This Week in Sound: Graphene Drums, VR Audio

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the April 18, 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.

About NextSense: “with legions of folks wearing the buds for hours, days, and weeks on end, the company’s scientists hope they’ll amass an incredible data trove, in which they’ll uncover the hidden patterns of mental health.” The company spun out of Google’s experimental division. Steven Levy tracks its growth and projects its roadmap: “If artificial intelligence can decode tons of brain data, the next step would be to then change those patterns—perhaps by doing something as simple as playing a well-timed sound.” ➔

If it seems like every other week I have a story about sonic threats to ocean life, it’s because I’m being selective. It could be every week. This is a major and growing area of study. Writes Matt Simon: It’s a critical, and critically understudied, aspect of how rising temperatures—and increasing noisy activity like shipping—might be affecting marine ecology. ‘The soundscape of nature really only came to the forefront of people’s thinking in the last 10 or 15 years,’ says Ben Halpern, a marine ecologist at UC Santa Barbara, who studies pressures on ocean ecosystems.” ➔ (Thanks, eddi!)

AI can remove city noise from seismic data, thus improving earthquake research: “Earthquake monitoring in urban settings is important because it helps us understand the fault systems that underlie vulnerable cities,” Gregory Baroza of Stanford University tells The New Scientist’s Chris Stokel-Walker. ➔

The war on the Ukraine by Russia has impacted a lot of areas, including the availability of tubes for guitar amplifiers, reports Ayesha Rascoe, who interviewed Randall Ball of Ball Amplification. ➔ (Thanks, Rich Pettus!)

Isabelia Herrera wrote a moving story for the New York Times about how her experience of her mother’s stroke influenced her appreciated of ambient music — from “late capitalist Muzak, smooth-brain anesthesia to pacify the mind” to something much richer: “Listening to it demanded that I relinquish control. It asked me to dispense with progressive time. It forced me to slow down and confront collapse.” ➔

On the role voice recognition plays in virtual reality for the training of college football teams: A coach “can grade what the linemen are doing and decipher what they are learning and where they still need to improve. With the data, he can design individual lesson plans for players to go over and over it again to enhance teaching.” ➔

Changes are coming to hearing aids, as earbuds catch up with traditional models, the latter of which can cost upwards of $14,000. ➔

CheekyKeys is an ingenious tool that lets you silently type by using your mouth to spell out,

Not only is that theme music for the Slow Horses TV show an original song by Mick Jagger, the song’s co-writer (Slow Horses composer Daniel Pemberton) re-uses Jagger’s harmonica in some of the show’s score. ➔

Speechly is “a tool for adding voice interfaces to the Unity virtual reality and augmented reality platform.” This is nifty: “It’s able to start carrying out commands before the user finishes speaking, adjusting as more words clarify the request.” ➔

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