The science of noise

At the dawn of civilisation

Is music the soul of love.? Maybe noone knows, but music has been called organised noise too, albeit in disrespectful levity. Noise, in any organised form, can definitely be a form of communication.

We all know it is possible to communicate by all sorts of methods. It has been done with smoke signals, sunlight directed by mirrors or flashlights at night, radio, walkie-talkie or even face to face on the gritty and choppy video of the latest 3G mobile phone. If you try tapping out some morse-code on a wall, a neighbour will very likely reply in a similar way. So maybe noise could be called the soul of communication.

The significance of noises must have been quite obvious to our ancestors, to whom any sound outside the relative safety of a cave could have meant something sinister, scary or even threatening to survival.

Whether it was the deep growl of the predator slinking through the night or the distant drumbeats of some travelling tribe, likely to be hostile to strangers crossing their path, experience must have brought home the tough reality of noises to anyone anxious to make it through another day.

crafty as a fox

If you didn't learn the difference between the sound of a dried seedpod being shaken by the shamen to ward off evil spirits, and the sound of a rattle snake which warns you not to step on it, it could be the last thing you ever learned.

Gradually, through time, that dried seedpod was joined by hollowed treetrunks, bamboo xylophones and other implements on which one could make a tuned noise that expressed some kind of feeling through its character. The human voice would have been important too, adding its very own expression to any overall sound.

After many millennia, having gone through wood, bones, taut skins, cat gut and horse hair, bronze, steel, brass and even nylon, in these past decades the sound of humanity has been enriched by the sound of silicon - or, to be more precise, the sound of software running on digital circuits.

...and all this had nothing ever to do with time as measured by clocks. Not until now, that is.

Electronic sprite anim

Alarm clock

With the advent of computers, there seems to be a stubborn conviction held by most experts, such as software developers, hardware designers and even some musicians, which holds that as far as timing is concerned, mathematically derived clock pulses are as accurate as they need to be. If you look at the computer solely as a tool to run a web browser, 3D object renderer/ray tracer, word processor, database, spread-sheet and even applications referencing the GPS, then it is obvious that a harmoniously accurate (or dynamically rhythmic) timing does not matter, as only the accuracy of specific, set events, such as date-stamps on files, is the main factor. We are only concerned with slices, frozen in time.

However, if we look at it as a tool for the creation of media, which should allow you to record and edit music or video at decent, glitch-free quality, running at naturally steady rates, then that continuously accurate, and natural timing does become vital. This means no resync at any time, no dropped frame, no added fill-in beat or skip, but solid timing that needs to be as 'regular'

as the atoms of our bodies demand. These atoms have to sync and integrate with space around us, in order to avoid skipping. That's dynamic continuity!

In music, we don't care at what mathematically exact time a certain currency has changed its value, or even what time the Shuttle has to take off on its scientific trip to rendez vous with Sky Lab - for those things it is best to refer to an atomic clock with its arbitrary time divider circuits, in order to have accurate official time at any given moment. In music, what we do care about most, is the naturally and dynamically accurate timing of many ongoing, repetitive and continuous processes.

Video has its steady and defined frame-rate, defined by the hardware clock, which was just what the Amiga was built for with its video friendly chipset and efficient OS. It synchronised perfectly and continuously with any VCR, which itself synched perfectly with screen refresh. In music, such timing is at least as much, if not more important, so let us look at the two ways of timing - either natural, which we call 'by feel', or mathematically derived clock time.

Most musicians will agree that music depends on feel, which, in my own experience, as well as by tradition, isn't clock-time based, and lives rather unhappily with clocks.

Music is based on the time of the universe, on the timing of our planets as they sweep majestically around the Sun, and on the actual timing of our Earth as it revolves around its own polar axis during that sweep - see synchronous orbit. This may sound grand, but so is our space program that has 'touched' our neighbour planets, so let's look at it more closely.

These large scale motions are perfectly in sync with, and interdependent to the motion of the atoms that make up a resonating string, the vibration of a tube of wood or brass, or even our human voice cords.

We should also remember the vibration of molecules and atoms of the air itself, which carries these sound-waves to our ears, as it is those vibrationss which the beat of our hearts has to be in sync with.

This issue of time has never been fully resolved. When we take our arbitrary choice of 60 seconds to a minute, 24 hours to the day and 365 days to a year, we have so-called leap-years when a day has to be added in order to synchronise the two disparate ways of timing. So now we have added leap-years, but even those won't make things accurate enough, so every now and then, that additional leap-year day has to be ignored.

Now where is the continuous accuracy in that? How can this arbitrary shifting of days be regarded as a natural rhythm? Some might say that it only happens every four years - but no! That additional day, every four years, is in reality a compromise, it is actually made up of fractions of seconds, which will gradually accumulate, second by second, hour after hour, until that full day has been added up. So we are really talking about an extra six hours every year or a minute or so, every day. Sync and re-sync!

A mere minute a day should not appear long enough to give us any cause to worry, or could it?

Even when we divide that minute by 24 and then again by 60, to get its actual length for every minute of the day, we get a 24th of a second, or about a frame in a movie. Three of these minutes tend to make up an average length song. This is still the same compromise, only reduced from four years to a minute - the discrepancy is continuous, like our natural feeling of rhythm.

To keep music alive, this discrepancy between UTC, a mathematically derived, artificial clock time, and the Time of the Universe, which syncs with our heart-beat and atomic vibrations, or what we actually feel, must be somehow resolved.

Although that fraction of a second is a very short time-span, it will throw the beat of our song out of synch, and our software would have to skip a fraction of a beat every few bars. It will be noticed by anyone who has any feel for rhythm, not just by musicians who are expected to give us the Harmony of the Spheres. The term is accredited to Pythagoras, who did not refer to artificial clocks, but stars and planets. PI has an endless number of decimal points too, which will never 'sync'.

Our Solar Year is not a constant, therefore neither are we, who are based on this planet, so a constant time value, such as a mathematically derived second, will inevitably clash with our feelings.

Even this article affirms Earth's irregular rotation.

Musicians are sensitive to the resonance of atoms in their hardware, and by extension the planet, which we stand on, with our magnetic field aligned to that of planet Earth. I call it feel, for want of a better term. Due to the fact that our bodies are made up of the same hydrogen atoms as stars and planets, we are in sync with the planet we live on, and with all space we live in. These hydrogen atoms have memory and can communicate instantly with those inside the Sun (8 light minutes away) and even stars much farther, millions of light-years away, such as the Andromeda Galaxy. So to fix any musical recording timer to even a 1/50 of some arbitrary number called a 'second', is a restriction that clashes with the natural feel of rhythm. Either the sequencer software will be out of sync with the musician or the musician out of sync with the software.

That was exactly what a particular version of BnP did, when parts of it were controlled by 'time' clock while other parts were still clocked by hardware. That glitch, obvious as it was, was in fact what had started me off thinking about the issue...

Any sync-resync skip can sound pretty awful whether replaying or recording music. Perhaps I am the only one believing this to be the reason why most modern digitally produced music sounds so lifeless and dull, but I certainly am not the only one who believes that clocks can clash with musical feel - our natural creative forces.

The old Bars & Pipes Pro, which was fully tied to the audio chip and hardware clock of the Amiga, is still behaving like a realtime sequencer should do. It may not be the most modern of programs to look at, though very versatile and intuitive to use, and it is fully in tune with hardware timing. It never skips a beat. Both MIDI and audio are always perfectly synchronised - in harmony with the sound of the Earth that birds sing, and that

of the Sun, which is the Aum! of the Vedas. It will sync perfectly with the musician, due to it being timed by hardware. That means atoms, planets, and their own sounds, and the hydrogen atoms in our bodies.

This old program is attuned to the electrons as they travel through the chipset, attuned to the planet's gravity and rotation, perfectly in harmony with the laws of physics and the universe. Those electrons are what the universe and all of us are connected to, those are our natural internal timers, our hearts beat according to those electrons, not according to mathematically derived and artificial time fragments.

So in order to stay in sync with ourselves, let's try and stick to hardware timing of musical events, which is how the Amiga - and hopefully also the NatAmi - are designed to function. And since the display runs by hardware driven frame refresh, we have to tie the audio to the same hardware clock, and we have perfect sync of all our media.

Remember those old demos* where the smooth graphic animation was in seamless and absolute sync with the music? No rubber-band effect, no stutter and no drop-outs, no varying frame-rate, ever, not even on a slow CPU.

Alarm clock

* Note: Most of these demos were recorded in WinUAE, the Amiga Emulator, so they will be much less accurate than when they are running on the actual hardware. Compressing the resulting audio/video stream can also cause additional deterioration of quality.

secret musical reference

Secrets of music

When I put this up - many years ago now - I had no idea how badly our music was messed up. Rather naively, I had surmised that everything had been okay until this resync issue occurred, but how wrong could I be! To see what has happened, you can watch this video by Dr Leonard G Horowitz on YT, the title is "LOVE JOY FAITH BRAVERY and 528 music". It is a taped version of his lectures, with slides from his books. Dr Horowitz talks mostly of the 528Hz 'MI' tone, or the middle tone of the early Solfeggio scale, the tone of love and creation, analogous to the colour emerald in the visual frequencies' scale, and therefore signifying the heart chakra.

To actually hear this Solfeggio scale in its proper use, we probably have to go all the way back to the ancient Gregorian chants - the Mystery Schools of ancient Greece were still using that scale, but very little of their writings remain, nothing musical, if they even had some way to write down their compositions. In fact we can safely assume that they would just memorise their music, and naturally improvise.

Now we have found that scale again, we should really insist on using it rather than relying on such artificialities as the A=440Hz tuning (as introduced by the ISO in 1953) - which ought to be 432Hz - and arbitrarily derived clock pulses. Once everything is in sync, and proper tune, we will see if we can create a better environment for ourselves. And I do mean ALL of ourselves, or all of humanity - as this may even change the minds of those who are plotting in their board-rooms to control and enslave the rest of us outside their circles. Probably we would see them relent and be happy for once in their lives, when they experience the full bliss and ecstasy of Mother Nature.

wall clock

Reference to linux timing issues.

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