Introduction to Audio Alchemy

Audio Alchemy is a living synthesis of knowledge; an ongoing investigation into the correspondances between ancient natural science and modern music production.  

These fields of knowledge may not seem to be connected at first, but when we understand that alchemy is a science of transformation, and that music production is a transformative process, the parallels start to reveal themselves.  

Though musical performance can definitely be considered a form of alchemy, in that it transforms the mind of the listener, when we talk about Audio Alchemy here we are specifically referring to music production

The difference between a musician and producer is that a musician plays music, a producer makes audio products. 

A musician isn't even necessarily a composer, there are many who are very proficient at playing from sheet music or memory, but have never written a single melody of their own expression.   

Likewise, not every producer is a musician, some are more engineers, DJs, sound enthusiasts and just straight-up music lovers.  

These days it's not so compartmentalised, we can be composer, musician and producer, and all the other roles that were done by specialist people (mixing engineer, mastering etc). It's all now super accessible in software, the knowledge is at our fingertips, and a quality music studio can be constructed simply and on a modest budget.  

If this is what you want to do with your life, you really have no excuse not to get on with it. You don't even need record labels any more. It's all on you.  

Creation is Transformation 

Alchemy is worthy of deep study and careful contemplation, it is a key to great knowledge and wisdom, providing the conceptual basis for modern materials science, as well as the hidden knowledge at the heart of all spiritual traditions.  

Alchemists understood that all creation is transformation, of material elements, and of mind. So the alchemical symbols and concepts, when properly understood, are applicable to all arts and crafts, as well the preparation of food and medicine and much more.  

As the kitchen is a food alchemy lab, so the studio is an audio alchemy lab.  

Alchemy is a creative process involving the measured synthesis of different elements, and the laboured refinement of substances toward some idealised vision of perfection, potency or utility.  

It’s a labour that draws on the full intellectual and imaginative capacity of the artist, requiring complete attention and dedication, transforming their emotional and mental condition in the process.  

Ears to Hear 

'Audio' is not traditionally considered a substance, however it is more tangible than ‘sound’ as it refers exclusively to recorded, reproduced and transmitted sound.  

More specifically, Audio is a band of vibrations that represent sound, it can be pressed into a physical medium such as vinyl or tape, or encoded into tables of numbers and stored on a disk. When an audio source is connected to a loudspeaker or physical resonator, the sound is reproduced.  

The art of capturing, processing and transmitting sound, is a relatively recent development in human history, especially in comparison to Alchemy and traditional arts like painting and sculpture.  

Since the first warbled recordings scratched into wax in the 1860s, there has been a steady increase in quality, fidelity and liquidity of audio, as the technology has progressed through four distinct eras:  

Acoustic (1877 - 1925)  
Electric (1925 - 1945)  
Magnetic (1945 - 1975)  
Digital (1975 - present)  

We are well into the digital age now and with just a modest home computer and speakers, or even a tablet and some headphones, we can access a whole universe of tools and technologies for ultra-high precision audio generation, manipulation and reproduction.  

Audio has given birth to a thriving creative industry where mind merges with machines through numbers and code to produce ever more interesting, detailed and refined sonic expressions.  

It is a tool of communication, and also alteration, a waveform signal that has been optimised, compressed and modulated to slip pleasantly into the ear canals, pique and maintain ones attention, and deposit to the brain some information, feeling or sensation encoded within.  

Audio is Mind Altering 

To say that Audio plays a transformative role within human consciousness is a great understatement. The truth is that we act primarily based on what we hear, and the ability to hear other people via audio has transformed the human world, connecting individuals like cells in a neural network, and enriching the collective consciousness rapidly.  

It is common knowledge that music greatly affects mood and human behaviour; the sound of a few notes or chords from a song, a groovy drum beat and we are almost instantly elevated to a new, more enlivened state of being.  

All musical instruments, including human and animal voices, and loud speakers, are designed to manipulate Air into geometric wave patterns detectable by the ear as sound.  

In Alchemy, the element of Air corresponds to the mental plane of our inner landscape, so how we condition the Air around us, the sounds and smells, is how we condition our mind.  

That is to say, choosing the right music is important for one’s mental health.  

Ancient alchemists, in the days before electricity or recorded music, would burn incense, play instruments and sing words of prayer and reverence to elevate their consciousness and protect themselves from dark thoughts, like a spiritual shield.  

Music can make the difference between blissful solitude and stark loneliness, enlightenment or insanity. It can function as a protective shroud of consciousness, enveloping the soul with sweet-feeling vibrations of beauty and perfection, like an invisible sonic womb.  

In the sense that words are spell-casting, music is spell-binding; holding the attention of the listener, as if by magic, entrancing them and affecting their behaviour for the duration.  

When good music and meaningful words are combined into a song and well produced, the resulting audio is a powerful transformative force, an elixir of sound, immortalised in a material medium  

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music” Fredrick Nietzsche

For access to ongoing research, technical deep dives into alchemy and music theory, subscribe to the Producer tier.

~S

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