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May 15, 2011

But is it art?

Posted by The Advanced Audiophile

Tonight I was organizing all my papers... a job that required the better half of an entire day and night. I finally stopped at five in the morning, when I "thought" everything had been filed away (but no, there was another banker's box in the closet that I missed...). Among the papers was a small oil painting on paper that my father, who has since passed, had painted. This, I'm afraid I had planned to trash, because I had already kept many paintings of his, and decided I didn't have the space or inclination to keep every single thing. After giving it a second thought, however, I asked myself what I'm sure many already have; "I wonder what a painting sounds like?". Ok, maybe not many. But I had to answer the question, for all of those who dared not ask it, didn't I? Especially since it was done on paper instead of canvas, which meant it could easily be cut up. So I set the painting aside and, instead of putting it in the "to trash" pile, I placed it in the "to listen" pile. And at 5 a.m., after I was done organizing, I set about listening to the painting just before going to sleep.

The method I used was to treat them as though they were foils from P.W.B. Electronics. That is, I cut the snippets of the painting into lengths of approx. 3mm x 15mm, and applied them with tape to various locations. Again, the energy of these snippets was strong enough I could feel it was going to be something, before playing anything. Most of the locations I chose were particularly good, some better than others. In the "particularly good" camp, was the felt-covered baffle of the loudspeaker's tweeter, halfway between the tweeter and top of the baffle. Another, the centre back of the MDF loudspeaker, near the top. Yet another was to twist a strip around the positive speaker wire going into the amp. Each application moved the sound away from stridency, and toward a more lush richness, and an advance in resolution. To be sure, this wasn't perfect. It did not have the neutral tonal balance I would expect from PWB's "Silver Rainbow Foil" for example. For starters, it was a bit too warm, and not as engaging as some applications have been. But it helped correct a bothersome harshness in the system I was tweaking, and seemed a perfect match to smoothing out low-cost digital electronics that have a built-in etched sound that's hard to get rid of.

More importantly, it says something about the phenomenon, because you can't just take any bit of paper lying about and expect the kinds of improvements I heard from the painting. As this is only an initial reflection, I can't say whether or how this might work with other drawings. The fact that it is a drawing however, points to what should be an interesting development in this science that is Beltism. It makes one question; what do drawings represent to us? We can usually know how they are affecting us on a conscious level. But do we know how are they affecting us subconsciously, on a sensory level? Does, for example, it matter who drew the painting, or if it was drawn in oil paints or lead pencil? What if it was drawn on canvas, is that better or worse? Will a copy of the picture sound better? I think the discovery is interesting enough that I will probably endeavour to answer at least some of these questions, in future experiments. Meanwhile, as always, you are encouraged to do your own, if you find the idea of interest. Just don't tear up anything that says "Picasso" at the bottom. It might be worth something.

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