This Week in Sound: A Consensus of Jackdaws

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the May 30, 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.

Tubular bells isn’t merely a classic Mike Oldfield song that I enjoy most when DJ Krush works it into his DJ sets. They’re a form of instrument patented in 1884 and in production until the 1920 — so we learn from a detailed study by Bill Hibbert, whose The Sound of Bells blog is now one of my favorite things on the internet. ➔ (Via Chris Lowis’ Web Audio newsletter)

“Culture, once thought to be uniquely human, is found in a wide range of animal species.” Thus begins a fascinating dive into the maintenance of complex songs as they are learned amid humpback whale communities. ➔

Google may be working on Android software “to track time spent snoring and coughing at night.”

Apparently when a flock — excuse me, murder — of jackdaws is heard making squawking in near unison, what is apparently happening is that they’re taking a vote. “By establishing consensus to leave the roost early and in large flocks, birds may reduce predation risk, facilitate access to useful foraging information,” write researchers. ➔

Google speech recognition is getting personal: “’Personalized speech recognition’ feature now looks to help Google Assistant get ‘better at recognizing your frequent words and names.'” ➔

You know all those Indian loudspeakers I’ve been writing about each week as having been confiscated during noise-pollution crackdowns? Wonder what happened to them all? “Schools have become the unlikely beneficiaries of the state government’s campaign in April to take down loudspeakers installed without permission at various public places and sites of worship. The owners of some of these loudspeakers have over the past few weeks donated the devices to educational campuses that operate on tight budgets, cajoled by the police.” ➔

The beautiful thing about the internet is not only does a rooster disturb its neighbor, but news of the crow circulates around the world, becoming, in a way, a larger form of disturbance. Apparently there are lots of laws on the books in Greenwich, Connecticut, about animals —but “noise from an animal is exempt.” At least as of now. ➔

Actor Giancarlo Esposito is the source of the Sonos Voice Control system’s default

“When you put your head underwater on a coral reef, it is just an absolutely dizzying array of shapes and colors and noises and sounds, it is completely overwhelming,” says marine biologist Tim Lamont, in the context of describing the ongoing threats to marine life. “One of the things we discovered when the reefs were degrading, where it was that they were going quieter, that sort of, you know, this biological symphony was being silenced.” ➔ (Thanks, Lotta Fjelkegård!)

Voice phishing — or vishing — is on the rise: “We are seeing an increase in threat actors moving away from standard voice phishing campaigns to initiating multi-stage malicious email attacks. In these campaigns, actors use a callback number within the body of the email as a lure, then rely on social engineering and impersonation to trick the victim into calling and interacting with a fake representative.” ➔

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