Meet Arend, August 2022
Conversations with long-time fans

Though users come and go, some of them have been here since the early days, and keep returning regularly. With time, we get to know each other, mostly through e-mail exchanges. I get to discover such kind people, and so many interesting ways of using myNoise. If these long-time fans remain loyal to the project, there must be a reason and an interesting story to tell. This is how the idea of short users' interviews came to life.

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Meet Arend: A Conversation With a Long-Time Fan of myNoise

Back in 2018, Composite Generators made their debut on myNoise. These composites are made by sounds found in other generators: some rain from here, wind from there, etc. By browsing the website for contents and using selected keyboard shortcuts, sounds can be collected as you go, and then rendered into your own, fully personalized generator.

Type 'h' when a generator has loaded, to be prompted with all keyboard shortcuts available to you, and to learn how to program your own composites. Visit the Community page to listen to composites created by the patrons all over the world.

I mention these composites, because this is how I got to know Arend. When the first composites appeared in 2018 [link to archive page], I was amazed by the creativity and quality behind some creations. Shade was one of them. I liked it so much that I decided it would be promoted to the official Index page. I contacted its author to share the news, and this is how I met Arend. Since that exchange, Imaginary Reality - another of Arend's composites - has been posted to the index page, and we kept exchanging emails.

Arend's creations all share a unique style, best described with a metaphor: you are sitting in a dark room, lit by a candle. It is somber, yet illuminated. It's the sort of obscurity that our eyes can acclimate to, to see then subtleties that were too dim to be distinguished at first. It is a comfortable place to stay, though one that is peculiar. A room that exists for moments of introspection.

Arend is one of the most prolific contributors on the Community page, sharing dozens of creations with others : The After Hours, Golden Glow, Mind Mist, and many more.

Listen to one of Arend's composites while reading this conversation, by clicking one of the orange links above.

Stéphane • So, Arend, what brought you to myNoise?

Arend

Arend • I consider listening to myNoise generators like listening to a form of music, but not in an ordinary way. The tape loops - the sounds that are playing under each slider - go round like a clock: everything is moving yet static, creating a frozen-in-time experience if you will.

To me, each generator is like a place, an ambiance, an eternal realm – with no beginning and no end. With these, I can experience a very specific concentrated emotion, a consciousness, or a state of mind. On the other hand, it can suppress particular emotions too - in a good way, of course [laughs].

S • So interesting! I would have expected the answer to state the obvious, like "I came for the noises and sounds", therefore crediting the tool and its contents. But you are referring to an experience instead, as if myNoise transcends the sounds it produces.

A • I consider myNoise a form of relaxation therapy, for two reasons mainly. First, all generators consist of loops. There are no unpredictable sounds and therefore your brain doesn't need to be alert in any way; you come at ease with what you hear. Second, the listener controls the volume of each soundtrack; just like an exact dosage of medicine. But there is something more to that dosage than mixing quantities: being able to control the sliders also means getting a grip on something exterior. Circumstantial things of daily life are more or less uncontrollable. Being in control of something is comforting. I think this is the reason people like gaming so much.

For example: after a very stressful day I listened to Subaquatic Dreams with only a few deep bass waves and some bubbles on headphones, nearly crying, because I finally started to breathe calmly in pace with those waves. No more distractions, only this calm fuzzy flow to focus on. In this case, I used myNoise as a tranquilizer. You can find my personal settings here.

S • Besides relaxation, do you use myNoise in other ways too?

A • Being able to manipulate sliders appeals to creativity. Instead of passively listening to a generator, the listener can achieve a more personal experience, and so different emotions get involved. At myNoise the listener somewhat becomes part of the story instead of simply consuming what's been offered.

At myNoise everybody can become a little “composer”, by grabbing soundloops here and there, and combining them. It does not need a special talent, which makes the process quite rewarding. If you were never into it you might easily say: I cannot make a nice piece, I am not a musician; but myNoise is easy to use and gives everybody the opportunity to create nice soundtracks. And that's priceless in my opinion.

S • As you are mentioning users that become composers on myNoise, I have a concern when they assume they are the owner of their creation. The sounds on myNoise are - unfortunately for them - copyrighted, and sound generators on myNoise have been intentionally designed to mix well together. Musical tones, for example, all share the same key. This is the reason why creating soundscapes mixing varied elements on myNoise, is a rewarding experience, even for people with no musical background. But then, it might be also very frustrating, when a user realises he does not own his composition. There is such an amount of work behind the creation of all these sound generators that I cannot just let the users appropriate them. Sorry.

A • Actually, I like the fact that sounds and composites are not owned by us, the users. I look at it this way: the site is a gigantic kitchen with a couple of hundred free ingredients I’m allowed to mix into a nice soup for personnal use – and eat as much of it as I like, as often as I want. I don’t own the kitchen, the ingredients nor the soup, and I’m thankful that our big chef takes care of it all.

It’s a brilliant concept because no one can boast and say: look what I’ve made, what a genius I am. No, you are one customer in a buffet restaurant, fixing your own ideal meal. And yep, you might say that some people may have a good or bad taste creating their menus. Anyway, you fetch a plate and take what you like at the moment and enjoy your meal. Therefore, myNoise has a relaxed atmosphere. It’s simply a well-arranged big basin of sounds, always accessible from my laptop.

Speaking about meals, I am reminded of an anecdote that shows again how myNoise can be helpful in daily life situations.

When I knew about myNoise only for a short period, the daughter of my partner had taught me - just once and briefly - how to make Sushi. A little later she got married, and my lady and I had this crazy idea for me to create 3 types of sushi rolls for 30 wedding guests (!). I got only from like 8.30 in the morning until 13:00 to get the job done. And there appeared to be a summer heatwave to make things worse. Meanwhile, my partner was preparing stuff for the ceremony and so on. If I ruined it – bad luck: no fresh home made sushi snack on the tour boat before dinner. I knew I had a little experience as a non professional chefs’ buddy, but this was something else and this time there was no-one around to correct me. Help …

But wait a minute; I got my laptop and Unreal Ocean. The cool waves helped me focus in the burning heat while I worked on this once-in-a-lifetime sushi. And yes! I made it just in time. We rushed with our cool boxes to the wedding. Aboard some guys told me they were seriously addicted to sushi, – and then they said that mine were one of the best they ever had! Of course I’m a little genius too [laughs] but in the back of my head I knew that with a little prayer, these Unreal Ocean waves really guided me through all these unnerving hours to not mess up.

S • I am in awe of the particular sounds of your creations on myNoise. They sound dark, but not gloomy, as if you always leave a light on to reassure the listener. As a sound designer, I particularly appreciate how well balanced your creations are. They never sound boomy, though they are heavily biased towards the lower frequency range. Can you tell me a little more about your secret sauce?

A • There’s another reason I like myNoise a lot. I have hearing damage in both ears. My right ear is almost completely deaf with severe tinnitus. I suffer from otosclerosis; a term derived from oto, meaning “of the ear,” and sclerosis, meaning “abnormal hardening of body tissue.” The condition is caused by abnormal bone remodeling in the middle ear. Bone remodeling is a lifelong process in which bone tissue renews itself by replacing old tissue with new. In otosclerosis, abnormal remodeling disrupts the ability of sound to travel from the middle ear to the inner ear.

My ears get easily tired by some everyday sounds cause their fabric is out of order. Some frequencies are way too soft, while others are too loud. In myNoise gens, it is possible for me to flatten the curve and create sound bouquets that are just right for my ears.

For that reason I use the down transposition a lot, but also because I like to hear something new, just another sound than the original tone. I know that my hearing range is involved in what I create, but the main reason for slowing down is that I simply adore the heavy pace and the sounds it brings. I like my soundscapes long and wide, and I also think that less is often best for me.

S • That is so interesting! Let me pause here, and try to rephrase what you just said, with my own words. First, you tell us that you lost the ability to hear the higher frequencies. So, when you are listening to myNoise, you are missing the higher frequency contents. You probably hear something others would describe as a muffled sound. Second, you like transposing the original sounds on myNoise using the tape speed control. The frequency response of a sound generator very much depends on that tape speed. For example, if you slow down the playback speed of a generator by a factor of two, the sound itself will be transposed one octave down from its original pitch, and the frequency response will be halved: the highest octave 10,000-20,000Hz, will fold back into the 5,000-10,000Hz range and frequencies above 10,000Hz will be missing. Transpose it another octave down, and you get a sound that will be limited to 5,000Hz, which starts to sound lo-fidelity, but will take four times longer to complete its cycle. Basically, by transposing down, you trade frequencies and quality for time. What I find amazing in your particular case is that you won’t hear that frequency tradeoff, because it only affects frequencies you cannot hear anymore, anyway. So, that down-transposition plays in your favour, revealing sounds that were inaudible to you. In English, they say “you can’t have your cake and eat it”... but in your case, you do: you can hear more, while making the sounds cycle longer. There is no tradeoff, just benefits!

It also explains to me why you are a master at mixing dark sounds. That darkness is, in a way, your regular hearing condition. Your brain is thus well trained in hearing subtleties in that frequency range, when for others, it is just a bunch of muffled frequencies. Your dark compositions sound so good, and perfectly balanced to my ears, maybe because of this. Because of your talent, but also unique ability to hear details in the low-mid frequencies.

A • I always loved soundscapes that sit in between music and silence. Such pieces were hard to find, often too fast and/or too much stuff was added to them, and mostly they were too short! I even created these long half blank pieces by myself, using a Korg M-50 Workstation.

At myNoise, I found uninterrupted contemplative sounds like wind and gongs while slower tape speeds could do the trick of stretching them up even further to the calm I am craving for. Extreme slow speed settings are even more extraordinary. They achieve sounds beyond calmness; something like a cold void, that I like so much.

S • What is your favorite sound?

A • As a child I was fascinated by a transformer house. I referred to it as the "Pommm" according to its specific hum. This was in the early seventies and it took me some years to find out that I wasn't crazy, but there were really folks like me loving “dark” minimal sounds and all that. Recently I saw a movie about autism, The Reason I Jump, where someone got a fascination for the sound of a transformer house as well. I found this very special even though you don't have to be autistic per se to like the Pommm sound of course, and fortunately there's a lot to find at myNoise for Pommm people like me. Well, maybe I am also somewhat autistic after all, which is perfectly fine [laughs].

While traveling, I love listening to the variety of sounds inside cars, busses and trains. Drifting away, half asleep and snug. Check out the Traffic Noise generator. These are my personal settings, close to what I used to hear decades ago in my mom's car on a windy day, thinking: this sounds cool, I wished I somehow could record this. Today I'm glad that someone else made this gen to give me a great flashback. This is definitely *my* noise - haha.

As you can see, sometimes there is a powerful emotion attached to a specific sound, not necessarily music. Another example of this is from a sound of nature. One day I was listening to Desert Wind. Immediately, I was struck by the purity of that place. I closed my eyes, and it was just me and the wind, being there, at the exact spot. I was stripped of weight and felt some kind of innocence. It made me cry. If you scroll down that page, you will discover the testimonial I wrote back then.

I hear nature’s music again. It’s undefiled, firm, yet gentle, and it blows away any negativity. It brings tears to the corners of my eyes or is it the sand?

S • Given the sheer number of composites you have created, in the Community section, you must enjoy creating these. Can you describe your workflow?

A • It starts with a basic idea. Something warm and smooth with wind, voices and ocean waves, for example. So I combine a few gens, by opening them in separate browser windows. Then I slow down tape speed for several sliders and adjust their levels. Suddenly the script changes: some ocean waves got a cool cadence, and are definitely keepers, but the voices may advantageously be replaced. I will try cracking ice for example. I may suddenly want a cosmic feel, like a heavy gong sound up in the air, or a subtle hum adding depth. It takes a lot of time to fit all these sounds into place. When I think I’m almost done, I collect all these individual sliders, via the keyboard shortcuts, and render my composite. I keep it running for a while, playing Chess or Spider Solitaire on my laptop, in the meantime micro editing one slider or another. When it sounds good enough, it’s time for a small description, which sometimes is the hardest part, because often words can not contain an abstract idea or feeling of the composition.

S • Yes, writing descriptions is the hardest. When an original sound generator is completed, but I still have to look for a background picture and write a story about it, I know exactly the feeling. By the way, speaking of original sound generators, is there any sound that you may want to hear on myNoise in the future?

A • I love profound sounds that only take place once in a while, like those heavy knocks of Poltergeist, the woody punch from Implanted Memories, and the beautiful gongs in Sound Journey of course, and others.

But I also love to hear even more drone-like sounds, with harmony - more than fixed melodies - because a melody is more difficult to combine with other sounds, also because it has a clear beginning and end. I think more percussive sounds also would be nice, if possible - leaving some space between the hits - as in Conquistadors - so that a rhythm won't fill the entire spectrum, and put them in a nice loop to avoid sudden gaps. I would love to hear more mechanical sounds that have a certain swing, like the iron press on Steel Mill, the wings of Polders Windmill and the amazing machinery gurgles at Laundromat. Personally, I love metallic sounds a lot. Bells, gongs, plates of steel, tongue drums, gamelans. Of course there's already plenty of material to work with at your playground, still I'm excited to explore even more. myNoise keeps surprising me!

S •You amaze me once again, by your deep knowledge about what the website offers in terms of sounds. I promise, I will do my best to keep adding new contents to the project, hoping you will stay around for many years to come, keeping our ears delighted with your composite creations. Thank you Arend!

If you too have something to tell about myNoise, contact me - Stephane - to arrange a brief talk.