This Week in Sound: Windows on the World

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the July 20, 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.

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“Sonic aesthetic moralism has been taken up by NIMBYs opposing affordable development, suburbanites in defense of their decision to live far from the city core, urban planners rallying around pedestrian-friendly street design, public-health officials citing the physiological effects of noise, and environmentalists advocating for sustainable building practices”: Kate Wagner takes admirable issue with the perceived concepts of “good” and “bad” noise. (Thanks, George Kelly!)

“The absence of noises, replaced in parks by the sounds of leaves crunching under shoes or birds creating their own symphonies, is what draws so many of us to them,” says a director of the National Parks Conservation Association, in an article by Jenny Morber, referring to natural silences “values” that are “under threat.”

“Sound studies experts say that while LRADs and flash-bangs are worrisome tactical escalations that can permanently injure people by rupturing eardrums, they are rooted in the long, uncontested tradition of the state utilizing sound as a means of social, cultural and political control”: Luke Ottenhof on the use of sonic weapons by law enforcement.

“The game in Anaheim might well have had the loudest pregame boos in modern baseball history”: Sam Miller on what sports fan will miss beyond sports itself. (Via Dave Pell’s Next Draft)

“When chickadees see a pygmy owl, they increase the number of “dee” notes and call “chick-a-dee-dee-dee-dee.” Here, the number of sounds serves as an active anti-predation strategy.” Nice details in this piece by Andreas Nieder on the power of numbers among animals. (Thanks, Fari Bradley!)

“State Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Beatty late Friday afternoon ordered state judges and magistrates to stop issuing ‘no-knock’ search warrants to police.” You must knock, or ring, before entering.

Geoff Manaugh picked up that story about noise-cancelling windows, and ran with it, exhibiting characteristic extrapolative aplomb: “combine luxury frequency-reduction techniques with seismic wave-mitigation and perhaps you’ve just designed the future of architecture in global earthquake zones.” (Thanks, Thorsten Sideb0ard!)

“A recent Stanford University study found the speech-to-text services used by Amazon, IBM, Google, Microsoft and Apple for batch transcriptions misidentified the words of Black speakers at nearly double the rate of white speakers”: Jeff Link on racial bias in voice recognition. (I don’t know much about this website, which has a modest Facebook and Twitter following, but the piece is well-researched.)

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