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Re: ANNOUNCEMENT: Journal of Sonic Studies - New issue now available

. . in the article: • MAXIMUM VOLUME YIELDS MAXIMUM RESULTS - Olivia Lucas, writes:

It is a warm September night in NW Washington, D.C. The band is Sunn O))) (pronounced “Sun”), a group that perches on the fringe of the extreme metal underground, in some ways more closely associated with the musical avant-garde. [2] Their name a typographical representation of the brand logo on the vintage amplifiers they use, Sunn O))) creates 75-90 minute mostly-improvised sets that focus on bass (60-300 Hz) and sub-bass (20 - 60 Hz) tones, [3] played at a volume of about 120 dB(A) [4] – quite near the threshold of pain (approximately 130 dB(A)). [5] In the sub-bass range, the hearing of the average adult is weak, but if these sounds are produced at sufficient amplitude, they will be felt in the body as vibrations. Within the ear itself, sounds at very high pressures can cause a variety of sensations, for example, “touch,” or ”pricking,” for sounds with a frequency of < 100 Hz, at a pressure of > 120 dB (Truax 1999). Operating under the motto, “Maximum Volume Yields Maximum Results,” loudness is Sunn O)))’s musical content, and the droning, low tones they project require multi-sensory interpretation. Feeling and music are freely associated, but feeling Sunn O)))’s music is not a metaphor – it is an inescapable physical reality. [6]

footnoted as follows:

[3] Adult humans have a hearing range of approximately 20-20,000 Hz. As points of reference, a modern classical orchestra tunes to an “A”at 440 Hz and the range of the human speech is approximately 85-255 Hz (Baken 1987: 177).
Baken, Ronald J. (1987). Clinical Measurement of Speech and Voice. London: Taylor and Francis Ltd.
[4] I am using the decibel A-weighted scale, as it is the standard for measuring environmental noise in both common and legal usage. Unfortunately, db(A) says very little about the strength of the sub-bass frequencies. A dB(C) measurement would reveal more of the strength of the low frequencies at a Sunn O))) concert.
[5] The auditory threshold of pain is approximate and varies somewhat among individuals, depending on age and previous noise exposure. As a point of reference, a vuvuzela at a distance of 1m reaches about 120 dB (“threshold of discomfort”), and a jet engine at 30m is about 140 dB –certainly painful to the unprotected ear (Sengpiel).

Perhaps I am one of the few who finds in hear a fundamental disconnect, or perhaps musicological research is not concerned with damage to the human auditory system. 120dB(A) [sic] for 75-90 minutes in the 20 - 300Hz range. From my readings, this is not a healthy [or legal ?] environment to be in or to work in without very high quality ear-protection.

One of the references:

Sengpiel, Eberhard. “Loudness Comparison Chart.” In Forum für Mikrophonaufnahmetechnik und Tonstudiotechnik. (Forum for Microphone Recording and Sound Studio Technology.)


SPL Sound pressure Permissible Exposure Time
115 dB 11.2 Pa ~30 sec
112 dB 7.96Pa ~1 min

To me that implies that 118dB would be around 15 seconds.

As a final commentary, the author notes:

The physical experience induced by this concert taught me that my teeth rest in sockets that are ever so slightly hollow, and that hearing and touch can connect like smell and taste. It broke sound into many component parts, rumbling fundamentals and screeching overtones, and slowed down the changes of a sound over its lifespan so that I could hear them as individuals. This breakdown, however, was not a laboratory of observations, but a performance in which stretched, exposed and broken sounds were the music. Sunn O)))’s roaring, rumbling invasion of my body demonstrates how precious, multifaceted and delicate each sound is. 

Hmmm . . . makes my stapes run for cover.

I need to say that publication of the information about Sunn O))) is useful –– a documentation of a kind of [spastic] nihilism, that not only will lead to a shortened and reduced quality of hearing life, but will do the same show workers and to audiences, who will be incapable of protecting themselves.

As a teacher, if I were to receive a paper like this, I would return it to the writer asking for a comment on the ethics of the production, and an opinion regarding hearing loss by exposure to high sound pressure levels.



[I tried to find an email address for the writer but was not able to, so the author is not CC’ed on this email.]

On 2014, Jun 26, at 1:49 PM, Vincent Meelberg <v.meelberg@xxxxxxx> wrote:

The seventh issue of the Journal of Sonic Studies (http://www.sonicstudies.org) is online, which is a proceedings issue of the first international European Sound Studies Association Conference, which took in Berlin in October 2013. This issue contains high quality papers, offering many different perspectives on the topic of sound.


• Editorial - Functional Sounds in Sound Art and Popular Culture: Proceedings of the First International ESSA Conference 2013, Part I - Julia Krause, Holger Schulze and Marcel Cobussen

• An Exceptional Purity of Sound: Noise Reduction Technology and the Inevitable Noise of Sound Recording - Melle Kromhout

• Affective Soundscape Composition for Evoking Sonic Immersion - Mark Nazemi

• Sound and Narrative: Acousmatic Composition as Artistic Research - James Andean


• A Paleontology of Quiet - Neil Verma

• Remaking Pittsburgh: Permaculture Soundscapes - Jeremy Woodruff

• Music Dematerialized? - Francisco López