Audio Responsibility

Who is responsible for the music you listen to? And the interviews you hear? Who decides when your voice gets recorded or not?

In a post industrial world, we have more choice than ever as to how and when we consume things. Take your music streaming service of choice – it likely has ~50m songs to choose from at the tap of a button. This can be overwhelming, which explains the success of Spotify and its algorithms. These ‘tailored playlists’ take the responsibility away from you and the music you hear.

The idea of audio responsibility then, asks us to behave in a more engaged way around music and anything else we feed our ears.

A couple of tips to get started on the road to audio responsibility:

  1. Read about it before you listen to it. This forces you to be an active participant and it makes the experience so much more satisfying. Check out this book to get started: Link
  2. The equipment you use makes a difference. Headphones, amplifiers and speakers are the best places to start investing (responsibly) in your audio experience.
  3. Nobody knows what you want to hear better than you. Not even Spotify.

Here’s to taking responsibility. 🙂

Recording yourself

Do you like the sound of your own voice? The first time I heard my own voice must have been on an old phone message machine we had growing up. It held messages on tiny cassettes which it could play back to you.

Having a very creative best friend, we then started messing around with dictaphones and video cameras. When I got into music and sang in a band, we’d record on anything just to hear ourselves play.

And then came smartphones. Nowadays people are trying to get away from being recorded so often. Google Apple or Facebook hears everything we say. There are full fledged studio apps available at the push of a button/ swipe of a screen.

I seem to hear my own voice a lot these days. Whether it is sending voice notes, or creating podcasts. Hearing yourself forces reflection on what it is you’re saying and how you’re saying it. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s worth a try.

Hifi as recovery

I like nothing better than to lay some toys on the ground for the kids and put in a good record. After a long day hacking around chasing children, it refills the cup.

Hifi as a Sanctuary

Life is not easy. To paint a bit of a bleak picture – even if you have all the money in the world, friends, family and health – the slow ticking of time in the background tells you It’s a losing battle. None of us will get out of here alive.

So what to do? Well among countless other mindfulness and health exercises, we should engage in activities which take time out of the equation. I mean those activities that engage us so fully, we can’t hear the ticking and the tocking. Time seems to stand still.

This is a sanctuary of sorts. This is music, audio and hifi for me.

Hifi and science

On an anecdotal level, hifi music often overwhelms everything else I am doing. When I hear a song that I like, on equipment that i like, nothing else really matters. I am happy and absorbed, and ensconced in the sound.

On an evolutionary level, why do we humans enjoy music? Why do we dance? What is it about certain sounds that makes me feel like i do? What is the evolutionary function of music? Are these feelings and effects all just neural impulses? If so, to what end?

Luckily I am not the first person to think about these things. I have just come across a book that I hope will help me answer some of these questions, or at least explore some of these ideas.

Hifi and WW2

Cognitive dissonance is tricky to deal with.

In Germany after the war, Allied forces found a new recording technology – magnetic tape. This provided a huge leap in audio fidelity ahead of disc recordings and rapidly became the dominant mastering medium for sound. The Nazi’s had used it for a while already for broadcasting. It later enabled multi-track recording and led to the first hifi systems being created.

Fast forward 74 years and here we are, the audio equivalent of the autobahn. A Nazi legacy item that audiophiles and musicians couldn’t really do without. Magnetic tape enables those timbres, tones and spacious melodies.

Of course it would have been infinitely better without the war, and with Nazis never having existed.

But here we are.

Hook line and sinker

I have this old stereo amplifier. I bought it from a slick salesman. He linked the amp up to some INCREDIBLE speakers in his made-for-purpose listening room. I was blown away and handed over too much cash. I’ve been trying to patch together that same sound ever since.

The thing is, I WANTED this to happen. I wanted to hear the perfect set up, I wanted to hand over my money and yes deep down I even wanted the frustration afterwards of not quite getting the salesman’s sound.

We humans are strange animals. A quest is often more fulfilling than a destination. But demonstrating a destination is a powerful sales technique.

Hook line and sinker.