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  #1  
Old 06-22-2004, 09:45 AM
Jake4 Jake4 is offline
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How large a file is a 128 kbps MP3 of John Cage's 4'33"?

You know, that's the one where he recorded 4'33" of silence. I thought it would be interesting to see how well silence compresses.

Anybody got the CD to rip?
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  #2  
Old 06-22-2004, 09:55 AM
GorillaMan GorillaMan is offline
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There's one here - 4MB.
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  #3  
Old 06-22-2004, 09:55 AM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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I think it will be dependent on the arrangement; if it is being played by a large symphony orchestra, the silence is likely to be more complex (and harder to compress) than, say if it was being played by a string quartet.
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  #4  
Old 06-22-2004, 10:43 AM
ultrafilter ultrafilter is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jake4
You know, that's the one where he recorded 4'33" of silence. I thought it would be interesting to see how well silence compresses.

Anybody got the CD to rip?
4:33 is 273 seconds. At 128 kilobits per second, you're looking at 4,472,832 bytes, which is roughly 4.25 megabytes.

Constant rate encoding is constant. Doesn't matter what you're encoding.

Now, if you were to run that through a variable rate encoder, it would probably be a bit smaller.
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  #5  
Old 06-22-2004, 10:47 AM
Jake4 Jake4 is offline
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Thanks for that reminder, ultrafilter. I knew that.

Anyone want to take a whirl at encoding it VBR style?
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  #6  
Old 06-22-2004, 11:12 AM
Small Clanger Small Clanger is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jake4
. . . interesting to see how well silence compresses.
Well it'd have a pretty small dynamic range even compared to parlour music. But how silent can it be really? What's the signal to noise ratio on a CD, there's gotta be some hiss?

How about a cover version CD, like the Aussie 'Stairways' one which is nothing but Stairway to Heaven covers?

4'33' as performed by:

Berlin Symphony Orchestra
Chronos quartet
The Darkness
Britney Spears
Elvis - no problem with keeping really quiet.

With a little organisation you could reform the Beatles!

How would it sell d'y think?
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  #7  
Old 06-22-2004, 11:16 AM
Pleonast Pleonast is offline
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Ok, I just created a 273 second, 16-bit, 44100 Hz, stereo wave file of silence -- size: 48,157,696 bytes (100.00%).

Encoding it with a LAME mp3 encoder, VBR, joint-stereo, highest quality -- size: 1,087,529 bytes (2.26%).

Encoding it with an Ogg encoder, highest quality -- size: 28,884 bytes (0.06%).
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  #8  
Old 06-22-2004, 12:36 PM
PaulFitzroy PaulFitzroy is offline
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Recording silence seems sort of pretentious to me. What is he trying to say?

He sounds like the musical equivalent of an "artist" whose masterpiece is a blank canvas.
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  #9  
Old 06-22-2004, 01:02 PM
Interrobang!? Interrobang!? is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PaulFitzroy
Recording silence seems sort of pretentious to me. What is he trying to say?
That silence isn't as silent as we tend to think it is. Maybe. Among other things. (If you could boil its message down to a sentence, it wouldn't be much of a piece, would it?) From one website:
Quote:
Although often described as a silent piece, 4'33" isn't silent at all. While the performer makes as little sound as possible, Cage breaks traditional boundaries by shifting attention from the stage to the audience and even beyond the concert hall. You soon become aware of a huge amount of sound, ranging from the mundane to the profound, from the expected to the surprising, from the intimate to the cosmic –shifting in seats, riffling programs to see what in the world is going on, breathing, the air conditioning, a creaking door, passing traffic, an airplane, ringing in your ears, a recaptured memory. This is a deeply personal music, which each witness creates to his/her own reactions to life. Concerts and records standardize our responses, but no two people will ever hear 4'33" the same way. It's the ultimate sing-along: the audience (and the world) becomes the performer.
And from the NPR 100 page:
Quote:
Writer Will Hermes presents the story behind this elusive musical composition written by avant-gardist John Cage. The piece, premiered in 1952, directs someone to close the lid of a piano, set a stopwatch, and sit in silence for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. Musicians and critics alike initially thought the piece a joke. But its premiere pianist, who never played a note, calls it his most intense listening experience. "4:33" speaks to the nature of sound and the musical nature of silence.
You may or may not find it pretentious, but its importance and quality are open to debate. I've never heard it performed, so I don't really have an opinion. I can't decide if I'd be bored out of my skull or entranced.
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  #10  
Old 06-22-2004, 03:37 PM
1010011010 1010011010 is offline
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Knowing that it's just silence, How small could it be?

That is, you just wrote the headers for the MP3, vorbis, etc. necessary to make 4m33s of silence?
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  #11  
Old 06-22-2004, 03:52 PM
ultrafilter ultrafilter is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1010011010
Knowing that it's just silence, How small could it be?

That is, you just wrote the headers for the MP3, vorbis, etc. necessary to make 4m33s of silence?
In addition to the headers, you need the actual recording itself. Otherwise, there's nothing there.

I would take Pleonast's numbers as reasonable lower bounds.
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  #12  
Old 06-22-2004, 04:08 PM
GorillaMan GorillaMan is offline
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As well as affecting your perception of silence, a performance of the piece screws around with your perception of time.

By the way, it's a common misconception (as in the last quote by Interrobang!?) that the performance should last for 4 mins 33 secs. The title comes from the duration of the premiere - the performer is free to make the three movements (yes, it's in three movements ) whatever length they choose.
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  #13  
Old 06-22-2004, 05:54 PM
Shalmanese Shalmanese is offline
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I wager the midi version would be pretty compact.
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  #14  
Old 06-22-2004, 06:15 PM
GorillaMan GorillaMan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shalmanese
I wager the midi version would be pretty compact.
240 bytes
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  #15  
Old 06-22-2004, 06:46 PM
wolf_meister wolf_meister is offline
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I have yet to hear this composition performed live. Oh sure, you can settle for lesser performers (there are "cover versions" by the London Philharmonic, The New York Symphony, The Harmonica Rascals, etc.) Still, I had always wanted to hear this conducted by the maestro himself. Sadly, Mr Cage passed away in 1992 so I'll have to settle for lesser attempts at this complex work.

It seems that some of you are not familiar with the works of John Cage. Perhaps he could be best described as Andy Kaufman with an orchestra.

And if you are wondering why he chose 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence?
This is 273 seconds of silence and -273° Celsius is absolute zero. Supposedly, this symbolixes the cessation of all motion. (And for the SDMB nitpickers I know absolute zero is -273.15° Celsius. Thank you)
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  #16  
Old 06-22-2004, 07:00 PM
GorillaMan GorillaMan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolf_meister
And if you are wondering why he chose 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence?
This is 273 seconds of silence and -273° Celsius is absolute zero. Supposedly, this symbolixes the cessation of all motion.
There's no evidence that this is anything other than coincidence.


On a separate note, I've disproved my own earlier post through googling - the first performance did list the piece as 4' 33", and also the individual timings of the three movements. It was some years later than Cage stated that a performance of the piece could last for any duration.
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  #17  
Old 06-22-2004, 07:50 PM
wolf_meister wolf_meister is offline
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Gorilla Man
I am posting this link to show that you are right http://www.fact-index.com/d/de/defin...f_music_1.html
Sure, I found other links that do mention the absolute zero connection, but none are verified as originating from John Cage.
I believe the first time I heard of the absolute zero "symbolism" was in an article by Martin Gardner in an article entitled "Nothing". (I'm sure most "Dopers" are familiar with Mr Gardner's work as a recreational mathematician. Seems even he was taken in by this myth).
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  #18  
Old 06-22-2004, 08:01 PM
GorillaMan GorillaMan is offline
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That link actually gives an excellent, concise description of the piece...and I liked this comment:

Quote:
Some people deal with the challenges posed by 4' 33" by simply refusing to consider it as music.
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  #19  
Old 06-22-2004, 09:54 PM
tadc tadc is offline
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Quote:
Although often described as a silent piece, 4'33" isn't silent at all. While the performer makes as little sound as possible, Cage breaks traditional boundaries by shifting attention from the stage to the audience and even beyond the concert hall. You soon become aware of a huge amount of sound, ranging from the mundane to the profound, from the expected to the surprising, from the intimate to the cosmic –shifting in seats, riffling programs to see what in the world is going on, breathing, the air conditioning, a creaking door, passing traffic, an airplane, ringing in your ears, a recaptured memory. This is a deeply personal music, which each witness creates to his/her own reactions to life. Concerts and records standardize our responses, but no two people will ever hear 4'33" the same way. It's the ultimate sing-along: the audience (and the world) becomes the performer.
So please clarify- do these (any) sounds actually appear on the recording, or are they contributed by the listening environment?
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  #20  
Old 06-23-2004, 12:38 AM
Catalyst Catalyst is offline
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Note to self: people will pay for anything, including nothing.
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  #21  
Old 06-23-2004, 12:49 AM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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I've been fortunate enough to hear this piece many times, by a wide variety of performers. Why, just last night, as I was getting ready for bed, the entire London Philharmonic Orchestra didn't come to Bozeman and didn't make a single sound. Three days before that, nary a peep was heard here from the original cast of Broadway's Cats. And a month ago, all four of the Beetles didn't get together, and played nary a note.

wolf_meister, I don't see why Mr. Cage's passing should be any obstacle. Why, he performs his masterpiece on a regular basis, every day!
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  #22  
Old 06-23-2004, 01:01 AM
Eurograff Eurograff is offline
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Interesting how much smaller the OGG file is than MP3, guess that demonstrates well how efficient it is. Anyway, both of those formats lose information. Anyone want to try compressing silence with lossless audio codec ?
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  #23  
Old 06-23-2004, 02:41 AM
jovan jovan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tadc
So please clarify- do these (any) sounds actually appear on the recording, or are they contributed by the listening environment?
Both. 3'44" is whatever happens to be sounding at the time. The recordings contain whatever sounds happened to chance upon the microphone when they were made. The piece is whatever you experience in the time you listen.

Incidently John Cage loathed recordings; he didn't even own a stereo system. He saw value in them as historical documents but never as a substitute for live performance. Records lead us to think that a musical piece is something fixed, whereas in fact, it's an experience that's different everytime. Even if the bits on a CD are exactly the same and they're being played back on exactly the same hardware, the experience changes because the sonic environment, and more importantly, the listener changes with each listening. What he meant to do with 4'33" is say: okay, this time let's pay attention to what really matters: ourselves and the world around us.

The length, 4'33" had nothing to do with absolute zero, as a matter of fact, it would be completely wrong to think it's a piece made of "nothing". Quote the man himself:
Quote:
I think perhaps my own best piece, at least the one I like the most, is the silent piece. It has three movements and in all of the movements there are no (intentional) sounds. I wanted my work to be free of my own likes and dislikes, because I think music should be free of the feelings and ideas of the composer. I have felt and hoped to have led other people to feel that the sounds of their environment constitute a music which is more interesting than the music which they would hear if they went into a concert hall.45

They (the audience) missed the point. There's no such thing as silence. What they thought was silence (in 4'33"), because they didn't know how to listen, was full of accidental sounds. You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement. During the second, raindrops began pattering the roof, and during the third the people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out.
It's not clear where the length came from but it was, at least in part, the result of chance operations, probably using tarot cards. Those who are curious can read more about it here.
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  #24  
Old 06-23-2004, 09:27 AM
hammos1 hammos1 is offline
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BBC Radio 4 in the UK broadcast a performance of 4' 33'' this January. The BBC have an emergency system that cuts in whenever a long period of silence is broadcast (to prevent "dead air"). This system had to be disabled to allow the broadcast to take place.

You can read the listeners' rave responses here
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  #25  
Old 06-23-2004, 05:55 PM
Mangetout Mangetout is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolf_meister
I have yet to hear this composition performed live. Oh sure, you can settle for lesser performers (there are "cover versions" by the London Philharmonic, The New York Symphony, The Harmonica Rascals, etc.) Still, I had always wanted to hear this conducted by the maestro himself. Sadly, Mr Cage passed away in 1992 so I'll have to settle for lesser attempts at this complex work.
It seems to me that being dead wouldn't present an insurmountable impediment to performing the piece.
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  #26  
Old 06-24-2004, 12:56 PM
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There are none so deaf as those who will not hear.
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  #27  
Old 06-24-2004, 02:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jovan

It's not clear where the length came from but it was, at least in part, the result of chance operations, probably using tarot cards. Those who are curious can read more about it here.
I saw a great documentary on Cage called I have nothing to say and I'm saying it featuring many interviews with the composer himself. In reference to the length of 4'33", IIRC he said something to the effect of "...actually, I simply composed a series of silences which happened to add up to 4'33".
(Here's one library's catalogue listing of it. You probably won't find it anyplace but a library)

He is a fascinating figure of 20th century music and his influence cannot be overstated, but I must admit he does come off a bit flaky at times in the film.
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  #28  
Old 06-25-2004, 06:20 AM
SlickRoenick SlickRoenick is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ultrafilter
4:33 is 273 seconds. At 128 kilobits per second, you're looking at 4,472,832 bytes, which is roughly 4.25 megabytes.

Constant rate encoding is constant. Doesn't matter what you're encoding.

Now, if you were to run that through a variable rate encoder, it would probably be a bit smaller.
Just wondering, how did you get 4,472,832?
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  #29  
Old 06-25-2004, 08:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos
Three days before that, nary a peep was heard here from the original cast of Broadway's Cats.
Thank Og for that!
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  #30  
Old 06-25-2004, 09:26 AM
Pleonast Pleonast is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SlickRoenick
Quote:
Originally Posted by ultrafilter
4:33 is 273 seconds. At 128 kilobits per second, you're looking at 4,472,832 bytes, which is roughly 4.25 megabytes.
Constant rate encoding is constant. Doesn't matter what you're encoding.
Now, if you were to run that through a variable rate encoder, it would probably be a bit smaller.
Just wondering, how did you get 4,472,832?
(273 s) * (128 Kibit/s) * (1024 bit/Kibit) / (8 bit/B) = 4,472,832 B.

You probably forgot to convert bits to bytes.
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  #31  
Old 06-25-2004, 12:42 PM
Hoopy Frood Hoopy Frood is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pleonast
(273 s) * (128 Kibit/s) * (1024 bit/Kibit) / (8 bit/B) = 4,472,832 B.

You probably forgot to convert bits to bytes.
Or possibly forgot that computer prefixes deal with base 2 rather than base 10. So kilo = 2^10 rather than 10^3. Which is why hard drive salesman are basically always lying to you when they tell you the number of gigabytes a hard disk has. They take the number of bytes and divide by 10^9 rather than 2^30. When you get to large amounts, the difference between the two divisors becomes significant.

On topic, though, I want to hear an orchestra play LaMonte Young's Composition 1960 No. 7 someday. Sure it was written for a piano, but imagine how much better it would sound with a whole orchestra.
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  #32  
Old 06-25-2004, 12:49 PM
Ghanima Ghanima is offline
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To be honest, I think Britney Spears' endition would just end up sounding vacuous.
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  #33  
Old 06-25-2004, 12:51 PM
Ghanima Ghanima is offline
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*ahem* rendition...
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  #34  
Old 06-27-2004, 10:46 AM
scotandrsn scotandrsn is offline
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I have participated in a choral performance of 4'33''.

I have also used the piece in beginning music classes.

I think it harks back to what Karlheinz Stockhausen said about how the music should match the performance space. I don't see the point in listening to a recording of 4'33". It's meant to be performed, in that what you do is get people into a place where they expect sound, set up a situation where they concentrate on listening for sound, and lo and behold, even if you don't provide them with any yourself, sound is still there, and when you actually listen for it, it's as complex and rich as any composition.

In college, I attended (might even have been in, it was at least 15 years ago) a concert with one of the big "Third Stream" music guys from New England Conservatory. He was playing a jazz number with a small combo. They reached a part of the piece where, alternately, the ensemble would play a couple of bars, then the he would solo on piano for a couple of bars. The first two times through the alternation, he played your typical, modern, angular sort of riff. The third time, he played nothing at all. Yet all of us in attendance found that we each had our own angular jazz riff in our heads. There was spontaneous applause from the entire audience.
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  #35  
Old 06-27-2004, 06:26 PM
Help_Me_Please Help_Me_Please is offline
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Taken from the BBC reviews about this...

Quote:
I've seen this performed live by a full orchestra and it worked really well live, particularly because the orchestra really got into the swing of things and hammed it up big time. 4'33" is essentially a joke, and should be enjoyed as such, but it is interesting to sit in a concert hall watching an orchestra not play anything. In our case the conductor (a flamboyant type) stood with his baton as though he was about to start cueing instruments at any moment, and the various musicians were all poised to play whenever required. The whole thing was far less silent than you might expect - aside from ambient noise and people coughing and so on, there was the rustle of the orchestra turning over pages and so on.
DV, Dublin, Ireland
This seems about the only way i could ever "listen" to this, only because i would find it amazingly amusing.

I spend most of my time recording and producing music, nothing big or special, but it pays the bills. To this to be considered music kinda pains me.

Music? not by my standards, art? yeah, but Marcel Duchamp kinda art... for artsy types who think that its totally revolutionary

just my .02
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  #36  
Old 06-27-2004, 06:54 PM
GorillaMan GorillaMan is offline
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Help_me_please - rather than going by a rather naff commentary of a performance, you can replicate one yourself. Just sit down, where you'd normally listen to music, and listen. For nearly five minutes. (But don't time it.)
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  #37  
Old 06-27-2004, 07:45 PM
astro astro is offline
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The piece (as described via Interrobang!?) is not 4 minutes and 33 seconds of silence in an anechoic chamber, or a recording with the mike input dead ended, it's an open air concert piece in front of an audience and contains a lot of low level ambient background sounds a (which is sort of the point). If a mike was capable of picking these sounds up in a recording is it really going to be that much more compressible than music or conversation?
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  #38  
Old 06-28-2004, 01:36 AM
Shalmanese Shalmanese is offline
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Yes, because it's got far less dynamic range. Any sounds you do hear will most likely to be of a low, steady rumble with very little of the high frequencies.
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  #39  
Old 06-28-2004, 01:54 AM
jovan jovan is offline
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First, that's not an issue with mp3, as has been mentioned before it's constant rate encoding.

Second, IME doing field recording, "background noise" covers the audible spectrum pretty evenly. You wouldn't get a low rumble unless something was making one (motor, etc.) or if the wind was blowing in your mic.

Since most of what happens to get recorded in such a situation will tend to have complex spectra - "noises", hiss, background rumour, your recording is likely to be less compressible than, say, a guitar piece. The low dynamic range will only offset the amount of information to an extent.
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  #40  
Old 06-28-2004, 05:51 AM
heresiarch heresiarch is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jovan
Both. 3'44" is whatever happens to be sounding at the time.
3'44"? Is that the radio version?



Slightly on-topic: I recorded a variety of cicada sounds when brood x invaded - individual bugs and large groups. The individual calls sounded OK after being converted to MP3, but the group call sounded terrible. A nice humming drone was turned into plain old noise. It surprised me, because it seemed to me that the drone had a tonal quality to it and I don't understand why the MP3 conversion program discarded that.
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  #41  
Old 06-28-2004, 06:54 PM
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Odd as it is, I think 4'33" is one of the most important pieces of music ever performed because it changed conventional ideas of what is and is not music. I've never heard it because I haven't had a chance to hear it live and I won't listen to a recording. I don't think it was ever intended to be listened to on recording, since Cage thought every performance of music is different.

Many people believe that rests are the most important notes in music - they hold most of the music's emotion and intensity. 4'33" is just an elongated rest.

Not everyone considers it music, but then, I don't really consider Britney Spears music... to each his/her own
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