This Week in Sound: Meow, Dyslexia, White Noise

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the January 17, 2022, 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.

“A dyslexic judge has won a discrimination claim against the government after battling for access to voice-recognition software so she could do her job.”

A cat owner recognized the meow of her pet, Barnaby, which had gone missing eight months earlier, while on the phone with a veterinarian to talk about another of her cats.

When Los Angeles Times columnist Nicholas Goldberg was left on hold with Lufthansa for 45 minutes, he had plenty of time to research the history of hold music, while he was forced to endure the airline’s own version of it: “Lufthansa’s hold theme — a proprietary piece of ‘audio branding’ the company also uses during boarding — is unbearably repetitive. It’s not melodic or euphonic or catchy or soothing. It’s just wildly monotonous.”

People apparently can become quite emotional about white noise. Google changed the white noise sound in Google Assistant, and users aren’t happy. Sample comments:

“Talking about feeling crazy. I thought I had clogged ears or something.”

“It’s a different pitch. Almost muffled.”

“It’s very muffled like airplane engine noise. I hope they revert or at least offer a choice.”

“I’ve literally used white noise to sleep for about 10 or more years and for the past few years been quite content with home mini then upgrade to nest and here I am suddenly quite unhappy about that weird change!”

“I thought I was going insane! We had to move every white noise maker we own into our bedroom last night and it still wasn’t enough.”

One helpful Reddit user commented: “As another mentioned on the post, playing ‘river sounds’ is a close alternative to the original ‘white noise.'”,,

“About 63,000 residents of Pyeongtaek will receive monthly compensation for noise pollution coming from a military airport in the city.”

Can you guess “the mystery sound of science”? That’s how presenters Belinda Smith and Joel Werner open an episode of The Science Show on ABC Radio National (the A in this ABC is for Australia).

ABC Radio National also has the program Off Track, with Ann Jones, which “combines the relaxing sounds of nature with awesome stories of wildlife and environmental science, all recorded in the outdoors.” Recent episodes: “Antarctic blue whales and their amazing hums,” “Growls, grunts and currawong songs,” and “Just under the surface of the ocean, a cacophony of sound awaits.”,

Nature ran a “podcast extra” interview with Simon Butler, “who is combining citizen science data with technology to recreate soundscapes lost to the past.”

A KQED reporter, Chloe Veltmen, had her voice cloned by the company Speech Morphing to learn more about how the technology works. “”We extract 10 to 15 minutes of net recordings for a basic build,” explained Speech Morphing founder and CEO Fathy Yassa. Veltman nicknamed her AI voice Chloney. “Let’s hope she doesn’t put me out of a job anytime soon,” says Chloe (or perhaps Chloney).

Kimi is an upcoming movie by directed by Steven Soderbergh about an agoraphobic tech worker investigating a crime related to an audio recording. Zoë Kravitz stars. Cliff Martinez did the score. The film was written by David Koepp.

Mo Willems, children’s book author, is the first artist-in-residence at the Kennedy Center, for which he produced nine “large-scale abstractions,” one for each of Beethoven’s symphonies. The images are roughly 60″ tall and 40″ wide. They’re quite beautiful and graphically striking.
(Via Austin Kleon’s newletter)

A review roundup of recent audiobooks, by critic Sebastian Modak, includes The Lost Sounds by Chris Watson, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. “Is this technically an audiobook?” asks Modak? “I don’t care. There are lessons and narrative here, even if they aren’t spelled out in words. As I listened, in an armchair, staring out a window, it didn’t lull me to sleep the way a ‘Sounds of Nature’ playlist might; rather, it awakened my senses.”

The Tonga volcano eruption on Saturday was so loud that it was heard 1,400 miles away in New Zealand.

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