This Week in Sound: Web-Only Edition

A lightly annotated clipping service

I haven’t sent out an issue of the This Week in Sound email newsletter ( in awhile, not since mid-May. The world and life are complex right now, demanding in unfamiliar ways. I had some material stored up last week, but just didn’t have the time. Or more to the point, I had time, but not the time; the time I had, I spent alternately. As many who are spending far more time at home than they might be accustomed to, the logical expanse of time that might result from stationary existence is an illusion; there is, in fact, less time. Certainly less productive time, because recuperation is harder to come by, and more necessary than usual. The world outside is both more quiet and, especially in metaphoric terms, more noisy. Inside, we focus, take breaks, make progress.

In any case, had an issue of This Week in Sound gone out last Monday, this is the core of what would have been in it. I hope to get back to the email version soon.

And 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.

▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰

“[A]nimals that lower their voices to sound bigger are often skilled vocalists,” goes an uncredited story at “Both strategies — sounding bigger and learning sounds — are likely driven by sexual selection, and may play a role in explaining the origins of human speech evolution.”

Mariusz Kozak wrote in the Washington Post about the role songs play in protests: “The first is that the meaning of music is deliberately imprecise — in technical terms, music is referentially ambiguous. The same song can be significant in different ways to different listeners, or even to the same person on different occasions. The second feature is that listeners can still connect with each other emotionally by moving together in synchrony with what they hear and with each other.” (via Diana Deutsch)

Much as Darth Vader has that trademark breathing sound, “a distinctive ambient sound,” in the words of sound designer Ben Burtt, was also planned for Boba Fett. The problem was, the audience never heard it “because he never appeared in a quiet place.” Germain Lussier gets into the details.

“What started as a minor change to a common song has now morphed into a continent-wide phenomenon before our very ears,” writes Carly Cassella of a sparrow’s song, and its viral influence on the broader bird population. “Between 2000 and 2019, this small change has travelled over 3,000 kilometres (1,800 miles) from British Columbia (BC) to central Ontario, virtually wiping out a historic song ending that’s been around since the 1950s at least.” (via subtopes)

“Scientists have developed a gadget that can reduce the intensity of noise pollution passing through an open window,” writes Anthony Cuthberston. “A proof-of-principle study is published in the journal Scientific Reports, detailing a prototype that makes use of 18 microphones and 24 speakers to eliminate half of the sounds passing through a window.”

There’s a fundraiser to save the Dream House of La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela.

Reading John Zorn on the late Ennio Morricone is like reading Zorn on Zorn: “Having roots in both popular music and the avant-garde, Morricone was an innovator, and he overcame each new challenge with a fresh approach, retaining a curiosity and childlike sense of wonder.”

▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰

▰ The local school district is SFUSD (San Francisco Unified School District). When there’s an auto-call with an announcement of some sort (tl;dr: “You probably wanna know if school will open come fall. Well, so do we.”), the alert pronounces it as if it were a name: “Suh-fuh-sed.”

▰ One word disappointingly absent from all those tracks listed in the upcoming expansive box set of my favorite Prince album: “instrumental.”

▰ I’m not practicing guitar. I’m performing a trio with dishwasher and passing traffic.

▰ Aretha Franklin foresaw the nuanced social negotiations involved when planning virtual-conference events during a pandemic. “You think you’re smooth / And you can pick and choose when the time is right.”

▰ I recently watched both seasons of Star Wars: Resistance, and the the best caption was “[distressed beep].” Those rollie droids sure are emotive.

▰ Once I realized that the voice actor of Neeku in Star Wars: Resistance is the same actor as Big Head in Silicon Valley, it all made sense.

▰ Heads up to musicians who regularly send out PR announcements to as many email addresses as they can. Those are, increasingly, showing up in my spam folder. Having your email designated as spam is the internet’s karmic response to what is, big surprise, actually in fact spamming.

▰ Why does Twitter keep recommending that I follow the account of a composer who died toward the end of 2016, an account that hasn’t been updated since about a month prior to the death?

▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰ ▰

Subscribe to This Week in Sound at (

Leave a Reply

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