©1985 The Anstendig Institute


The Anstendig Institute is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization founded to study the vibrational influences of our environment and their effects on sensory perception and on mental and physical health. The institute particularly investigates sight and sound reproduction in relation to problems of seeing and hearing. Its overall aim is to bring to public attention the need to reduce stressful vibrational influences in everyday life and to improve the quality of sight, sound and other-vibrational influences as a prerequisite for fine aesthetic experience.

Man-made vibrational influences have replaced those of nature in modern life. The institute studies the vibrational characteristics and effects of ill- and well-functioning mechanical and electronic devices commonly used in everyday life (automobiles, television sets, phonographs, business machines, etc.). The institute has demonstrated the adverse effects of imperfect photographic and sound reproduction on sensory perception and powers of discrimination. It has also demonstrated the necessity for 1) absolutely exact focus in photography, and 2) natural sounding sound reproduction. The institute has demonstrated how exact sight and sound reproduction enhances human sense perception and permits finer, deeper, more intense aesthetic experience.

The general field of institute research, the constant vibrational bombardment of our modern machine-electronic environment and the effect it has on our senses, minds and bodies, is new and virtually unexplored. While attention is given to “noise pollution," research is usually in terms of the loudness of sound. In fact, there is a much larger range of vibration that affects us. The quality of a vibration, its unevenness for example, can be more important than its intensity. Many of the vibrations that affect us are below normal conscious perception and therefore demand special attention to be noticed. Their effects, however, are readily noticed. All types of vibrations, including many which we may not be immediately aware of, can cause the inability to perceive clearly or to concentrate and can often cause mental confusion and physical problems resulting from continued stress.

The institute studies the vibrational characteristics and effects of a wide range of mechanical and electronic devices used in everyday life: automobiles, refrigerators, air conditioners, television sets, phonographs, etc. The aim of the Anstendig Institute is to provide means for individuals to control their immediate vibrational environments to eliminate ill effects, to call the attention of industry to vibrational problems, and to demonstrate the potential for improved technology.

The institute's special field of research is the constant, poor quality of audio and visual imagery (photography and recorded sound) with which we are bombarded and its detrimental effects, especially on aesthetic experience.

Photography and television both suffer from diffuse, unfocused imagery which has conditioned the public to poor visual quality and reduced its powers of visual discrimination. The basic problem is that no camera can focus. The institute's work with the Messraster, the only instrument that allows focal-pointexact focus, demonstrates the important possibilities of precision focusing in terms of the psychological effects of greater detail and color resolution and in terms of control of artistic expressivity.

The Anstendig Institute's photographs, made with the Messraster focusing device, are the only existing photographs in which the true plane of focus is intentionally and exactly placed on the most important point in the picture. They demonstrate the extraordinary plasticity (three dimensionality) and the accurately rendered human expression and picture detail that occur when a photographer has precise control of the plane of focus. They define the true psychological aspects of reactions to photographically produced visual images, which pertain to all two-dimensional visual media, and include much that pertains to the psychology of seeing in general.

The institute's photographs prove that photographic art is technically flawed in its most important aspect, focusing. The only purely photographic aspect of photographic art is the preservation of images focused by a lens. Nothing else that is artistic in photography is intrinsically photographic. Posing, graphics, lighting choice and manipulation of colors, etc., are all separate arts in themselves. The institute's photographs demonstrate that the rendition of these other aspects of photographic art is determined by the placement of the exact plane of focus. The institute's papers, as illustrated by the photographs, point out the means of correcting the focusing problem. For the first time, the photographer is shown the means of controlling all picture elements.

Recorded sound suffers from a number of interrelated distortions which the institute has carefully analyzed. These distortions lead to poor aural discrimination; they also cause discomfort, stress and, in some cases, hearing loss. The institute has been able to observe and measure the impact of good and bad sound reproduction, particularly on sense perception. The institute is working on the use of sound equalization to perfect natural sounding sound-reproduction, applying its research beyond recorded sound to room and concert hall acoustics.

Virgil Thompson, dean of American composers, has written in Parnassus: Poetry in Review (Winter, 1982):

The Anstendig Institute, musico-acoustic investigators in San Francisco, makes the definitive statement about music's role in general: Music is the highest, most powerful, most overriding of all the arts. In the presence of music, all the other arts take on the character of the music, not vice versa, and it is capable of, and can produce in us, the finest, most delicate of possible human reactions.

Since the quality of classical music sets our society's cultural standards, exact recorded sound in classical music is of special importance. Decades of sound distortion has already endangered the long classical tradition of musicianship and emotional expressivity.

In equalized recorded music, or in halls with correct acoustics, there is a dramatic increase in the production and recognition of expressive nuance, one of our most important human treasures. Along with the institute's interest in improved sound quality, it is engaged in a long term project of selecting and in most cases restoring classical recordings whose expressivity reflects the original intention of the composer. This process of selection is only possible because the institute can reproduce expressive nuance in a hearable way. The institute frequently presents programs of recorded music that utilize these recordings to illustrate its findings. The recordings used in these programs are chosen from the entire legacy of classical recordings solely on the basis of the quality of performance. Since most of these performances were recorded long ago, the programs should be viewed as restorations of important musical performances of great historical value, not as demonstrations of ultimate up-to-date hi-fi.

What we are trying to achieve through these programs is an experience in which the original faulty sound is well-enough restored for the expressive content to come through so that our audience can gain an appreciation of the treasures to be found in recordings and develop their powers of discrimination in seeking out fine quality musical performances. As there are differences in hearing, especially in the frequency extremes, there may be differences of opinion as to the final degrees of adjustment of the sound, particularly in the high and low frequencies. In personal listening, the sound can be adjusted to suit the individual's own hearing. Sonically, the most important aim of our adjustments is to eliminate the major irritations inherent in the sound-reproducing process that keep the expressive subtleties from being heard.

The institute wishes to impress the interested public with the aesthetic possibilities of finer vibrational influences. Both exact focusing and equalized recorded sound allow rarely encountered degrees of expressive human experience. Once again, however, these artistic possibilities must be seen, heard and felt. Relatively brief experience of the work of the institute is sufficient to alert most people to the need for an improved vibrational environment, private or public. Longer exposure to finer vibrational influences, however, is necessary for more lasting benefits: clearer sensory perception, greater mental clarity, increased ability to concentrate, etc. The institute wishes as soon as possible to begin educational and training programs in understanding, recognizing and improving vibrational quality. The long range goal of the institute is to spread its findings and their benefits through and beyond the Bay Area as a contribution to mental and physical health and cultural enrichment in the modern machine environment.