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There’s nothing pure about sine waves

“I use sine waves (sometimes called “pure tones”) as a kind of synecdoche for sound in general. I suggest that sine waves are prevalent in sound art because they function as a kind of zero degree, a reduction ad absurdum, of sound. Sine waves are free of harmonic overtones. So some like to believe they are free of other kinds of overtones too, social, political, historical. Some sound art proposes that if sine waves are pure and are the elementary particles of sound, then sound must be pure too. But sine waves have their own history, their own connotations, their own instruments, and conventions of use. Outside of the technicalities of harmonics, there’s nothing pure about sine waves.”

Seth Kim-Cohen at Ear Room

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