Are you picking your music or is you music picking you?

It seems to me that Jonathan Sterne is providing evidence that our mp3 tracks are much more than we give them credit for. Throughout this article, the idea that “the mp3 plays its listener” comes up very frequently as well as very early (11). As I read further, Sterne explained the physical way mp3s are designed to “imitate the process by which the human body discards sound waves” and mimic the way humans perceive and the idea of being played by a mp3 made much more sense (9). 

The entire idea that mp3s were designed to mimic the way humans hear completely baffled me. Sterne starts to talk about how exactly human hearing is mimicked around page 9 and 10 after he explains the process in which encoders create mp3s. He explains how the human ear filers out a certain amount of sound waves and so, in order to compress a file to create an mp3, encoders filter and cut out the same sound waves our ears do. Sterne adds on with the incredible point that “[mp3s] model perception in order to affect it” as he argues how humans only perceive vibrations in the air as sound and music (14). I was astonished to learn about how early hearing aids were placed in the jaw instead of the ear because the jaw has an affect on how we perceive sound through vibrations as well as how Thomas Edison put bite marks on early phonograph prototypes presumably to test the way they sounded (10). 

I found this entire article very interesting and it caused me to wonder if part of the reason people have different tastes in music is because of the way we filter sound waves. Sterne does mention the idea of learning to hear in the same way we learn to walk or talk (14). I wondered if we learn to hear a different way than others in the same way we learn to speak, walk, or gesture different than others. Is that why everyone has a different relationship with music as well as different musical likes and dislikes?


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