New Disquietude podcast episode: music by Lesley Flanigan, Dave Seidel, KMRU, Celia Hollander, and John Hooper; interview with Flanigan; commentary; short essay on reading waveforms. • Disquiet.com F.A.Q.Key Tags: #saw2for33third, #field-recording, #classical, #juntoElsewhere: Twitter, SoundCloud, Instagram

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

field notes

News, essays, reviews, surveillance

This Week in Sound: Clustering the Detected Keystrokes

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the May 9, 2022, issue of the free Disquiet.com weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound (tinyletter.com/disquiet).

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.

That mechanical keyboard isn’t merely loud — the volume makes each key identifiable, such that a website can sort out what you’re typing just by listening. Andrew Liszewski explains how it works: “by clustering the detected keystrokes based on their sound similarity and then using statistical information about the frequency of the letter n-grams in the supposed language of the text.” ➔ gizmodo.com

Voice interfaces have moved from the cellphone to the modern factory: “Companies are starting to take this form of automation onto the factory floor where a hands-free connection to the plant automation system and its equipment can deliver substantial efficiency. This is yet another version of consumer technology making its way onto the factory floor. You could call it the iPhone-ification of plant automation.” ➔ designnews.com

The musical legacy of 1980s Amiga computers: “Back in the 90s, a buoyant ‘demo scene’ coalesced around the Amiga, where home programmers put together animated music videos, fitting them on tiny 880k floppy disks,” writes Tamlin Magee. “Pirated software, meanwhile, would usually feature home-brewed intros, complete with the pirates’ own music, that users had to sit through before they could access their bootlegged copies.” ➔ theguardian.com (via Alexander Scholz at holo.mg)

Fascinating to watch the ongoing noise pollution crackdowns in India, such as this report from the city of Madurai: “Private buses making stopovers at the bus stand were checked for the presence of banned air horns, which were seized citing that they create noise beyond the permitted range between 70 and 80 decibels.” ➔ thehindu.com

More on the noise effort in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh: “The UP government’s drive to rein in decibel levels had the potential to trigger a loud backlash,” writes Pathikrit Chakraborty. “But by proactively consulting with communities, religious leaders and village elders, the state has pulled off the impossible.” ➔ indiatimes.com

“With a period of oscillation of 10 million years, the sound waves were acoustically equivalent to a B-flat 57 octaves below middle C, a tone that the black hole has apparently been holding for the last two billion years.” Dennis Overbye on what it sounds like when a black hole sings. ➔ nytimes.com

A new noise machine by Pentagram partner Yuri Suzuki has a grid of 32 switches: “With options ranging from white noise to ocean waves, the switches let you mix and match tracks, and add effects like reverb.” Suzuki explains: “I was very interested in manipulation without instruction.” The object is a collaboration between Suzuki and E&Y, a Japanese furniture company. ➔ fastcompany.com

How a discarded water tank in Australia has become a music-performance wonder: “for all the solidity, strength and longevity of the concrete, grey river pebbles and steel, Murcutt also sensed a fecund fragility in the water tank, likening it to the shell of an egg, with the sound chapel as its yolk,” writes Rita Glennon of this collaboration between architect Glenn Murcutt and composer Georges Lentz. ➔ brisbanetimes.com.au

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Sound Ledger¹ (Audiobooks, Grooves)

Audio culture by the numbers

8: number of nonfiction audiobooks read by their authors in the current New York Times top 10

0: number of fiction audiobooks read by their authors in the current New York Times top 10

3: length, in minutes, of audio listened to by individuals who participated in a Japanese study of how the brain responds to “groove rhythm” in music

________
¹Footnotes

Audiobooks: nytimes.com. Groove: nature.com.

Originally published in the May 9, 2022, edition of the This Week in Sound email newsletter. Get it in your inbox via tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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Back Catalog

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

Sorry I didn’t listen to much new music the past few days. These (1958 and 1960 respectively) have been on repeat.

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twitter.com/disquiet: Firetrucks, Santoro, Ebooks

From the past week

I do this manually each Saturday, collating most of the tweets I made the past week at twitter.com/disquiet, which I think of as my public notebook. Some tweets pop up sooner in expanded form or otherwise on Disquiet.com. I’ve found it personally informative to revisit the previous week of thinking out loud. This isn’t a full accounting. Often there are, for example, conversations on Twitter that don’t really make as much sense out of the context of Twitter itself. And sometimes I tweak them a bit, given the additional space.

▰ The scenario where you hear firetrucks, and then they get louder and louder, and then you realize they’re right there on your block? Apparently it doesn’t necessarily sound like one might imagine it sounds. As they approached the end of our block last night (for an incident at a nearby apartment building), the firetrucks cut their sirens, and as a result, they sounded sort of like they were trailing off. I thought they’d gone right past, but in fact they were right there. (The sound diminished, but the lights were unambiguously bright.) Not sure yet what happened, but the inhabitants returned to the building within about half an hour.)

▰ Great time to take a walk in the neighborhood is after school’s out on a clear day. The avenues resound with music practice. Fewer tubas than when I lived in New Orleans, but still a great sense of dispersed communal activity — separate but together, practicing alone as a group.

▰ Full force foghorn this morning

▰ “Marc, there have been fewer images in your tinyletter.com/disquiet lately.”

“Yes, Tinyletter’s image situation seems a little broken lately.”

“Marc, why don’t you switch providers?”

“I’ve got time to either make a newsletter or investigate affordable options. Doing both is tougher.”

▰ Gotta love (which is to say, the opposite) that YouTube Music lists the title of The Essential John Fahey as simply The Essential. (Side note: “Singing Bridge of Memphis, Tennessee” is a work of sonic art. As is the rest of the album.)

▰ The gap between when you finish reading the library ebook and when an email alert tells you the finished book has been automatically returned. (There’s the distance in time, but also how long — or short, on rare occasion — the gap feels.)

▰ Next up in guitar class: Kenny Burrell’s “Chitlins Con Carne”

▰ Last week cartoonist Justin Green died and now Gene Santoro. I edited the various jazz sections of Tower Pulse! for the first half of the ’90s. Gene was a major presence every month. He knew more about jazz than the rest of us combined. The mag benefited from him greatly. RIP.

▰ If you’re Mastodon-curious, I hang out at post.lurk.org/@disquiet. And if you find Mastodon confusing (e.g., Why isn’t that a mastodon.social URL?), you’re not alone. Took me 4,500 words to unpack what confused me, and why it’s still interesting (“How I Got from Mastodon’t to Mastodon”).

▰ Graphics GPU or portable DJ gear?

▰ I was wondering how long I’ve been reading really long things on a phone (or phone equivalent). It would have been exactly 25 years ago, when I put Neal Stephenson’s 45,000-word Wired article about the world’s longest cable (great piece, by the way) on my new PalmPilot in 1997. Read Cory Doctorow’s Craphound the next year. Then got into Project Gutenberg. Now I mostly sync Libby/Hoopla, and buy the occasional ebook (good way to support an author is to pre-order). I’ve always read with a pencil in hand, even if that pencil is my phone (or Kindle).

▰ Long week. Offline weekend plans:

  • Start listening by trying to stop listening.

  • Train your algorithm by deleting unwanted stuff from your music/video history.

  • Find a favorite book in audiobook form. Revisit it while taking a walk with no destination in mind save the past.

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Justin Green: First Contact

The start of a long collaboration

My old friend Justin Green died late last month. Obituaries have been appearing that begin to plumb the depths of his work, life, and influence: nytimes.com, chicagotribune.com, tcj.com, cbr.com, dailycartoonist.com. As I mentioned when the news broke of his passing, I was fortunate to live in the same town as him, Sacramento, California, in the early 1990s, which led to me editing a ton of comics that he produced for the pages of Tower Records’ Pulse! magazine. After I began to process the news of his death, I looked through an old file of documents from that period of time, and I found this copy I’d made of a letter I sent to him following our first phone conversation. Eventually he would decide to, rather than create a serial, produce a sequence of richly idiosyncratic and lovingly rendered biographies and anecdotes from musical history, which the publisher Last Gasp later collected in the book Musical Legends. The letter is from mid-November 1991. His first strip of many would appear in the March issue of Pulse! the following year.

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