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tag: this week in sound

This Week in Sound: Bat Mimicry, Cairo Field Recordings, Apraxia Achievement

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the May 23, 2022, issue of the free Disquiet.com weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound (tinyletter.com/disquiet).

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.

There is “a species of bat that mimics the buzzing sound of stinging insects like hornets to deceive owls that might otherwise eat them.” This rare circumstance is called acoustic Batesian mimicry. “Mimicry is just such a powerful idea in science and evolutionary biology in particular,” said an evolutionary biologist, David Pfennig. “It shows how you can get remarkable adaptations even among really distantly related groups.” ➔ nytimes.com

“For the past several years, Youssef Sherif, 28, and Nehal Ezz, 26, have wandered the Egyptian capital in search of the cries of street vendors, the tap tap tap of metal workers in their shops, the cacophony of chaotic traffic. Their goal is to capture in recordings what Cairo sounds like — right here, right now — before these noises disappear. They are collecting the sounds to share on an Instagram account and eventually hope to establish a searchable database of sounds.” This Washington Post story does a great job of incorporating examples of the sounds into the feature presentation. ➔ washingtonpost.com (Thanks, Rob Walker!)

A lawsuit claims that the eardrums of a 12-year-old boy were damaged by Apple AirPods. The cause, with some irony, was an Amber Alert, which of course was designed to protect children from abduction. ➔ macrumors.com

UC Berkeley graduated its first two students with apraxia, due to which they are non-speaking. Both are autistic. One, David Teplitz, “graduated with a 3.85 GPA, receiving a degree in political science with a minor in disability studies.” The other, Hari Srinivasen, “graduated with a 4.0 GPA and has now received a fellowship to pursue his Ph.D. in neuroscience at Vanderbilt University.” ➔ abc7news.com

Come to Jennifer Flowers’ article in the current issue of Bloomberg Businessweek (probably my single favorite magazine, I should mention) for details of birders who listen before they look (birding by ear, not by eye), and then stay for the former guerrilla fighters in Colombia who now escort naturalist travelers: “Once you get to know your own territory and realize there’s a rich and biodiverse forest to protect, you won’t go to war,” one tells her. ➔ bloomberg.com

McDonald’s used voice ID to identify repeat customers, leading to a lawsuit. American Airlines, Amazon, Google, and PetSmart have also faced lawsuits about voice privacy. ““Voiceprint litigation is venomous instead of infectious,” says one lawyer. “It goes in so many different directions, every case is so different, and it’s still growing.” ➔ bloomberglaw.com

“What is this weird animal sound I recorded?” asks my friend Mark Frauenfelder, on Boing Boing, recently returned from a trip to the island of Madeira: ➔ boingboing.net

Yes, you want to know how to silence someone else’s phone’s alarm.macrumors.com

Spring break may be for young lovers, but Great Barrier Reef fish are facing decreasing life expectancy due to motorboat noise.newscientist.com

It may mean nothing, but machine listening was listed in the summary of just one of the top ten AI graduate degree programs (University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign). ➔ cio.com

A new pair of Sony headphones come with the Endel software’s generative soundscapes built in. They’re called the LinkBuds. A journalist who hadn’t heard previously of Endel described it as follows: “It’s less a standard streaming service like Spotify and Apple Music, and more an algorithmically generated mood enhancer.” ➔ techcrunch.com

Google is adding to videos “audio descriptions that verbally explain what’s shown on screen.” Google is also expanding Project Euphonia: “a research initiative that the company introduced in 2019 to work with people with speech impairments to create more accommodating speech recognition models.” ➔ androidpolice.com, research.google

“The US Federal Communications Commission has prioritized fighting illegal robocalls over the past few years, and the agency continues to turn up the heat in 2022. Last week, the agency passed regulations targeted at overseas phone scammers, but the push to end robocalls is far from finished.” ➔ 9to5mac.com

For the Birds is the title of a massive collection of audio recordings of and related to birdsong. There are 242 tracks in all “of original songs and readings inspired by or incorporating birdsong.” The National Audubon Society will release it as a 20-LP box set later in 2022: “A radiant electronic trance from Dan Deacon and a Beatles interpretation from Elvis Costello share space with a Jonathan Franzen reading; Laurie Anderson, Alice Coltrane (remixed), Yoko Ono and a reading from Wendell Pierce open separate LPs.” ➔ nytimes.com

Supercuts can be automated to find every instance of a word from a long single video and trim to highlight the numerous examples. Here’s how: ➔ lav.io

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This Week in Sound: Prison Privacy, Antarctic Revival, Foghorn Ephemera

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the May 16, 2022, issue of the free Disquiet.com weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound (tinyletter.com/disquiet).

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.

Eric Guth reports in the New York Times on the “ecological revival” of South Georgia, a sub-Antarctic island: “[O]ne of the best signs, Dr. Jackson said, comes from the sounds she hears underwater. ‘What you’ve got in the underwater environment now is blue whales calling nearly continuously,’ she said, noting that the whales were nearly wiped out entirely.” Dr. Jackson is Jen Jackson, a British Antarctic Survey whale biologist “‘It just makes my heart sing,’ she added. ‘We are watching the ocean rewild itself.’” ➔ nytimes.com (Thanks, Mike Rhode!)

I reviewed Jennifer Lucy Allan’s book on foghorns for The Wire. The book is now out in paperback, and to mark the occasion, Allan has published foghorn-related stories and ephemera she’s learned about or experienced since the hardcover was released. ➔ thequietus.com

“Calls placed by people in prisons in New York State are being recorded using flawed, racially-biased, and publicly-unproven voice recognition software without the informed consent of the people placing or receiving the calls,” begins a statement from the ACLU of New York about voice privacy for prisoners and their visitors. “The voice recognition software from controversy-plagued Securus Technologies also tracks the location of the people being called from prison, including friends, family, and minor children. This means innocent people are being surveilled by DOCCS simply because they have received calls from people in prison. Their voices are analyzed, their locations are uncovered, and their voiceprints are cataloged in a database, without any meaningful oversight of where all this information goes and what it’s used for.” ➔ nyclu.org

“When the iPod arrived in 2001, it seemed too good to be true, promising ‘a thousand songs in your pocket.’ Before that, if you took music on the go, you wore a Walkman, maybe packing a spare cassette or two. But an iPod blew those limits away.” My friend since college Rob Sheffield on Apple’s announced end to the era of the iPod: ➔ rollingstone.com

“The low-frequency sonar of warships and submarines directly interferes with dolphins’ echolocation, said Pavel Goldin, a marine biologist specializing in dolphins at the Schmalhausen Institute of Zoology in Ukraine. Unable to navigate, the dolphins cannot identify prey and can therefore starve.” ➔ nbcnews.com

Sadly, podcast host Darwin Grosse’s energy hasn’t been great since he was diagnosed with kidney cancer a couple years ago, and so he’s signing off his Art + Music + Technology series after 380+ episodes of incredible conversations with composers, musicians, and technologists (often one and the same). He’s keeping the archive up. It’s a rich, deep dive: ➔ artmusictech.libsyn.com

Google’s map app, according to the Māori Language Commission, has failed to make good on a 2017 promise to fix Māori pronunciation.nzherald.co.nz

The term “ambient intelligence” can, in a sense, be thought of as voice assistants (Siri, Alexa, etc.) that do less talking:smh.com.au

Video maker Callux stayed in an anechoic chamber for over four hours straight, longer than he did back in 2019. There’s a 14-minute compressed highlight reel of his time in the padded box. The footage looks like something out of The Blair Witch, and no doubt there’s a performance aspect to his difficulties with the situation, but it’s still a telling depiction of an extended anechoic experience. ➔ lsbu-acoustics.blogspot.com, youtube.com

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This Week in Sound: Clustering the Detected Keystrokes

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the May 9, 2022, issue of the free Disquiet.com weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound (tinyletter.com/disquiet).

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.

That mechanical keyboard isn’t merely loud — the volume makes each key identifiable, such that a website can sort out what you’re typing just by listening. Andrew Liszewski explains how it works: “by clustering the detected keystrokes based on their sound similarity and then using statistical information about the frequency of the letter n-grams in the supposed language of the text.” ➔ gizmodo.com

Voice interfaces have moved from the cellphone to the modern factory: “Companies are starting to take this form of automation onto the factory floor where a hands-free connection to the plant automation system and its equipment can deliver substantial efficiency. This is yet another version of consumer technology making its way onto the factory floor. You could call it the iPhone-ification of plant automation.” ➔ designnews.com

The musical legacy of 1980s Amiga computers: “Back in the 90s, a buoyant ‘demo scene’ coalesced around the Amiga, where home programmers put together animated music videos, fitting them on tiny 880k floppy disks,” writes Tamlin Magee. “Pirated software, meanwhile, would usually feature home-brewed intros, complete with the pirates’ own music, that users had to sit through before they could access their bootlegged copies.” ➔ theguardian.com (via Alexander Scholz at holo.mg)

Fascinating to watch the ongoing noise pollution crackdowns in India, such as this report from the city of Madurai: “Private buses making stopovers at the bus stand were checked for the presence of banned air horns, which were seized citing that they create noise beyond the permitted range between 70 and 80 decibels.” ➔ thehindu.com

More on the noise effort in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh: “The UP government’s drive to rein in decibel levels had the potential to trigger a loud backlash,” writes Pathikrit Chakraborty. “But by proactively consulting with communities, religious leaders and village elders, the state has pulled off the impossible.” ➔ indiatimes.com

“With a period of oscillation of 10 million years, the sound waves were acoustically equivalent to a B-flat 57 octaves below middle C, a tone that the black hole has apparently been holding for the last two billion years.” Dennis Overbye on what it sounds like when a black hole sings. ➔ nytimes.com

A new noise machine by Pentagram partner Yuri Suzuki has a grid of 32 switches: “With options ranging from white noise to ocean waves, the switches let you mix and match tracks, and add effects like reverb.” Suzuki explains: “I was very interested in manipulation without instruction.” The object is a collaboration between Suzuki and E&Y, a Japanese furniture company. ➔ fastcompany.com

How a discarded water tank in Australia has become a music-performance wonder: “for all the solidity, strength and longevity of the concrete, grey river pebbles and steel, Murcutt also sensed a fecund fragility in the water tank, likening it to the shell of an egg, with the sound chapel as its yolk,” writes Rita Glennon of this collaboration between architect Glenn Murcutt and composer Georges Lentz. ➔ brisbanetimes.com.au

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This Week in Sound: PCB Birds, Ad-Spy Gadgets

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the May 2, 2022, issue of the free Disquiet.com weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound (tinyletter.com/disquiet).

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.

Your walls don’t have ears, but that gadget on your kitchen counter does: “report concludes that Amazon and third parties (including advertising and tracking services) collect data from your interactions with Alexa through Echo smart speakers and share it with as many as 41 advertising partners.” ➔ 9to5mac.com

“[R]esearchers at MIT have developed a paper-thin speaker that can be applied to almost any surface like wallpaper, turning objects like walls into giant noise-cancelling speakers.” Writes Andrew Liszewski of this “noise-cancelling oasis”: “The domes are just ‘one-sixth the thickness of a human hair’ in height and move a mere half micron up and down when they vibrate. Thousands are needed to produce audible sounds, but the researchers also discovered that changing the size of the laser-cut holes, which also alters the size of the domes produced, allows the sound produced by the thin-film panel to be tuned to be louder. Because the domes have such minute movement, just 100 milliwatts of electricity were needed to power a single square meter of the material, compared to more than a full watt of electricity needed to power a standard speaker to create a comparable level of sound pressure.” ➔ gizmodo.com

Sophie Elmhirst surveys the British telephonic landscape: “At their peak, in the mid-1990s, the British population of phone boxes was about 100,000. Now, there are just over 20,000 working boxes left. … Those that remain occupy a particular place in Britain’s idea of itself.” (Apparently some five million phone calls are still made annually on these old analog devices.) ➔ theguardian.com

“Kelly Heaton makes birds out of electronic circuitry that can be adjusted to produce a wide variety of birdsong.” They’re called Printed Circuit Birds, and they’re super cool. ➔ kottke.org (via Ryan Ruppe)

“The level of detail in sound design is unknown to those not attuned to its complexities. A touch of reverb, textural density, a sense of whether sound is concentrated within the observable reality of the screen or whether it pulls out beyond the frame, a subtle sense of physical location.” David Toop goes rewardingly deep into the films of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, mostly recently Memoria with Tilda Swinton, which no I haven’t seen yet. ➔ sabzian.be

Gary Hustwit’s next film is a documentary about Brian Eno. His previous one was about Dieter Rams, which both featured a score by Brian Eno and managed to capture a brief moment of Rams, master of emotinally cool design, dancing. As I joked on Twitter, now Rams should do the score to this film. ➔ hustwit.com/eno

Dig into a very complex combination of DIY open source music machines, climate crisis awareness-raising, and role-playing games: “CCI is an open source game for the monome norns sound computer in which players lead the CC Incarnadine and her crew of climate-punks, nautical drones, and GMO algae on a mission to heal the desiccated coral reefs.” ➔ nor.the-rn.info

“Some Mac Studio owners have noticed that their machines are making a high-pitched ‘whining’ sound that appears to be coming from the fan.” I’d make a joke with a title along the lines of “When the fan hits the fanboys,” but this does sound terribly annoying. ➔ macrumors.com

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This Week in Sound: Reduce Distracting Bodily Noises

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the April 25, 2022, issue of the free Disquiet.com weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound (tinyletter.com/disquiet).

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.

A story about the bullying of a cheerleader through the use of deep fakes expands into a cautionary discussion about voice privacy, ranging from cloned voices confirming million-dollar transfers, to the radio host’s voice being used to say read the script automatically. ➔ wbur.org

A 19-year study with 31,387 yields concerns about the correlation of noise pollution and mental health: “The study provides strong evidence of a negative mental health effect of perceived residential noise, and the results have implications for healthy home design and urban planning.” The research was undertaken in Australia. ➔ ajpmonline.org

We’re generally programmed, thanks to evolution, to be inured to the noises we ourselves produce, but Sennheiser apparently thinks it has one-upped Mother Nature with its new wireless earbuds: “the open ear adapters will help reduce distracting bodily noises such as footsteps or your heartbeat while still allowing you to hear the ambient sound of your surroundings.” ➔ whathifi.com

“The device is constantly listening to the sound of your voice, aiming to make you aware of ‘uuh’ fill words.” This is a gadget called “Mind the ‘Uuh,'” developed by by Benedikt Groß, Maik Groß and Thibault Durand. ➔ creativeapplications.net

The world’s first “bioplastic” vinyl record format has been introduced.clashmusic.com (via Nathan Moody)

A voice actor known for her screams (in Free Guy, Paranormal Activity, and Scream) on the less-than-inherently-safe nature of the gig: “We are like stunt people, doing the hard stuff that could be damaging to an actor’s voice or is out of their range.” ➔ theguardian.com (via Saga Söderback)

Religious leaders in India aren’t the only ones being hit by noise compliance crackdowns. In Noida, 17 DJs were addressed by police action. The regulations date to 1986: “The Act has defined ambient acceptable noise levels, silence zones, restrictions on the use of loudspeakers, horns, sound-emitting construction equipment, and bursting of crackers.” ➔ indianexpress.com

Sound Studies Review: An International Peer-Reviewed Music Journal is a new academic journal, edited by Mark A. Pottinger and Luca Lévi Sala of Manhattan College, and due to be published twice each year. “The main mission of the journal is to publish critical and engaging work at the intersection between musicology, music theory, audio technology, acoustical research, and media studies.” ➔ manhattan.edu

How about a script for an open source music machine that “does one thing — emitting a tone with a pitch that represents the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere”? ➔ duncangeere.com

“Privacy advocates say voice prints collected by smart home tools like Alexa and Google Nest could be used in police investigations with impunity unless biometric identifiers can be governed in at least the same way as other forms of evidence.” An update from Ireland. ➔ biometricupdate.com

Google’s Android mobile OS has been removing apps that record phone calls, focused on apps that use the accessibility settings as a work-around. ➔ gizmodo.com

And since you’ve made it this far in a lengthy issue, your reward is an index of 1,200 sound effects from Don Martin’s Mad Magazine comics, ranging from “AAAGH! EEEEEOOOW ACK! UGH UGH MMP AGH! AEEK!” (“Removal of a Deep Rooted Tooth”) through “SPLAZOOSH” (“Woman Pouring Water on Fire”) through “ZZZZZZZZZZZ” (“Three Girls Sleeping”). In a Hilobrow.com article on the archive, Peggy Nelson investigates and praises its “early internet” construction. ➔ madcoversite.com, hilobrow.com (Thanks, Peggy!)

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