This Week in Sound: Ways of Listening Beyond the Human

A lightly annotated clipping service

This Week in Sound

These sound-studies highlights of the week originally appeared in the April 11, 2023, issue of the free weekly email newsletter, This Week in Sound.

▰ BACKING TRACKS: How does music support work activities? Nikki Forrester of Nature spoke with a variety of scientists, including Manuel Gonzalez, an organizational psychologist at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey: “Gonzalez encourages his lab members to avoid music when delving into new territory, so that they can apply all their mental resources to process what they’re doing and learning. As researchers become more proficient in particular methods, complex tasks can start to feel routine, a better scenario for incorporating music.”

▰ AIR HAZARD: A lizard called the Colorado checkered whiptail deals with noise pollution by stress-eating: “After aircrafts passed, the lizards’ levels of cortisol, a hormone linked to stress, had skyrocketed, the team reports in a paper published last week in the journal Frontiers in Amphibian and Reptile Science,” writes Carolyn Hagler of Smithsonian Magazine. “Their behavior also shifted—the lizards moved around less and ate more in a likely attempt to rebuild the energy resources lost during their stress reaction.”

▰ AUTO PLAY: Wired’s Boone Ashworth profiles Jeremy Yang, lead sound designer for the robovan company Zoox: “Robotaxis have to use a whole suite of noises to guide a rider through the journey and keep them from doing anything stupid along the way. Most of it is standard car stuff: sounds to let you know a door is ajar, sounds to tell you to put your seat belt on, sounds to alert you that the route has changed. The challenge is making the bleeps and bloops communicate as clearly as a human would.”

▰ VEG OUT: More on the sounds of agitated plants, via the New York Times’ Darren Incorvaia: “The vexed vegetables didn’t air their grievances randomly but rather made specific complaints that matched up with the type of stresses they were under. A machine-learning program could correctly tell, with 70 percent accuracy, whether the grumbling plant was thirsty or at risk of decapitation.” (Thanks, Mike Rhode!)

▰ OTHER EARS: Ithaca College hosted a presentation by Kate Galloway on video games that engage with animal perspectives, and how doing so “articulates the complexity of human-animal relationships, displaces the boundaries between human and other, and articulates ways of listening beyond the human to actual and virtual sensory ecologies.”

▰ QUICK NOTES: Growth Market: Noisy incubators could stunt the growth of premature infants ( ▰ GPS Whiz: Meet Karen Jacobsen, whose voice is used ubiquitously by Google Maps — and yet which Siri has difficulty recognizing ( ▰ Ear-ly Adopter: Martha Joseph of the Museum of Modern Art surveyed MOMA’s past engagement with sound art ( ▰ On Brand: Wikipedia debuted its new sound logo ( ▰ Road Rage: Traffic noise makes blood pressure rise (

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *