This Week in Sound: Cheep Deception

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the July 11, 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.

“In 1960, a group of dentists published a curious study: when they played music for their patients during operations, the people experienced less pain. Some didn’t even need nitrous oxide or local anesthesia to get through unpleasant procedures. … Now a new paper untangles why this works — at least in mice.” ➔

A profile of a German company, Naturawall, that builds foliage-covered noise-reduction structures: “Naturawall specializes in installing flowers and plants into noise-protecting walls made of galvanized steel. When the wall is filled with soil, it gains enough mass to block up to 67 bB, which is just about the sound level traffic sits at.” ➔

All hail Savannah Salazar, who didn’t just add to the pile of (enjoyable) jokes about all the Stranger Things captions that describe what we’re hearing (“[Tentacles undulating moistly], [wet footsteps squelch], [tense music intensifies]”) but tracked down the crew responsible for writing the stuff. These include Jeff T. (who kept his family name private), QA editor Karli Witkowska, and Netflix’s director of globalization, Kathy Rokni. Says Jeff: “I read a lot of authors like China Miéville, Jeff VanderMeer, and others who are engaged in the new weird movement of the 2000s. I love authors who use evocative words and language to do their world-building, so I will freely admit that whenever I’m reading and see a word that’s great, I steal it to put in my word bank. I do have a word bank that I consult for most of my shows, but I don’t have to break it out a ton because not every show has the intentionality of sound like Stranger Things has.” Karli: “Working with Jeff on this, I had to think about whether every sound and every descriptor provides the necessary required emotions or feelings that the deaf community would require.” ➔

In related news, check out Dinda Nur Puspitasari’s essay from CrossOver: Journal of Adaptation Studies, about the translation of Webtoon sound effects. The study breaks down the various categories (impact, friction, air current, etc.) and strategies (repetition, transmutation, substitution, etc.), and gauges their rate of employment and effectiveness. ➔ (Thanks, Mike Rhode!)

“[N]oise from one mine alone could travel 500km (more than 300 miles) in gentle weather conditions,” according to a report on deep-sea mining by researchers from the US, Japan, and Australia, published in Science. “They found that noise levels in a radius of 4-6km from each mine could exceed thresholds set by the US National Marine Fisheries Service, above which there are risks of behavioural impacts on marine mammals.” ➔

“Is Alexa Guard just Amazon’s ploy to sell us on ever-present microphones in our living room, or is there more to it?” The Android news site breaks down the add-on subscription service: “Alexa Guard keeps your property safe by listening to the surroundings and providing you with updates when you’re away. Alexa Guard Plus takes this to the next level by adding more functions in exchange for your hard-earned dollars. … Alexa Guard listens for things like alarms and the sound of glass breaking. Alexa Guard Plus expands on this and listens for any activity sounds, such as footsteps, talking, doors closing, and other signs of movement. If your Ring or Echo devices hear any of the sounds you choose, Alexa Guard Plus will notify you—via Smart Alerts to your phone—that there is a potential intruder in your house.” ➔

Benny Hill may upstage Kate Bush and Metallica: “At the behest of Hugh Grant, the zanny tunes of ‘The Benny Hill Show’ theme are now providing the soundtrack to Britain’s three-ring-circus political crisis. … [T]he protesters inadvertently provided the background music for Tories’ interviews with the press. ‘Firstly, we need to make sure we get the basic functions of government going,’ one Conservative party member began in his interview with Sky News while being clearly drowned out by the hilarious buffoonery of ‘Yakety Sax.'” ➔

Beryl Mortimer, aka Beryl the Boot, was a Foley artist in the Great Britain. This is a half-hour BBC special about Mortimer and Foley. I wondered why there is no Wikipedia page for someone who did Foley for Lawrence of Arabia, Caligula, and Caravaggio, among other films. Noted by the BBC: “precisely how many films Beryl worked on is not known, as Foley artists were not routinely credited until the last decade of her career.” ➔ (Thanks, Daniel Weir!)

Remember the lawsuit by employees against PetSmart for the use of “voiceprint” monitoring? PetSmart won a motion against it — at least “until another biometric suit is resolved in the state supreme court.” ➔

Damon Krukowski hear robins singing after hours and discovered this isn’t an isolated occurrence: “I googled and it seems this is a widespread phenomenon in cities and towns. One set of researchers in Sheffield determined that the cause is noise pollution during the day, which prevents robins from carrying on crucial communication until nightfall. Another researcher based in Glasgow argues that the cause is light pollution at night, exacerbated by blue light from LEDs that robins can perceive as daylight.” In the process, he excerpts one of my favorite things ever, a specific instance from the recorded conversations between John Cage and Morton Feldman — who I always think of as the Frog and Toad, respectively, of 20th century American music. ➔

Comics artist Richard McGuire, best known for the book Here, has a new one due out from Pantheon: “a visual exploration of how sound reaches us across time and space, capturing all the sound that happens in the universe within the span of a single minute.” The friend who told me about it noted that it may be related to a recent publication by McGuire with the same title, Listen: “Listen is a sound book, a graphic score transcribing everyday sounds on 32 pages: a dog barking, the radio, a car door slamming… a few sounds among those that punctuate our daily life.” ➔, (Thanks, Rodrigo Baeza!)

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