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

This Week in Sound: Cars + Cuba + Cut Glass + Christian Marclay

+whistling on The Good Fight, and much more

An annotated clipping service.

Car and Woofer: The sounds added to electric vehicles aren’t merely for the sake of pedestrian safety, writes Chris Perkins at Road and Track: “When you’re trying to drive fast, especially at a place you’re unfamiliar with, you take all the feedback a car can give you.” Sound, as in the Jaguar I-Pace that Pace was testing, is an essential part of the driving experience. “The artificial sound gives you a great sense of speed you otherwise wouldn’t have in an electric car. The sounds might have been cheesy, but I was glad they were there.”

Mambo: First Blood Part II: The closest thing there may be to new news about the mysterious sonic assault reported by embassy workers in Cuba is a seemingly related incident in China. But as Rachel Becker writes at the Verge, sorting out what happened is hampered as much by diplomatic face-saving as by the privacy of medical reports, and potentially by bad science. Becker’s article draws from Sergio Della Sala and Roberto Cubelli’s research in Cortex, which brands the notion of a “sonic assult” as “a case of poor neuropsychology; clinically inappropriate and methodologically improper.”   / / /   Michael Hiltzik at the Los Angles Times reported similarly.   / / /   Writing at theoutline.com, Caroline Haskins focused on “interference of eavesdropping devices.”

Her Lowness: Women’s voices in the U.K. are lower than they were generations earlier. This register shift reflects “changing power dynamics between men and women,” according to research by Cecilia Pemberton, of the University of South Australia, and a team of researchers. A BBC article by David Robson explains that the “fundamental frequency” of women’s voices had dropped 23 Hz in recent decades. “That’s a significant, audible difference.” The voice of the Queen herself is said to have “lost some of the cut-glass vowels of her youth.” (Found via Hyperallergenic.)

Tele-Gram: Instagram is a great resource for all sorts of videos, including the sort of fine live ambient performances I track actively on YouTube. My focus on YouTube may shift, and so may yours, thanks to the debut of Instagram’s new IGTV app and initiative, per Richard Nieva at Cnet: “Videos on IGTV can also be longer than the 60-second maximum for regular Instagram videos. For IGTV, videos can run 10 minutes, though some accounts will be able to post videos that are up to an hour long.”

Fight Club: The second season ended a few weeks ago, but if you’re not watching The Good Fight, CBS’s sequel to The Good Wife, it’s highly recommended. Every episode of this legal drama is packed with wit, ingenuity (often of the meta variety), and remarkable performances. The show also has carried on The Good Wife‘s attention to sonic detail, from the soundmarks of social media to the aural choreography of urban life. The season’s penultimate episode, “Day 485” (each week jumps ahead by seven days from the previous, and takes its episode title from the number of days into the current U.S. presidential administration), ends with a character walking free of a potentially life-changing legal hassle. He is heard whistling as he walks down the street. What he is whistling is the show’s theme song.

Sounds of Science: Short bits from the annals of science.   / / /   The Vision: The role of vision in shaping “audio spatial metric representation around the body” — in other words, how sight helps us hear better: nature.com.   / / /   Brain Meld: How “interpersonal neural synchronization” (INS) allows an individual to hear another individual across a packed, noisy room: nature.com. (INS refers to how “brain activities from two persons covary along the time course.”)   / / /   Fashion Sense: In ever-so-vaguely related news, male peacocks can emit a sound with their celebrated plumage that makes the crest of a female “vibrate energetically”: newscientist.com.   / / /   The Conversation: And this goes back a couple months, but related Google research involving ability for AI to detect a specific voice in a crowd: androidpolice.com   / / /   The Meg: On the development of a Super-Oscillatory Acoustic Lens (SOAL) that “operates in the megasonic range”: nature.com.   / / /   Blipverts: If the simultaneous appearance of the terms “stealth placement marketing” and “limbic lobe” in the same article intrigues (i.e., frightens) you, then read this research, which “used the representation or sound of brand placement as independent variables to test the effects of brand placement on the viewers’ discrimination and preferences, with reference to brain activity indicators”: nature.com.

Audio Briefs: Additional news.   / / /   Snap Art: Christian Marclay, the acclaimed sound artist, teamed up with Snapchat, per nytimes.com. The resulting art exhibit runs through tomorrow, June 22, at La Malmaison in Cannes, France. (Via Brian Scott of Boon Design)   / / /   Lens Flare: In related news, late last month Snapshat announced that it has a lens that “reacts to sound”: engadget.com   / / /   Sound Ware: The Apple iOS software suite iWork has introduced audio recording, via macstories.net. As of version 4.1 of iWork, “Pages, Keynote, and Numbers have all added the ability to record audio in-app that is saved inside your document.”   / / /   Speaker Not: The “sound” category on Kickstarter continues to be overpopulated with speakers, especially Bluetooth ones: kickstarter.com.   / / /   Corporate Noise: The ambient sounds of Google Assistant and Google Home are avaialable (with a semi-hack) on Google’s new Podcasts app, via androidpolice.com.   / / /   Power Down: And these little “sleepbuds” are pricey personal white-noise devices for bedtime: gizmodo.com

This was first published in the June 21, 2018, issue of the free weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound.

By Marc Weidenbaum

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