These sound-studies highlights of the week originally appeared in the January 3, 2023, issue of the free Disquiet.com weekly email newsletter, This Week in Sound.
▰ RATTLE & ROLL: All about a device that helps us experience “The Unheard Symphony of the Planet” — read on nytimes.com via this gift link (and thanks, Paolo Salvagione!).
“The Raspberry Shake — a small device that combines a cheap computer called a Raspberry Pi with a monitor that measures minuscule ground movements — has, since 2016, helped to make seismology more accessible to the public. Raspberry Shakes are less sophisticated than professional seismographs but a fraction of the cost, and around 1,600 of the devices are scattered around the planet, livestreaming their open access data online to form the largest, real-time seismic network in the world. The network of “Shakers,” as the community likes to call itself, is made up of hobbyists, professionals and educators, whose instruments pick up the seismic waves of earthquakes as well as the daily hum of their nearby surroundings.”▰ THE SPINAL TAP THEOREM: “A team of researchers at the University of Manchester’s Centre for Audiology and Deafness, has found that musicians tend to listen to music at louder volume than non-musicians.” (Thanks, Glenn Sogge!)
▰ JUST DESERTS: Erik Davis brings us up to speed on Kim Haines-Eitzen’s book Sonorous Desert: What Deep Listening Taught Early Christian Monks — and What It Can Teach Us:
“In this relatively brief and beautifully written volume, Haines-Eitzen interleaves a study of what McLuhan would call the “acoustic space” of early desert monasticism — whose promise of silence struggled with winds, canyon echos, beasts, and demonic noise — with the author’s own quest to both understand the yen for silence that seizes many of us today (including myself) and to record the sonic landscapes of the world’s deserts (with QR codes at the end of the chapters linking to her lovely recordings online).”▰ SPEAK NOT: About that smart speaker your cousin gave your for the holidays — via researcher Matt Kunze:
“Once a hacker manages to connect their account to the Google Home speaker, they get access to the smart devices in the victim’s home. The bad actor could operate switches, play music, turn on and off appliances, and more. A hacker can also initiate a phone call via the smart home speaker, making it possible to record everything happening in the victim’s home. While in a phone call, the smart speaker’s lights turn blue, but if the victim is someone who doesn’t use this feature or isn’t well versed with Google Home’s options, they might just assume the speaker is updating or otherwise busy.”▰ BACK UP: Warren Ellis ponders always-on “memory prosthetics,” quoting Matt Webb:
“Sooner or later, every single conversation I have will be recorded and transcribed and I’ll be able to look back at it later – details from a phone call with the bank, in the hardware store asking a question, someone mentions a book at the pub, an idea in a workshop. Ignoring the societal consequences for a sec lol ahem… how should the app to manage all that chatter work?”▰ QUICK NOTES: BOW FLEX: The Musée Mécanique, here in San Francisco, where I live, has a thing called the Mills Bow-Front Violano Virtuoso, “a century-old self-playing device which performs duets on piano and violin.” (Thanks, Rich Pettus!) ▰ WHAT’S SHAKIN’?: All about EarSpy, an experiment in using motion sensors to tap into mobile phone conversations. ▰ WAX ON: A device called the Endpoint Cylinder and Dictabelt Machine has allowed fragile wax cylinders, over 100 years in age, to be digitized. (Thanks, Brian Biggs!) ▰ BOSS LEVEL: What is the greatest ever sound effect from a video game? ▰ DEVOTION COMMOTION: Reportedly there is faith-based sonic warfare happening in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh through loud prayer. ▰ LATEST BUZZ: Perhaps the first instance of a mysterious hum in 2023 has been reported in the town of Hinckley in Leicestershire, England.