Tear Down this Digital and Cultural Brick Wall!
Audio engineers routinely boost the volume of a CD by clipping away the top and bottom frequencies. As a result, the disc or file or radio broadcast is much louder, but at the expense of a loss of subtle but vital information at the top and bottom ends.
For example, below is an image of Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit, before and after compression:
This is a visual representation of what these barbarous sound engineers are doing to your ears. It results in obvious audible changes, such as less difference between the loud and soft passages, between hello, hello, hello and WITH THE LIGHTS OUT.
However, there are also many subtle losses that one may not even consciously notice, but will affect one on the soul level. Compression can make a track sound superficially good to the ears, but it will have a hard-to-define fatiguing quality, like eating ice cream three times a day, or like a colorized black-and-white film. Such music either sounds (superficially) better than it actually is, or else fails to sound as (deeply) good as it really is.
If you read the wiki article about the loudness war, you can see that something analogous has happened in mass culture vis-a-vis our tediously transgressive pop stars. Loud and crass as it was, whatever tawdry thing Madonna was doing in 1985 no longer shocks the sensibilities (which it probably never did, since it was old and decayed before it even came out of her piehole), which is why Miley Cyrus has to be that much louder and cruder.
You might say that she clipped Madonna of all *subtlety* and compressed the monotonous sexual message to soul-shattering amplitude. Just as louder CDs result in the image of the digital brickwall above, the range of human reality of a Miley Cyrus is extraordinarily narrow but shrill and in your face. The only way she can continue her courageous artistic development is to embrace straight-up pornography.
Below is the charming image of an impenetrable cultural brick wall:
This line of thought was provoked while listening to the news about the Santa Barbara mass murderer, and the banality popped into my head, there are no words. I then thought of how there is a range of human experience, and how difficult it is for language to reach the top and bottom.
For example, there are no words that reach as deep as the loss of a child. Language simply doesn't go down that far, which makes it a kind of dreadful mystery that only those who have gone through it can know. The rest of us can only pretend, but to even get near that space is profoundly upsetting, so we try to avoid it.
But even short of such extremes, there is a whole range of extra-linguistic experience that is precisely what makes us feel "alive." Analogously, it is same thing that makes an uncompressed CD or good vinyl recording have more "life."
Very difficult to put into words, but it is definitely something one can feel sub- or extra-linguistically. Indeed, a good subwoofer, for example (which extends the lower range of a recording), allows one to hear, say, cello and bass guitar in the core of one's body, not just in the ears. The same sort of thing is used in movie theaters so as to facilitate more "involvement" in the film.
Back when I was studying psychoanalysis, it occurred to me that it is not so much that its various theories are literally true, but rather, that it provides a language with which to reach down into unconscious and preverbal material and clothe it in words.
But what I really wanted to discuss is how There Are No Words for regions above and beyond the ego, and how if we forget this, we may unwittingly reduce these to mere word-worlds. Then you turn the kingdom of heaven into a kind of brick wall instead of a door or window.
Distressing though it may be, it is possible for the supra-conscious realm to be subject to the same dreadful fate as, say, the Sinatra-->Elvis-->Madonna-->Cyrus regression, i.e., decreasing subtlety and increasing density.
Lately I've been reading a biography of Ira Gershwin, who was the lyric-writing half of the immortal Gershwin brothers. This was after picking up an irresistibly cheap used copy of Reading Lyrics, a compendium of some of the finest lyrics of our greatest popular composers.
Yes, 90% of the songs are about love, and it is interesting in itself to trace the evolution of how it is described and conveyed (the collection proceeds chronologically).
Now, love is the quintessence of one of those high-frequency states beyond the reach of language, which I suppose is precisely why there are so many songs about it. You can't write a song about 2 + 2 = 4, because that's it. There's nothing more to say. But there is always something more to say about love, which, when you think about it, is odd.
A very distinct increase in subtlety -- or dynamic range, you might say -- occurs with the lyrics of Cole Porter. This is because Sex per se is allowed in the door, obviously not in the hamhanded manner of a Madonna or Cyrus, but in a sly, playful and witty way that always complements and intensifies the Love. Let's see if I can dig out an example. Here is the very first one, All of You:
After watching your appeal from ev'ry angle, / There's a big romantic deal I've got to wangle, / For I've fallen for a certain luscious lass, / And it's not a passing fancy or a fancy pass.
I love the looks of you, the lure of you, / I'd love to make a tour of you, / The eyes, the arms, the mouth of you, / The east, west, north, and the south of you.
You could say that prudery and pornography are two sides of the same brick wall. But Porter's lyrics cover a much wider range of what it means to be human, body and soul.