Re: Loud enough??

Subject: Re: Loud enough??
From: B. Battey (
Date: Mon Mar 01 1999 - 21:53:07 EST

The question I struggle with is *why* do we ('we' used perhaps
over-generally) feel such a strong desire to 'crank up the volume' within
our particular medium(s).

The observation is this: I might listen to a recording of a Beethoven
string quartet (for example) at moderate volumes and find a full
experiential range of intensity, bite, subtlety, etc. Of course, I might
listen to it louder and find some more "thrill," but the point is that I
don't feel that I lose the essence of the music at lower volumes.

Yet I find some (I'm actually tempted to say "most") electroacoustic music
seems to require me to crank up the volume for it to really resonate
experientially. At moderate volumes, the experience can be considerably
more flat. (I know I'm not alone here, but maybe others don't share this

Or the experience where the piece broadcast at high volumes into the
concert hall with full diffusion seems tremendous, but at home on a
reasonable stereo system it falls flat.

Or the experience of finding that one's piece sounds great on those
perfectly balanced and isolated studio monitors and bland in the 'real
world' playback environment.

What gives?

Is it merely that the amplification system is our "performer" and some
"performers'" interpretations are more effective than others?

Or,to take the critic's perspective, is it that we are tempted to
substitute high amplitudes and the thrill of exceptional sound systems to
cover for a lack of other attributes that would command attention? Is
there an important difference between 'musicality' and 'thrill' that is
being lost in the development of electroacoustic aesthetics?
Is it just that we are so used to the ease of turning up the volume
that we develop aesthetics around it, reduce our sensitivity, and
perpetuate a cycle?

Or is there really no problem here?

-=Bret Battey

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