We’ve found ourselves swept away by “Save Your Hearing Day” fever today. People really don’t understand how easy it is to damage their ears, and how irreparable and awful that damage can be, especially for music fans and makers — in other words, our people.
In honor of Save Your Hearing Day (May 31), we already posted a playlist with songs about quietness or that were recorded by musicians suffering from tinnitus or other forms of hearing damage. You can listen to that here at an appropriate volume.
This started us thinking: What is the quietest song ever recorded? Surely, John Cage’s “silent” piece “4:33″ should qualify, at least as performed in most settings, because it consists of a person sitting at a piano for four minutes and 33 seconds without playing. In terms of recordings that are supposed to contain specific sounds or music, though, it’s anyone’s guess… until now.
The Echo Nest (publisher of Evolver.fm) has all sorts of data about music — somewhere north of five billion datapoints — including the loudness of over 30 million tracks. We queried its engineers to see which song has the lowest loudness rating. (The Echo Nest measures loudness at -60 dB, representing the lower threshold of human hearing.)
Surprisingly, John Cage’s 4:33 clocks in at a relatively boisterous -54 dB, presumably due to lots of rustling by the audience.
Beating that is Bernard Sobieszek’s “Grasshoppers (on a dry meadow near the forest),” from his album Sound Landscapes: Various Colours of Silence. It’s a field recording measuring a nearly-infintesimal -59.7 dB.
We know: It’s not music in the strictly defined sense of having been created by musicians. But it is the quietest audio recording in the iTunes music store, according to The Echo Nest, in part because it’s quiet, and in part (we assume) because it consists mostly of very high frequencies, leaving most of the humanly-detected audio spectrum free of sound.
To listen to it yourself, go here and click the second track.
Happy Save Your Hearing Day.
(I researched hearing loss for an earlier article.)