My 33 1/3 book, on Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works Volume II, was the 5th bestselling book in the series in 2014. It's available at Amazon (including Kindle) and via your local bookstore. • F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #sound-art, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

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

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Sound Class: Extra Credit

Create a sound walk

I just gave an extra-credit assignment to the students in my sound class.

Maybe you wanna do it, too:

For my students the assignment is due by 10am on Wednesday, May 24, 2017, the last day of class.

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This Week in Sound: Plasma Waves + Cymatic Art +

+ listening posts + womb tunes +

A lightly annotated clipping service.

Ring Cycle: The second season of The Expanse, the Syfy channel’s excellent (stellar?) adaptation of the James S. A. Corey novels, may have come to a close last month, but NASA is here to fill the void. Not only has the Cassini spacecraft situated itself between Saturn and its rings, it has captured audio data of the particulates therein. As Rae Paoletta reports at gizmodo.com, the Radio and Plasma Wave Science (RPWS) instrument on Cassini (see recording above) picked up “the hits of hundreds of ring particles per second,” something of an apparent surprise to scientists back home on Earth.

Synaesthesia Loop: Over at nautil.us, Heather Sparks summarizes the cymatic art of Jeff Louviere and Vanessa Brown. They took pictures of what different notes look like (see above) when stimulating “ink-black water,” and then turned those images back into sound, using the software Photosounder.

Audiophile Update: The whole notion of what “home audio” means is experiencing a continuing shift of late, as listening becomes — for better and worse — as much a subject for gadgets as producing sound: Google Home, it’s listening-enabled tech hub, now supports multiple users, by recognizing their independent voices; Amazon, in a race with Google Home, has made its AI available to chatbot developers; and in case neither of those instances raise privacy concerns for you, a lawsuit alleges that Bose wireless headphones spy on their users.

Womb Tune: An artificial womb, currently being tested on lamb fetuses, is being considered for gestating humans. As Jessica Hamzelou writes at newscientist.com, the parent-oriented item would allow “parents to communicate sounds to the baby and to see it with a camera.””

Sound Material: The miracle substance graphene, the world’s reported strongest material, has numerous gee-whiz applications, ranging from desalinating sea water to cleaning up radioactive waste. It also has sonic potential, according to a paper (at nature.com) by M. S. Heath & D. W. Horsell. Check it out for details on thermoacoustics.

Noise Central: Three of the noisiest cities on the planet are in one country, India, according to a report in indiatimes.com. This coincided with the attempts to institute an annual “No-Horn Day” (thehindu.com).

This first appeared, in slightly different form, in the May 2, 2017, edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound”email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt


This photograph was shot in New York after I landed at JFK a few weeks ago for a short visit from San Francisco. We touched down late, later even than planned, and so my memory is a little foggy. I’ve pieced together the first stages of the itinerary from the timeline that is automated Google photos backup (a fairly dependable course of action in such circumstances). The timeline exception is when photos are added from other services, like those edited in Instagram or another app, or transferred over from SMS or email — and those would only appear reverse-anachronistically later in the timeline, anyhow, not earlier. In any case, I’m fairly certain that this was shot not on the intra-JFK train that shuttles you from your arrival terminal to where you gather your bags and head out into the world (maybe such a thing doesn’t even exist — like I said, I was pooped), but on one of the city’s subway trains. This shot is a closeup of a well-worn sticker fixed next to an older, larger, metal speaker/button combo labeled only in all-caps English: “Emergency Intercom,” with the additional instructions “To Talk / Press and Release Button / Wait for Steady Light.” (That last bit suggests itself for poetic treatment.) This instructional infographic — instructographic? — does a good job of connecting speaking to pushing, thanks to the red color coding, though I must note that in real life the red button is a far darker shade. The little bright green light does its assigned job of reaffirming the text, which is to say it’s just as confusing, especially in, you know, an emergency. What seems to be missing from the image is any sense of, well, emergency. The demeanor of the cartoon human seems to be that of someone serenading a favorite device (Her: The Musical, now on Broadway), not alerting authorities to the existence of a suspicious package. Also worth mentioning: the red, waveformy, RSS-logo-ish speaking pattern seems to treat the microphone (below) and speaker (above) as equals.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
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What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt


This is the doorbell of a friend’s home, where I managed to crash on the couch a week or so ago while traveling. My friend wasn’t present the entire time, so I didn’t have to ring the bell when I arrived. I just used the key that had been left for me. This is an apartment I’ve visited many times, and rarely ever have I had to actually ring that bell. Usually by the time I’ve made my way up via elevator, the door has been left open a crack, my arrival having been preceded by an announcement from the doorman. On occasion I have rung it, but each time it felt like I was expressing an impatience I didn’t actually feel. I did once ring it purposefully, many years ago. Someone else, by all evidence a resident, was lingering in the hallway, and I got the sense that I was being viewed with suspicion. Pushing the doorbell provided a signal of belonging, sufficient enough that I sensed my onlooker begin to relax. I spent three nights here last week, and by the end felt a bit like a resident myself. No one visited me during my stay, so I never heard the doorbell ring. When I finally left, I had been instructed to put the key under the door. I did so and then, after a moment’s consideration, pushed the doorbell and listened as it resonated in the rooms that I was fully aware were entirely empty.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
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What Sound Looks Like

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt


Belated image for Record Store Day. This is a detail of a 1948 photo by Todd Webb (1905-2000) of 6th Avenue in Manhattan. The full image, a semi-panorama of sorts showing the complete block between 43rd and 44th Streets, including a second record store, is on display currently at the Curator Gallery on West 23rd as part of the exhibit Down Any Street: Todd Webb’s Photographs of New York, 1945-1960, curated by Bill Shapiro. Note the window advertisement above for Brown’s Talking Picture Operating School. That sharp line to the right of the store, between it and the bar newly listing “television” among its attractions, is a cut where two images were placed next to each other to allow Webb to achieve the effect of showing the entire stretch of 6th Avenue as if viewed from across the street.

An ongoing series cross-posted from instagram.com/dsqt.
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