The Xenophonic Origins and Contemporary Pleasures of the Tuesday Noon Siren

A reflection on urban sound by Nick Sowers and Bryan Finoki

Because they are true professionals, the recording that Nick Sowers and Bryan Finoki made of the Tuesday noon civic warning siren in San Francisco has a lot of great detail. To begin with, there is the extended opening, which delays the arrival of the siren so that the listener, even one who’s never been to San Francisco, and even for San Franciscans who’ve never noticed the siren (I live here — this is more common than you might imagine), has a sense of how the sound — the alarm, and then the voice — emerges from everyday sound, from street noise, and wind, and chatter. In addition, Sowers and Finoki opted to record it near church bells. The siren rings out at noon, which means that in much of the city it collides with carillon of various denominations. In an accompanying post at their excellent (in)Fringe series at, they trace the background of the siren to its origins in Pear Harbor anxiety (“despite their current innocuous replay, they remain a reminder of a hysteric xenophobic past”). And they do justice to the siren’s role in daily (well, Tuesday-specific) life here: “All of them are installed atop poles or on roofs of buildings, and listening to them from different locations can signal interesting delays and cross-faded effects that almost mimic a hallucinatory interplay of the city’s acoustic skeletons.”

Track originally posted at More from Sowers at and from Finoki at Together they go by 52-blue, more on which at

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