These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the May 4, 2020, 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.
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▰ “The role of a skilled medical transcriptionist is declining by the day as transcription documentation requires a lot of manual work, and more hospitals are gravitating towards a digital system, right from transcription (voice to text) to record-keeping (data lake or data warehouse).”
▰ “It’s a perfectly valid concern, and my whole team had not thought of that ethical side of things.” That’s a Carnegie Mellon researcher commenting, per a piece by Aaron Holmes, on a project “building AI that would diagnose COVID-19 by listening to people talk.” The online portal for it was closed down in about 48 hours because it “could have run afoul of FDA guidelines and be misinterpreted by people regardless of the disclaimer.” (Via the hypervisible account on Twitter)
▰ “An important consequence is that sound is always directed toward the future. Its future tense is so strong that sound is the sensory medium in which coming time is felt. That means in turn that sound is the sensory medium in which continuing life is felt. Although we commonly speak of looking into the future, in ordinary life what we really do is listen to the future arriving.” That’s Lawrence Kramer, author of The Hum of the World (2019), from an essay about listening lockdown.
▰ “‘Audiophiles listen with their ears, not with their hearts,’ Hutchison said. He added: ‘That’s not our game, really.'” Ben Sisario profiles the vinyl craft of the London-based Electric Recording Co. “Mastering a vinyl record involves ‘cutting’ grooves into a lacquer disc, a dark art in which tiny adjustments can have a big effect. Unusually among engineers, Hutchison tends to master records at low volumes — sometimes even quieter than the originals — to bring out more of the natural feel of the instruments.” Quoted is Pete Hutchison, the company’s founder.
▰ “According to Waxy, Jay-Z’s company Roc Nation LLC filed copyright claims against two videos featured on the Vocal Synthesis YouTube channel. The company argued, ‘The content unlawfully uses an AI to impersonate our client’s voice.'” At issue, according to a report credited to waxy.org, are audio deepfakes.
▰ “I’ve heard speculation that when Stonehenge was complete in 2,200 BC, the outer sarsen circle might have behaved like a whispering gallery.” That’s Trevor Cox, who has capaciously documenting his sonic archeology of the famed spot. In the end, Cox finds “No evidence of whispering gallery waves in Stonehenge,” but the whole piece is worth a read to see (and hear) how he reached that conclusion.
▰ “The delineation itself didn’t recognize the way modern-day films create sound.” Chris O’Falt reports on the Oscars combining two awards, Best Sound Editing and Mixing, into one category: Best Sound.
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▰ I have fond memories of waking on a Saturday, getting dropped at the LIRR, taking the train to Penn Station, and walking to Greenwich Village, and then wandering around for hours buying records. But it was nice to buy things on Bandcamp this morning while drinking coffee.
▰ So much gestural data packed into a single fader: “Things like Position (with varying rates of slew), overall Activity rate, distance travelled, time between changes in direction, velocity (Distance/Time).” That’s Rodrigo Constanzo describing his experiment. Check out the video at
▰ The aesthetic of Fourth World music was envisioned by Jon Hassell as “unified primitive/futuristic.” That paradox sums up the sad state of healthcare, in that he must resort to internet-based crowdsourcing to help fund his medical expenses. Do give.
▰ Last Wednesday in my sound course, Sounds of Brands (week 12), we were fortunate to have representatives of a microphone company talk about the organization, how they develop and sell equipment. My favorite takeaway phrase: “mic tastings” (events where professionals sample their wares).
▰ Stage 1: Modular synths are a great break from computers. Stage 2: [Spends hour updating firmware on modules by downloading files to laptop and connecting laptop to modules via USB cables or, alternately, moving SD cards back and forth.]
▰ Last night: I’m gonna work on using my synthesizer to recognize certain volume thresholds as triggers for other sounds. This morning: Vibrations and noise outside from street-repair crews at work are setting off car alarms around the immediate neighborhood.
▰ My personal experience remains: One doesn’t “dream of wires.” One is up late not sleeping (i.e., when one should be dreaming), and one is thinking of wires.
▰ Lee Tusman wrote a generous overview (“Learning Communities: Juntos, Woodsheds, Trainwrecks, Assemblies, Academies”) of online communities, including the Disquiet Junto. Here’s a brief excerpt: “I enjoy this creative making and learning community. It’s something that I enjoy being able to dive into or walk away from depending on how busy my life is. I like that when I want to engage, I can jump into the group and participate in a small way by making a short music track or listening to music or commenting on others’ work. When I want to be highly engaged because I have more time or a creative making prompt is really exciting to me I can jump in much more and participate in the online forums in discussion. It’s a creative group model that should be more widely imitated by creative practitioners.” Elsewhere in the essay, Tusman also writes about Glorious Trainwrecks, Navel’s Assemblies, and Babycastles Academy.
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