What is the slowest music you can think of? An old ballad or a molto largo movement of a symphony?
With the exception of John Cage’s organ piece, “As Slow As Possible”, a composition that has been in performance since 2001 and isn’t scheduled to be finished until the year 2640 (info here), most music that claims to be slow is actually still pretty fast. It has 60 beats per minute, or maybe 40, or perhaps even a metronome marking of 30. Compared with what’s possible, most “very slow music” is actually pretty zippy.
Enter “Very Slow Music”, a performance of two pieces that normally take about a minute to perform but have here been slowed down 10-15 times that amount.
According to the album notes, here’s what you can listen for:
Music played at a VERY slow tempo. I basically hold each chord until it feels like the right time to move on to the next one. Homophony is broken into rolled chords for more color.
I love the way the frequencies cause beats and intrigue once everything is slowed down.
There is a ton of interesting stuff going on when music is played at this tempo. The better your speakers, the more you can enjoy this.
Home stereo speakers are typically rated in terms of frequency response. There are high-tech ways of measuring this and other ways of evaluating speakers, but this post gives you a quick way to check a loudspeaker’s frequency response at home using only your eyes and ears.
tweeter (left) for high frequencies; woofer (right) for lower ones
The human listening range is commonly described as ranging from 20Hz on the low end to 20,000Hz on the high end. Most human hearing happens in the middle of this range, between 1500Hz and 4500Hz, but the higher and lower ranges are important when listening to music (…or attempting to survive in the wild!)
Desirable stereo speakers have a “flat response”, meaning that low, medium, and high frequencies all have an equal volume. Cheaper speakers are able to achieve this over a small portion of 20-20,000Hz, while better speakers can achieve this over greater portions of 20-20,000Hz. Better speakers are typically more expensive due to the costs of materials, manufacturing intricacies, and brand hype.
To give your speakers a quick test, hit play on the video:
Do your speakers sound evenly from bottom to top? At what number can you start hearing the sound on the low end? Where does it stop up high? How much does the volume change while rolling through the middle range?
Try this video on several devices and you’ll quickly hear the differences from one speaker to the next. The video plays the same volume from bottom to top – it’s your speakers that create the silent points or volume spikes.
Many “good” speakers only begin to sound in the range of 40Hz on the low end and go up to at least 15,000Hz without noticeably fading. My MacBook Pro fades in on the low end around 130 Hz, whereas my larger stereo speakers start sounding around 22Hz.
For fun, here are a few frequencies to help connect these numbers to real life sounds:
16Hz – The lowest note on large organs (low C on a 32′ stop)
20Hz – “The lowest people can hear” (not strictly true, but this is an intro…)
32Hz – The lowest note on many church organs (low C on a 16′ stop)
65Hz – Very deep bass singers can sing this note
82Hz – The lowest note on a trombone
196Hz – The lowest note on a violin
261Hz – Middle C
1000Hz – Very high sopranos can sing fundamental frequencies in this range
3500Hz – Fundamental frequency of the highest note on a harp
8372Hz – Fundamental frequency of the highest note on an organ (high C on a 2′ stop)
>8372Hz – Overtones, consonants, percussion, etc.
Reviews and pictures of amazing speakers can be found at Stereophile.com. Most of these are visually stunning and really expensive.
For conversation and info about older speakers, no resource matches AudioKarma.org.