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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

This Week in Sound: Neuro-Urbanism

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the June 27, 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.

Optical microphones are a thing: “The extracted audio isn’t as clear or high-fidelity as what a traditional microphone can capture, but the optical microphone could provide mixing engineers with an easy to way monitor individual instruments during a live performance, and over time there’s little doubt the quality of the extracted audio will continue to be improved. The system has other interesting applications outside of music. A video camera monitoring all the machines on a factory floor, or pointed at the engine of a running car, could determine when individual parts or components are making an abnormal sound, indicating maintenance may be required before a problem actually becomes a problem.” ➔

“Amazon is devising a way for users to speak to their family members through its Alexa voice assistant, even after they’ve died.”

“A new study found that wild bats were able to remember a specific ringtone four years after learning to associate it with food.”

“Microsoft’s plan to remove AI emotion analysis from Azure and restrict how its customers use facial and voice recognition tools is the latest response by a tech giant to widespread criticism of the technologies’ capacity for discrimination and bias.” ➔

I love this comment by Carl Stone in a recent interview: “Tokyo is the noisiest city in the world. Of course, there are a lot of noisy cities in the world where if you measured the noise level, it would be a lot noisier than Tokyo. I’m not saying that. … It’s a city with the most purposefully introduced sounds whether they be announcements or beeps and signals or sound logos that stores have that they blast out onto the street. And these things are dynamic too, when I first came here, one of the big electrical stores was Sakura Denki. They had a song that everybody knew at the time and blasted it out the windows.” ➔

A U.S. senator has expressed concerns about Amazon’s doorbell privacy: “That not only means that anyone within 25 feet of the doorbell — bikers, delivery drivers, pedestrians — could unknowingly have their conversations recorded by some random person’s house, but that Amazon could be listening in on the homeowners or their neighbors. … If a family was having a conversation with a window open, or close to the door when its motion sensor activated, it could end up recording their conversations.” ➔

First, this is a study exploring the hypothesis “that stress-related brain activation in regions important for emotion regulation were associated positively with green space and associated negatively with air pollution and noise pollution.” Second, the article introduced me to the term “neuro-urbanism” (“a newly emerging discipline that assembles neuroscientists, cognitive psychologists, city planners, urban designers, architects, landscape architects to explore the impact of the design of our cities on stress and psychological wellbeing”). ➔,

“The number of complaints about helicopter noise in New York City has skyrocketed in the past few years, partially due to a rise in wealthy commuters taking helicopter rides to the airport or the Hamptons. After a decade in which the city’s 311 hotline rarely received more than 1,000 complaints a year, 2020 saw 10,000 complaints about helicopter noise. Last year, the number rose to 26,000.” ➔

PetSmart is looking to have lawsuit dismissed regarding voice-tracking

You don’t miss your water until your well runs dry, as William Bell sang (though I heard it first as Brian Eno’s cover), and you don’t appreciate what those admittedly monstrous highway sound barriers do until after they’ve been removed. ➔

If you’ve been following the criminalization of loudspeakers at religious facilities in India, you’ll be interested in the latest twist: reportedly “police authorities have been issuing permanent licenses/permissions which is totally wrong and against the provisions of law.” ➔

I don’t use WhatApp much, so I didn’t realize this wasn’t already a feature: “you can both mute and message specific people in your group calls.” ➔

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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