Presentation Series #1 Pt. 2

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Anderson Mills came out to give a talk for the new AMODA Presentation Series I have been putting together the past few months. “From Zero to One: Expression in a Digital World” is the name of the Spring ‘03 Series. Snappy, eh? Yeah… Anderon’s subject matter: Psychoacoustics. You know, how crazy people hear things. No — how your ears and brain interpret incoming audio waves into the sensory perception of “sound.” Which sounds wonky. And I guess it is. But interesting if you’re into sound and just sort of into understanding the way things work.

The best parts of the presentation had to do with masking and .mp3 compression. Anderson explained in (what I thought was) a good amount of detail the physical properties of the ear, and how the comstruction of the ear allows certain pitches to “mask” or make inaudible other pitches. What’s cool about this is that if you understand how the ear masks different pitches, you can remove those masked pitches from the audio coming out of your computer speakers, and compress the audio files required to produce that audio. This is what .mp3s do (in a grossly simplified way). Maybe you knew this, but I didn’t.

Anderson also delved into the Fourier model of sound (the one I use in my “additive-subtractive synthesis” speech) to demonstrate how “virtual pitches” can be created. Like, how you can play a “G” pitch without actually having any “G” pitch frequencies in the sound. Doesn’t sound especially exciting, but it has some neat real-world applications. Some small speakers cannot reproduce low frequencies very well. One way around this is to use “virtual pitch” to make the brain think it’s hearing those low tones.

So anyway. That’s a summary of what he talked about. We should have a video of his presentation up on the AMODA website (along with the slides he used) in the next couple of weeks. I’ll post a link when that happens.

Oh. We had an attendance of about forty. Which doesn’t sound like much, but it’s about ten more than we had for Mocha Jean Herrup’s digital video presentation. And not many AMODA people or personal friends of mine showed up. I like having my friends come out to see things I put together, but having so many unknown faces is cool: it means that more people are enticed out by the subject matter (I hope), which is the goal.

Okay. Back to paying bills…