New Disquietude podcast episode: music by Lesley Flanigan, Dave Seidel, KMRU, Celia Hollander, and John Hooper; interview with Flanigan; commentary; short essay on reading waveforms. • Disquiet.com F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #field-recording, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

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

The Comics of Noise Pollution, Circa 1930

Rereading Emily Thompson

I’ve been rereading Emily Thompson’s The Soundscape of Modernity for the first time since it was published, nearly 20 years ago, back in 2002. Each page is a trove of historical detail, such as the above 1930 Robert Day editorial cartoon. The next year The New Yorker would start publishing Day, and it would do so through 1976.

For all the advancement of our comprehension culturally of sound, it’s not like the early 1900s were the stone age. As Thompson tells us, the New York Times noted in 1926 that volume wasn’t the issue; “the nature of the [specific] sounds were.” That’s a distinction many today, in our over-quantified era, still find to be a revelation. Around that same time, for example, it was shown that “horse-drawn traffic was actually louder than automobiles or trucks,” even though modern vehicles were generally the source of citizen complaints (per Edward Elway Free, using a “Western Electric audiometer”).

At the turn of the century, back in 1905, Julia Barnett Rice “counted almost 3,000 whistles [of tugboats] in just one night,” leading two years later to the Bennett Act. Of course, once noise laws were set, matters of race and class came into play as to what was and wasn’t criminal. Thompson lays this all out in her excellent book.

Here’s another editorial cartoon reproduced in The Soundscape of Modernity. It’s from the same year, 1930:

The New Yorker published the piece by Otto Soglow: waterway gondolas replacing elevated trains, a louder firework to punish someone setting off a firework, a jack-in-the-box replacing a car horn. I immediately got the silent newspaper hawkers in the Soglow. Unclear to me was the garbage truck joke, which friends later helped me understand: gymnasts making quick, quiet work of the pails.

The silent picture joke still confuses me, all the more so because being the final panel, it serves as the punch line of a series of punch lines. This is the joke he chose to end on, and I understand it the least. Silent movies weren’t really silent. We just call them that. They had scores. Projectors were loud. They were often raucously attended. Perhaps the appearance in Soglow’s strip was a matter of instant nostalgia. Perhaps three years after The Jazz Singer, people were already regretting the talkie. Or perhaps the point is the lonely theater employee below the marquee: you could happily attend a silent movie in 1930 because the crowds were elsewhere.

By Marc Weidenbaum

Tags: , / Leave a comment ]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

*
*

Subscribe without commenting

  • about

  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

  • Field Notes

    News, essays, surveillance

  • Interviews

    Conversations with musicians/artists/coders

  • Studio Journal

    Video, audio, patch notes

  • Projects

    Select collaborations and commissions

  • Subscribe



  • Current Activities

  • Upcoming
    • December 13, 2022: This day marks the 26th anniversary of the founding of Disquiet.com.
    • January 6, 2023: This day marked the 11th anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.

  • Recent
    • April 16, 2022: I participated in an online "talk show" by The Big Conversation Space (Niki Korth and Clémence de Montgolfier).
    • March 11, 2022: I hosted a panel discussion between Mark Fell, Rian Treanor and James Bradbury in San Francisco as part of the Algorithmic Art Assembly (aaassembly.org) at Gray Area (grayarea.org).
    • December 28, 2021: This day marked the 10th (!) anniversary of the Instagr/am/bient compilation.
    • January 6, 2021: This day marked the 10th (!) anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
    • December 13, 2021: This day marked the 25th (!) anniversary of the start of the Disquiet Junto music community.
    • There are entries on the Disquiet Junto in the book The Music Production Cookbook: Ready-made Recipes for the Classroom (Oxford University Press), edited by Adam Patrick Bell. Ethan Hein wrote one, and I did, too.
    • A chapter on the Disquiet Junto ("The Disquiet Junto as an Online Community of Practice," by Ethan Hein) appears in the book The Oxford Handbook of Social Media and Music Learning (Oxford University Press), edited by Stephanie Horsley, Janice Waldron, and Kari Veblen. (Details at oup.com.)

  • My book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, was published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury. It has been translated into Japanese (2019) and Spanish (2018).

  • disquiet junto

  • Background
    Since January 2012, the Disquiet Junto has been an ongoing weekly collaborative music-making community that employs creative constraints as a springboard for creativity. Subscribe to the announcement list (each Thursday), listen to tracks by participants from around the world, read the FAQ, and join in.

    Recent Projects

  • 0544 / Feedback Loop / The Assignment: Share music-in-progress for input from others.
    0543 / Technique Check / The Assignment: Share a tip from your method toolbox.
    0542 / 2600 Club / The Assignment: Make some phreaking music.
    0541 / 10BPM Techno / The Assignment: Make some snail-paced beats.
    0540 / 5ive 4our / The Assignment: Take back 5/4 for Jedi time masters Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond.

  • Full Index
    And there is a complete list of past projects, 544 consecutive weeks to date.

  • Archives

    By month and by topic

  • [email protected]

    [email protected]

  • Downstream

    Recommended listening each weekday

  • Recent Posts