These sound-studies highlights of the week originally appeared in the June 6, 2023, issue of the Disquiet.com weekly email newsletter, This Week in Sound. This Week in Sound is the best way I’ve found to process material I come across. Your support provides resources and encouragement. Most issues are free. A weekly annotated ambient-music mixtape is for paid subscribers. Thanks.
▰ FLIGHT CLUB: “[A] growing body of research is showing that the affinity human musicians feel toward birdsong has a strong scientific basis. Scientists are understanding more about avian species’ ability to learn, interpret and produce songs much like our own.” One researcher (Hollis Taylor, a violinist and an ornithologist) “has observed what appear to be warm-up sessions, rehearsals and singing contests. Other than humans, there’s only a ‘small club’ of species with an observed capacity to learn songs and vocal patterns.” And mysteries remain: “If birdsong’s main purpose in some species is for males to attract females, then why do some females also sing? ‘Female song actually arose very early in songbird evolution,’ he said. ‘In species where females don’t sing, it’s because they’ve lost the ability to sing rather than it being gained.’ This indicates that it may have once been evolutionarily beneficial for females to sing — and scientists can’t say why.” (Read at nytimes.com with a gift link.)
▰ HELL’S BELLS: “Yes, the harvested audio will be imported onto a computer and deepened, sculpted, flayed, and spliced until it fits the unforgiving grim-dark horrors of Sanctuary, but Blizzard still takes a distinctly classical approach to the aural aesthetics of Diablo IV, one that resembles the practical Hollywood filmmaking of the 1950s and ’60s. The marauding demons are programmed with dangling bike chains, molten candle wax, and crushed fruits and vegetables, all of which is captured tangibly, without resorting to the freeware clips bobbing around the internet.” All about the sounds of the new video game.
▰ AMPED UP: “He describes Sonic Check as ‘rapid-development tool’ that uses machine learning AI ‘trained with real market research’ to give the user a ‘measurement’ of a sound. It looks at how consumers responded to similar sounds in the past and provides a prediction of how a sound will be received by consumers. … Once users upload a sound, the AI analyses its performance in relation to ‘brand fit’, memorability, and ‘authenticity’.” —Abbey Bamford interviews sonic branding agency Amp CEO Michele Arnese about Sonic Hub, “which seeks to simplify the sonic branding process for designers and brands using four different AI technologies.” Sonic Check is one of its tools. The others are Sonic Radar (which provides “insights on a brand’s use of sounds across its digital channels, using music AI tagging technology ‘trained by experts to categorise music’”) and Sonic Space (which “uses generative AI to create new music out of existing music, acting as a ‘sonic repository’”). More at ampsoundbranding.com/sonic-hub.
▰ QUICK NOTES: ▰ This Is What It Sounds Like: The Shriek of the Week is the “stock dove,” which, we’re told, sounds like a normal dove’s “coo” — but “in reverse” (“Imagine the bird is scratching a record like a DJ, swiping it backwards and forwards”). ▰ Drop the Mic: Micah Loewinger of On the Media speaks to Dan Charnas, author of Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, the Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm, about “how music copyright law suppresses the artistic voices of hip hop producers.” (Thanks, Rich Pettus!) ▰ Light Brigade:Behind the scenes with the Imagineers who developed the sound for the TRON Lightcycle / Run ride at Walt Disney World. ▰ Songs About Buildings: Learn all about new Finnish acoustic standards for “acoustic environments in buildings.” ▰ Grand Scale: Composer-developer Giorgio Sancristoforo’s new software is a synthesizer with 1,000 oscillators. ▰ Sized Up: How MassiveMusic Berlin updated the sonic logo of the German bank Sparkasse. ▰ Voice Over: The voices of Shaquille O’Neal, Melissa McCarthy, and Samuel L. Jackson are leaving Amazon Alexa.
▰ APPLE DROP: There was a lot of Apple news this week, and in it quite a bit of audio, such that it gets its own section this week: Coming in Apple tvOS 17 is “Enhance Dialogue” (“which lets users more clearly hear what is being said over effects, action, and music in a move or a TV show” — thanks, Bruce Levenstein!) ▰ The new VR goggles from Apple involve “audio ray tracing”; here’s a primer: wepc.com (“It would make it seem like … sounds are coming from your room in a particular place.) ▰ “There’s a new Adaptive Audio feature for the AirPods that combines Transparency and Active Noise Cancellation to dynamically match the conditions of the environment that you’re in.” ▰ USB-C microphones to be supported by iPads. ▰ Apple Music adds crossfading, among other features. ▰ “Users can now simply say ‘Siri’ instead of ‘Hey Siri,’ and Siri will understand follow-up commands that do not include the trigger word.” ▰ “Personal Voice is designed to allow you to use artificial intelligence to create a replica of your voice.” ▰ Added to iMessage: “automatic transcriptions for voice messages.” ▰ FaceTime will have “Live Voicemail with voice-to-text transcription before answering; transcription is handled on device.” ▰ “AirPlay can learn how and when you listen to certain content, for example by displaying a nearby AirPlay-supporting speaker to select depending which room you’re in.”