This Week in Sound: Giraffe Drones + Peak Discovery + …

Plus: performance listening, reverse Estonian megaphones, Dancing Baby justice, and "Happy Birthday"

A lightly annotated clipping service:

— Performance Listening: “I have always been part of the recording, for it is my body standing in a particular location that holds the equipment, listens through the headphones, and presses the button’s. … I have stopped worrying about picking up this movement with my microphones. Instead, I have begun experimenting with actively recording my movement through space, and what this adds to the sonic representations of the landscapes I pass.” That is Isobel Anderson in a piece recently uploaded to in which she discusses how field recording is a “performative act,” which she has explored in relation to her PhD at Sonic Arts Research Centre, Queen’s University, Belfast. More from Anderson at (Found via John Kannenberg.)

— Whither Discovery: This subject has been on my mind for several years, and I’m glad that Cortney Harding, at, has written about it. Much of the activity and observation of the online music business is focused on “discovery,” but I’ve never quite understood why “discovery” gets so much the attention. On the surface, sure, it makes sense: Who doesn’t want to hear new music? But then again, who does want to? Or more to the point, how many people want to discover new music? I don’t write this as an incurious listener. Clearly, if based only on the 365 or so pieces of music I write about each year, I’m deeply involved with music discovery as an individual. I’m not convinced, though, that it’s something that a general audience is necessarily responsive to. I’ve been fiddling with an essay on this subject for awhile, and maybe responding to some of Harding’s points will help me finish it up.

— African Drones: First, just click through to the New Scientist page on SoundCloud and listen to the sound of giraffes humming. The audio relates to work by Angela Stöller at the University of Vienna, Austria, about a low, drone-like sound that giraffes make in the evening. “People had earlier speculated that giraffes are unable to produce any substantial sounds,” writes Karl Gruber at, “because it is physically difficult for them to generate sufficient airflow through their long necks to produce vocalisations. Others have suggested giraffes use low frequency ‘infrasonic’ sounds ”“ sounds below the level of human perception ”“ much like elephants and other large animals do for long-range communication.” (Found via

— Reverse Megaphones: If a tree falls in the Estonian forest, it’s likely that one of Birgit Õigus’ gorgeous, massive megaphone-like devices will capture and direct the sound, even if no one is in the immediate vicinity to actually hear it. Õigus objects (click through to to view pictures) were installed at the Pähni Nature Centre in Estonia thanks to an initiative by the Interior Architecture Department of the Estonian Academy of Arts.

— Dance On: This “Dancing Baby” case isn’t small news. (Quick catchup: For about eight years a case has been progressing against Universal Movie Group for taking action against a 29-second home video of a baby dancing to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.”) Fair use is an essential part of copyright law, and it’s often undone by the more pressing matter of law, that bit about how the person with the more expensive lawyers often wins, whatever the actual law is. Creative Commons is a great concept moving forward; it’s created a vast literature — music, images, video, software — that can be shared and used and built upon. However, the past can’t easily be retrofitted into the Creative Commons, which is in part where fair use comes in. I’m hopeful for a future where people can easily upload cover tunes and creatively re-use samples without fear of lawsuits and takedowns. Perhaps the “Dancing Baby” will lead the way. I like to imagine a future where the Dancing Baby replaces Lady Justice — or at least fills in when Lady Justice is on vacation.

— Especially Happy: This case is far from settled, but for now a judge has ruled that “Happy Birthday” is no longer copyrighted. The kid in the “Dancing Baby” video was 13 months old when it was uploaded in early 2007, which means he’s 9 now. When he turns 10, his parents should be able to safely upload a video of them singing “Happy Birthday” to him. And we can all sing along. (Side note: the original “Dancing Baby” video was uploaded in 2007 on February 7, which happens to be Charles Dickens’ birthday, so there is probably a Bleak House reference in all of this somewhere.)

This first appeared in the September 22, 2015, edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound”email newsletter:

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