen. on the whole i am most impressed with the early albums, songs like “do you want to know a secret” and “things we said today” in particular have stood out to me as massively improved by the clarity and depth of this mix. i’ve never been so aware of the reverb behind paul and john’s voices, fading out nicely into the background.
mostly, however, i’ve been struck by the fact that it has been a long time since i’ve actually listened to the beatles. about a year ago, a friend of mind (a fellow beatles fiend, although far more dedicated. his intense love relationship to the beatles makes mine look like a short lived infatuation inspired by a smile in line at a grocery store. he’s got a sgt. pepper’s lonely hearts club band kickdrum tattoed on his arm, fer chrissakes) was completely surprised to discover that i had no beatles at all on my ipod or computer. at the time i said that i didn’t need the recordings. i had all the songs in my head.
listening now to these remasters has made me doubt how well i know them… is this remastering actually that much better? i don’t know, i can’t tell because the originals are gone. it seems that the only thing that exists in my mind is the essence of each song. the melody, the words, the rasp of john’;s voice on the last tracks of an album cut all in one day. i’ve been surprised in listening to the remasters by the complete panning of the drums to one side, and all the vocals to the other… and i’m thinking, “was it always like this and i didn’t notice? wait, this album was in mono, right? er…” and i can’t clearly recall.
but it’s given me something to appreciate. i have been listening to them as a completely new experience. as much as all of these songs are part of my being, i have nothing to compare these new recordings to. so now i have got a lot to listen to. yep. it’s all beatles all the time until my housemates threaten me effectively (only really good threats are going to convince me to stop).
on another note, i’ve taken a (sortof) time lapse of our space here in chicago (just moved here… i’m loving it so far. of course, i haven’t seen a winter yet…). i say sortof because i was limited by a 1gig sd card in a casio exilim digital cam. so, at medium quality, i had to swap the card out & offload every 20 minutes until the camera died (about 3 hours) and then charge it up and start again. and then do it again the next day to fill in the gaps. hm, limitations are fertilizer for creativity, right? yea. well anyway, getting the cards in & out for days (took me three different days to get this) and replacing the cam without a tripod creates some shaky filming in fast forward. er, so, basically what i’m saying is this is a bit janky. i know it. I KNOW, alright already! just watch the video, jeez:
chicago is too loud. actually, the whole world is too loud.
[edit: apparently i'm not the only one who thinks so. i just found this article on TV commercials being too loud and overcompressed. looks like the FCC is actually developing a way to regulate broadcast so that audio levels are matched between content audio levels and advertisement audio levels. advertisements, of course, exploit the tendency of humans to pay more attention to loud noises in the midrange, creating a huge level imbalance that slaps you in the face as soon as your show is done and a commercial begins. ah, the loudness wars. not just for pop music anymore!]
ever since my youth, i have always been the one to ask if we could turn the music down please? there’s probably some scientific classification for my inner ear structure and it’s electrical impulse generation to the brain etc. but it just boils down to the fact that i like to not be assaulted with loud noises all the time. so, i happen to carry a pair of etymotic research earplugs everywhere i go. often they’re for concerts, but mostly they’re for riding public transit, flying in airplanes, and walking down the street during construction season (e.g. all year long).
normally i save my more vehement complaining for when i’m hanging out with other audio people who are also trying to protect their ears for a living. but when you’ve been woken up every day for weeks by what sounds like garbage trucks doing laps backwards around your block for three hours, you start to get a little bitter. every day?
EVERY DAY i hear a legion of garbage trucks backing up for what seems like hours. how much trash is there in chicago!? more than enough to choke a herd of cows, and apparently it’s more efficient to drive backwards, because i can hear their beeping for HOURS.
i present you with this recording i made of it. not because i want you to directly suffer as i do, but because by sharing the pain i can lessen the impact. oh yes.
this is a quiet recording because i had been trying to ignore the constant brake squeaking and beeping noises for hours. when finally i gave up and decided to record it (and thereby gain power over it, kind of like accepting the fact that you’ve had an arm amputated so that you can go on living a normal life) the truck had moved a ways down the block.
this recording is 48 seconds, because i don’t want to subject you to any more of this. but this exact noise persisted for 20 minutes. and it was apparently the last lap in the RGTI 500.
chicago is too loud. or has too much garbage.
well, my jellyfishing continues. drawn along bonelessly by the social tides, i floated to rodan last sunday, and was introduced to the fine works of local dj chip chop:
someone had previously filmed chip chop getting all science-ey with it, and the VJ was projecting the video over him as he did his thing. meta performance! it was fab, a great time was had by me, and on top of it all chip chop came over and gave us a mix cd as well as tasty ginger candy! it was a win-win-win situation.
the following monday there was a live show at the Chicago Cultural Center. i have learned that every monday they have a free concert at noon. dominic (who i had previously met at rodan and transamoeba, and is part of the catalyst, which i have yet to encounter) was playing as part of a string trio on stage.
first of all, the chicago cultural center is an amazingbuilding! the mosaic work is incredibly detailed and tasteful. kai and i spent some time wandering around before the show and she showed me the incredible lighting sconces, the mosaic work, the marble stairways, the mosaic work, the central dome, did i mention the mosaic work? whoa. i once worked on a mosaic project, long ago, and cutting mosaic stones by hand is tedious work. looking at the cultural center, i’m thinking that warehouses full of legions of workers worked day and night for one thousand and one years, incurring nubby fingers, carpal tunnel syndrome, and calcified lungs from dust inhalation making this place happen. i hope they had good health insurance! oh wait, they were probably in america, so it seems unlikely.
at any rate, we sat down to a fine show of three works in an incredible acoustic space. i’m hoping to grow up to full blown audiogeek someday, and to that end i’ve begun carrying around a zoom h4n handy recorder to record sound fx, music, people, etc. i’m slowly building a sample library of random and interesting sounds.
the geekery came in handy (ha!) on this occasion, as i was able to capture the performances, which i present to you here. they sound good, although i apologize for the hideous noise floor. it’s a new device, and i’m still discovering the ins & outs.
i must confess that for the second work, “vision mantra” by Marcos Balter, i unfortunately turned the recording level way down, expecting a loud piece. Marcos Balter is from Brasil, and i, being half Brasilian myself, counted on the wild passion of Brasil to break through in this performance. essentially, i expected it to be loud, excited, unpredictable. well, i should say that i was NOT disappointed with the quality of the piece! it was a haunting piece that created broad and subtle paintings in the mind, and suggested that one should listen closer (which marcos’ predilection towards repetition happily obliges). i WAS, however, startled to find the piece much quieter than i anticipated… so, figuring that the ear tunes out noise when presented with coherent information, i decided that it would be better to capture the whole performance at a low level rather than turn up the preamp in the middle of the performance and disturb the recording.
ok, too much info, i know.
now, for your delectation, i present you with the three pieces:
Being new to Chicago, I have to rely on friends and enemies for what to do around town. Well, I don’t have to, but it’s easier that way, so I do. I was invited to the small radio control room of WNUR 89.3 where David and Bartek of Dubfront Records were hosting an impromptu show with Random Rab who happened to be in town.
I imagine playing a DJ set live on the radio must be like having a birthday in space. You know everyone at home is wishing you well, but it’s mostly just cold and lonely. Anyway, Rab put down a smooth set regardless of the limitations of being in a tin can orbiting the earth, and we had a great time in the background searching the internet for porn local music and talking about michael jackson projects we’ve all been working on.
The next evening, I kept on with my blindly following my friend’s social recommendations, my fabulous girlfriend and I headed out to transamoeba to again see Rab, recenty back from space, play a great set. Kai (my partner) introduced me to her friend Dominic who plays the viola and works occasionally with the, uh, Chicago cultural center? I don’t remember what… but anyway apparently he’s been putting on orchestral works there and will be playing one this monday which we’re planning on checking out.
So far my friends’ recommendations seem to be trustworthy. I haven’t ended up at a house club or missing any kidneys yet. So far so good!
i’m just getting a web page up and running. wow, i’ve finally made it to the 20th century, now that it’s the 21st century. better late than never? anyway, it’s my first page ever and i’m dealing with all the joy and horror that comes with it. soon enough i’ll begin my “track-a-day” project, and that’ll be posted here and available as a podcast.