Digitally Duped.


We have been duped.

I bought it, too.

When digital music first came out, I listened to the silence – no pops, no hiss, no wobble – and I was impressed.
As a musician I had to admit someone had made the world of music better by inventing digital recording.
Perhaps some who read this may not even have heard old analogue records (LPs) in their original format.

[Short summary: Digital audio is to sound what video is to film, where light interacts directly with silver oxides. The digital circuit – on the other hand – looks at electricity vibrating, then measures it over time and writes down the measurements.  When we listen to the digital “recording” another circuit uses those measurement-numbers to construct sound.  In live music your ears (and body) hear from many angles and locations. The details of the dynamic interaction between many sounds in real time is not only extraordinarily complex, it also takes place in 3D. The ear and brain has no problem with it, but particularly in the upper range a digital translator measuring a mere 44,100 times per second is no match for such complexity.  When we sample at higher rates we get better detail of course.  [Personal observation: At 120,000 Hz the hairs on the back of my neck stood up from listening to a recording of single flute.]

Digital music is missing soul because numbers are finite and soul is infinite.  There is no end to soul or spirit.  When  digital music was first invented the technicians thought as follows: The highest vibration humans can hear is about 22,000 Hz/Sec.  If we make measurements for twice that, we should be safe. Hence a typical CD is 44,100 sets of numbers per second.

Who knows how much we hear or perceive?
When a mother sings to a child on her breast, would not a child notice that the blessing of food is also accompanied by a wonderful sound and vibration as the mother’s chest also resonates with her voice.  Real sound is a form of touch and and music connects us.  As fas as senses go, eyes tell us what is “real”, while sound communicates to our emotion.  Life is analogue (except for DNA).  Sound is touch, at high speed. In music the emotion of the player, through  touch of a key or string is felt simultaneously by the audience. When the connection is felt, joy springs out and faces smile together from across a room.  The moment comes into focus as rhythm relaxes and everyone listens.
That is music.
That is music to me.
That will never happen in the digital world.

I am sadly convinced that the quest for technical audio perfection, called Digital Sound is starving us from Soul.

[Note: Perhaps the effects of digital translation it is not so apparent in the visual world.  I am thrilled to see the details in my new computer monitor, Blue Ray is looking as good as CDs looked when it first came out.  “What we see is what is real” we say, but it is perhaps more like “What is real is what we see”.  I believe it takes the presence of a Soul – through Mind – to make something real.

Here’s the thing:
Human beings thrive by contact with each other.
They vane when the become separated.
Would you not agree?

Now notice the Digital world is everywhere:
TV screens, cameras, recorders, Iphones, videogames, CDs, DVDs, our cellphones, even home-phones are now digital.
Except for when we are physically together, we don’t hear the sound of each other when we talk, We hear a circuit’s description of the sounds we make.  As we move forward I can see us all being pixilated, becoming interactive programs – ghosts haunting the halls of the World Wide Net forever.

Mixing at Capitol Records, Hollywood.

Still with me?  Digital music is easy to transport, cut, splice, turn upside down and store on a disk and I work with it every day. As artists we can see if we can break through the membrane.  Digital sound can fool us “enough” when melodic sounds are played.  Acoustic piano, bells, horns, bass and drums seem to be easiest to listen to, while sharp treble-rich instruments like violins, shakers, cymbals, steel-stringed guitars – are hard to record well to Digital.  But the best example I can think of to demonstrate the shortcomings of pure data, is this: Take any recording with good dynamic range, such as a rock band or even a symphony orchestra. Listen to the beauty and sound of the individual instruments during the soft passages, then listen to the loud sections and notice that you cannot hear the individual instruments any more.  In the sixties Motown became famous for their “Wall of Sound”, but today your would not be able to pile so much complexity into a recording.  Distortion from a live rock-guitar is fun, in digital-land distortion is brutal.  Everything comes out in 90 degrees and straight lines.  [Nature abhors straight lines, although ants from what I’ve seen are happy to make a gardenhose on my lawn into their personal freeway.  I digress.]

Digital is a description of an event expressed by a machine.  Old analogue records and live performances was an organic imprint of the sound itself, from one natural element to another.  In the case of vinyl records: The process starts with air compressing a capsule, resulting in an alternating current,  which is amplified to move a needle, which carves a groove on a rotating vinyl disk. Each step along the way is an organic real-life event.  If we were to aim a microscope on a picture of the complex waveform of this type it would keep being nuanced and complex even if measured over a millionth of a second.  A digital CD recording disregards any details beyond 44,100 samples per second.

We humans are far more sensitive to sound than we think.  We perceive much more than we comprehend. I recommend more live music, birds and wind in the trees for everyone.
We cannot translate soul into numbers, thus I think there is now a Digital Membrane isolating most of us from each other.  In that domain I believe we hear each other but do not connect well.

We have been duped to eating the menu and not the meal.