My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

Listening to art.
Playing with audio.
Sounding out technology.
Composing in code.

Briefest Disquiet Downstream File Ever (4 Seconds)

Computer programmers, like most professionals, pay heed to the small, iterative changes in their work habits that can gain them an extra chunk — even an extra sliver — of usable time in a day. The developer of the great service yubnub.org, a “command line for the web” that I long ago adapted into my daily workflow, is a fellow named Jon Aquino. Judging by his occasional blog, jonaquino.blogspot.com, Aquino is always testing new software, with an emphasis on open-source freeware and on task-specific tools that make one’s computer more tactically advantageous than it might have been otherwise.

In a post this week, Aquino provided a download to a system sound, a brief, five-note, four-second WAV file (WAV). Aquino’s entry that set the context for the file (jonaquino.blogspot.com) brings to mind some of the thoughts about real-world sound design by Ben Rubin (of Listening Post fame and earstudio.com). The point of Aquino’s post isn’t that this specific sound is especially suitable for Outlook, Microsoft’s email and calendaring tool. The point is that certain tones are more applicable to service as work alerts than are others — just singular enough to make a case for themselves in your audio-space, not so intrusive as to be distracting — and how repetition may be the key to a successful alert tone. Here’s Aquino’s post, in full:

5beeps.wav – Useful replacement sound for calendar apps

Don’t you hate how Outlook’s Reminder window is buried under your other windows, causing you to miss appointments?

Solution: Change the Reminder sound to this more noticeable set of 5 beeps: 5beeps.wav. Change it in Tools > Options > Advanced Options > Reminder Options > Reminder Sound.

It’s an unobtrusive yet noticeable alert sound. Useful for other applications as well.

(Based on the public-domain beepdoub.wav sound.)

There’s no reason to suspect that bespoke system alerts are going to supplant cellphone ring tones in the new musical economy any time soon, but it’s something worth pondering. Heck, both Brian Eno and Robert Fripp have lent their tones to operating systems.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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