Melle Jan Kromhout – The Logic of Filtering, How Noise Shapes the Sound of Recorded Music


Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0190070137, English, 200 pages, 2021, UK

The eternal quest of audiophiles is for the reproduction of sound as close as possible to the ‘original’ recording, or what has been defined as ‘high fidelity’ since the 1960s. The enemy of hi-fi, the much-reviled noise that various technologies have tried to suppress over the decades, is actually an integral part of reproduction. In this book, Melle Jan Kromhout carefully analyses the large number of mostly invisible physical channels through which sound is filtered and finally debunks the myths of pure reproduction, which is simply an unrealisable illusion. He also makes a case for becoming aware of noise and what it represents. Noise is essential data that defines the reproduced reality and cannot be avoided. Kromhout shows how the material filtering that sound undergoes aims for an almost ideological perfection. This ‘logic of filtering’ is then contrasted with the appreciation of the ‘sonic contours of recorded music’, exposing the act of listening that we take for granted through our mobile media as chance rather than functional excellence. Starting from Kittler’s concept of ‘Other music’, which perfectly interprets the digitalisation of sound and adding that ‘any transmission requires some reduction in physical complexity’, the author insightfully reinterprets the fundamental notion of listening.