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.” ➔

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:



. Continue reading “God’s Music”

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.


Recalling the indirect influence of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle

I hadn’t really recognized until this morning that Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle led to the Disquiet Junto music community. When the first novel in the series came out at the start of autumn 2003, I took the day off to read. Not long in, I decided I didn’t know enough American history to appreciate it, so I put it down.

I’d read everything by Stephenson at that point, and have to this day (several of the books multiple times), with the single exception of the Baroque Cycle. In 2004 I started a job, and only picked up Quicksilver, that first book, again after the job was over, around 2009 or 2010. Again, I felt I didn’t know enough, and I put it down.

Not knowing enough about American history eventually led me to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Benjamin Franklin, which I read in advance of his 2011 book on Steve Jobs just to have a sense of how much of a hagiography the latter might prove to be.

It was while reading Isaacson’s Franklin biography that I became reacquainted with the Founding Father’s Junto club, dating from 1727, which I’d first learned of in college when his autobiography was part of an English literature course syllabus. And that led to me forming the Disquiet Junto.

Now I’m trying, again, to read the Baroque Cycle. I think I’ll make it through this time.

Originally published in the June 20, 2022, edition of the This Week in Sound email newsletter. Get it in your inbox via Expanse Sound, Ikea turntable

From the past week

I do this manually each Saturday, usually in the morning over coffee: collating most of the tweets I made the past week at, which I think of as my public notebook. Some tweets pop up sooner in expanded form or otherwise on 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. And sometimes I re-order them just a bit.

▰ I love the readymade poetry of the “notable deaths” page on Wikipedia.

  • Russian cosmonaut
  • Egyptian film producer and production manager
  • Moldovan composer
  • Italian hotelier, heart attack

▰ This is some next generation interface that seems to being tested on Twitter. I see it on occasion. Among the weird things about the now five arrows (count ‘em) is the one that seems to mean “I like it” turns red when you click on it, and the red looks more like the Defcon level has gone up.

After a while, even the word ballon starts to look like an arrow.

▰ Based on a recent show at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I can confirm that seeing an outdoor production of The Tempest during pouring rain qualifies as an immersive theater experience. One of my fellow attendees called it “method viewing.”

▰ I love how much The Expanse focuses attention on how the ships sound. The immediate context for this moment, from the ninth book in the series, is just how much death and destruction is occurring around the protagonists.

▰ IKEA teamed up with Swedish House Mafia to make a turntable and a desk. When you think about it, isn’t Ikea the Swedish House Mafia? (

▰ Been down a rabbit hole for a couple weeks. Apparently YouTube has more on it than live videos of John Fahey and Bill Frisell. Who knew? means seriously. Whew. Just breathtaking stuff, Fahey in 1981.