Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

The blog of Xeno, a slightly mad scientist

Holophonic Sound: Get a virtual haircut

Check out the link below (.mp3). With that the effect was even more pronounced, in fact, the sound actually went around my head behind me! Really amazing.

Hugo Zuccarelli, an Argentine who dabbled in various sound experimentations in the 1980s, believed the human auditory system not only hears sound but emits sounds as well.

The combination of these heard and emitted sounds form a reference pattern from which the brain can determine the direction a sound is coming from. Zucarella based Holophonic Sound on this theory. In this recording technique, sound samples played through stereo speakers or headphones sound three-dimensional, as though they are not being amplified but actually occurring all around us. It’s very odd.

Holophonic Sound is based on binaural recording, a technique in which stereo microphones are fixed within a prosthetic head—replete with ears and sinus cavities—to mimic the complex auditory system of the human head. Doing this makes binaural and Holophonic recordings sound more natural and more realistic than normal stereo recordings because we hear the recordings with the same nuances we would hear sounds in real life within our own heads.

When played in stereo, Holophonic sound is so realistic and three-dimensional that it can often arouse other senses—smell, taste, and touch—within most people who listen to it.

Allegedly, Holophonic Sounds can stimulate areas of the ear that normal recording or real life sounds cannot. For this reason, some people with hearing impairments whose brains cannot process other sounds can hear Holophonic Sound. HighLab found Holophonic Sound to be visceral, tactile, and altogether head-shakingly neat. Hear for yourself.

This Holographic Audio (.mp3) … example was created by http://www.holophonic.ch/. …

via Holophonic Sound.

Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Hugo Zuccarelli in the 1970s (photo courtesy of Hugo Zuccarelli)

Hugo Zuccarelli is an Argentine inventor who dedicated his whole life to understanding the complex human hearing mechanism. During his studies in Milan, Italy, he postulated that human hearing analyses sound in a holographic manner. Taking that idea, he invented the HolophonicTM speakers, which provide the audio equivalent of 3D.

His speakers have four interesting characteristics: one source (instead of a sub-woofer, mid-range and tweeter as with regular speakers), a very low level of distorsion, the ability to hear music at a very high volume without damaging your ears, and lastly, for its three-dimensionality and unique wavelength, which apparently means the old lady downstairs won’t be disturbed when you are listening to good quality music at 3am.

After this discovering, Zuccarelli flew in the 80’s to England where he started an outstanding career recording as sound engineer with the likes of Pink Floyd, (on ‘The Final Cut’ album), Lionel Richie, Stewie Wonder, and Michael Jackson. However, his invention didn’t turn so well at a commercial level; none of the companies would accept these speakers in the production chain. Why? Well, that’s what I keep asking after listening to the amazing sound they produce.

Fortunately, in Buenos Aires, you can experience the holophonics at the “Teatro Ciego” which is a theatre operated in total darkness. And I’m not talking about shadows that you can distinguish after a few minutes when your iris adjusts: this is even darker than closing your eyes.

Getting into a pitch black theatre space is part of the fun. We set up in lines of six, each with the hand on the shoulder of the person in front, and entered to room in total darkness. Nobody could see anything and I was not able to imagine the dimensions of the place. It was like being in an odd dream.

In the darkness the only thing that you can do is listen. After we seated, Zuccarelli’s voice appeared once again presenting “Pink Floyd -The Wall”. Then silence, footsteps, a discman player opening, the disc going in, starting to run, and then I was listening to ‘In the Flesh’ for what felt like the first time. Even several days later, it’s really hard for me to describe that experience in words. In the darkness, the music is somehow painted in the air, like sound holograms.

If you pay enough attention and you know the album you will hear things you have never listened to. Track after track I thought I knew, but something new appeared over and over again. The drums of Nick Mason, the voice and the choirs added by Roger Waters, and the guitars of David Gilmour with riffs I had no idea even existed.

When the second disc was finished I was so thrilled I wanted to hear it again, even though at this point it was around 1.30am (if you have to get up early in the morning you might want to reconsider this).

Zuccarelli returned and announced that the lights will come on little by little. Finally, I could see the room, which was completely different from what I imagined during the session. Zuccarelli appears in front of us and asks if we liked the performance. You can tell that he is a really passionate person and he tell us about the story of the Holophonic Speakers, of how he invented them back in the 80’s and why everyone should use them (he needs to sell his product and I’m totally behind that!).

The night ended an hour later: Zuccarelli demonstrated some ‘sound experiments’ in a strange and funny way and concluded with two more songs by Pink Floyd, including ‘Alan’s psychedelic breakfast’. This is a totally new experience for all senses at a really low cost; one that you will never forget.

via http://www.argentinaindependent.com/the-arts/music/relearning-to-listen-with-hugo-zuccarelli/

There are more sound samples and information about Hugo Zuccarelli and his inventions at the link below, but none of them are as amazing through my studio monitors as the matchbook example which made the sound seem to come from a few feet behind my head with my speakers in front of me. I think conditions have to be just right for the illusion to jump out. Perhaps the mic distance used must be the same as your own particular ear spacing.

http://www.acousticintegrity.com/acousticintegrity/Sound_Samples/Sound_Samples.html

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This entry was posted on January 6, 2014 by in Music, Strange, Technology.
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