lo-fi dreams

September 29, 2010

In Murray Schaefer’s book Soundscapes, he discusses the differences between hi-fi and lo-fi soundscapes. Rural areas are usually more hi-fi due to their dimished amount of sonic distractions and, thus, “low ambient noise level.” This would conversely make urban areas–ones full of “an overdense population of sounds”–lo-fi. But the usually lo-fi city soundscapes have the ability to become surprisingly hi-fi and the difference is, for lack of a better pun, between night and day.

Take Manhattan, for instance. By day, more than half a million commuters shuttle into the heart of New York City. With them, they bring sounds that clutter the natural soundscape and make it difficult to hear the “discrete sounds” of the urban landscape. But by night, the population is reduced by more than half and the once lo-fi space becomes suddenly hi-fi with “quiet ambiance” that “allows listeners to hear farther into the distance just as the countryside exercises long-range viewing.”

This is an idea I am looking forward to exploring more for my final project as parts of Downtown Long Beach also have fluctuating ambient noise levels not only from night to day but also from night to night.


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