METHODS AND PROCEDURES OF THE ANSTENDIG INSTITUTE

 

1983 The Anstendig Institute

Revised 1984

The papers of The Anstendig Institute include some mention of its research procedures. Not being the subjects of the papers, those descriptions are necessarily limited. We therefore offer the following typical examples of our procedures and reasons for using them in relation to photography, automobiles, sound and hearing, and the role the body plays in the musical experience.

The Anstendig Institute is making known the research on the effects of absolutely-focal-point-exact focus. This research was the work of Mr. Anstendig in collaboration with Joseph Dahl, inventor of the Messraster, the only focusing device that can focus precisely. Most of the work was carried out in Berlin, West Germany, from 1961 until Mr. Dahl's death in 1970.

The existence of a practical means of precisely manipulating the exact plane of focus poses new questions, the answers to which refute and redefine basic beliefs upon which all photographic procedures depend. The institute's materials on photography clearly and objectively demonstrate those answers. A true understanding of this material would revolutionize the whole field of photography, including the manufacturing of equipment. This information should have been available to the public decades ago.

It is a known fact that, physically, only one precise distance from the lens can be in focus at a given time. The use of a device allowing absolutely exact placement of the focal-plane quickly proved 1) that the plane of precise focus has a different image quality than the rest of the picture, 2) that the whole psychological effect of a picture is determined by the location of that plane, and 3) that it should be precisely placed on an important point in the picture. Clearly, the lack of any publicly available possibility of achieving focusing precision has kept the photographic world from realizing that the most important problem of focusing is to determine what part of a picture should be focused on.

Together with Mr. Dahl, Mr. Anstendig systematically worked out the correct placement of the plane of focus. Tests were systematically carried out on a variety of subjects with various camera-lens combinations. All obvious possibilities for placing the plane of focus were tried and studied. The resultant photographs demonstrate the findings. These photo-materials, as well as many pertinent documents, have been placed at the disposal of The Anstendig Institute.

The true effects of focusing follow rules that are totally different from well-known photographic beliefs. They contradict and disprove universally accepted concepts, especially those of depth-of-field, upon which fundamental photographic procedures are based. Because there is no known means other than Messraster of achieving absolutely precise focus in normal picture-taking circumstances, Mr. Anstendig's photographs are the only existing photographs that systematically and purposefully demonstrate with absolute precision, and thus define, the possible psychological effects of any pictures made with camera and lens.

The effects of absolute focus were carefully tested on all types of photography from micro/macro to super-tale photography and on all types of subjects. The photographs demonstrate what part of the subject should be focused on under all conditions. They achieve this with a subtlety never before achieved in photography. They have been recognized by experts as the state of the art of focusing optical lenses and, as such, were the featured exhibits at the 1962 Fotokina in Cologne on the stand of Arnold and Richter, makers of the Arriflex moving picture cameras, and in the Berlin Pavilion of the New York World's Fair. Articles about focal-point-exact focusing by Mr. Anstendig or about his work have appeared in U.S.Camera in the United States and in Spiegelreflex Praxis and Der Taggesspiegel in Germany, among others.

In its own research, The Anstendig Institute uses controlled observation and careful testing, both alone and with volunteer subjects over a long period of time. It also contacts and avails itself of information provided by various experts and manufacturers in the related fields.

The Institute's automobile information, for example, is the result of long testing and trials with test automobiles donated for that purpose. These have had everything technically possible done to them that pertained to the particular problems under investigation. This includes blueprinting a motor and installation of various reputable types of suspension alteration such as anti-sway bars, special performance tires, and different types of shock absorbers, some of which could be adjusted in their characteristics. This was done by some of the finest, most sensitive mechanics in highly reputable shops. Representatives of some manufacturers, particularly Oldsmobile and the Ford Motor Company, were consulted and have been helpful, as was a professor of automotive engineering.

For the materials concerning the inability of most cars to run evenly, particularly at idle, representative models of every manufacturer's cars up to the introduction of the 1982 models were test driven. Another test-drive series is planned for the current models. Specific directions for having one's own car adjusted to improve the way the motor runs and to improve the suspension--all with the aim of improving the effect the car has on the rider--have been determined through this research.

Our observations of the effects that a badly running, rhythmically erratic car motor has on our sensory perceptions and our feeling of well-being were carried out over an even longer period of time, alone and with experimental subjects. Test situations demanding a high level of fine, delicate perception such as those involving fine music were used. Subjects were allowed ample time to observe their ability to perceive the fine detail in the music before and after riding in an erratic car and were asked to perform tasks involving a high degree of control and concentration. For example, comparison sketches by a reputable artist demonstrate by the flow of the pen strokes that his body was influenced by and continued vibrating in the harsh, erratic rhythmic patterns of an erratic test automobile for a lengthy period of time after riding in it.

In the field of sound, the institute's research is more subtle, but no less controlled. Hearing is the most delicate and subtle of human capacities. Because both the physical and mental aspects of hearing are dependent upon and determined by the psycho-physiological state of the hearer, the problem of researching sound and hearing is to duplicate real-life listening situations. One must avoid clinical situations and test objects that do not occur in real-life and therefore either provide no pertinent information as to how sound is actually heard and experienced or simply provide wrong information.

The complete process of hearing, from the production of the sounds through their being registered by and processed in a person's consciousness, is quite possibly the most complex of all processes, rivaled only by that of sight. There is more to find out about hearing than how the ear functions mechanically or how loudly the subject hears test tones in a clinical environment. Hard scientific procedures aim at eliminating all human factors that could possibly contaminate the perceived data. But hearing not only involves perceiving, it is a human perception in which human experience plays an important role. Hard scientific procedures ignore the experiential aspects of hearing which play at least an equal role in the total hearing process. To study hearing under real-life conditions, one must arrive at a workable balance between hard scientific procedures and the needs of human perceptions so that the perceptions are not affected by the procedures. Otherwise the procedures change the phenomena before they can be studied.

The undependability of memory is the major problem in achieving accurate comparison and evaluation of sensory perceptions. Until recently, adequate means of studying phenomena involving the higher senses of sight and hearing were only available in the field of sight. Of all five senses, sight possesses the only capability that can be considered dependable and precise: direct, simultaneous comparison.

It has always been possible to preserve and manipulate visual phenomena. Visually, more than one object can be studied with extreme scientific accuracy by means of direct comparison, i.e., by placing them directly next to each other. This ability to simultaneously compare adjacent visual impressions eliminates the need to remember sensory perceptions. In photography, the only focusing device that can achieve absolute focal-point-exact accuracy, the Messraster, eliminates the use of memory by utilizing only the direct comparison of visual impressions. In color charts, color hues are visually determined with remarkable accuracy by means of direct comparison. All of the other senses, but hearing in particular, demand a high degree of familiarity with an object and extremely carefully controlled, non-distracting circumstances if observation and comparison of meaningful, real-life phenomena is to take place. Tea tasting, wine tasting, the evaluation of perfume scents, and the evaluation of the textures and quality of cloth are pertinent examples of well-known procedures demanding such familiarity and precautions in methodology.

Meaningful research on sound and hearing was impossible until the advent of electronics and recordings because it was impossible to repeat the same sounds in exactly the same way for research purposes. Recordings made possible the exact repetition of sounds. But those sounds still are a distortion of the original. Electronics can produce repeated sounds for research purposes, but those sounds (test tones, pink noise, etc.) are strange, unfamiliar, and disconcerting to the subject because they never occur in real life. They do not, in any way, simulate real-life experience. They are therefore limited, if not totally meaningless, in researching how sound is actually heard and experienced. 

Also, the fact that the test situations seldom have even the slightest resemblance to normal, everyday life circumstances means that much of the findings do not pertain to the way people usually hear. Physically and mentally, the subject is in an abnormal, atypical state and is hearing in a correspondingly atypical manner. Much scientific research and hearing testing is therefore invalid and unscientific because it is not researching the thing it wants to find out about. In audiology, the common problem of people with specially prescribed hearing aids not being able to stand the sound of their hearing aids after having used them in familiar, relaxed surroundings is one typical result of such procedures.

First insights into the peculiarities of hearing were gained before 1935 in the famous Bell Telephone Laboratory experiments by Fletcher and Munson. Among other things, the Fletcher-Munson Equal Loudness Curves show that the way the equalization of reproduced sound (the frequency balance) is perceived changes whenever the volume level is changed. Others have performed similar experiments and, as would be expected in dehumanized, clinical testing, the measured values differed. But all results do show that the apparent equalization changes when the overall volume level of the sounds is changed. Those findings unequivocally prove that all sound-reproduction must be equalized, otherwise it will be heard in a distorted manner. 

Comparing unequalized reproduced sounds is almost like visually comparing something that is grotesquely disfigured to another such thing that is equally, but differently disfigured. Such a comparison is useless because one cannot even judge which is more or less distorted unless one knows what the normal condition of that thing is. But with sound-reproduction the situation is worse. Not only are two distorted sounds compared without a frame of reference to the original sound, but also two distorted recordings cannot be simultaneously compared, as is possible visually. The two sounds have to be alternately played and remembered. Furthermore, the distortions in the equalization of the sound create disturbing irritations that interfere with the resolution of detail within the hearing mechanism. Thus, one is not even hearing all the contents of the distorted sound.

The problem of creating meaningful research on the way sound is experienced is to create test situations that duplicate real-life listening. The resolution by the ear and the conscious perception of fine details (whether of pitch, nuance, or volume) determines the quality of hearing. The stimulus must, therefore, contain details that are of a fineness that lies at the limits of hearing capacity. The only object with such fine details that fulfills the requirement for real-life experience is the finest, most exquisite performances of fine music. The perception of such music is the epitome of all human capacities to resolve detail.

A distinctive aspect of The Anstendig Institute's research in hearing is that it makes use of Mr. Anstendig's rare, extensive musical training as an orchestra conductor in choosing performances of the finest musicianship as the sound-objects used in its research.

To avoid distracting interruptions and to ensure enough time for the body to calm down and settle into the flow of the listening material, long tapes are prepared of musical selections with the same equalization and vibrational characteristics. This is usually accomplished by using long selections such as operas or by using recordings of the same artist or the same orchestra and conductor, which were made by the same company within a narrow period of time. These tapes are worked over until all selections match in relative volume levels and in equalization characteristics (record companies often arbitrarily change the volume level between selections on the same record).

Such precautions are necessary because even the finest performers have differing characteristics in the periodicity of their performance, i.e., in the idiosyncrasies in the manner in which the sounds and nuances flow in time. For example, one can usually follow one Otto Klemperer recording with another without the hearing having to re-adapt to the new performance. But when a Klemperer recording is followed by a Toscanini recording, for example, the ear and body of the listener has to re-adapt to the characteristic flow of the latter. The result is a sizeable break in the continuity of the listening session. Besides disturbing the continuity, the fine nuances cannot be heard during the adjustment.

The tapes are first studied by Mr. Anstendig to determine their equalization characteristics and the necessary EQ compensation at different volume levels, using all currently available types of equalizers and different types of spectrum-analyzers (full-frequency "swept" and 1/3 octave real-time analyzers). The ear is also relied upon in determining the suitable equalization. Although this may seem subjective, it is really quite objective because one is reducing irritations to the point where they are no longer apparent and because of the threshold characteristics of hearing. For example, the annoying, edgy sound of a typical 2500 Hz peak would be reduced only until it is no longer heard. With an increase of as little as 1 dB, it will again be heard. If, while listening to a corrected program of unchanging equalization characteristics, that peak again becomes apparent, the listener's hearing has changed, not the playback. The value of the change can be found, if desired, by measuring the amount of cut necessary for the peak to again not be apparent. Human sensitivity to irritating factors in equalization can be extremely high. It demands only observation and does not place any demands on the memory.

Experiments are undertaken only after Mr. Anstendig is familiar with the characteristics of the tape. Separately and together, the subjects are asked to listen either to corroborate or to help determine the EQ settings (in comparison to other settings), which are then tried at differing volume levels. When the equalization is recognized as correct and everyone is comfortable with the sound quality, the tapes are listened to under controlled, relaxed circumstances for long periods of time during which any necessary changes in equalization are made to compensate for changes in hearing as the tensions of the body relax.

One of The Anstendig Institute's first findings was that perception of volume and equalization is not a constant, but changes over the relatively short period of a single listening session in relation to the states of tension and relaxation of the body. Compensation for this phenomenon has been carefully worked into the institute's research procedures, as it should be in all scientific procedures involving hearing. It is well known in autogenic training, yoga, stress-reduction techniques, and other related techniques that when the body remains quiet for periods of time, physical tensions relax and sensitivity is heightened. The Anstendig Institute tries to use people with the necessary discipline and understanding of relaxation techniques, although it does not use such subjects exclusively. Attention is paid to the importance of physical discipline in any perceptive listening. Simple, well-known means of relaxing are suggested to all volunteers...means such as relaxing the forehead, supporting oneself correctly in one's chair, etc.

After those present have relaxed into the flow of the music to the point that the finer nuances can be heard and experienced, the listening continues long enough for them to be familiar enough with the music's expressive quality to be able to remember it. The listening is then interrupted. A complete change is created by going out or having refreshments, for example. The aim is to break the concentration and change the physical state achieved while listening. After a suitable time-interval, the listening is resumed and it is immediately observed whether the last-arrived-at equalization still holds true, which is seldom the case, if ever. By re-equalizing the music, the differences in hearing become clearly evident. The former equalizer settings are retained, and the new correction is made using other equalizers. The amount of EQ necessary to correct the sound can be interpolated from the settings of the newly added equalizer at each stage in the progress of the listening and, for purposes of comparison, the final result at the end of the listening period can be plotted on the spectrum analyzer both with and without the added EQ. It is not possible to plot interim settings on the analyzer because the interruption would disturb the continuity, change the way the music was heard, and essentially end that part of the session. A related procedure for analyzing sensitivity to nuance is contained in the paper "Our Bodies Are Affected By the Vibrational Quality of Our Surroundings.

The Anstendig Institute's research on the role that the body plays in the musical experience has been pursued by isolating the listeners' torsos from the sound waves for extended periods after they had been given ample listening time to familiarize themselves with the emotional content of the music. This was achieved 1) by surrounding the listener with an opaque, reflective structure, usually mirrors, 2) by having the listener wear a garment either made of or lined with reflective, silver-coated material, or 3) a combination of both. Subjects were given ample time to observe and ascertain whether the listening experience suffered when the body was isolated from the sound vibrations and what the differences were. Listening periods were of an extended nature and were carefully repeated on different days to double-check the conclusions.

Because The Anstendig Institute, with the help of new technology, has been able to conduct its research under circumstances that are essentially the same as real-life listening, the results highlight many faults in current thinking in the fields of sound-reproduction, acoustics, and audiology.

The Anstendig Institute wholly concurs with The Lincoln Center Institute that "the capacity through which people create and perceive beauty is one which people need to explore...and that understanding and valuing this capacity--in themselves and in others--is a critical part of learning and, in fact, of life itself. We perceive beauty through the senses, particularly sight and hearing. Our Institute's work in these fields is meant to help improve the quality of aesthetic experience.

 

 

The Anstendig Institute is a non-profit, tax-exempt, research institute that was founded to investigate stress-producing vibrational influences in our lives and to pursue research in the fields of sight and sound; to provide material designed to help the public become aware of and understand stressful vibrational influences; to instruct the public in how to improve the quality of those influences in their lives; and to provide research and explanations for a practical understanding of the psychology of seeing and hearing.