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Well, there are a few types of background noises that are not particularly loud but are still rather annoying. I envision a device which listens to the background noise and uses it as a basis for computer generated music intended to either make use of or hide background noises. For example, it might
use the pattern of a weird banging noise to become drums. I imagine this is a tough task to do effectively, but for patterned background noise just having a wide group of background music which could have drum tempo settings and the like could, with much user setting tweaking, accomplish the task to some extent. Listening to the background would enable it to adjust tempo and the like on the fly for variations in distraction frequency and tone over time.
A device that creates a harmony and rhythm to everyday sounds. [Amos Kito, Jan 24 2008]
||So it takes a background noise which is annoying and quiet and makes it annoying and loud?
||An ambient music synthesiser with a local pickup ? That could work. [+]
||I don't know about a noise filter per se, but I think it would make an interesting conceptual art/nusic piece - a synsthesizer that riffed music based on sounds in the installation's environment.