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tag: sonification

Sound Ledger¹ (Cars & Satellites)

Audio culture by the numbers

1: Percent of people who said they would “call the police upon hearing a car alarm”

95: Estimated percent of alarms set off by “vibrations of passing trucks or glitches in the car’s electrical system”

31: Number of days of satellite imagery in a NASA sonificaton project that resulted in a “a waltz-inspired melody.”

________
¹Footnotes

Alarms: clivethompson.medium.com. NASA: nasa.gov.

Originally published in the June 20, 2022, edition of the This Week in Sound email newsletter. Get it in your inbox via tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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Exploring Sonification.Design

A column I wrote for The Wire

The current issue of The Wire features a column I wrote, under the Unofficial Channels heading, about the website sonification.design. If you’re a subscriber now, you can read it in the magazine (the issue with Reynols on the cover). When the next issue of The Wire comes out, I’ll post the full text to Disquiet.com.

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Stellar Catalogue Sonification

From the ancient Greek astronomer Hipparchus to the ESA's Hipparcos satellite

Musician and computer science PhD candidate Jamie Ferguson teamed with the European Space Agency to develop a unique sonification of early and contemporary maps of our sky. As described at the ESA’s website, “The improvement in the quantity and precision of data, as well as the increased information content and dimensions contained in each catalogue, are palpable as the sound clip evolves from the ancient Hipparchus to the modern Hipparcos.” Hipparchus is the ancient Greek astronomer, while Hipparcos is the name of the ESA satellite. The post goes into great detail about how each of the “stellar catalogues” was translated into sound, noting what parameters were paid attention to, and how they were transposed — pitch to star brightness, for example, and volume to distance.

Audio originally posted at soundcloud.com/esa. More from Ferguson at jfergusoncompsci.co.uk.

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Realtime Sonification

A KQED interview with Mahmoud Hashemi about Listen to Wikipedia

20151127-listentowik

Someone adds an entry about a cooking magazine from the 1950s? Boom …

Someone corrects the release date in the discography of James Taylor? Bleep …

Someone undoes a spelling correction in an entry about an undersecretary from a mid-century U.S. presidential administration? Bong …

Audible tones and expanding, colored circles are used in tandem to announce changes to the vast collaborative encyclopedia thanks to the great online tool Listen to Wikipedia (listen.hatnote.com), one of the best examples of realtime sonification on the web. Developed by Stephen LaPorte and Mahmoud Hashemi, it’s the subject of a short recent interview from radio station KQED. The conversation with Hashemi goes into the background of the tool. He talks about the software’s actions, and how it serves both as an expression of Wikipedia and as a response to the economic focus of Silicon Valley.

There’s something very pleasing and centering about the placid surveillance of Listen to Wikipedia, all that communal and often rancorous activity transformed into dulcet tones. Sometimes I just let it run on a side screen as I work. Sometimes I also run this pure geographic visualizer, at rcmap.hatnote.com:

20151127-rcmap

Up at the top of this post is a sample still frame of Listen to Wikipedia in action. Here is an example of the sort of realtime information that Listen to Wikipedia parses:

20151127-wikiapi

This documentation summarizes how the sounds and related images of Listen to Wikipedia correlate with actual edits:

Bells indicate additions and string plucks indicate subtractions. Pitch changes according to the size of the edit; the larger the edit, the deeper the note. Green circles show edits from unregistered contributors, and purple circles mark edits performed by automated bots.

Here’s a short video of Listen to Wikipedia in action:

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/kqed. The KQED story was produced by Sam Harnett, of the podcast The World According to Sound (theworldaccordingtosound.org). Check out Listen to Wikipedia at listen.hatnote.com. It’s also available as a free iOS app (itunes.apple.com).

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This Week in Sound: Superheroes, Maps, Freesound(s), …

A lightly annotated clipping service

”¢ Heroic Jingle: Kudos to readers of ign.com for noticing the small text on the poster for the Avengers: Age of Ultron movie and discerning from it that Spider-Man may very well be in the film. Why? Because there’s a credit for composer Danny Elfman, who wrote the theme for the modern Spider-Man films:
http://www.ign.com/articles/2015/02/24/behold-the-new-poster-for-marvels-avengers-age-of-ultron

”¢ Sound Trip: My friends Nick Sowers and Bryan Finoki are now using sound to investigate the urban environment with a series at Design Observer. The first takes them to San Francisco’s Mission District:
http://designobserver.com/feature/infringe-01-the-new-mission-soundtrack/38775

Ӣ Tracking Sound: This is a bit old, dating from late December, but I just came across the news that Freesound.org, a massive shared database of field recordings and other sounds, now allows users to track specific tags and users. Useful if you have a fetish for creaking doors, foghorns, or particular species of bird:
http://blog.freesound.org/?p=532

”¢ Mapping Sound: The National Park Service has mapped the quietest places in the United States of America. The word “sonification” is a useful one in discussing the way sound can be employed to explain data, but in this case it is, in turn, a simple visualization that best depicts how the west is far more quiet than the east:
http://www.citylab.com/commute/2015/02/the-quietest-places-in-america-mapped/385620/

This first appeared in the February 24, 2015, edition of the free Disquiet email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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  • about

  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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    • December 13, 2022: This day marks the 26th anniversary of the founding of Disquiet.com.
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  • My book on Aphex Twin's landmark 1994 album, Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, was published as part of the 33 1/3 series, an imprint of Bloomsbury. It has been translated into Japanese (2019) and Spanish (2018).

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