Close Miking Consciousness: Imaginary Experiments with Space, Place, Shapes & Mics

by Gautam Pemmaraju

In sound and music production, close miking refers to the practice of placing the microphone close to the sound source – from 1 inch to 1 foot – as opposed to distant or ambient miking. There are several kinds of microphone techniques, countless kinds of specialty microphones to suit a wide range of purposes, and given the sheer complexity of the human relationship to sound, the applicability of technology (in what situations we record sound and with what) assumes great import. It is a pretty vast creative domain and is shaped by the imagination of those at work. Close miking suggests here a greater intimacy with process and perception. In order to extrapolate more or finer detail, we go closer to the sound – physically, psychologically and metaphorically. It is through a more intimate engagement with sound that we then ascribe character to it – we discuss texture, tonality, timbre, colour, and taste even. We use every other sense to describe how a sound sounds.

One elemental way we can understand hearing is as a function of Signal to Noise or SNR (see this). When noise escalates or overwhelms, we instinctively adapt. Needless to say, in cities, with a profusion of countless impulses, signals and provocations, we are in a perpetual condition of negotiating this balance, whereby, we recalibrate, reassign priority, and in many ways, incessantly rehear our environment. We find ways to suppress background noise and achieve comprehension and intelligibility. What do we then hear in our heads as opposed to what we hear out of our heads? Such a question is inextricably linked to our broader, composite perception – it informs speech and vision. The McGurk-McDonald Effect (see this BBC Horizon video clip) underscores these complex relationships, whereby, when one phoneme was dubbed over the video of a different one spoken out, an entirely third one was perceived when the video was played back.

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