This Week in Sound: Prison Privacy, Antarctic Revival, Foghorn Ephemera

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the May 16, 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.

Eric Guth reports in the New York Times on the “ecological revival” of South Georgia, a sub-Antarctic island: “[O]ne of the best signs, Dr. Jackson said, comes from the sounds she hears underwater. ‘What you’ve got in the underwater environment now is blue whales calling nearly continuously,’ she said, noting that the whales were nearly wiped out entirely.” Dr. Jackson is Jen Jackson, a British Antarctic Survey whale biologist “‘It just makes my heart sing,’ she added. ‘We are watching the ocean rewild itself.’” ➔ (Thanks, Mike Rhode!)

I reviewed Jennifer Lucy Allan’s book on foghorns for The Wire. The book is now out in paperback, and to mark the occasion, Allan has published foghorn-related stories and ephemera she’s learned about or experienced since the hardcover was released. ➔

“Calls placed by people in prisons in New York State are being recorded using flawed, racially-biased, and publicly-unproven voice recognition software without the informed consent of the people placing or receiving the calls,” begins a statement from the ACLU of New York about voice privacy for prisoners and their visitors. “The voice recognition software from controversy-plagued Securus Technologies also tracks the location of the people being called from prison, including friends, family, and minor children. This means innocent people are being surveilled by DOCCS simply because they have received calls from people in prison. Their voices are analyzed, their locations are uncovered, and their voiceprints are cataloged in a database, without any meaningful oversight of where all this information goes and what it’s used for.” ➔

“When the iPod arrived in 2001, it seemed too good to be true, promising ‘a thousand songs in your pocket.’ Before that, if you took music on the go, you wore a Walkman, maybe packing a spare cassette or two. But an iPod blew those limits away.” My friend since college Rob Sheffield on Apple’s announced end to the era of the iPod: ➔

“The low-frequency sonar of warships and submarines directly interferes with dolphins’ echolocation, said Pavel Goldin, a marine biologist specializing in dolphins at the Schmalhausen Institute of Zoology in Ukraine. Unable to navigate, the dolphins cannot identify prey and can therefore starve.” ➔

Sadly, podcast host Darwin Grosse’s energy hasn’t been great since he was diagnosed with kidney cancer a couple years ago, and so he’s signing off his Art + Music + Technology series after 380+ episodes of incredible conversations with composers, musicians, and technologists (often one and the same). He’s keeping the archive up. It’s a rich, deep dive: ➔

Google’s map app, according to the Māori Language Commission, has failed to make good on a 2017 promise to fix Māori

The term “ambient intelligence” can, in a sense, be thought of as voice assistants (Siri, Alexa, etc.) that do less

Video maker Callux stayed in an anechoic chamber for over four hours straight, longer than he did back in 2019. There’s a 14-minute compressed highlight reel of his time in the padded box. The footage looks like something out of The Blair Witch, and no doubt there’s a performance aspect to his difficulties with the situation, but it’s still a telling depiction of an extended anechoic experience. ➔,

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