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

This Week in Sound: Sounds of and for the Cosmos +

hospital music + phone hiss + speech recognition + Smule + sound grands + notable deaths

A lightly annotated clipping service:

Bedside Manner: Medicine X is Stanford University’s initiative to explore “the future of medicine and healthcare.” As summarized by Andrea Ford at the school’s Scope publication, MedX has an artist in residence, Yoko Sen, who is addressing issues of noise pollution in hospitals: “She played the audience a track of beeps, buzzes, alarms, and mumbled voices; other hospital sounds include patients screaming, and the empty silence after bad news is delivered.” 

Phone Hum: Much of the yap about the iPhone 7 is its haptic (touch) improvements, but as Matthew Hughes reports at the Next Web it “makes an audible hissing noise whenever under intense strain.” Hughes credits the detection to Stephen Hackett, who “eventually realized that the noise wasn’t coming from the speaker, but rather from the logic board itself.” Hughes quotes Marco Arment correctly likening it to the sound a laptop fan makes when the CPU is being overly taxed. Other theories exist, too, the most colorfully named being “coil whine.”
(via Warren Ellis’ Sunday email newsletter)

Always Listening: “How we learned to talk to computers, and how they learned to answer back” — those are the questions that Charles McLellan seeks to answer in his detailed TechRepublic piece, tracing it from the dissection of human speech through computer recognition, the role of neural networks in passing the WER (or “word error rate”) test, on through natural language understanding, and a sense of where AI is headed.

V’ger’s Greatest Hits: The Voyager space probes carried a “Golden Record” conceived by Carl Sagan that contained exemplary sounds of our planet to hypothetical intelligent civilizations far beyond our modest solar system. David Pescovitz of Boing Boing is leading a Kickstarter project to make the record available closer to home, a gorgeous box set with three vinyl LPs and a collection of images from the probes.
(via Rob Walker, Bruce Levenstein, others)

Smule’s Pitch: At forbes.com, Murry Newlands interviews Smule’s CEO and co-founder, Jeff Smith, about the business side of the social-oriented music-app developer, looking at matters of profitability, misperceptions about the scope of the music market, and the unique nature of the sounds they produce. Says Smith, “For example, because our community is creating the music, we’re not using that master recording, and we’re not licensing the master recording from the label. Instead, we’re licensing the copyright to the composition from the publisher, from the writer. And we pay royalties out to all the writers.” 

Sound Awards: At least three of this week’s announced MacArthur Grant winners work in sound and music: Daryl Baldwin, a linguist working on cultural preservation in a culture that “lost its last native speaker in the mid-twentieth century”; Josh Kun, a cultural historian of popular music (I helped out on the pop-up Tikva Records store Kun and others at the Idelsohn Society put together in 2011); and Julia Wolfe, composer and co-founder of Bang on a Can.

Tome On: While physical and ebook sales are slipping (paperbacks have risen), Alexandra Alter reports in the New York Times that audiobooks sales are up.

Olde Tyme: The Internet Archive (which is housed walking distance from my home, and just a block from where I first lived when I moved to San Francisco in 1996, 20 years ago) reports on the process of saving 78-rpm records in collaboration with New York’s ARChive of Contemporary Music.
(via Joseph Witek and Michael Rhode)

Recent notable deaths:

RIP, Don Buchla (b. 1937), synthesizer legend

RIP, Charmian Carr (b. 1942), aka Lisel von Trapp from The Sound of Music

RIP, Trisco Pearson of the Force MDs

RIP, Curtis Hanson (b. 1945), 8 Mile director

RIP, actor Terence Bayler (b. 1930), aka Leggy Mountbatten, manager of fictional Beatles-parody band The Rutles

RIP, songwriter John D. Loudermilk (b. 1934); songs played by Paul Revere & the Raiders, Nashville Teens, Roy Orbison, Marianne Faithfull

RIP, Earl Smith Jr., aka DJ Spank Spank, of acid house group Phuture

RIP, Haakon Sørbye (b. 1920); as a member of WWII-era Skylark B, he relayed German troop information to London

I tweet notable passings (among other things) from my twitter.com/disquiet account as I come upon them. I’ll see about collecting them here, as well, henceforth.

This first appeared, in slightly different form, in the September 23, 2016, edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound”email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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