This Week in Sound: Sonic Fiction + Sonic Weapons + Jack Politics +

Plus: canine audiences + tape heads

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Sonic Fiction: So, one of the characters in the acclaimed Chinese science fiction novel The Three-Body Problem by author Liu Cixin says he implemented the “pop music as sonic weapon” approach to dealing with Noriega. The irony being that the futuristic nano-material the characters then employ to deal with a larger problem comes to resemble a massively oversized zither — in other words, a whole other sonic weapon, of sorts. (I have some sound-related thoughts on two other science-fiction novels I finished reading late last year, Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves and Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, and I’ll try to work them into an upcoming This Week in Sound newsletter.)

Robotic Dogs of War: Sometimes being loud is a benefit in warfare. It is punishing and intimidating. Apparently for the development of “robot dogs,”sometimes being loud can mean being too loud. “”As Marines were using it, there was the challenge of seeing the potential possibility because of the limitations of the robot itself,” a spokesperson for the DARPA-funded Warfighting Lab told “They took it as it was: a loud robot that’s going to give away their position.” (Via

Canine Accompaniment: Meanwhile, Laurie Anderson was composing for our canine companions, per the New York Times: “She and friends put on a concert for hundreds of dogs outside the Sydney Opera House, with the music emitted from speakers at a low, dog-friendly frequency. (She didn’t want to risk shocking the dogs with a high frequency.)”

The Hole Story: There’s a lot of uproar over concern that Apple will ditch the headphone jack. As of this writing, 246,000 of a hoped-for 250,000 signatures have been added to a petition for Apple to not do something it hasn’t said it’s going to do but that people are apparently concerned about. I’m a bit cautious about consumer activism these days. It often feels more consumerist than activist. In any case, while there’s concern about a whole new suite of cables required — should Apple go ahead with this plan — I think the real plan on Apple’s part may be to nudge us toward Bluetooth and other forms of wireless headphones. (Note a recent piece at

Tape Heads: It’s unclear if the novelist Rosecrans Baldwin (You Lost Me There) anticipated criticism of his attempted takedown of the cassette tape in a recent New York Times op-ed (“Our Misplaced Nostalgia for Cassette Tapes”), though he acknowledges in the piece that even his wife disagrees with him. In any case, subsequent letters to the paper make a case for the medium. Dan Zajackowski of New York City wrote: “The cassette is for people with an attention span, people who are generous enough to let an artist curate a whole half-hour of listening, or in the case of a mixtape, between 60 and 120 minutes.”And Portland, Oregon-based Ted Laderas (a Disquiet Junto participant) wrote: “I read Rosecrans Baldwin’s article as a slap in the face of small-time musicians like me. The cost of manufacturing vinyl and CDs is prohibitive for musicians who sell small numbers of albums. While not ideal, tape is easy to manufacture and easy to personalize, and provides small-time musicians with a viable way of sharing our music that our fans are willing to buy.”

This first appeared in the January 12, 2016, edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound”email newsletter:

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