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Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit

September 22, 2009 04:12PM | Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
So, I don't know why I didn't think to do this before but just today I decided to do some spectral analysis nonsense on some older Mountain Goats songs (I was playing with removing noise and isolating certain frequencies) and I decided I wanted to know what chord the boom box was playing. In the past I have read in interviews that John considers the boom box another performer (I think maybe, that actually could have just been a reviewer's opinion) which sort of reminds me of this group of Aymaran people in Peru and Bolivia that claim to tune their instruments to certain flowing bodies of water. It turns out, based on a certain degree of spectral analysis that they in fact are PERFECTLY IN TUNE WITH THE WATER. If you look at the fundamental for the river and the fundamental for their instrument it is THE EXACT SAME, which blows my mind.

But, back to the subject at hand. After a bit of analysis on the song "The Big Unit" (I chose this one because it has some pretty hefty wheel grind at the beginning) the "chord" that the boom box plays is approximately as follows:
A9 #11 with both a dominant and major 7 with an E in the bass
The actual chord make up is as follows: E G# A C# E G A B C# D#
If anyone has a correction to my understanding of the chord I welcome it because I admit that my music theory skills are pretty dang rusty.

Again, this may not be the most interesting thing to everyone but I totally geek out about these sorts of things and figured since it was about the Mountain Goats y'all might be interested. I am probably going to do more songs when I get time to see if I can discern the differences between possibly different boom boxes.



"There's good self-consciousness, and then there's toxic, paralyzing, raped-by-psychic-Bedouins self-consciousness." - David Foster Wallace
September 22, 2009 04:54PM | Re: Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
Here is an image of the spectrogram, I labeled the formants for each pitch.


edit: I am not very good at embedding images



"There's good self-consciousness, and then there's toxic, paralyzing, raped-by-psychic-Bedouins self-consciousness." - David Foster Wallace



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/22/2009 04:54PM by tkpeters.
September 22, 2009 05:05PM | Re: Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
I know nothing about music so I'm not going to pretend like I understood any of that -- I just wanted to say that it's so so awesome that there are people who tune instruments to bodies of water.
September 22, 2009 06:28PM | Re: Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
As a former music student, I can confirm that your analysis of that chord is spot-on. Also, the fact that you did this is totally rad.

I don't think the sound is quite as complex as your spectrum analysis would seem to indicate, though - the only notes I hear from the wheel grind are A and (faintly) D# an octave or two above it. If all of those notes were audible, it would sound like a really, really rich chord instead of a simple drone. (Try it out on a piano if you have the chance - it's a good one.)

I think that your analysis program is actually picking up on other frequencies in the surrounding tape noise and showing them to you - there's a lot of hiss, a lot of low frequency rumblings going on (sort of like the sound of someone blowing on a microphone), and you can also hear John tap on his guitar once or twice before the song starts. You'll see all of that in the analysis, as well as the grind.

I love audio geekery.

(Edited to fix some bad grammar.)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/22/2009 06:30PM by lincolnic.
September 22, 2009 07:07PM | Re: Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
Yeah, that makes a great deal of sense, I mean it is wheel grind after all.
Also, to be fair I am using Soundbooth which is not exactly the ideal program. It would be interesting to to use a frequency analysis on a snippet of this sound to see what frequencies are actually the loudest (I would imagine it would be A and probably that D# you mentioned). The color coding in this spectrogram can only be so useful.

Also, I am so glad that I got that chord right. So glad.



"There's good self-consciousness, and then there's toxic, paralyzing, raped-by-psychic-Bedouins self-consciousness." - David Foster Wallace
September 22, 2009 07:39PM | Re: Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
I don't know a whole lot about music theory, but as an engineer, I love all sorts of technical geekery. Kudos!

Also, I love interesting facts like the native people who tuned their instruments to the sound of water. It just makes so much sense that they would do that.

Also, John says the boombox can be thought of as a second performer in the liner notes to All Hail West Texas.
September 23, 2009 08:21AM | Re: Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
irl clapping, tk peters. this is some above and beyond shit.
September 23, 2009 11:13AM | Re: Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
swampcreature Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>I just
> wanted to say that it's so so awesome that there
> are people who tune instruments to bodies of
> water.



I make videos for the interwebs. Click to taste the insanity.
My band has a Facebook. This is the link.
September 23, 2009 01:20PM | Re: Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
I always use my boom box drone in Drop D.
September 23, 2009 03:20PM | Re: Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
There's a Pogo strip where I think someone is trying to get Porky Pine to laugh because his mandolin is out of tune and Porky Pine always laughs in the key of F#.
September 23, 2009 04:11PM | Re: Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
RedDwarf Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> There's a Pogo strip where I think someone is
> trying to get Porky Pine to laugh because his
> mandolin is out of tune and Porky Pine always
> laughs in the key of F#.


For whatever reason this reminded me of something this crazy music professor lady at my church told me when I was younger: apparently most (if not all) appliances hum in the key of Bflat. I don't know if this actually works for all appliances but I have tried it for my washing machine and my refrigerator and it does hold true. One time we had a guy over who was going to play the trumpet with us and he had forgotten his tuner and we couldn't find ours so we just had him tune to the refrigerator. It was awesome.



"There's good self-consciousness, and then there's toxic, paralyzing, raped-by-psychic-Bedouins self-consciousness." - David Foster Wallace
September 23, 2009 04:16PM | Re: Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
That rules. Just tried it on my fridge, totally worked. I love this stuff.
September 23, 2009 10:35PM | Re: Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
is that because household alternating current in the western hemisphere is 60hz, which falls between b flat and b?

are appliances in f in the eastern hemisphere, where household current is typically 50hz?
September 23, 2009 11:13PM | Re: Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
credit mobilier Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> is that because household alternating current in
> the western hemisphere is 60hz, which falls
> between b flat and b?
>
> are appliances in f in the eastern hemisphere,
> where household current is typically 50hz?

That's exactly why. Although 50 Hz is actually somewhere between G and G# - F is around 43.5.
September 23, 2009 11:41PM | Re: Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
September 24, 2009 12:51AM | Re: Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
lincolnic Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> credit mobilier Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > is that because household alternating current
> in
> > the western hemisphere is 60hz, which falls
> > between b flat and b?
> >
> > are appliances in f in the eastern hemisphere,
> > where household current is typically 50hz?
>
> That's exactly why. Although 50 Hz is actually
> somewhere between G and G# - F is around 43.5.


That literally never occurred to me but makes perfect sense, awesome.



"There's good self-consciousness, and then there's toxic, paralyzing, raped-by-psychic-Bedouins self-consciousness." - David Foster Wallace
September 24, 2009 01:03AM | Re: Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
tkpeters Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> lincolnic Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > credit mobilier Wrote:
> >
> --------------------------------------------------
>
> > -----
> > > is that because household alternating current
> > in
> > > the western hemisphere is 60hz, which falls
> > > between b flat and b?
> > >
> > > are appliances in f in the eastern
> hemisphere,
> > > where household current is typically 50hz?
> >
> > That's exactly why. Although 50 Hz is actually
> > somewhere between G and G# - F is around 43.5.
>
>
> That literally never occurred to me but makes
> perfect sense, awesome.

QFT. That's as cool if not cooler than the original factoid.
September 24, 2009 07:22AM | Re: Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
September 24, 2009 12:54PM | Re: Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
SlowWestVulture Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Ok, I can't tell if people are joking or not
> anymore...


100% serious!
October 14, 2009 08:38AM | Re: Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
This thread is quoted in cokemachineglow's review of TLOTWTC!


[www.cokemachineglow.com]
October 14, 2009 02:34PM | Re: Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
Haha, that's awesome. I love when reviewers and whatnot talk about the forums.
October 14, 2009 02:36PM | Re: Sort of geeky (possibly) interesting tidbit
H. Lightcap Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> This thread is quoted in cokemachineglow's review
> of TLOTWTC!
>
>
> [www.cokemachineglow.com]
> mountaingoats-thelifeoftheworldtocome-2009

That's really cool!



I make videos for the interwebs. Click to taste the insanity.
My band has a Facebook. This is the link.
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