A Noisy Noise Annoys An Oyster

Isn’t it strange what peculiar little gifts we carry forward from our childhood. I really can’t imagine how occasion arose to use such a phrase in ordinary conversation, but I recall my father peppering a particular slice of my early life with it.

Noise is the theme of this post.

Most times people posting about noise are complaining about it. Complaints range from the I-have-yet-to-have-a-problem noise of the Procyon, to the high-pitched noise some people hear when listening to AudioStrobe encoded tracks, to the too-loud/too-soft gamut expressed in relation to noise or noise-like sounds used in AVS tracks.

It’s a wonderful thing to think of our minds bathed in the sound and light as we perceive ourselves as being. That perception is the product of our brain taking a vast amount of real-time data from our peripheral sensors and portraying it, as with infrared/ultraviolet/radio/MRI images, in false colour. Here’s the thing though – we had no say whatsoever in how the sense-data is mapped to our perception. My argument is that it is almost entirely based on the ranges of parameters that a creature living on this planet would need to monitor in order to live effectively. I’d have to give a lot of thought to what it would be like living with your vision confined to another wave-band, before I could say why exactly so many species chose the same visual range (I can’t actually think of anything that has electromagnetic radiation sensitivity far outside our range. I think there’s something about butterflies and bees having extended ultraviolet range.) Same goes for sound. A lot of very fine minds are pondering the question of how a recognisable, repeatable, reproducible vibration at the eardrum is converted to that which we think we hear, which we convert into language and/or which we attempt to describe to others.

The reality is very different. Squajillions (that’s technical jargon for the lay term “lots”) of individual neurons are having their say about the particular disruption in their very small part of the universe. Many at the same time. All the time. Constantly.

In the case of a sound, the message is probably, from a neuron attached to a “hair” in the cochlea, “Cochlear Hair Neuron 1st Class, reporting, Left Ear, Lower Register Battalion, Sir, Shockwave Force 8, Extent 64%” Yup. On call 24/7 for every single sensory and motor neuron. Poor old brain-central gets to sort all these reports into the summary that is presented to our consciousness as required.

In real life noise is a very interesting thing. We all know about rain, waves and the many other water and weather themes. They are just so naturally relaxing. Why? Swamp enough of a sense with noise and it gets to take a break. Noise, once identified as such is taken as “No Data”. It knows it can’t do anything meaningful with noise, so it doesn’t try. It relaxes until it notices something new in its sense-stream. We can over-ride the initial scan for information in the noise – we can focus our attention and spot all manner of detail in a filtered and/or modulated noise fragment.

Noise is injected into the output of many hearing aid devices. The addition of noise allows a great deal of low amplitude detail in a complex signal (day-to-day life) to be discerned. Many precision instruments, particularly those associated with biometrics, also add noise to their input signal so that statistical methods can extract more detail. Noise can suppress the perception of tinitus.

Noise is a very general term. You could read a lot of books and yet not yet have found all the implications and applications of noise. It is a key player in chaos, probability and quantum stories. All the marketing companies filter those of us who don’t properly fall into a demographic out as noise in the data (the clever ones occasionally think to look at the outliers – there’s a whole new world out here!). And then there is the noise that falls within the spectra of our ears and eyes. In the first case, natural noise is the summation of all acoustic vibrations between 20Hz and 20kHz above a certain threshold at the detector’s unique location and within its field of detection. In the second case, it is all the photons arriving at the retina that cannot be translated into meaningful directional information. It takes a whole lot of really complex math to take visual sense-data and pluck out what gets presented to our consciousness. (Consider the progress with machine vision – highly prized and funded by military and industry alike, as well as a prime interest for extreme high-end geeks, to whom we truly owe our thanks for the extraordinary ideas that technologists have realised.)

Noise. It most closely approximates what’s really going on in any small region of the brain. If you really want to get clever with brain/brainwave stimulus, then you’re going to need to get into a bit of “bit-level” manipulation. No. Nowhere near as predictable, repeatable, targetable as that may be read to imply. What can be done is that certain typical types of thought can be induced in a trained and willing subject and suppressed in a success motivated subject having difficulty doing so unassisted.

The great thing about noise is that you really don’t have to be very clever with it. Put it anywhere you want to fill a hole without messing anything else up. It’s as good as anything, and better than square, for filling your isochronic beats. Remember it’s good for triggering AS decoders too!

And, a noisy noise does, indeed, annoy many creatures, including many who listen to the noises I post. Thank you for that concept. I’ve been scrabbling around for the right term for the content I’m producing. “Content” is so disgustingly corporate/marketing. “Music” is putting it somewhere it doesn’t belong (yet). Sounds, sessions, tracks – none really hit the target. But “Noise”! Yes. That is what I make. Noise that makes me feel however I want to feel about my current sense-data, and to embrace recall with all my latest knowledge and understanding, re-viewed and re-interpreted to create new feelings.

It’s early days, my friends. To the best of my knowledge there is no-one else doing anything just quite like what I’m doing. That is one of my talents, finding uninhabited niches and somehow managing to scratch out a living serving others from nearby “islands of non-conformity”.

I have no idea at this time whether the noise I use to shape my thought will become more or less aesthetically pleasing. I suspect I will end up releasing two versions of many of my projects – one that’s good to chill with, and one that is truly psychoactive (I’m truly tempted to claim “neuroactive”, but I lack any means to verify any such claim).

If you’re using Mind Workstation, Neuroprogrammer or any other AVS software that provides any control over noise, do consider the modulation, filtering and masking possibilities.

Have fun and do tell!


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