Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dynamics and Juxtapositions

Master uilleann piper Tim Britton just commented on an old blog post. At the end of his comment he left a mysterious and fascinating audiophile forum link. I read through it and below is a passage that struck me. It confirms my growing intuition about dynamics and the ideas of space that I have been conscious of in music that thrills me. Dynamics are crucial for drummers with access to such a huge range of volume. With this raw power comes a great responsibility :) Weeeeeeeee!

Loud ‘Forte’ passages sound altogether louder and appear to be at their very loudest when they are strongly in juxtaposition with extremely quiet ‘Piano’ passages.

Great music has its most powerful impact when the natural dynamics and contrasts are preserved that make sound continually interesting to the ear and brain, in a way, that naturally engages them.

If you fail to hold the listeners attention over time, by not providing proper relief for their ears and brain by eliminating the contrasting dynamics that would demand their listening attention and enrapturing enthral them.

Ultimately you will force the listener away from the source of sound, if you insist upon totally maximising level continuously, for in the last resort, the ear has a safety mechanism called ‘temporary threshold shift’ which acts to shut off sound, when it is delivered above a certain level continuously.

*to read the full passage click here starts on post #23


  1. I believe the brain performs a similar function in visual art. Bright color in a work draws the attention. However, too much bright color turns the work to a sameness that will shift the viewer away from the piece. In both audio and visual art, contrast (even subtle contrast) is what seems to act as a focal point that enlivens interest and enjoyment.

  2. BTW, for those brave souls who venture into the aforementioned link and are immediately assailed by dry technicalities, I encourage you to read on. It gets better; simultaneously more hilarious and revelatory. I'm actually less enamored with the content than the demonstrated teaching style and cultural implications.