These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the June 13, 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.
▰ “Deepfake audio doesn’t do emphasis well, as you might have heard in the somewhat monotonal recorded speech of customer service bots. Human voices have evolved over time to nuances of emphasis, dialects, and other quirks that deepfakes can’t yet match.” Jeff Elder on the technology’s Achilles’ heel — at least for now. ➔ sfexaminer.com (Thanks, Mike Rhode!)
▰ IKEA teamed up with Swedish House Mafia to make a turntable and a desk. When you think about it, isn’t Ikea the Swedish House Mafia? ➔ engadget.com
▰ Just a note that the entire second season of the CW’s Kung Fu centers around a mystical ancient bell with unique tuning that was, apparently, the cause of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. And someone’s building a replica! ➔ cwtv.com
▰ Spotify explains its acquisition of of the AI voice company Sonantic: “For example, this voice technology could allow us to give context to users about upcoming recommendations when they aren’t looking at their screens. Using voice in these moments can reduce barriers to creating new audio experiences—and open up the doors to even more new opportunities.” ➔ 9to5mac.com
▰ “By 2060, 24 percent of the U.S. population is expected to be 65 or older” — meaning hearling loss may become “commonplace.” ➔ psychologytoday.com
▰ There’s a story in the Korea Herald about the expansion of use of voice AI by the police in sex crimes, and I’m trying to sort out if it’s a positive development, or a frightening privacy violation. ➔ koreaherald.com
▰ Toward the end of the Cold War, musician Merryl Goldberg smuggled information in and out of the U.S.S.R. in the form of musical notation: “Musical note names span the letters A to G, so they don’t provide a full alphabet of options on their own. To create the code, Goldberg assigned letters of the alphabet to notes in the chromatic scale, a 12-tone scale that includes semi-tones (sharps and flats) to expand the possibilities. In some examples, Goldberg wrote only in one musical range, known as treble clef. In others, she expanded the register to be able to encode more letters and added a bass clef to extend the range of the musical scale. These details and variations also added verisimilitude to her encoded music.” ➔ wired.com (Thanks, Glenn Sogge!)
▰ The always great Computers Are Bad by the tireless J.B. Crawford explores the sounds of old analog office phones: “To be fair, though, whatever anonymous Cisco employee sat down to copy the Merlin ringtones made some meaningful improvements. The staccato cadence of the Cisco ringtones, as opposed to the Merlin’s legato, is very distinctive and probably more recognizable in a loud environment. It also sounds pretty cool, which sure helps with a TV series about a vague counter-terrorism agency with apparently superhuman abilities.” ➔ computer.rip (Thanks, Brian Crabtree!)
▰ How “urban canyons” can “prolong sonic booms in cities”: “Narrower streets introduce more complex boom propagation through multiple reflections on building facades. While they don’t affect boom loudness, they tend to prolong the pressure signals at ground level in urban canyons through increased resonance between buildings” ➔ phys.org (Via Warren Ellis’ newsletter)
▰ “If you could immerse yourself in a quantum fluid, you would hear every event twice, because they support two sound waves with different speeds.” ➔ phys.org (Also via Warren Ellis’ newsletter)
▰ Using microphones to understand New York Harbor’s dolphin resurgence: “Scientists have found that bottlenose dolphins can emit a rapid series of clicks known as feeding buzzes that help them track prey. From 2018 to 2020, the team set up underwater microphones and recorders at six locations off Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and New Jersey to listen for the distinctive sounds.” ➔ nytimes.com