This Week in Sound: An Opportunity to Listen

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the April 27, 2020, issue of the free weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound (

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.

▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰

“[T]here is some research showing that younger children distrust voice assistants,” writes Eric Hal Schwartz. “That may be partly because they have trouble being understood.” Schwartz is covering a recent investment in the company SoapBox, which is developing children-focused speech recognition technology.

“We have an opportunity to listen – and that opportunity to listen will not appear again in our lifetime.” That’s Cornell-based marine acoustician Michelle Fournet speaking with writer Karen McVeigh about how the Covid-induced silence has provided whales, among other sea creatures, a respite from noise, and those who study aquatic life a unique vantage.

“Jail and prison officials in at least three states are using software to scan inmate calls for mentions of the coronavirus. … Known as Verus, it was first deployed several years ago to forestall suicide attempts, mine calls for investigative tips, and for a range of other purposes.” (via Subtopes, Alice Speri)

“The bear was probably the hardest animal to make sound believable,” Hinterland Studio audio director Glenn Jamison tells writer Lauren Morton as part of her overview of how animal noises are recorded for video games. Other tidbits: “Animals as a rule of thumb are often fairly quiet and generally only vocalise if something is happening, for example when they feel threatened or during mating rituals.” “Another animal which surprised me was the polar bear which purrs when content.” (via Simon Carless’ excellent Video Game Deep Cuts email newsletter)

▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰

▰ Field recordings are sonic readymades.

▰ Such a tremendous opportunity. For week 11 of my Sounds of Brands course, we had the incredible Marcos Alonso (thank you!), creator of the great Samplr iOS music app, in class (well, via Zoom) to discuss interface design, the visualization of sound, and how bugs become features. I may post some material from the presentation and discussion in the future.

▰ Five Weeks Ago: Well, at least there are no late fees at the libraries. This Morning: That pile of books is sorta tall and in the way.

▰ A bit more, in video form, on the MIDI device Tom Whitwell made based on a request I’d made for a highly portable controller:

▰ Related: Been locked down so long I’m almost used to not wearing a backpack. Well, kinda almost.

▰ Huh, Reverb LP shut down about two months ago. I had no idea.

▰ Occasional reminder that since folks are streaming, instead of performing in person, the San Francisco Bay Area’s excellent experimental-music calendar is of use to anyone with an internet connection and an interest in the music:

▰ “Waiting for the organizer to arrive.” I remember when I’d post (tweet, generally) these bits of conference-call hold-status detail, and people would find them humorous, even alien. Now such circumstances are part of a lot more people’s lives, and make up a lot more of those daily lives.

▰ I was already forgetting the Tuesday noon siren before Tuesdays became less a concrete temporal reality and more of a kind of fungible concept. (Context: The weekly public-warning tests here in San Francisco went on a two-year hiatus late last year.)

▰ Folks ask about a paid version of the This Week in Sound email newsletter. I don’t think, at the moment, I’d do that. Substack’s minimum fee is $5/month, I think, which is more than I’d expect someone to pay. I may add a “tip jar” at some point. The main tips I’d appreciate, though, are examples of sound you come across.

▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰

Subscribe to This Week in Sound at (

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *