3quarksdaily points to an article in Rolling Stone magazine showing how modern music is being dumbed down by sound engineers using compression techniques. They are reportedly under pressure from record companies to make music sound louder, particularly through computer speakers. It looks counter-productive from a commercial point of view, and surely must increase the value of live music (and your old vinyl albums) — not quite what the record companies would intend, I’m sure.

Here is the neuroscience:-

The inner ear automatically compresses blasts of high volume to protect itself, so we associate compression with loudness, says Daniel Levitin, a professor of music and neuroscience at McGill University and author of This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession. Human brains have evolved to pay particular attention to loud noises, so compressed sounds initially seem more exciting. But the effect doesn’t last. “The excitement in music comes from variation in rhythm, timbre, pitch and loudness,” Levitin says. “If you hold one of those constant, it can seem monotonous.” After a few minutes, research shows, constant loudness grows fatiguing to the brain. Though few listeners realize this consciously, many feel an urge to skip to another song.

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