Last 2-3 weeks I’ve been corresponding with a new reader of my site who sent me a few weeks back an email with a question:
“Romy, I read your comments about TTH and about “absolute tone”. Are you basically taking about timbres?”
That question made me to think if my fear of misused and misapplied English made me to discard the use of the word “timbres” for years.
I am in one way or another do audio for 30 years and I remember in my premature audio state I had my reel machines with timbre controls. I had two knobs: Bass and Treble that were labeled “timbres”. Then I had 24 knobs for “timbres” controls… Then I learned that proper sound starts when you have 60 knobs for timbres and all of them set on 0dB. Well, the story is typical but the key in this story was a very much poisoning of my vocabulary with word timbres and my perception of term “audio timbre” as something idiotic. That fact that different tone controls and equalization devises have absolutely no relation to timbres did not strike me.
When I grew up I always avoided using term timbres. My old memories of mis-use the term timbres were too fresh and I was witnessing as the occasional audio pimps were employing and abusing the false notion of timbres to sell their crap – I always want to stay as far a possible from using of the phrase audio timbres… The question of my site’s visitor that I mentioned above brought me to a reality.
Over the years I did not use definition timbres and used TTH and “absolute tone”. The combination of TTH and “absolute tone” has own benefit, the benefit is that it might not be misunderstood – it could only be not understood.
In my mind the concept of TTH sets the tone-transient-harmonics ratio and “absolute tone” sets the amplitude of “attractiveness”, sort of MSG for sound, only in its original Japanese definition of “Ajinomoto”. Essentially the idea of timbres implies very much the same but there is a difference. In the world of TTH+ absolute+tone the person who uses the terminology has control about the definition as the existence of absolute tone level of and the TTH level is implied. In case of use of juts “timbres” and dealing with audio people the definitions become loose.
If you talk with any more or less civilized musicians about timbral qualities then there is no ambiguity – those people operate by right views on the subject. With audio people and discussing timbres in context of playback is an opening a gate for all imaginable prostitution, including the self-prostitution, of the definition of timbres is. The people who know my attitude in regards to many audio subjects would anticipate that now it will be coming an avalanche of invectives toward to the typical audio Morons and about their primitive perception of timbres in audio. The anticipation is correct - the absolute majority of audio people have exceptionally low demands for any more or less higher scale of timbres in audio. However, there is a sort of excuse for them – timbres in audio are a bit tricky and much not understood by an average “audio easy rider” brain.
In music timbres might be viewed in a simplistic way as the additional qualities given to a pitch by its harmonics and overtones. With all complexity of this subject the musical timbres are easy to deal as human perception of timbres is based upon a physiological impact of timbres to listening awareness. The whole history of relation between humans and sound, the evolution of musical instruments, the theories of harmonies, the methods of composition, the principles of orchestration, all of them are based upon the adequacy of human’s spirit physical reaction to different timbral irritations. It is difficult but perfectly handleable by individuals with developed perception. In audio - it is a whole different ball game.
The main difference is that in live music the timbres just exist but in reproduced music they are reproduced. That opens a number one question of that whole saga: Are audio timbres derivatives of live timbres of they are a new audio creation? There are people who feel that audio timbres are just reproduced live timbres and they constantly do comparing between live and reproduced timbres, trying to substitute the physiological impact of live timbres with intellectual impact of reproduced timbres. I feel different. I feel that in audio the timbres are re-created and that they are new completely different matter, the audio timbres do use the blueprint of the live timbres, but they also have different mechanism of communication with human awareness which set the re-created timbres into a completely different class from live timbres. If you have two identical animals but one of them carnivore and another herbivore then would they make the same biological class?
That is why I do not feel comfortable that audio timbres might be called as “timbres” and I think that is why I subconsciously went for invention my own definitions of timbres, like TTH and “absolute tone”. So, would it be appropriate to admit that audio timbres and musical timbres in fact are the same? Yes and no. The audio timbres and musical timbres has the same goals, the same result and but deferent means. To call the audio timbres and musical timbres as the same would be contra-productive in my view. It would not be incorrect but it would be contra-productive as equating them opens a Pandora Box for misunderstanding the nature of reproduced timbres.
The live timbres are vibration of subjects in air triggered by a will of human consciousness. The reproduced timbres are vibration of subjects stimulated by reflection of human awareness over a pattern of electro-mechanical algorithms. The live timbres are elicited or stimulated by a player but the reproduced timbres in audio are synthesized. Here are the keys for understanding. The idea of creativity in the stimulation of naturally-elicited timbres is the idea of interpretation and expression of really via timbreanic patterns. In a contrary, the idea of creativity in reproduction of timbres is all about manipulation of electro-mechanical algorithms to force a mind into an adequate reaction, similar to the reaction to the natural timbres. So, we deal with the same noun “timbres” but it have quite different connotation of use word timbres in Audio.
So, that all made me to withhold to use timbres in my audio language, even though I probably shall and since my position is expressed I probably will.Rgs, Romy the caT.
"I wish I could score everything for horns." - Richard Wagner. "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." - Friedrich Nietzsche