Happy Friggin’ New Year

Happy Friggin’ New Year! Kevin Blackmore – Jan. 1St, 2012

Lord sufferin’ Jeeses! I can’t hear! Goddamit, why is it that when you give some clod a $2000.00 sound system and a laptop he qualifies as a D.J.? “New Years Eve” or “Pound the ears out Night” just caused more damage!
I love to socialize! I love to dance! But here’s a pearl for ya…increasing the Decibel level to massacre does not necessarily improve the party!
I’ve been around long enough to have had my two eardrums numbed by “sound systems” ever since the 1960s when I was a young gaffer ogling guitars at dances when I could only dream of owning an instrument. Later I participated in generating a good deal of white noise myself, however I now admit that from a health perspective all that noise was not good for me, or the nation collectively. It’s why BELTONE is now a very wealthy supplier of hearing aids.
Look, technically sound reproduction has not improved a lot since Hitler broadcast hell to his masses, much the same gear was used then as now. It’s just the modern version of hell is more insidious. Microphones – believe it or not – have not gotten a lot better. Amplifiers have not improved vastly, and speakers only marginally. The whole thing is just so primitive. The idea of driving up the volume to answer for more listeners is still where we are, and really that’s still ice age.
However recording, as an art and science has undergone big leaps of improvement and the reproduction of a recorded sound can be virtually indistinguishable from its origin. This has led to a high degree of sophistication amongst listening audiences. People have high expectations for music and song. Most times now the live performances don’t live up to the recordings!
Along with that sophistication came a development in high fidelity stereophonic devices for the home listener which has been a boon for the average listener and audiophile alike. In the years of the vinyl LP we’d take home our latest treasure and carefully lay it on a turntable, feeding the signal into a stereo amplifier which sent a bigger signal to stereo speakers, and if you had quality stuff, well the sound was great! We had a measure of sound reproductive quality in those days, 20 to 20 we said! It meant that the system reproduced sound from 20 hertz (or cycles per second) to 20 khz, (20,000 hertz ). Given that the human ear hears the highest frequencies only when young; we typically lose everything down to 12,000 hz before we’re teens, one might say that everything above 12 khz is pointless. Not so, these frequencies help with overtones, things you don’t immediately sense, they make the sound warm. ( Also, birds, bats, dogs and cats become really disappointed when those ranges don’t exist on your system. ) The wisest of our generation kept our turntables, amps and speakers. We knew a good thing when we heard it.
Now exists a generation of MP3 files run out of computers which don’t reproduce anything except the mid- range, the range of the tiny speakers in laptops; typically 800hz to 3khz. In this really narrow focus you hear a lot of guitar, high percussion, high brass and woodwinds as well as synthesized sounds. Bass is rarely heard and low percussion sounds like pencils tapped on empty milk cartons. MP3 files are partial files. The original sound files which come from the studios are bigger. Cd files occupy too much file space so three quarters of the information is pulled out. It doesn’t matter however when music is pushed through one quarter to one half inch laptop speakers – that’s where the kids today hear most music. You guessed it. Quality is not important here.
“So, Justin bought a P.A. System at the music shop… you know,, one of those things bands use to make their sound bigger. Well why don’t we get him to supply music for the dance? “
In he comes, puts his speakers up on stands, right at average ear level. They have 15 inch woofers and a small horn speaker in each with a minimal processing passive crossover network,( tech talk for junk) to make them sound better, which is difficult given their original purpose. He then shoves his MP3 file songs into these self powered speakers generating 100 watts of power per side and turns it up to make us dance.
Dance alright,,, fast as I can to a corner of the room that hasn’t got the full blast of mid-range frequencies pulverizing my cochlea and artificial bass thumps which re-start my arrhythmia. An orchestra of chainsaws doing Swan Lake would have more fidelity! Fun? FUN??… Not without earplugs! Meanwhile Justin sits behind his PA speakers unaware of the misery he’s created and when we don’t hit the dance floor right away he shoves his volume knob further toward max. Give the man his $300. and hope he quits early.
If you’re like me you really prefer the conversation with old buddies to a steady stream of hell, something which becomes impossible when Justin starts up, just another thing that he doesn’t realize as he inches toward the pain threshold. Blood weeping from broken ear drums is in evidence. The room is only 36 by 48, all its timbers are in danger of being shook and nails are coming out of the gyproc. Suddenly you see Ralphie and you haven’t talked to him in more than a year and he’s bawling in your ear from eight inches away trying to be heard over the shell bursts and his breath is worse than you thought a quart of rum and coke could make it. Then the party noise makers are distributed which makes all the patrons blow and rattle devices to further sever neuro pathways. By now dancers are reacting spasmodically, contorting like lobsters hitting the boiling water when it finally occurs to you that playing sick might be the best way out. When you get outside the wife is talking but you can’t hear, and that carries on through the next day, which is where I am now, and like me you chalk up one more experience to the long list of stupid things we’ve done.
Happy friggin’ New Year!

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