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tag: comics

The Comics of Noise Pollution, Circa 1930

Rereading Emily Thompson

I’ve been rereading Emily Thompson’s The Soundscape of Modernity for the first time since it was published, nearly 20 years ago, back in 2002. Each page is a trove of historical detail, such as the above 1930 Robert Day editorial cartoon. The next year The New Yorker would start publishing Day, and it would do so through 1976.

For all the advancement of our comprehension culturally of sound, it’s not like the early 1900s were the stone age. As Thompson tells us, the New York Times noted in 1926 that volume wasn’t the issue; “the nature of the [specific] sounds were.” That’s a distinction many today, in our over-quantified era, still find to be a revelation. Around that same time, for example, it was shown that “horse-drawn traffic was actually louder than automobiles or trucks,” even though modern vehicles were generally the source of citizen complaints (per Edward Elway Free, using a “Western Electric audiometer”).

At the turn of the century, back in 1905, Julia Barnett Rice “counted almost 3,000 whistles [of tugboats] in just one night,” leading two years later to the Bennett Act. Of course, once noise laws were set, matters of race and class came into play as to what was and wasn’t criminal. Thompson lays this all out in her excellent book.

Here’s another editorial cartoon reproduced in The Soundscape of Modernity. It’s from the same year, 1930:

The New Yorker published the piece by Otto Soglow: waterway gondolas replacing elevated trains, a louder firework to punish someone setting off a firework, a jack-in-the-box replacing a car horn. I immediately got the silent newspaper hawkers in the Soglow. Unclear to me was the garbage truck joke, which friends later helped me understand: gymnasts making quick, quiet work of the pails.

The silent picture joke still confuses me, all the more so because being the final panel, it serves as the punch line of a series of punch lines. This is the joke he chose to end on, and I understand it the least. Silent movies weren’t really silent. We just call them that. They had scores. Projectors were loud. They were often raucously attended. Perhaps the appearance in Soglow’s strip was a matter of instant nostalgia. Perhaps three years after The Jazz Singer, people were already regretting the talkie. Or perhaps the point is the lonely theater employee below the marquee: you could happily attend a silent movie in 1930 because the crowds were elsewhere.

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Volca + Brazil = Loki

Pop culture math

Apparently if you live at the aesthetic intersection of Korg Volca music equipment and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (as I do), then the upcoming Loki TV series is for you. And, given the story line, there seems to be a bit of Time Bandits in the mix, for added Gilliam-ish goodness. And, how long until someone sorts out Volca firmware that supports video synthesis or some other visual output to make this image possible?

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twitter.com/disquiet: Avril Fools, Redesign, Alias

From the past week

I do this manually each week, collating tweets I made at twitter.com/disquiet (which I think of as my public notebook) that I want to keep track of. For the most part, this means ones I initiated, not ones in which I directly responded to someone. I sometimes tweak them a bit here. Some tweets pop up (in expanded form) on Disquiet.com sooner than I get around to collating them, so I leave them out of the weekly round-up. It’s usually personally informative to revisit the previous week of thinking out loud. They’re here pretty much in chronological order. Looking back at the tweets makes the previous week seem both longer and shorter than it was. The cadence is a way to map how time progressed. The subjects are another map of the same territory.

▰ Pretty much the only good thing about April Fools’ Day is it means we’re 13 days from “Avril 14th” Day.

▰ 2020: Hell is a message board debate

2021: Hell is a Discord debate about a Slack channel debate about a message board debate

▰ Guitar pedal manufacturers need to send more of their demo pedals to people who don’t actually play guitar. Case in point, Emily Hopkins. (For the record, I am taking guitar lessons, so in no way am I suggesting myself as a recipient.)


▰ It shouldn’t go without saying how different each platform is. A valuable exercise, even a creative pursuit: post one slightly involved item to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and as a blog post and a podcast bit. Different formats, requiring platform-specific approaches. I regularly use Twitter as a public notebook. My disquiet.com posts and podcast essays and longer pieces often first take root here. Not only here. Much of it is the result of a good walk, but here, too.

▰ It’s fine, though disappointing, if there’s no Alias reunion for the show’s 20th anniversary, but could we at least get a remix EP of Michael Giacchino’s main title music? (Or maybe it was JJ Abrams who composed the theme, as a friend reminded me. In any case, yes, a remix collection, please.)

▰ Oh, cool. There is going to be a second season of Gentefied.

▰ “Waiting for cache”

▰ Redesign of Disquiet.com underway with help from some friends. Cleaner read, less cluttered, better organization.

▰ Watching a friend’s new picture book for kids (and adults with excellent taste) take shape, and wondering if people who make colored pencils sometimes look at a book and recognize their tools in the mix the way someone who makes a synthesizer module might hear it in a track.

▰ Finally watched Makoto Shinkai’s Weathering With You last night, and (1) I liked it a lot a lot a lot, and (2) this morning I learned that the two main characters from Your Name have cameos in it, and (3) I haven’t committed Makoto Shinkai’s name to memory so I cut and pasted it.

▰ Progression:

:)
LOL
ALOL
AALOL
AAALOL
AAAALOL
AAAAALOL

A = “actually”

▰ Honk if you’ve been listening to a lot of Karen Dalton since this week’s episode of Mayans M.C.

▰ My main pandemic food observation is cayenne is good on everything, especially vanilla ice cream, especially if you toss in some roasted peanuts. That is my final statement of this week. Have a wonderful weekend, or best you can. Complicated times, so don’t set the bar too high.

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Early-Morning Rumble

Soundmarks, and learning to listen

A soundmark of this neighborhood is a steady, stationary, early-morning rumble of what I take to be a motorcycle somewhere far enough away to be difficult to triangulate, and sometimes initially mistaken for anything from construction work to rattly fridge to passing seaplane. This morning, “early” meant right after 7am.

I love this helpful guide: “Top 6 Strange Motorcycle Noises and What They May Mean.” The author breaks such sounds into six types:

  1. Tick, tick tick
  2. Bump & grind
  3. Creepy krink
  4. Boo hiss
  5. Ring, ding, ping boom
  6. Snap, crackle, pop

And no, I don’t ride a motorcycle, myself. Vehicle noises were simply, in deep retrospect, an early entry point for me into sound as a subject, and into onomatopoeia as a means of exploration (beginning, for me, with my mom striving to communicate with a mechanic).

Here’s a related panel on the topic from a comic (“Mentors”) I did with Hannes Pasqualini a year ago this month. If you click through to the final of its four panels, the intent is to show these were examples from my childhood.

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Gallery: Ron Regé Jr. Mixed Media

Comics + tape loops

Much of what I follow on Instagram is musicians and visual artists. And sometimes the two interests combine, as with this comic strip by Ron Regé Jr. where, seven panels in, the main character is seen unspooling a room-filling tape loop contraption that, true to the medium, brings to mind, among other things, Rube Goldberg.

Reprinted here with permission of the artist. The full sequence is at Regé’s Instagram, instagram.com/ronregejr.

Originally published in the January 26, 2021, edition of the This Week in Sound email newsletter (tinyletter.com/disquiet).

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