These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the May 9, 2022, issue of the free Disquiet.com weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound (tinyletter.com/disquiet).
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.
▰ That mechanical keyboard isn’t merely loud — the volume makes each key identifiable, such that a website can sort out what you’re typing just by listening. Andrew Liszewski explains how it works: “by clustering the detected keystrokes based on their sound similarity and then using statistical information about the frequency of the letter n-grams in the supposed language of the text.” ➔ gizmodo.com
▰ Voice interfaces have moved from the cellphone to the modern factory: “Companies are starting to take this form of automation onto the factory floor where a hands-free connection to the plant automation system and its equipment can deliver substantial efficiency. This is yet another version of consumer technology making its way onto the factory floor. You could call it the iPhone-ification of plant automation.” ➔ designnews.com
▰ The musical legacy of 1980s Amiga computers: “Back in the 90s, a buoyant ‘demo scene’ coalesced around the Amiga, where home programmers put together animated music videos, fitting them on tiny 880k floppy disks,” writes Tamlin Magee. “Pirated software, meanwhile, would usually feature home-brewed intros, complete with the pirates’ own music, that users had to sit through before they could access their bootlegged copies.” ➔ theguardian.com (via Alexander Scholz at holo.mg)
▰ Fascinating to watch the ongoing noise pollution crackdowns in India, such as this report from the city of Madurai: “Private buses making stopovers at the bus stand were checked for the presence of banned air horns, which were seized citing that they create noise beyond the permitted range between 70 and 80 decibels.” ➔ thehindu.com
▰ More on the noise effort in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh: “The UP government’s drive to rein in decibel levels had the potential to trigger a loud backlash,” writes Pathikrit Chakraborty. “But by proactively consulting with communities, religious leaders and village elders, the state has pulled off the impossible.” ➔ indiatimes.com
▰ “With a period of oscillation of 10 million years, the sound waves were acoustically equivalent to a B-flat 57 octaves below middle C, a tone that the black hole has apparently been holding for the last two billion years.” Dennis Overbye on what it sounds like when a black hole sings. ➔ nytimes.com
▰ A new noise machine by Pentagram partner Yuri Suzuki has a grid of 32 switches: “With options ranging from white noise to ocean waves, the switches let you mix and match tracks, and add effects like reverb.” Suzuki explains: “I was very interested in manipulation without instruction.” The object is a collaboration between Suzuki and E&Y, a Japanese furniture company. ➔ fastcompany.com
▰ How a discarded water tank in Australia has become a music-performance wonder: “for all the solidity, strength and longevity of the concrete, grey river pebbles and steel, Murcutt also sensed a fecund fragility in the water tank, likening it to the shell of an egg, with the sound chapel as its yolk,” writes Rita Glennon of this collaboration between architect Glenn Murcutt and composer Georges Lentz. ➔ brisbanetimes.com.au