Trusting our feelings

August 31, 2018
 by Paul McGowan

Because I cannot remember whether to feed a cold or feed a fever I just feed them both and wind up feeling better. Maybe it’s because I like to eat, or maybe it’s because I follow my feelings.

Trusting our senses is a learned trait. Perhaps some learn it earlier than others, a result, I suspect, from an early set of successes. But whatever the reasons I think it is of great value to learn how to pay attention to your right brain guidance system. “I can’t put my finger on it, but this just sounds better”.

Our emotional side, our feelings, are often in opposition to our analytical observations and that’s a good thing. We were never designed as onesided creatures. Our duality is a strength.

We’ve all known, or have been, people that work hard at ignoring our unsubstantiated thoughts: imagining that scientists and researchers recite their daily mantras of ignoring unproven advice from our undocumented side. But that in fact is not true. It’s no coincidence that Einstein was a genius physicist and a master violinist. After having been inspired by Mozart’s music at age 13, he began to practice the violin religiously. More and more studies are beginning to link musical training and improved cognitive function. Practicing an instrument engages all four hemispheres of your brain and makes them more well-connected.

Whether it’s learning new skills, rearranging our speakers, choosing different components, or having an aha! moment without the benefit of measurements or agreed upon proof, it’s a skill worth acknowledging and developing.

Einstein was often quoted as having thought of E = mcwhile riding his bicycle, a skill that requires more than just one side of the brain to be open to working together.

If it worked for Al, it’ll work for you.

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24 comments on “Trusting our feelings”

  1. I think many of us met high end folks who are totally lost in evaluating components/sound without a magazine‘s opinion, suggestion or guidance behind.

    Experiences aside of the typical speach and wellknown cliches of the high end scene help to overcome this.

    And making music is good for a lot of things.

    Double thumbs up for today’s post!

  2. The good thing about emotions is that some people are easily pleased and others never satisfied, with everything in-between, which keeps the audio industry alive.
    So case in point. I changed my speakers. The same speakers, just a different veneer to match my furniture. The speakers had a few more expensive components that the manufacturer refused to say improved performance (the most expensive being the binding posts, which I cannot imagine make any difference). So do they sound better because of the changed components or because I prefer the look of the walnut veneer? Who knows.

  3. What about prejudices and expectations influencing perceptions and feelings? I expected highres digital audio would significantly improve the sound quality. Nope! I did never expect a power cable to improve sound quality. But it did. Thus I expected a high end interconnect would further improve sound quality. Not at all. Expecting power filters to change the sound was confirmed. But punch and dynamics were changed for the worse. Never expecting vibration absorbing platforms and footers would improve SQ – except for a turntable. But they worked for all components. And there is the expectation bias triggered by clever marketing tales. Initially it works. But repeating the experiment without the story teller failed in most cases. Thus be careful and sceptical!

  4. Today’s post learns -again- that it’s good to listen to others, but in the end only trust your own ears.
    For me high-end interconnects made a huge difference.
    And although highly recommended by an audio buddy (so I had high hopes !), all sorts of footers under amps/dacs/transports didn’t work for me. I do have a (more than) decent audio rack, though.
    Platforms, spikes and footers under speakers however was a change for the better.
    A 2,25 inch thick slab of BAMBOO works best for me.

  5. I’m not so sure that analytical thinking and emotion are mutually exclusive in this hobby, meaning there is either one or the other.

    I have been over to several audiophile’s home systems where they play half tracks when listening, jump all over the genre landscape because there are songs with cool parts in them and constantly change out their system. They rarely talk about the emotion of a song, but rather the decay of a cymbal. It drives me crazy to listen with them. I used to think they were cynical people that are never happy.

    I have realized over time that they enjoy their system as much as I do…sometimes maybe more. Their enjoyment comes from the analytical chase of better sound, a puzzle needing to be solved. For me, that is not the case. I want my system to be a release from that. Drop the needle and get lost in a whole album.

  6. “Drop the needle and get lost in a whole album”
    Totally agree, although for me it’s : close the drawer and get lost in the whole cd.
    Occasionally : open the app and get lost in the whole stream.

  7. It’s our intuition and experience that inspires us to try the unthinkable (relative to the conventional thinking), yet I’m a firm believer that the laws of physics are never broken, only there to help explain the results.

  8. One of the reasons I got into this hobby is my discovery that listening to Mozart does indeed make you smarter, as they say. I do my best analytical thinking in my work while listening to classical instrumental music. Content with voice disturbs my senses but easy sounding works seem to work best. I can never listen to a Beethoven symphony while working- it’s too intense.

  9. Of course, Mozart is one of my favorite composers and I studied music as a youngster – that passion continues ’til this day being part of a two singing groups. This post was spot on – just yesterday, I was struggling through getting a sub to blend properly and after several hours, the “aha” moment happened. Yes, without test equipment!

      1. It is sometimes hard to get from an idea from a visual conceptualization into a mathematical formula that expresses it. I think Einstein said that the key to understanding was imagination. I had the same problem with the theory behind EEAS only I finally managed to do it myself. The result was a triple integral equation. It expresses the idea of a sound field in six dimensions, one integral being a 3 dimensional surface integral. This was the first time I was able to invent a method to visualize something in more than 3 dimensions. I invented a different trick for visualizing something in 4 dimensions to solve an entirely different problem that has nothing to do with sound. Euclidian geometry was the one subject I ever studied that I gobbled up like a starving dog with a bowl of his favorite food in front of him. But for the longest time it bothered me that I couldn’t visualize anything more than three dimensions with my three dimensional brain and mind, a terrible frustration. My favorite method for solving problems is through visualization. I think that’s the way the male brain works best.

        One problems with mathematics I have is use it or lose it. I’d like to think I could relearn everything I knew in math anytime I want to. I’m probably just kidding myself. I look at my old textbooks and wonder how I ever got through them. In the spring of my sophomore year I knew every way that existed to solve an ordinary differential equation having just take the course and preparing for the final exam. A few months later after the summer at the start of my junior year I couldn’t remember a single one of them. I had to relearn it but that was relatively easy because only a short time had passed. Today it’s been nearly half a century. I think I’d have to start with intermediate algebra and the solution to quadratic equations and parabolas. There’s always one thing you can count on though….. your fingers.

        1. Being able to visualize mentally in three or more dimensions is part of what drew you to your profession, as well as a requirement for being successful in it. It’s also part of the arsenal of statisticians amd mathmeticians, engineers, artists and many scientific fields. This is something that Johnson O’Connor’s aptitude testing and research brought home to me (making clear that I didn’t belong in one of those fields). He was the grandfather of aptitude testing in the U.S., going back to WWI and then at GE’s plant at Lyyn, Mass. He’s long passed, but the testing his foundation does should be required for every 15 year old.

  10. Intuition does nothing without first having good knowledge…

    Someone with knowledge allowing his feelings to coast him along is resting and putting his outcome on “auto pilot.” That auto pilot is no better than the discipline of knowledge he has accepted.

    Those who get stuck in the “refrigerator freezer” of analytical logic are really trying to force an answer before its time, and will often times try to frustrate others around them getting ahead on their good “auto pilot” of intuition. Think fuses and power cords with that scenario. 😉

  11. My emotional reaction to a new component or cable is the beginning and end point of whether I keep it or not. There’s a cognitive-intellectual element that kicks in, such as about tonality, but how it makes feel feel about music I’m listening to is the decider. For example, there are some very highly regarded power cords out there that leave me wanting to throw my system out the window. AC-12’s brought exactly the opposite reaction.

  12. Excellent post. Really something to seriously think about. The human body functions on feedback. Innumerable feedback signals are being sent to the brain which sorts them, prioritizes them and the conscious mind presents them as feelings. All the more reason to listen to ones feelings. Wonder how much objectivists are missing since we can not measure everything. Can not measure therefore does not exist will only be true when we will be able to measure every thing. Regards.

  13. Professional musicians grow 10% bigger brains from ten thousand hours of music practice, and their brains have different shape. One salient factor is they have more white matter, the inter-processor links that tie together all the diverse aspects of intelligence and integrate them into enlarged perception.

    http://www.jneurosci.org/content/23/27/9240.full.pdf

    The additional neurons also place their musical hearing an order of magnitude above and beyond mathematically proven computational limits, proving that the Nyquist limit does not apply, and indicating the Turing model can’t produce consciousness:

    http://phys.org/news/2013-02-human-fourier-uncertainty-principle.html

    There is a more subtle factor. As a young child, Einstein spent lot of play time alone in woods. This permits development of awareness and thinking beyond words and numbers, as in music. Words are symbols that divide the world into previously agreed categories and thereby inhibit fresh thinking. They preserve “common knowledge”, even when it is due for upheaval like after the Michelson Morley experiment and the discovery of photoelectricity.

    1. Four hemispheres is a Cetacean. Brains have to sleep, but you can’t sleep in the ocean, so they sleep two hemispheres at a time.

      Musicians grow more neurons in the locus of musical intelligence so they have better distinction of melody, harmony and rhythm. They can tell when a note starts and its initial pitch ten times more precisely than the mathematically proven computational limits. This is important musically because many instruments have different pitches and waveforms at the the initiation of vibration depending on playing technique, and this is how you tell instruments apart and perceive musical expression.

      Musicians also have higher spatial intelligence and a more advanced method of perceiving acoustic space, a kind of “passive radar” that yields ten times more precision in locating sound sources and sound reflecting objects and surfaces, information that can’t be captured by microphones or encoded in fixed channels – even 500 channel wavefield synthesis.

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