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. • 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.

tag: science-fiction

3D Render of Earbud Using Nanotechnology

Picture this

When DALL·E 2 opened the user floodgates on Thursday, I was ready with my generative visual aspirations. The New York Times, back in April, described the browser-based software DALL·E 2 as “building technology that lets you create digital images simply by describing what you want to see.” That might sound like yet another technologist’s empty vaporware promise, but as the intervening months have shown, the software actually works — which is both thrilling and, true to the modern internet, terrifying. (The same day DALL·E 2 became accessible to anyone, Facebook announced its own AI art app, a text-to-video tool called Make-a-Video.) I spent about an hour during breakfast feeding concepts into the DALL·E 2 algorithm and waiting patiently to see what might pop out. Of all the images I received, the one shown here was my favorite. The prompt I entered was “3D render of an earbud that uses nanotechnology to connect with your hippocampus.” I may share some more of my audio-themed DALL·E 2 harvest later. I posted a bunch to over the course of the day, and included some telling fails. I particularly like this result because it looks both fantastic (that is, beyond what I had myself imagined when I asked for it) and yet very much like the burnished fantasies (over)sold by technology companies. One has to wonder how much of the raw cultural material — the now hotly debated source content for DALL·E 2’s automated creativity — this is based on was no more real than is this image itself. The dreams that dreams are made of. I’ve spent the past decade sending brief music composition prompts to a growing community called the Disquiet Junto, who each week make new tracks based on carefully worded instructions. Needless to say, interacting in an adjacent manner with artificial intelligence is quite interesting to me.

Give it a go at

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Resonating with Tolkien

A note on the new Amazon Prime TV series

This following bit of dialog occurs in episode two of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, the new Tolkien TV series on Amazon Prime. I suspect this will not be the last we’ll hear of “resonating” — and that, in fact, the subject may explain the so-called “Chladni figures” that appear in the show’s opening credits. In this back and forth, Elrond is an elf visiting the land of the dwarves, and Disa is a dwarf princess, wife of Elrond’s old friend, Prince Durin. (There’s been a third episode, but I haven’t watched yet.)

Elrond: How did you two first become acquainted?

Disa: I was resonating a freshly opened chamber, fairly confident we were onto a sizable silver deposit …

Elrond: “Resonating?” I’ve not heard of resonating.

Disa: It’s when we sing to the stone. You see, a mountain’s like a person. It’ s a long and ever-changing story made of countless small parts. Earth and ore, air and water. Sing to it properly, each of those parts will reflect your song back to you, telling you its story, showing you what might be hidden, where to mine, where to tunnel, and … and where to leave the mountain untouched.

I’d recognized the Chladni figures — acoustic experiments dating to the late 1700s that occur when, for example, sand resonates with a bowed surface — when I first saw the opening credits. A friend pointed me to this thread on Twitter by game designer and teacher Alexander King, who unpacks the imagery.

YouTube is full of Chladni videos. Here are a few especially good ones:

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This Week in Sound: Leaving Room for the Sound Design

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the July 25, 2022, 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.

Sara Novic, who is deaf, writes about the comfort in silence: “Taking out my hearing aids is a relief, not unlike freeing my feet from a long day in dress shoes, except the thing being squeezed is my brain. I choose to wear hearing aids in a variety of work-related or social situations, but they create a dull throbbing around the circumference of my head. For all the technological power and benefit the aids provide, lately I’ve found their greatest value is in the pleasure of removing them.” ➔

▰ A synesthete chef, Eric Kim, bakes an A.S.M.R. cake for a deceased friend. “The sound of people eating, chewing, enjoying food makes me sleepy, which is unfortunate, considering that I cook for a living. … I always thought I was a freak. I didn’t have a name for what I thought was a medical condition until 2012, when I stumbled upon a black-screen YouTube video of a young man eating a taco bowl. When I came to, an hour later, I had a name for it. Soon after that, I started making A.S.M.R. videos myself.” ➔

“In an ambitious cross-cultural study, researchers found that adults around the world speak and sing to babies in similar ways. … Regardless of whether it helps to know it, researchers recently determined that this sing-songy baby talk — more technically known as ‘parentese’ — seems to be nearly universal to humans around the world. … The results, published recently in the journal Nature Human Behavior, showed that in every one of these cultures, the way parents spoke and sang to their infants differed from the way they communicated with adults — and that those differences were profoundly similar from group to group.” ➔

“Leaving room for the sound design, even when there’s a cue playing, was an important part of the way I approached it.” That’s Michael Abels, who composed the score for Jordan Peele’s Nope (he also did Peele’s Get Out and Us), saying something not enough composers (or perhaps, more to the point, directors) give thought to. ➔

Thúy N Trần, CTO of Astrid, an education technology company, breaks down the way AI is impacting

“A new feature that lets you extract a short audio clip from a Twitter Space is getting a widespread release on iOS and Android.” However, the clips expire after 30 days. ➔

So-called “prairie madness,” an affliction of 19th-century settlers of the Great Plains of America, may have been the result of the region’s “eerie soundscape — the silence and the howling wind.” The work is by paleoanthropologist Alex D. Velez of the State University of New York at Oswego. ➔ (Thanks, Joe Planisky and Glenn Sogge!)

“A federal lawsuit filed against the city of Chicago is calling into question law enforcement’s use of controversial gunshot detection technology for gathering key pieces of evidence. … The suit accuses police of putting ‘blind faith,’ in ShotSpotter’s supposed evidence.” ➔

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God’s Music

Season 4 of Westworld: “Humans are so bound by what they can hear."

The current season of Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan’s Westworld, the fourth, is probably the best since the first. There’s a major sonic component that I can’t really describe without spoiling things, so take that as the warning for people who worry about SPOILERS (in all caps because people who don’t like spoilers can get loud about it).

I’m not concerned with spoilers at all, myself, but so be it. Let the following vertical, manga-style ellipsis protect you from what you do not know:



. Read more »

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Silence Amid the Goon Squad

Listening to fiction

This is from the very end of Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, and it both gives nothing away and is a great entry point to the sort of reading a newcomer to it should look forward to. This sure is a heck of a book, as so many people have told me over the years. Finally read it. An amazing Akutagawa Borges Gibson Nabokov chimera of time travel minus the time travel — about connections, perceptions, and perspective. My favorite novel out of the 17 I’ve finished reading so far in 2022.

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