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: video-games

twitter.com/disquiet: Bookends, Shadow of the Colossus

From the past week

I do this manually each Saturday, collating recent tweets I made at twitter.com/disquiet, my public notebook. Some tweets pop up (in expanded form or otherwise) on Disquiet.com sooner. It’s personally informative to revisit the previous week of thinking out loud.

▰ Even as the world opens up, I suspect I’ll spend much of the end of 2021 in my living room:

John le Carré’s Silverview (Oct. 12, 2021)

Neal Stephenson’s Termination Shock (Nov. 16, 2021)

James S.A. Corey’s Leviathan Falls (Nov. 16, 2021)

Fonda Lee’s Jade Legacy (Nov. 30, 2021)

▰ I’d swear Dropbox search used to be useful.

▰ Yes, I’m enjoying Nick Suttner’s book on Shadow of the Colossus.

▰ 1. I love writing liner notes.

  1. I really love writing liner notes for music I love.

  2. I really truly love writing liner notes for music I’ve loved for a decade and that is now being reissued in a glorious format.

▰ This is the Disquiet Junto music community’s 492nd consecutive weekly project. We’re now 8 weeks from the 500th!

▰ There’s a Japanese ceramics tradition called kintsugi that involves mending broken pottery, and in the process embracing the fractures, using them as decoration. This week in the Disquiet Junto, musicians are exploring kintsugi as an inspiration to remixes/reworkings.

▰ Have a good weekend, folks. If you’ve got a favorite film score (Michael Clayton here), I recommend playing it on shuffle. Most scores have one major motif. Listening in a new order brings the music back to the foreground, refreshing how its melodies and tonalities develop.

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Loitering in Video Games

A virtual walk through Night City

The Uncanny Valley gets all the press, but there is another valley nearby, a Hyperreal Valley located in the Goldilocks Zone between the discomforting and the mundane, the failed experiment and the all too familiar. In place of the awkwardness of some neural network’s syrupy, glitchy, pixel-flesh puppetry, there is the sprawling atmospheric environment of broad-geography video games, places where you can stroll and get to know not only the neighborhood but a semblance of a world.

Here are two more sequences from Cyberpunk 2077, one shot by day, the other at night, in both cases the position of the sun having nothing to do with astronomy and everything do to with a game-state variable deep in the code. In contrast with some of the others I’ve posted recently, these are motion-intensive. They aren’t records of loops shot from stationary corners. They are half-hour walks through fantastic imaginings of urban places. We don’t only hear the layered elements — traffic, conversation, machinery, advertising, etc. — but we hear them in relative position to each other, and from various vantages.



At 15:15 in the daytime video, there is a deep surge, part whale song and part industrial drone. What there is is a giant freighter hovering overhead. Then another comes into view, followed by a similar guttural utterance that veers on the atmospheric in scale. The taken-for-granted facts of the narrative are well beyond our own humdrum reality, and yet the result in the videos is disarmingly natural, very much the opposite of the Uncanny Valley. In fact, if you turn down the streaming quality to 480 on one of these and on a real-life walk around Tokyo or Manhattan, the differences would become even less recognizable.

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twitter.com/disquiet: Doppler Cycling, Avril Livecoding, Car Alarms

From the past week

I do this manually each week, collating tweets I made at twitter.com/disquiet, my public notebook. Some tweets pop up (in expanded form) on Disquiet.com sooner. It’s personally informative to revisit the previous week of thinking out loud.

▰ I ask myself, “What will I reward myself with if I don’t look at Twitter or Facebook all weekend?”

On Monday, I understand that the true reward is that I didn’t look at Twitter or Facebook all weekend.

▰ Doppler effect in full effect at the track in Golden Gate Park, various cyclists flying by with their individual soundtracks blaring, varying speeds allowing for occasional generative mashups as the after-work crew gains in number.

▰ Hyperlocal breaking news, but Sichuan Home on Geary in San Francisco now makes its own sausage. With respect to the vegans who may stumble on this tweet, the image is at instagram.com/dsqt.

▰ Prepping for one of the best cultural holidays of the year, Eric Ducker notes the 20th anniversary of Aphex Twin’s “Avril 14th”: nytimes.com.

▰ Witness in all its monospace beauty as Lil Data brings Aphex Twin’s “Avril 14th” to life one typed character at a time: twitter.com/lildata. The source code (in TidalCycles) is at github.com/jarmitage.

▰ Phase 1: I was definitely not expecting an acoustic guitar Misfits campfire singalong on Mayans M.C. this week.

Phase 2: And even that didn’t prepare me for the GG Allin campfire singalong that came later in the episode.

▰ #protip You can mute (and even block) every account whose advertisements pop up in your Twitter feed. (I can’t imagine this option won’t go away at some point, so enjoy it while you’ve got it.)

▰ Car alarms never actually stop. They simply pause before starting again.

“If two analyses done in the 1990s still hold, 95 to 99 percent of all car-alarm triggerings are literally false alarms.”

If I can sort out which car it is, I’m going to print out this Ilana E. Strauss article and put it on the windshield: theatlantic.com.

I believe the end of this particular car alarm scenario will resemble the end (spoiler!) of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, when the entire neighborhood lines up to destroy the car in question.

Car alarms are, in effect, a weaponized rendition of John Cage’s 4’33”. Rather than frame silence with a mime-like depiction of the formal structure of a piano recital, one demarcates its temporal and qualitative boundaries with annoying, thoughtless, grating, high-volume bleats.

I’ll say, on the ninth or tenth round of the alarm going off since 5:57am today, I’ve come to admire the professionalism of whoever devised the horn. It cuts through walls, glass, bone, and the comfort of one’s own living space. Someone got a PhD in acoustics of crying babies.

At this point, much of this block must now be deep in some sort of shared hyperspeed PTSD, as we all await the inevitable return of the car alarm going off. Before, there was silence when the alarm stopped. Now there is just a premonition of noise.

9:42: I’m working from home, and I’ve got a ton to do, and some calls, but I guess I’ll just keep live-tweeting this car alarm from the comfort of my couch until someone sets the vehicle on fire.

11:32: Interesting. The car alarm has not sounded again since 9:42. Likely the car has been moved and is mundanely terrorizing another neighborhood.

1:31pm: The car alarm has returned. Someone finished their errands, apparently. They forgot to purchase earmuffs for the rest of us.

It’s 7:39am the next day and there’s been no alarm since my previous tweet in this thread, but I recognize that the dense electronic signal ecology of modern life in combination with the fragile ego circuitry of car alarms means simply tweeting this may set it off again.

▰ Having the cover of your current book as your Kindle’s lockscreen will be great. But since getting what you’ve wanted is rarely enough, now I’ll want a quick process to turn the Kindle lockscreen into a to-do list, calendar, or some other single-page document.

▰ Perhaps not all of my confusion is the result of pandemic brain:

The Last of Us
Among Us
Them
Us
This Is Us

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Soundbites: Halo Sound Design, Emotion Detection, Noisy Jobs

Recent reads (etc.) on sound

These are the sort of items I’d usually put in the This Week in Sound email newsletter (tinyletter.com/disquiet), but I’ve been super busy, too busy for a new issue, and so at a friend’s suggestion I am initially noting some here.

The team behind the audio for the Halo video games share process in an advance peek at Halo Infinite, due out later this year. It’s packed with interesting details, such as how the relative proximity of gunfire wasn’t a sufficient filter in earlier games, leading to innovation this time around: “The new Halo Infinite audio system detects all gun sounds frame by frame, and prioritizes them in a threat order to decide output sound volume for each gun.” To a degree this is a matter of noise and confusion reduction, and of audio as an informative aspect of user interface. It also maps to hearing’s role in self-preservation. Likewise, ambient noises are adjusted in-game to make them more lifelike: “A variety of factors feed into this system, combining gameplay states, time of day, location tracking, timers, and more, all working together to bring the environment to life. This gives us the ability to create a dynamic mix of ambient sounds that remains compelling and immersive the entire time you’re playing.”
https://www.halowaypoint.com/en-us/news/inside-infinite-march-2021

And you have to check out video of the destruction of an old piano done as part of the sound design effort:


Molly Moser reports on how high-speed frame-by-frame records of hummingbirds flying helped sort out how they emit their trademark hum. The tiny birds yielded terabytes of data: “Higher harmonic content throughout the wing stroke, they explain in the paper, results in a ‘buzz,’ while equivalent first and second harmonic content makes hummingbirds ‘hum,’ and dominant first harmonic content results in the softer ‘whoosh’ of larger birds.”
https://www.osa-opn.org/home/newsroom/2021/

The digital civil rights group Access Now expresses concern that Spotify’s reported “mood-recognition features” could lead to “misgendering” and “discrimination,” reports Lilia Dergacheva. This is based on a patent “to detect emotion, age and gender using speech recognition algorithms.”
https://sputniknews.com/science/202104021082522962-spotify-reportedly-asked-to-ditch-bid-to-predict-mood-gender-over-discrimination-privacy-concerns/

People who require computers to speak for them deserve their own individualized voices that reflect “who they really are” — that’s the subject of a podcast episode from the Index Project featuring Rupal Patel, found of VocaliD. https://theindexproject.org/stories/podcast-restoring-lost-voices

Grant Suneson of MSN Money’s 24/7 Wall Street lists the 25 jobs most likely to damage your hearing. Musicians rank at the bottom of the list. Higher up are surgeons, shoe and leather workers, gaming (aka gambling) service workers, and, at the top of the list, emergency medical technicians and paramedics.
https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/careersandeducation/these-24-jobs-could-ruin-your-hearing/ss-BB1feUL4

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This Week in Sound: Silent Ride-sharing + Radio Games + …

A lightly annotated clipping service

Dead Media: In a widely circulated story that within days launched lawsuits, Jody Rosen in the New York Times looked back at a 2008 fire whose cultural toll is yet to be fully comprehended. Every few weeks there’s a new bit of history that clarifies for a younger generation (and reminds an older, nostalgic generation) that the pre-streaming record industry didn’t always have musicians’ best interests at heart. It may be a while before an article tops this one in that regard.

Bring the Noise (App): There’s a lot of talk about noise online, but Apple is being literal with a new health-conscious app named Noise, designed to let those with Apple Watches remain alert to sounds above a certain decibel level. How the app can tell such sounds from cuffs rubbing against the device is yet to be seen. The question is also how effective such a thing will be, and whether it’s really a gimmick designed to spur sales in response to a moral panic about sound. “I think that they’re trying to appease the public,” Larry Rosen, a California State University, Dominguez Hills, psychologist, is quoted in the article below. There’s, in addition, a question of how such an app balances against the very same industry putting speakers everywhere from our ears to our wrists to our kitchen counters. Perhaps a more useful app would be named Off.

Single Girl: Miki Berenyi of the band Lush and, more recently, Piroshka penned a detailed essay, utterly bereft of glamor, on the ins and outs, the triumphs and deeply felt antagonisms, of being part of a creative ensemble. (h/t Michael Siou)

Mute Point: As if there were any doubt that so-called ride-sharing services are built on and even exacerbating class divisions, Uber is now testing a tool that allows customers to inform their drivers, with the push of a button, of their desire that the driver cease speaking: “Uber claims it is responding to concerns from customers that drivers will give them low star ratings if they don’t want to chat; drivers meanwhile often fear entering into conversations with passengers for the same reason.”

Background Beat: You may get an ad-free experience if you pay for Spotify, but it doesn’t mean advertisers aren’t benefiting from what Spotify learns about you. Liz Pelly breaks down the process in a Baffler piece. Todd L. Burns, praising Pelly’s article in his Crambe Repetita email newsletter, focused on a particularly rich paragraph: “Jorge Espinel, who was Head of Global Business Development at Spotify for five years, once said in an interview: ‘We love to be a background experience. You’re competing for consumer attention. Everyone is fighting for the foreground. We have the ability to fight for the background. And really no one is there. You’re doing your email, you’re doing your social network, etcetera.’ In other words, it is in advertisers’ best interests that Spotify stays a background experience.”

Make Not: Maker Media, home to Make Magazine and the Maker Faire, has, reports say, essentially been shuttered. It’s a huge loss to the DIY world, though it’s also worth noting how much of what Make has accomplished will live on in the efforts of those it has inspired in its 15-year run. I moderated a panel at the very first Maker Faire, back in 2006, about homemade and circuit-bent musical instruments. It featured Krystyna Bobrowski, Chachi Jones (aka Donald Bell), and Univac. An audio recording appears at archive.org.

Sound Salvation: Alt-Frequencies is a smart new video game that takes turning the dial as a form of maneuvering truths: “And while it may play with an old-fashioned radio gimmick, each station essentially represents a Facebook group or a curated Twitter list. These channels essentially give the audience what it wants rather than what it needs, all while a populace is increasingly at one another’s throats.” (h/t Simon Carless’ Video Game Deep Cuts email newsletter)

The Hustle: “On July 12th 1979 disco records were destroyed as part of the in-match entertainment. It has come to be seen as an appalling act of prejudice,” per The Economist. Despite which, the Chicago White Sox just celebrated its anniversary with t-shirts emblazoned “Disco Demolition – the night records were broken.”

This is lightly adapted from an edition first published in the June 16, 2019, issue of the free weekly email newsletter This Week in Sound.

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