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

field notes

News, essays, reviews, surveillance

What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt


The hook on this doorbell marks it as a unicorn. Many building entryways evidence telltale technological change, such as the addition of a gate, the replacement of a knob, the widening of a passage. In this case the doorbell retains the vestigial communication appendage on which once hung a mouthpiece. Several generations have passed since it would have been in use. Minus that hook (which I tried to photograph at an angle), the circle above it would be mistaken for a two-way speaker/microphone, whereas it was only ever used for the former.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
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This Week in Sound: Mapping Silence

+ RJDJ + MIT sound + Wainwright Syndrome + speech control + pre-acoustic + Spotify protip

A lightly annotated clipping service (fairly brief edition this week):

RJDJ Return: This video is just a tease, but it’s a promising one. The makers of the RJDJ augmented-reality audio app have a new app in the works, named Hear, that processes everyday sounds through filters. There’s been much talk of an “Instagram for sound.” This has a sense of that wish being fulfilled. Video found via Ashley Elsdon’s palmsounds.net. (Post-script: since this note first appeared in the This Week in Sound email newsletter, the app has gone live on iTunes’s App Store. Unfortunately the app is not, for the time being, compatible with my fifth-generation iPod Touch, so I haven’t had a chance to use it yet.)

Sound Studies: Geeta Dayal interviewed Mouse on Mars’ Jan St. Werner, who is teaching a course at MIT called “Introduction to Sound Creations.” Says St. Werner, “I think it’s great that the visual-art world has embraced sound more, but there is the risk of that becoming a novelty. There’s also a great chance for sound, to see it as its own art form. It doesn’t need anything that makes it agreeable. That’s the great opportunity we see at the moment.”

twis-map

Mapping Silence: At the Washington Post, Christopher Ingraham writes about a map commissioned last year by the National Park Service “of what the United States would sound like if you were to remove all traces of human activity from the picture,” pictured above. (Via Steve Ashby)

Wainwright Syndrome: Slightly removed from sound, though as always sound is vibration so buzzing is sound, and phones buzzing are doubly sound since the buzz is a stand-in for a ring(tone): at nymag.com, Cari Romm writes about phantom phone vibrations: “These imagined sounds and sensations are examples of pareidolia, the phenomenon of perceiving a pattern within randomness where no pattern exists (seeing the man on the moon, for example, or hearing satanic messages in a record played backwards). For this particular pareidolia, there are a few things that make some people more susceptible than others.”

Always On: As someone who is rarely a foot from his phone, I still find the voice activation aspect of phones alarming in a privacy sense, but Google keeps upping the ante: “Google Announces Voice Access Beta—Control Your Phone Completely by Voice” (androidpolice.com).

Pre-Acoustic: If you’re near University of Copenhagen, there’s an interesting symposium happening there in two days, on April 21: “The field of sound studies often gets restricted to sound practices, listening experiences and auditory dispositives after the advent of modern acoustics, established as an academic subdiscipline of physics in the 19th century. Yet unsurprisingly, auditory knowledge was present and impactful in cultures of the middle ages, the renaissance, and early enlightenment”: soundstudieslab.org.

Spotify Protip: Since I’ve been on and off tracking my use of Spotify (following the demise of the Rdio service), here’s a Spotify protip. If you’re having issues with the offline sync (which lets you store tracks or albums on a device, as I do on my iPod Touch, which is the primary way I use Spotify), the issue may be that you have too many devices associated with your account. I had four. Once I reduced it to three everything worked fine.

This first appeared, in slightly different form, in the April 19, 2016 (it went out a day late), edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound” email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt


There are hokey antiquated signs one buys at in-name-only nickel/dime (ye olde) shoppes in historic districts, and there are, you know, actual old things that are defined as old because they linger well past their own era and deep into the alien present. The rust on the wiring here marks the sign as something that may have been hokey once upon a time but that has at least begun to earn the right to be thought of as, itself, old. (Those doorbells, yellow like the teeth of a life-long if not long-lived smoker, further testify to the passing of time.) That is to say, it carries some prohibitive weight. The admonition against not only “peddlers” but the more ambiguous “agents” and the now fairly obscure “solicitors” is enough to make all but the most self-confident of visitors second guess themselves before daring to push one of those buzzers.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
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What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt

If you’re visiting this apartment building, you may wonder what sets apart apartment #4. Did the button for #4 simply die in the main interface, requiring this makeshift, unit-specific alteration? Was there a dramatic, gossip-ridden falling out with the neighbors, to such an extent that the dwellers of #4 felt the need to extricate themselves entirely from the hardwired entryway expression of their building’s community? Or was the separate button an attempt, on the part of the landlord, during a real-estate dry spell when #4 was long vacant, to promote it as a special unit, perhaps not with its own elevator playing Satie, but with its own distinct doorbell and accompanying signage?

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.

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What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt

Got to see the movie I did music supervision and sound design for on a real screen tonight, the San Francisco premier, a packed house at the Clay. Wish my partners in sound crime (Marcus Fischer, composer and fellow sound designer; Ted Laderas, featured cellist; and Paula Daunt, remixer) could have been there.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.

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