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. • Disquiet.com 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: this week in sound

This Week in Sound: Web-Only Edition

A lightly annotated clipping service

I haven’t sent out an issue of the This Week in Sound email newsletter (tinyletter.com/disquiet) in awhile, not since mid-May. The world and life are complex right now, demanding in unfamiliar ways. I had some material stored up last week, but just didn’t have the time. Or more to the point, I had time, but not the time; the time I had, I spent alternately. As many who are spending far more time at home than they might be accustomed to, the logical expanse of time that might result from stationary existence is an illusion; there is, in fact, less time. Certainly less productive time, because recuperation is harder to come by, and more necessary than usual. The world outside is both more quiet and, especially in metaphoric terms, more noisy. Inside, we focus, take breaks, make progress.

In any case, had an issue of This Week in Sound gone out last Monday, this is the core of what would have been in it. I hope to get back to the email version soon.

And 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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THIS WEEK IN SOUND

“[A]nimals that lower their voices to sound bigger are often skilled vocalists,” goes an uncredited story at phys.org. “Both strategies — sounding bigger and learning sounds — are likely driven by sexual selection, and may play a role in explaining the origins of human speech evolution.”
https://phys.org/news/2020-07-animals-bigger-good.html

Mariusz Kozak wrote in the Washington Post about the role songs play in protests: “The first is that the meaning of music is deliberately imprecise — in technical terms, music is referentially ambiguous. The same song can be significant in different ways to different listeners, or even to the same person on different occasions. The second feature is that listeners can still connect with each other emotionally by moving together in synchrony with what they hear and with each other.” (via Diana Deutsch)
https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2020/07/07/protest-chants-musicology-solidarity/

Much as Darth Vader has that trademark breathing sound, “a distinctive ambient sound,” in the words of sound designer Ben Burtt, was also planned for Boba Fett. The problem was, the audience never heard it “because he never appeared in a quiet place.” Germain Lussier gets into the details.
https://io9.gizmodo.com/why-boba-fetts-sound-was-a-mystery-for-almost-20-years-1844280863

“What started as a minor change to a common song has now morphed into a continent-wide phenomenon before our very ears,” writes Carly Cassella of a sparrow’s song, and its viral influence on the broader bird population. “Between 2000 and 2019, this small change has travelled over 3,000 kilometres (1,800 miles) from British Columbia (BC) to central Ontario, virtually wiping out a historic song ending that’s been around since the 1950s at least.” (via subtopes)
https://www.sciencealert.com/this-sparrow-song-went-viral-across-canada-and-it-s-unlike-anything-we-ve-heard-before

“Scientists have developed a gadget that can reduce the intensity of noise pollution passing through an open window,” writes Anthony Cuthberston. “A proof-of-principle study is published in the journal Scientific Reports, detailing a prototype that makes use of 18 microphones and 24 speakers to eliminate half of the sounds passing through a window.”
https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/noise-cancelling-windows-sound-reduction-traffic-pollution-a9610856.html

There’s a fundraiser to save the Dream House of La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela.
https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/save-the-dream-house-keep-our-dream-alive

Reading John Zorn on the late Ennio Morricone is like reading Zorn on Zorn: “Having roots in both popular music and the avant-garde, Morricone was an innovator, and he overcame each new challenge with a fresh approach, retaining a curiosity and childlike sense of wonder.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/08/arts/music/ennio-morricone-john-zorn.html

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GRACE NOTES

▰ The local school district is SFUSD (San Francisco Unified School District). When there’s an auto-call with an announcement of some sort (tl;dr: “You probably wanna know if school will open come fall. Well, so do we.”), the alert pronounces it as if it were a name: “Suh-fuh-sed.”

▰ One word disappointingly absent from all those tracks listed in the upcoming expansive box set of my favorite Prince album: “instrumental.”

▰ I’m not practicing guitar. I’m performing a trio with dishwasher and passing traffic.

▰ Aretha Franklin foresaw the nuanced social negotiations involved when planning virtual-conference events during a pandemic. “You think you’re smooth / And you can pick and choose when the time is right.”

▰ I recently watched both seasons of Star Wars: Resistance, and the the best caption was “[distressed beep].” Those rollie droids sure are emotive.

▰ Once I realized that the voice actor of Neeku in Star Wars: Resistance is the same actor as Big Head in Silicon Valley, it all made sense.

▰ Heads up to musicians who regularly send out PR announcements to as many email addresses as they can. Those are, increasingly, showing up in my spam folder. Having your email designated as spam is the internet’s karmic response to what is, big surprise, actually in fact spamming.

▰ Why does Twitter keep recommending that I follow the account of a composer who died toward the end of 2016, an account that hasn’t been updated since about a month prior to the death?

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This Week (off) in Sound

Public service announcement

There was no This Week in Sound email newsletter (tinyletter.com/disquiet) this week. The last class session of the 15-week semester of Sounds of Brands (Quarantine Remix feat. Zoom), the course I teach once a year, occurred today. These two statements are related.

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This Week in Sound: Loud Birds and Quiet Times

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the May 12, 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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THIS WEEK IN SOUND

“Although our perception might be that they’re singing louder, it’s actually likely in places that are typically noisy that they’re singing more quietly than normal.” Sue Anne Zollinger tells us birds aren’t louder than usual, clarifying what a lot of people are experiencing during widespread shelter-in-place. Zollinger is an ornithologist at Manchester Metropolitan University.
https://www.kpbs.org/news/2020/may/06/do-those-birds-sound-louder-to-you-an/

A new educational app, Diya, “monitors the child as they read, using Google’s speech recognition technology to spot mistakes and places where they are having trouble.”
https://voicebot.ai/2020/05/08/google-launches-new-voice-assistant-and-app-to-teach-kids-to-read/

“I always thought field recording was just an audio snapshot, really. Now, taking the audio snapshot and adapting it to our present moment – who knew our times [would] so drastically [change] in a matter of two weeks. And my god, all of these field recordings that we’ve all been doing for the past 20-30 years, especially as the hand-held recorders got more and more accessible for the general public – I used to think of it all as, What are we going to do with all this stuff? It’s just trash, everybody’s just recording field recordings. I’d always roll my eyes. Now I’m like, You’re such an idiot. Thank god everybody was recording our world because it’s gone.” Many thanks to Jason Richardson for having brought this observation from the awesome Maria Chavez to my attention.
https://bassling.blogspot.com/2020/05/grief-for-changed-world.html

▰ A Florida man is suing another for using a “sonic weapon” again him and his family: “The petition describes the noise as ‘continual pinging’ and argues the noise is known to cause hearing loss and tinnitus.”
https://floridapolitics.com/archives/331415-dont-social-distance-here-seminole-neighbor-allegedly-blasts-high-pitched-pinging-sound-at-neighbors

“A federal judge has refused to dismiss a class-action complaint alleging Google’s voice-activated Assistant violates users’ privacy,” writes Wendy Davis at MediaPost of a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman in San Jose. A Reuters piece on the same topic can be read to cast the results differently, with the title “Google beats most claims in voice assistant privacy lawsuit.” The Reuters piece does note the plaintiffs have “the opportunity to amend the complaint.” Davis arguably makes the judgment more clear: “Freeman dismissed several other claims in the complaint, but without prejudice — meaning that the users can attempt to reformulate them.”
https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/351152/google-cant-shake-privacy-lawsuit-over-voice-acti.html
https://www.reuters.com/article/dataprivacy-google/google-beats-most-claims-in-voice-assistant-privacy-lawsuit-idUSL1N2CP2R1

“Banks and the companies that provide their voice biometrics make bold claims for the ability to distinguish individuals’ voices. Hundreds of speech characteristics are analysed, from accent and speed to physical characteristics of vocal chords.” That’s Ed Jefferson describing the rise of voice as a form of password. The idea of names having magic power is a common trope. I happen to be reading the first book in Jim Butcher’s series The Dresden Files, Storm Front, and figured I’d share this bit from it for comparison: “There are two parts of magic you have to understand to catch a faery. One of them is the concept of true names. Everything in the whole world has its own name. Names are unique sounds and cadences of words that are attached to one specific individual sort of like a kind of theme music. If you know something’s name, you can associate yourself with it in a magical sense, almost in the same way a wizard can reach out and touch someone if he possesses a lock of their hair, or fingernail clippings, or blood. If you know something’s name, you can create a magical link to it, just as you can call someone up and talk to them if you know their phone number. Just knowing the name isn’t good enough, though: You have to know exactly how to say it. Ask two John Franklin Smiths to say their names for you, and you’ll get subtle differences in tone and pronunciation, each one unique to its owner. Wizards tend to collect names of creatures, spirits, and people like some kind of huge Rolodex. You never know when it will come in handy.”
https://www.raconteur.net/technology/voice-biometrics

“A Supreme Court argument was briefly interrupted Wednesday by the sound of what appeared to be a toilet flushing.”
https://abc7news.com/politics/sound-of-apparent-toilet-flush-interrupts-supreme-court/6157556/

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GRACE NOTES

▰ A welcome green shoot of civilization: just learned that a local shop on the other side of the park will hand-deliver sheet music. Having sheet music delivered by hand from a locally owned business while the city is under shelter-in-place guidelines does make me feel like I am living in a Brian Wood comic.

▰ Today’s definition of optimism: Stumbling on a generative modular-synth ambient video on YouTube and observing as muscle memory immediately sets it to loop, even though it’s three hours long.

▰ First Tony Allen, then Florian Schneider, then Little Richard. The Earth is losing its rhythms. It’s off its axis. (Side note: It feels odd how few obituaries for Little Richard mention the Magic School Bus theme.)

▰ RIP, Richard Sala. His was one of the first comics I edited for Pulse!, the Tower Records music magazine, back in the early 1990s. I was an enormous admirer, and I learned a lot from him.

▰ Body: sheltering-in-place. Mind: woodshedding.

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This Week in Sound: Whispering Gallery

A lightly annotated clipping service

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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THIS WEEK IN SOUND

“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).”
https://www.analyticsinsight.net/speech-recognition-seeing-sudden-spike-covid-19-pandemic/

“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)
https://www.businessinsider.sg/ai-labs-diagnose-covid-19-voice-listening-talk-2020-4

“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.
https://thequietus.com/articles/28198-lawrence-kramer-covid19-essay

“‘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.
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/28/arts/music/electric-recording-co-vinyl.html

“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.
https://screenrant.com/jay-z-youtube-audio-deepfake-debate/

“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.
https://acousticengineering.wordpress.com/2020/04/28/stonehenge-whispering-gallery/

“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.
https://www.indiewire.com/2020/04/best-sound-oscar-category-combining-mixing-editing-1202228175/

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GRACE NOTES

▰ 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
https://youtu.be/E3xQxD6_kvQ.

▰ 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.
https://www.gofundme.com/f/jon-hassell-fund

▰ 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.
http://leetusman.com/nosebook/alt-ed/teaching/organizing/2020/05/02/juntos-assemblies-academies.html

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This Week in Sound: An Opportunity to Listen

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the April 27, 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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THIS WEEK IN SOUND

“[T]here is some research showing that younger children distrust voice assistants,” writes Eric Hal Schwartz. “That may be partly because they have trouble being understood.” Schwartz is covering a recent investment in the company SoapBox, which is developing children-focused speech recognition technology.
https://voicebot.ai/2020/04/20/soapbox-labs-raises-6-3m-investment-for-kid-focused-speech-recognition-tech/

“We have an opportunity to listen – and that opportunity to listen will not appear again in our lifetime.” That’s Cornell-based marine acoustician Michelle Fournet speaking with writer Karen McVeigh about how the Covid-induced silence has provided whales, among other sea creatures, a respite from noise, and those who study aquatic life a unique vantage.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/apr/27/silence-is-golden-for-whales-as-lockdown-reduces-ocean-noise-coronavirus

“Jail and prison officials in at least three states are using software to scan inmate calls for mentions of the coronavirus. … Known as Verus, it was first deployed several years ago to forestall suicide attempts, mine calls for investigative tips, and for a range of other purposes.” (via Subtopes, Alice Speri)
https://theintercept.com/2020/04/21/prisons-inmates-coronavirus-monitoring-surveillance-verus/

“The bear was probably the hardest animal to make sound believable,” Hinterland Studio audio director Glenn Jamison tells writer Lauren Morton as part of her overview of how animal noises are recorded for video games. Other tidbits: “Animals as a rule of thumb are often fairly quiet and generally only vocalise if something is happening, for example when they feel threatened or during mating rituals.” “Another animal which surprised me was the polar bear which purrs when content.” (via Simon Carless’ excellent Video Game Deep Cuts email newsletter)
https://www.pcgamer.com/how-animal-sounds-are-made-in-games/.

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GRACE NOTES

▰ Field recordings are sonic readymades.

▰ Such a tremendous opportunity. For week 11 of my Sounds of Brands course, we had the incredible Marcos Alonso (thank you!), creator of the great Samplr iOS music app, in class (well, via Zoom) to discuss interface design, the visualization of sound, and how bugs become features. I may post some material from the presentation and discussion in the future.

▰ Five Weeks Ago: Well, at least there are no late fees at the libraries. This Morning: That pile of books is sorta tall and in the way.

▰ A bit more, in video form, on the MIDI device Tom Whitwell made based on a request I’d made for a highly portable controller:
https://youtu.be/MMdNFOrmqeQ?t=9787.

▰ Related: Been locked down so long I’m almost used to not wearing a backpack. Well, kinda almost.

▰ Huh, Reverb LP shut down about two months ago. I had no idea.

▰ Occasional reminder that since folks are streaming, instead of performing in person, the San Francisco Bay Area’s excellent experimental-music calendar is of use to anyone with an internet connection and an interest in the music:
https://bayimproviser.com/calendar.aspx.

▰ “Waiting for the organizer to arrive.” I remember when I’d post (tweet, generally) these bits of conference-call hold-status detail, and people would find them humorous, even alien. Now such circumstances are part of a lot more people’s lives, and make up a lot more of those daily lives.

▰ I was already forgetting the Tuesday noon siren before Tuesdays became less a concrete temporal reality and more of a kind of fungible concept. (Context: The weekly public-warning tests here in San Francisco went on a two-year hiatus late last year.)

▰ Folks ask about a paid version of the This Week in Sound email newsletter. I don’t think, at the moment, I’d do that. Substack’s minimum fee is $5/month, I think, which is more than I’d expect someone to pay. I may add a “tip jar” at some point. The main tips I’d appreciate, though, are examples of sound you come across.

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Subscribe to This Week in Sound at (tinyletter.com/disquiet).

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