28.7.15

White Noise

No, not the David Vorhaus LP beloved of hauntological music fans.

Last month I was freelancing out of a particularly noisy office. People were having loud meetings all around me and I simply couldn't concentrate. So I loaded up some aeroplane noise on Spotify and pumped up the volume on my earbuds.

It was only fifteen minutes later when someone grabbed me by the shoulder. Looking up I noticed the entire company was staring at me. My phone had been ringing for, like, an age. Why didn't I answer it? What kind of freak was I?

When one is trying to trying to work intensely music can be distracting. White Noise on the other hand gradually recedes from one's attention but still blocks out the racket. I started to really enjoy listening to it.

In an old essay I wrote, called "Ur-Gerausch", which is in The Big Book of Woe,  I remembered writing about the massive rushing sound of the universe which we can no longer hear. Music is, amongst many things, a "making audible" of sound. The musician makes sound "solid". White Noise therefore might be the opposite of music as it is sound which becomes inaudible.

On holiday the temperature reached 40 celsius. The fan in our room span heavily all night. Generating White Noise. I found I was sleeping incredibly deeply and was waking refreshed. It turns out White Noise is widely used as a sleep aid, something I was entirely unaware of.

I bought one of these fascinating Sound Conditoners - a dohm made by the company Marpac. First created in 1962 by an eccentric engineer called Jim Buckwalter. Jim cut holes in the base of dog bowl and within it fitted a small fan blade attached to a turntable motor. The dohm makes a pleasant whooshing sound which plays through the night. Kinda reminds me of the Buddha box. Has echoes of Raymond Scott. Is used by babies and the sufferers of tinnitus too.


I discovered this inspired app: "White Noise Generator" by TMSOFT. The app store is chockablock with white noise apps. A search brings up 650 results. However this app is unique in its purity and conceptual genius. It is, to quote the blurb, "the ONLY White Noise Generator that uses mathematical sound algorithms to generate any color noise directly on the device." As far as I can ascertain this is entirely correct. Every other app simply loops slugs of wav. Usually their sounds are despoiled with tibetan bells or birdsong too. "White Noise Generator" is more like a wacky synthesiser; you can actually sculpt noise to your own liking.


TMSOFT, who also produce a raft of other dodgier White Noise apps (hey, gotta pay dem bills!) go on to explain: "Our algorithms were designed by an auditory neuroscientist from John Hopkins University." Coo. I know you're going to dig this. Genuinely something special and at 79p an absolutely essential purchase.