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tag: doorbell

Grace Notes: Techno Is Music

From the past week

Some tweet observations ( I made over the course of the past week, lightly edited.

▰ Techno is music. Thus declared a German court ( at the end of last month. This brings with it beneficial tax/revenue implications for clubs, putting them in the same category as concert venues. (That it was in doubt is beyond me but that’s another story.) It’s interesting this is framed entirely in terms of DJs. I know I’m a wallflower who optimizes for a healthy sleep cycle, but maybe live techno was already exempted, or maybe it’s just a fraction of what clubs are booking. (Well, “were” booking. Covid and all.)

▰ The Bandcamp of late Nigerian drummer Tony Allen (pivotal figure in the work of Fela, and master of his own music as well) uploaded his Film of Life LP. An instant, and much-needed, mood lift. Allen died at the end of April, what feels like a lifetime ago.

▰ Once in a while an article comes out that I get wind of from friends with almost as much frequency as when Roy Orbison died. This New York Times piece by Sabrina Imbler is such a piece (“Could Listening to the Deep Sea Help Save It?). And it is fascinating.

▰ “A billion tiny sensors would hang motionless in an enclosed space, monitored by an extremely precise network of lasers able to measure movements of less than a fraction of a proton’s diameter”: dark matter detection inspired by wind chimes:

▰ Sound-adjacent, but worth a notch in the mental notebook that 350,000 doorbells were recalled ( due to a fire hazard. (“Customers do not need to return their devices.”)

▰ New DeLillo and Lethem novels released within a month of each other. The world could be in worse shape.

▰ Is there any way to find out which SoundCloud accounts one follows haven’t uploaded new tracks in over a year or two? I’d like to clean out the accounts I follow to make room to add new ones. Thanks.

▰ Fun fact: half the internet’s traffic is Netflix, and a solid quarter is boilerplate confidentiality statements at the end of emails.

▰ “Please wait for the host to start this meeting.”

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Freak Flags

An ongoing series cross-posted from

The frequent employment of makeshift address labels on doorbells generally comes across as just that: a quick, easy, vaguely stable response to a specific need. The specific need is to align a given residence (or business) with a push button. The vaguely stable part is that those labels are sure to be rubbed down, ripped off, or otherwise damaged by the elements over time (humans count as elements, alongside rain, wind, and heat). The two such labels shown here are in different states of disrepair, and their non-alignment briefly brings to mind the manner in which opening credits for films starring dual leading actors use techniques to suggest neither is truly more prominent than the other: one may come first, for example, but the other is positioned higher. But what if these seemingly temporary labels are hiding their actual purpose in plain sight? What if they’re temporary precisely because the people who use them harbor some sort of fever-dream conspiracy groupthink that their street address can, in the future, be changed whenever they darn well please? Why, all that stands in their way is casting off the shackles of government overreach. In which case, what if such cheap labels aren’t just purposeful hedges in advance of that simultaneously imminent yet elusive utopia, but visual dog whistles: post-truth freak flags left for fellow travelers to acknowledge with a slight, knowing nod while out for a stroll?

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A Variety of Elevations

An ongoing series cross-posted from

By definition, a doorbell is a three-dimensional object, four dimensions if you count the sound of that bell ringing as it is experienced over time. To press a doorbell is to push, to exert some amount of pressure — to, in effect, prematurely enter the premises, if only by a millimeter or two. Still, in most cases, a doorbell presents an effectively flat visage, two dimensions, generally white and circular. Even as time passes and the doorbell falls — almost inevitably, at least in urban settings — into disrepair, that flatness is its natural mechanical state. But sometimes the third dimension has a means of making itself felt. Putting aside the readymade punk-rock-flyer quality of the dwellings’ numbers, the buttons on this doorbell are situated at a variety of elevations. This is due to damage over time and subsequent attempts to address the damage, not some sort of experimental next-level user-interface design. Apartments 1 and 2 are truly distended, the color-coded red and yellow tape seemingly providing some sort of support to the mechanisms. (The yellow appears to be consistent with the makeup of the two buttons on the top row, suggesting the red tape is an after-market DIY fix-it attempt.) Even apartment 4 is further out than the baseline depth provided by apartment 3. I usually shoot doorbells straight on, but this one required an angle and some elevation to be faithfully represented.

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Fuzzy Sigil

An ongoing series cross-posted from

While not quite the Fibonacci sequence, these 10 buttons at the entrance to an apartment building do make the visitor wonder what’s next. In fact, you’re left wondering before the sequence is even over. There are 8 buttons, numbered as such, and then what can be deciphered as “basement” (“BAST”? Why not “BSMT”?) and then … then it gets odd. There are twin rows of information to go by: the legible digits scrawled on the gate surface with a magic marker, and the almost-rubbed-off ones on the buttons themselves (apartment 6 seems to have been quite popular, judging by the wear; 4 not so much). Which leaves the fuzzy sigil on the 10th button noticeably uncertain. It looks like a 9, but why does it come after the basement and not before? What logic explains this ordering? And come to think of it, prior to “BAST” having been written above the basement button, what exactly was inked on the button itself? Gotta love a good mystery, especially a makeshift one.

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This Week in Sound: Wonky Skulls

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the July 27, 2020, issue of the free weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound (

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.

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The big sound-studies story this week has been the fake (or “fake”) crowd noise at professional sports events being broadcast during Covid. How long these events will go on is unclear, what with Major League Baseball having postponed two games scheduled for this evening. Igor Bonifacic reports that the NBA will be using Teams, the Microsoft answer to Slack: “The displays will allow players to see and hear the people who are watching them via Teams.” How long that’ll last before people start making noise and doing things at home they wouldn’t do in person is also unclear. Joe Reedy notes: “Stadium sound engineers will have access to around 75 different effects and reactions.” These sounds originated in the video game series MLB The Show. (And since most of what I know about baseball originates either as scandal in the news pages or as fiction, this scenario has sent me back to reread Jonathan Lethem’s short story “Vanilla Dunk.”) “You’re still focused on the game but that noise is very helpful. I could tell the first few scrimmages with pure silence was tough for some guys,” Reedy quotes Eric Sogard of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Before getting to all those stories about how quiet the world is getting, first note that noise complaints in New York City are up nearly 300 percent. Shaye Weaver attributes the uptick to “more people crammed together at the same time,” as well as to protests and the fireworks running up to the Fourth of July. The research cited was an analysis by of data from NYC Open Data.

“We can safely say that in modern seismology, we’ve never seen such a long period of human quiet,” according to seismologist Raphael De Plaen. Tanya Basu writes on how Covid has quieted the planet: “Everyday urban activities like commutes, or stadiums full of fans simultaneously going wild in ‘football quakes,’ are strong enough to register on seismometers.” (Thanks, Rob Walker!)

Michael Le Page reports on “optical cochlear implants that use light to stimulate the nerve cells.” Note that the nerve cells must be genetically modified for this to take effect.

“The two major tools to promote deaf accessibility in video games are (1) subtitles/captions and (2) visual cues.” Morgan Baker provides a detailed primer.

“In most toothed whales, the internal organs in the skull are squashed into the left side to make way for soft tissues which help them to echolocate”: Katie Pavid explores the science of why whales look that way. Apparently such skulls are called “wonky.” The article uses variations on the word “wonky” eight times. (Via Cheryl Tipp)

“A team from the Systems Engineering Department at the University of Lagos in Akoka, Lagos, Nigeria, have discovered that people can identify other people by the matchless nature of their laughter because, unlike voice and manner of speech, laughter almost cannot be mimicked,” writes Anton Shilov. In other words, your next password may be your laugh, no kidding.

“Half a century later and visual and voice deepfake technology can give a glimpse at an alternate reality where the landing failed”: The landing is the U.S. arrival on the moon. The deepfake is of Richard Nixon announcing the death of the astronauts. There are 98 days until the next U.S. presidential election, and the concept of audio deepfakes isn’t quite keeping me up at night, but it sure is heavy on my mind. Read Eric Hal Schwartz on the topic. And if your middle name is Hal, it’s sort of inevitable you end up on the artificial intelligence beat, right? (This isn’t the first time I’ve quoted Schwartz in the newsletter, but I think it’s the first time I’ve made that joke.)

“Hackers use machine learning to clone someone’s voice and then combine that voice clone with social engineering techniques to convince people to move money where it shouldn’t be,” writes James Vincent of the “audio deepfake scam.”

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▰ The trailer for the upcoming TV series Biohackers features an amazing urban doorbell and a homebrew “biopiano” using plants. I’m in. (And a silent rave, too, which Beth Elderkin of io9 pointed out.) The Netflix algorithms have my number.

▰ The narration of this audiobook I’ve been listening to while going for walks is so stilted, I bet if I found a printed copy I could confirm pauses align with pages being turned. Also, though it’s from the library’s online service, it includes spoken instruction to change CDs.

▰ I don’t miss concerts half as much as I miss running into people at concerts.

▰ The unique internet pleasure of observing a musician you admire purchase a used piece of music equipment in which you are interested, and then awaiting a release that features the result.

▰ My next sequencer is MIDI data of people nodding in agreement on Zoom conferences posted to YouTube where folks are in sync, so to speak, with what the speaker is saying.

▰ Ableton Quantum Entanglement Link

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