My complete catalogue of Gold Noise is now available on goldnoise.org.
Sound and the City
Gold Noise is the sound of one million pop songs playing all at once.
I’ve written a Gold Noise generator for Mac OS X. Download it to generate your own, personal Gold Noise: goldnoisegenerator.zip
Here is a screencast of Gold Noise being generated on my laptop,
Source code available here.
Bonus: here is a score for Gold Noise that can be performed by any Mac (OS X 10.5 or above).
The top ten most-viewed music videos from Youtube/Vevo on March 8, 2011 played simultaneously. Video frames combined using datamoshing.
Gold Noise is the sound of one million pop songs all playing at once.
Here are some samples of Gold Noise. They’ve been generated by a Ruby script that randomly chooses mp3s from my music folder and blends them together.
Gold Noise builds on a tradition of naming different types of audio noise after colors. Noise in audio is often defined as a random signal — that is, the antithesis of signal. However the source of the randomness that generates the noise gives the noise different “colors”. For example, white noise can be generated by a series of random, uncorrelated samples (essentially a series of random numbers); it sounds like TV static. Brown noise is generated by a signal on a random walk, that is, a signal that is changed by a random offset at each sample; it sounds like a waterfall.
Gold Noise is generated by a random sampling from the cultural landscape of Pop Music. Pop Music is the collection of sounds that are shaped by the cultural zeitgeist as well as commercial forces to be, in some sense, the most desirable sounds to human ears at a given time in history. The sound of Gold Noise subconsciously explores these forces that shape Pop Music.
Within the cultural oeuvre, Gold Noise builds on the institutional critique of Pop Music by groups such as The KLF. In 1988 — after releasing the novelty pop song “Doctorin’ the Tardis” which reached number 1 in the UK Singles Chart — The KLF wrote a manual on how to “write” a hit pop song. The manual lists Golden Rules, mostly concerning how to lift elements from other hit songs to create a new one. Pop Music as Gold Noise itself.
Further back, Gold Noise builds on the work of the Dadaists and later the Situationists. These groups, through physical and conceptual collage, explored the collective subconscious of human societies. As in Gold Noise, random sampling was a key strategy for this exploration.
For my Sound and The City final project, I will incarnate Gold Noise into several physical and virtual spaces.
Gold Noise Radio
A physical, self-contained radio consisting of speakers and some number of dials which can be separately tuned to FM radio frequencies. When turned on, the radio plays all of the tuned-into radio stations at once. The radio’s enclosure will be painted gold.
Gold Noise Transmission
A radio station in New York City will be enlisted to broadcast 3 minutes and 20 seconds of live Gold Noise. 3 minutes and 20 seconds is the length of a perfect pop song according to The KLF manual. The broadcast will consist of all of the other radio stations in New York City playing at once, live.
Using the internet streams of radio stations, radio Gold Noise will be sampled from several large cities all over the world. These samples will be released for comparison on goldnoise.org.
Personal Gold Noise
The above Ruby script will be packaged into a downloadable application which will create personal Gold Noise from the mp3s in a user’s music folder.
This is a sound collage I made to be listened to while sitting in this position on the building 41 Cooper Square in Manhattan. The collage is built from field recordings that I made from that spot. I have chopped up the sounds to reflect the architecture of the building as experienced from that spot.
My favorite place in the city, as of last Thursday 6pm, is “Walking up Manhattan Ave from Williamsburg to Greenpoint”. I stopped at a point along this walk and did a deep listening exercise.
Unfortunately it was a very cold day to be standing outside, but fortunately I did the exercise as children were coming home from school. Children make very nice sounds.
I wrote these words about my listening experience:
ice crush walk drive goose exclaim that! talking echo bounce shuffle distance run water crush slush blend mush snow kick
And I drew this picture:
I also made a much longer field recording of my walk up Manhattan Ave which I hope to do something with. I particularly like the wooshing sounds of cars zooming across the BQE which sound side-chain-compressed by the buildings which block the sound.