These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the April 13, 2020, issue of the free Disquiet.com weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound (tinyletter.com/disquiet).
As always, if you find sonic news of interest, please share it with me, and (except with the most widespread of news items) I’ll credit you should I mention it here.
▰ Fascinating explanation from Robert Aichner, of Microsoft Teams, on how they’re using AI to increase noise cancellation, and the difference between “stationary” (“such as a computer fan or air conditioner running in the background”) and “non-stationary” noise, in this interview by Emil Protalinski. “Going forward, Microsoft Teams will suppress non-stationary noises like a dog barking or somebody shutting a door. ‘That is not stationary,’ Aichner explained. ‘You cannot estimate that in speech pauses. What machine learning now allows you to do is to create this big training set, with a lot of representative noises.'” (Via subtopes)
▰ “It starts with a single neighbor clapping. Soon dozens more join in, throwing open their front doors or hanging from their windows to put their hands together,” writes Amanda Hess of New York City’s answer to Italy’s singing, praising quarantine applause. “Clappers may have learned of the ritual through a Facebook post or a message chalked on the pavement of a neighborhood park. But it persists because we hear it, and we want to keep hearing it. Some days it is the only thing I hear from outside that is not an ambulance siren.”
▰ If a largely forgotten voice AI is shut down, who misses its unique sonic qualities? “Back in 2012, Samsung introduced its S Voice assistant as it sought to keep up after Apple went all-in on Siri,” writes Richard Lawler. “Samsung acquired Viv to use its tech for a replacement, Bixby. Bixby hasn’t made that much of a mark either, but now Samsung is pulling the plug on S Voice. … S Voice service will end as of June 1.”
▰ “Without the broad-spectrum filters of trains and traffic hum, every layer of that soundscape can be heard clearly once more,” writes Tim Rutherford-Johnson. “As with the air, particulates and pollution are dropping away. Sound and breath both arrive in higher fidelity. This week, British seismologists have noticed that the ‘cultural noise’ of the earth has started to quieten too.”” https://johnsonsrambler.wordpress.com/2020/04/10/sounds-outside/
▰ A health app that listens to and reports back on your cough? I checked that the date on this piece said April 10, not April 1, and it turns out to be true. Read up as JC Torres explains what the Coughvid app does: “The team is using AI to distinguish between different kinds of coughs the same way doctors listen to your cough. The idea is to help reduce the number of people going to doctors demanding for a test when they don’t exhibit the symptoms.”
▰ “NLS [the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled] holds more than 25,000 braille transcriptions of musical scores and instructional texts; large-print scores, librettos, reference works and biographies; instructional recordings in music theory, appreciation and performance; and music-related talking books and magazines,” writes Mark Hartsell. “NLS also commissions 40 to 50 transcriptions each year — last year, it produced a braille version of the massively popular musical Hamilton.'” (Via Mike Rhode)
▰ Find music you can’t help but dance to like Dieter Rams dances to Oscar Peterson in Gary Hustwit’s documentary Rams (with music, as well, by Brian Eno). (As mentioned here last week, it streamed for free through April 14 at ohyouprettythings.com/free.)
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I spend a lot of time on YouTube. It’s one of the main places I listen to music, especially the thriving culture of live electronic music performances. As a result, I can’t help but track certain visual techniques, tropes, and stylistic touches, things like houseplants, and commonly employed angles, and nature shoots, and the careful deployment of color and cute objects.
I sure hope the projection technique employed in this video by German musician Perplex On catches on. Note the lights on the small controller in front of the iPad, as well as on the musician’s fingers. You have to check it out: youtu.be.
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▰ I’ve gotten really into, of all things, The Great Pottery Throw Down series on TV, and have been pondering the purposefully cracked glaze of Japanese “raku” ware as an early glitch-aesthetic progenitor.
▰ April 7, 2020: So, I decided to talk a walk. It was so beautifully clear and sunny outside it’s absurd, in contrast with what’s happening in general right now. I looked at my phone to turn on an audiobook, and the news was there. One of my heroes is gone. Hal Willner is dead. I used to tweet each morning every musician (and related) I saw on Wikipedia’s death reports and in obituary pages, and it got to be too much. These days, it would really be too much. Since Hal Willner died, pretty much all I’ve been doing on guitar (I started taking lessons a couple years ago) is trying to learn “Little Rootie Tootie” by Thelonious Monk. I mean “learn,” but, you know, it’s been pretty satisfying.