NMSAT :: Networked Music & SoundArt Timeline

1925 __ Sound we broadcast and sound we receive
Comment : “Radio as we know it to-day is primarily an acoustical instrument. The intelligence we send by radio is the intelligence conveyed by sound. The transmitting and receiving apparatus serve merely to transport sounds from one place to another or to many others. Its intricate electrical factors are merely a part of the whole whose one function is to reproduce sound. It is sound that we broadcast and sound that we receive. From microphone to loud speaker each part serves merely as a link in the chain which connects one place with another by sound. The success of the whole scheme of broadcasting as an instrument of communication depends upon how accurately sounds in one place can be reproduced at another. To perfect the instrument then, we must concentrate our attention on this single purpose. We must understand the place of sounds in our own normal existence, know their nature physically, and how the links in the apparatus composing the broadcast chain fit this purpose. We must forget for a while the numberless variations of a few radio circuits, stop talking about batteries, distance, and other incidental matters, and spend some of our collective energy on the real fundamental thing we are most concerned with the acoustics of radio. Sound, though few of us realize it, exerts a tremendous influence in our daily lives. Of all the five senses, seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, and smelling, hearing is surely one of the most important. How many of us have ever stopped to think of this world of sound and what it means how sound can tell us of the myriad things going on about us, the presence of which we might otherwise never know! We are constantly alive to these sounds - hearing them, classifying them - picturing the things producing them - interpreting them and their meanings - all without effort, subconsciously - automatically translating them into whatever meaning they may have for us. As I sit here in my study with all my senses, save hearing, voluntarily cut off from the outside world, I can still retain a remarkable moving picture of what is going on about me as conveyed to my senses, alone through these subtle influences called sound. Because sound is a result of action, it is action or motion of some kind that we sense when we hear sounds. Every sound we hear is produced by motion of some kind. Nearly all sounds, therefore, are suggestive of action and are so interpreted as we listen. Through my open window I hear a certain sound that is unmistakably the rustling of the leaves of a tree in the breeze. I hear an intermittent banging which is without question a carpenter hammering on a near-by house. A certain snip-snip tells me my neighbor is trimming his hedge another whirring rattling noise says another mows his lawn. Shrill, trilling sounds tell of crickets, other of frogs and birds or other insects, quite as clearly." A continuous characteristic rumbling and heavy bumping tells of an approaching automobile. Without seeing, I know it has stopped before my house, that the driver gets out, walks up to our door, raps on it, that the door is opened, that he asks for information, gets it, and departs! I can tell that it is an electrically driven car and know he goes on and not back. - WE CAN ALMOST SEE BY SOUND.Another car approaches, getting louder and louder. The motor slows and 1 hear a slight creak of the brake; now the motor races furiously with a short grinding and whining and the motor again quiets with another brake creak; then another furious racing and grinding for a moment and as the pitch lowers these sounds weaken and disappear amid the other remaining sounds. How do I know that this was a Ford motorcar and that it turned in my driveway, backed out and around and went back the way it came? That is a difficult question to answer, but I am just as certain as if I had seen it with my eyes. I hear other sounds that I know come from a piano. I know, too, that they come from a house across the street and am sure are produced by a player action and not manually. Only the three first beats are necessary to tell me that the selection is Rachmaninoff's "Prelude in C Sharp Minor." Our sound memory retains accurate records of literally millions of different sounds just as our visual memory retains pictures of endless kinds and arrangements of visible objects. With vision we classify and distinguish ob- objects by form, position, movement, surroundings, and color. By long accumulated experience we have grown proficient in the art of describing them by words. But with sound it is very much more difficult. We can describe the appearance of a pipe organ unmistakably, but to describe its sound accurately is quite another matter. We can with relative ease describe a person with whom we are familiar, but are quite completely at a loss in truly picturing the sound of his voice. And so while we live all our lives in this world of sound hardly realizing its presence, it is constantly conveying a remarkably great and accurate knowledge of our surroundings, of the ideas our fellowmen wish to convey to us, and very much more besides by the association of ideas in the realms of the other senses. Realizing this we become interested in sound objectively. We want to know what it is that we call sound, why sounds differ, and how we hear. Most of all we are interested in sound because we are interested in radio. We have come to realize what a wonderful, far-reaching influence broadcasting is coming to have, and because we know that broadcasting is the art of instantaneous reproduction of sound, we know that we must understand sound in order to reproduce it accurately. Radio reproduced sound is not the same as the original and the degree of similarity varies with the character of the sound. Some sounds reproduce well enough that our understanding or pleasure in listening is not marred. [...] In general, there is a lower level of loudness in the reproduced sounds for high and low pitches, and in somewhat the same manner very weak and very strong sounds are suppressed. In a broadcasting studio we can easily hear the faint ticking of a clock across the room, but this would never be heard at a reproducing speaker. If a very loud sound like a pistol shot or drum beat were made with almost painful intensity in the studio, the reproduced sound intensity at a receiver would be greatly lacking in volume. These differences between the reproduced sound and the original are caused by what we call distortions. They are produced in many different ways and cause a wide variation from the ideal true likeness of the reproduction for the original sound. [...] And yet, this is what, in effect, is done every day in the process of radio broadcasting and reproduction. The final translation into sound, considering the intricate nature of the process, retains a remarkable likeness to the original. For this degree of perfection thus far attained the major amount of credit must be given to those who have devoted their careful attention and attacked the problem as one of acoustics. Improvement in this art will be made only by a deeper study of the nature of sound and its relation to these many translating devices like the microphone, the amplifier, or the loud speaker which comprise the radio sound reproducing system. - Enormous quantities of communication by sound pass every day. In wire telephony, as in radio telephony, we send out sound and sound we hope to receive at the other end. Too little attention in radio has been paid to the fact that we want perfect sound at both ends of the circuit.”. (B.F. Miessner,“Sound: First and Last in Radio”, In “RADIO BROADCAST”, Vol. VI, no. 3, JANUARY 1925, Garden City, N. Y., DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY, 1925, pp. 434-441)
Urls : http://www.archive.org/stream/radiobroadcast06gardrich%23page/434/mode/2up (last visited )

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