Noise is part of life. As an audio engineer, I am often attempting to eliminate or minimize noise at live music events and in the recording studio. As a creative passion unto its own, I create electronically generated noise available for listeners to stream on YouTube or buy as a download here on the Electric Canyon website.
The first posts to YouTube, were, what I thought to be clinical examples of Pink Noise and White Noise for audio engineers to check out. These are most popular forms of noise used for in music, sound and video industies. YouTube extended it’s playback video maximum to unlimited in 2012. It was the perfect time to upload ten hour long-play examples of noise. Viewers of these extended play clips came up with their own uses for the noise. Their discoveries and uses have amazed and entertained myself and thousands of channel listeners. The dalesnale channel just past two million video views recently and over one hundred years of accumulated listening minutes.
Uses for noise include masking undesirable sounds in the listening environment—a sonic version of fighting fire with fire. If voices, household appliances, music, video games are distracting to someone in the home, office or elsewhere, noise can be played back, over a stereo, computer or headphones, to draw attention away from those unwanted sounds. The noise need not be played back loud to achieve the masking effect.
There are people afflicted with a hyper sensitivity to jarring noises, and adding noise to the environment can provide some relief to the listener. Hyperacusis is one term for the affliction, though one clever commenter said “This really helps with my hibiscus.” Whether it was intentional or auto correcting failure, the comment speaks to the helpful thanks for the relief and/or comic relief found in the noise series comment fields. I spoke directly with a woman who’s audiologist recommended Sweeping Pink Noise from the channel as relief for what she described as a complex auditory malfunction in her ears creating music and other sounds that would ‘playback’ constantly via misfiring neural pathways between the ears and brains. What a learning experience the noise series has been. I never considered it could help listeners with hearing afflictions. People with Tinnitus, an ongoing rining in the ears also speak of relief from listening to noise. The Ten hour clips are long enough for a complete night’s sleep or work-shift.
Another common use, especially for Pink Noise, has been to burn in headphones. This is the process of wearing in the electro-mechanical workings of the headphones to loosen them up so to speak. This is a debated topic as to it’s effectiveness, however, many believe in it’s use, including some headphone manufacturers. Most listeners burn in for 20-30 hours by turning on the noise at a moderate level and setting the headphones aside overnight in two or three sessions.
There are several definitions of noise colors designed to express various frequency bands of noise. In a nutshell, some have more low frequencies, like Brown Noise. Some have more high frequencies, like Violet Noise. Grey Noise, has a combination of increased lows and highs with less midrange frequencies, which appeals to many listeners. Like a favorite song, listeners have a broad range of personal favorites across the board. One listener’s awesome is another’s agitation according to the heartfelt comments.
Listeners have experimented combining the noise colors by opening more then one in separate web browser tabs. Recipes are found in the comment fields by passionate listeners. Once I had all the clinically define noise colors posted, it was time for a bit of variation in the form of slow frequency shifting called sweeping. Sweeping Pink Noise slowly undulates up and down over a period of thirty seconds or so. I just set it where it felt good to my ears in the hopes others would also enjoy it. Sweeping Grey Noise has three Grey Noise sources Doppler shifting at the once. Slightly more complex but also soothing.
Then I ventured into more artistically daring noise content combining several noise sources effecting and blending them over the ten hour cycle. No moment in these sound clip is ever exactly repeated. Rumble Works, Steam Works and Spooky Noise are among the popular noise collages in the series.
Noise could be considered the ultimate minimalist music. I suppose as an audio engineer meticulously listening and adjusting tiny details in music recordings and live performances, sometimes I crave sonically static (pun intended) sound when I get home, especially if video games, or the dishwasher is making noise across the house. It works to keep the peace in a busy house in the late evening.
Humans have evolved with noise. Rivers, streams, waterfalls, the wind and the sea can create a calming effect perhaps because we have listened to them since the beginning of our time. Noise is the first things a baby hears inside their mother. Though these are natural examples of noise, electronically created noise has similar effects on listeners. Naturally occurring noise clips, including, Pacific Ocean, streams, and Forest Ambiance are also on the channel. There are also man made mechanical noise clips on the channel—such as Ten Hours of Idling Van—a sound that used to put me to sleep as a kid.
Noise clips from the channel have also been used in experimental Architectural installations including the Nap Gap installation at The 2nd Istanbul Design Biennial October 2014. The installation was to inspire napping in dedicated spaces such as at the workplace.
Max Neuhaus was a sound scape artist that created artistic sound installations to create a modified awareness of space through sounds existing in the environment and ones he added. I had a chance to experience one of his installations in Aspen, Colorado in 1988 along the Roaring Fork River where tiny speaker hidden in trees added tones to the noise of the river. These tones were practically undetectable until the listener sat there for ten minutes or more. I visited this installation spot many times that summer. It seemed the perfect combination of natural sound and man made ambiance. This left an inspirational impression on me that has been influential in the wonder of noise and sound of the environment. More noise to come.