## Static and Noise: or, What is Random?

##### June 04, 2012

I use Static as source material for electronic music. When I say Static, I'm referring to a subset of Noise.

Noise could be interference in a signal (solar flare activity disrupting communication, animals chewing on a telegraph wire). Noise can also refer to highly variable statistics. I can create trend lines in Excel to remove the 'noise' from outlier elements and create a smooth chart revealing general characteristics that were distorted or disguised by the original data.

I use Static to refer to White noise, a sonic phenomenon. White noise has the characteristic of equal energy across the full spectrum. Every frequency is equally active. But I think here we run into a paradox, or at least a measuring puzzlement. If I define two frequencies (say 440Hz and 441Hz) , there is obviously a frequency that can be defined between those two - something like 440.5Hz. This is also obviously true for any pair of frequencies, no matter how close (440.5Hz and 440.6Hz)

At some point, our human ears no longer can perceive the distinction, so for practical purposes, the wall of sound is complete. But the reality of it is different.

For equal energy to be equally distributed across all frequencies, there would have to be a single frequency band for all activity. True white noise would be a single frequency that vibrates everything. Such a frequency may exist (Nada Brahma) - perhaps the period of our human life is one of many overtones to this fundamental frequency. Is there a fundamental frequency with a period of 1, a standing wave outside of time?

But all I want to do is set down some characteristics of Static. In place of an increasingly frantic disquisition on the nature of infinity, 'White Noise' is typically generated using the random number generator in a computer.

So what is random? Is random a series of values where the latest entry has no relationship to the prior sequence? Or is it a sequence where the next number cannot be calculated based on the previous values? A computer gives a close approximation of the second. The numbers generated by a computer random number generator are the result of complex algorithms. Highly complex, extremely difficult to reverse engineer. Extremely difficult but not unmanageable. These sequences are referred to as Pseudo-Random. Other results - defined as True Random systems use values from chaotic systems like the earth's atmosphere as a seed to generate sequences.

Perhaps this atmospheric system is complex beyond the ability to calculate, but is that the same as 'Random'? On the random.org site, they ask whether the laws of physics are inherently deterministic...if so, then all that prevents a calculation of the next number is sufficient understanding of the current state. That understanding may be beyond our measuring capacity, where we end up with values beyond our predictive capability expressed as frequencies beyond our perceptual limits.

As our capacities are enhanced, then our understanding of Random has to evolve. Think of all the natural phenomena that we now understand as part of large cycles. With Studies in Static, I start to define a sonic object, beheld outside of time, to be stretched and manipulated in one of the 3 species of spectral composition. This object is liminal, interstitial - in part because the natire of the sound is subject to randomness and perplexity.

We end up with Borges *On the science of Exactitude*. In that story, the science of cartography becomes so sophisticated that only a map on the same scale as the empire will suffice. Perhaps "Random" is the output of a system where the only system capable of generating the next sequence is the system that generated the previous sequence.