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. • 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: The Staccato Cadence of the Cisco Ringtones

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the June 13, 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.

“Deepfake audio doesn’t do emphasis well, as you might have heard in the somewhat monotonal recorded speech of customer service bots. Human voices have evolved over time to nuances of emphasis, dialects, and other quirks that deepfakes can’t yet match.” Jeff Elder on the technology’s Achilles’ heel — at least for now. ➔ (Thanks, Mike Rhode!)

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? ➔

Definitely check out these interactive noise maps of Paris, New York, and,

Just a note that the entire second season of the CW’s Kung Fu centers around a mystical ancient bell with unique tuning that was, apparently, the cause of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. And someone’s building a replica! ➔

Spotify explains its acquisition of of the AI voice company Sonantic: “For example, this voice technology could allow us to give context to users about upcoming recommendations when they aren’t looking at their screens. Using voice in these moments can reduce barriers to creating new audio experiences—and open up the doors to even more new opportunities.” ➔

“By 2060, 24 percent of the U.S. population is expected to be 65 or older” — meaning hearling loss may become “commonplace.” ➔

There’s a story in the Korea Herald about the expansion of use of voice AI by the police in sex crimes, and I’m trying to sort out if it’s a positive development, or a frightening privacy violation. ➔

Toward the end of the Cold War, musician Merryl Goldberg smuggled information in and out of the U.S.S.R. in the form of musical notation: “Musical note names span the letters A to G, so they don’t provide a full alphabet of options on their own. To create the code, Goldberg assigned letters of the alphabet to notes in the chromatic scale, a 12-tone scale that includes semi-tones (sharps and flats) to expand the possibilities. In some examples, Goldberg wrote only in one musical range, known as treble clef. In others, she expanded the register to be able to encode more letters and added a bass clef to extend the range of the musical scale. These details and variations also added verisimilitude to her encoded music.” ➔ (Thanks, Glenn Sogge!)

The always great Computers Are Bad by the tireless J.B. Crawford explores the sounds of old analog office phones: “To be fair, though, whatever anonymous Cisco employee sat down to copy the Merlin ringtones made some meaningful improvements. The staccato cadence of the Cisco ringtones, as opposed to the Merlin’s legato, is very distinctive and probably more recognizable in a loud environment. It also sounds pretty cool, which sure helps with a TV series about a vague counter-terrorism agency with apparently superhuman abilities.” ➔ (Thanks, Brian Crabtree!)

How “urban canyons” can “prolong sonic booms in cities”: “Narrower streets introduce more complex boom propagation through multiple reflections on building facades. While they don’t affect boom loudness, they tend to prolong the pressure signals at ground level in urban canyons through increased resonance between buildings” ➔ (Via Warren Ellis’ newsletter)

“If you could immerse yourself in a quantum fluid, you would hear every event twice, because they support two sound waves with different speeds.” (Also via Warren Ellis’ newsletter)

Using microphones to understand New York Harbor’s dolphin resurgence: “Scientists have found that bottlenose dolphins can emit a rapid series of clicks known as feeding buzzes that help them track prey. From 2018 to 2020, the team set up underwater microphones and recorders at six locations off Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and New Jersey to listen for the distinctive sounds.” ➔

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This Week in Sound: Singing Volcanos, Rats with Mics

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the June 6, 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.

“[R]esearchers have found a new way to identify key signs of Kilauea’s eruptive potential—by listening to vibrations from these lava lakes. Eventually, they hope to use these lava ‘songs’ to forecast when a volcano will start and stop erupting.” Zack Savitsky reports on the phenomenon of “singing” lava lakes. ➔

“Takara Tomy, a popular Japanese toymaker, will soon release its AI smart speaker that can easily copy a person’s voice using deepfake. … This smart home gadget is perfect for parents who want to read bedtime stories to their children even though they are away from home.” This is either a technological marvel or a dystopian act of outsourcing affection. Perhaps both. ➔

“A call made by a humpback near Bermuda,” writes Elizabeth Kolbert, “would take twenty minutes to reach a humpback swimming off the coast of Nova Scotia. If the Canadian whale answered immediately, it would be forty minutes before the Bermuda whale heard back. To imagine what it’s like to be a whale, ‘you have to stretch your thinking to completely different levels of dimension,’ Clark says.” (Clark is Christopher Clark, a Cornell researcher.) ➔

Matt Burgess summarizes the state of voice privacy, as well as the main ways to maintain enhance it. These include “obfuscation”: “Simple voice-changing hardware allows anyone to quickly change the sound of their voice. More advanced speech-to-text-to-speech systems can transcribe what you’re saying and then reverse the process and say it in a new voice.” And “distributed and federated learning” (“where your data doesn’t leave your device but machine learning models still learn to recognize speech by sharing their training with a bigger system”). And “anonymization” (“attempts to keep your voice sounding human while stripping out as much of the information that could be used to identify you as possible”). ➔

To the rescue: “rats will wear tiny backpacks with built-in microphones so rescue teams can communicate with survivors trapped in rubble.”

The TV series Under the Banner of Heaven‘s sound editor, Michael J. Benavente, talks about accomplishing “Utah quiet” in the making of the show. From a police stations to neighborhood kids playing, he always pulled things back, in his words, to get at the region’s atmosphere. ➔

“Road traffic noise outside schools may impair the development of a child’s attention span and short-term memory.” A studied looked at data on 2680 students from 38 schools. “The children in schools with higher average indoor noise levels — defined as above 30 decibels, about the volume of whispering — saw a slower improvement in attentiveness, measured by comparing their performance on tests at the start of the year with those at the end of the year.” Quoted in the coverage is Maria Foraster, Assistant Research Professor at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health. ➔,

As voice expands its presence in the asynchronous web, new UX scenarios arise. In Discord, “users can drop a link, text, GIF, emoji, in the chat during their video calls.” ➔

Slack update: “New features include the option to add name pronunciation guides (either by recording audio or adding phonetic spelling).”

Apple had one of its occasional products/services/software announcements today. In terms of sound, “Personalized Spatial Audio uses the TrueDepth camera on an iPhone running iOS 16 to scan your ears and the area around you, delivering a unique listening experience that’s tuned to you.” Also, the new MacBook Air retains its 3.5 mm audio jack. ➔,

“While the top of the podcast charts on Spotify and Apple are still dominated by garrulous, jawboning hosts, these days you can also reliably find a smattering of white noise shows appearing in the mix,” reports Ashley Carman. One white noise purveyor is making over $18,000 a month. ➔

“If you are a billionaire, you can afford the best soundproofing, so when we are in the company run by Mike Prince [played by Corey Stoll], it’s very quiet.” Notes on sound production work for the TV show Billions. ➔

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This Week in Sound: A Consensus of Jackdaws

A lightly annotated clipping service

These sound-studies highlights of the week are lightly adapted from the May 30, 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.

Tubular bells isn’t merely a classic Mike Oldfield song that I enjoy most when DJ Krush works it into his DJ sets. They’re a form of instrument patented in 1884 and in production until the 1920 — so we learn from a detailed study by Bill Hibbert, whose The Sound of Bells blog is now one of my favorite things on the internet. ➔ (Via Chris Lowis’ Web Audio newsletter)

“Culture, once thought to be uniquely human, is found in a wide range of animal species.” Thus begins a fascinating dive into the maintenance of complex songs as they are learned amid humpback whale communities. ➔

Google may be working on Android software “to track time spent snoring and coughing at night.”

Apparently when a flock — excuse me, murder — of jackdaws is heard making squawking in near unison, what is apparently happening is that they’re taking a vote. “By establishing consensus to leave the roost early and in large flocks, birds may reduce predation risk, facilitate access to useful foraging information,” write researchers. ➔

Google speech recognition is getting personal: “’Personalized speech recognition’ feature now looks to help Google Assistant get ‘better at recognizing your frequent words and names.'” ➔

You know all those Indian loudspeakers I’ve been writing about each week as having been confiscated during noise-pollution crackdowns? Wonder what happened to them all? “Schools have become the unlikely beneficiaries of the state government’s campaign in April to take down loudspeakers installed without permission at various public places and sites of worship. The owners of some of these loudspeakers have over the past few weeks donated the devices to educational campuses that operate on tight budgets, cajoled by the police.” ➔

The beautiful thing about the internet is not only does a rooster disturb its neighbor, but news of the crow circulates around the world, becoming, in a way, a larger form of disturbance. Apparently there are lots of laws on the books in Greenwich, Connecticut, about animals —but “noise from an animal is exempt.” At least as of now. ➔

Actor Giancarlo Esposito is the source of the Sonos Voice Control system’s default

“When you put your head underwater on a coral reef, it is just an absolutely dizzying array of shapes and colors and noises and sounds, it is completely overwhelming,” says marine biologist Tim Lamont, in the context of describing the ongoing threats to marine life. “One of the things we discovered when the reefs were degrading, where it was that they were going quieter, that sort of, you know, this biological symphony was being silenced.” ➔ (Thanks, Lotta Fjelkegård!)

Voice phishing — or vishing — is on the rise: “We are seeing an increase in threat actors moving away from standard voice phishing campaigns to initiating multi-stage malicious email attacks. In these campaigns, actors use a callback number within the body of the email as a lure, then rely on social engineering and impersonation to trick the victim into calling and interacting with a fake representative.” ➔

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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 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.

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.” ➔

“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. ➔ (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. ➔

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.” ➔

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. ➔

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.” ➔

“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: ➔

Yes, you want to know how to silence someone else’s phone’s

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

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). ➔

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.” ➔

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.” ➔,

“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.” ➔

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.” ➔

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: ➔

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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 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.

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.’” ➔ (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. ➔

“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.” ➔

“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: ➔

“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.” ➔

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: ➔

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

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

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. ➔,

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