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tag: video-games

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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Disquiet Junto Project 0361: Zork Diaries

The Assignment: Score a classic interactive fiction.

Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group, a new compositional challenge is set before the group’s members, who then have just over four days to upload a track in response to the assignment. Membership in the Junto is open: just join and participate. (A SoundCloud account is helpful but not required.) There’s no pressure to do every project. It’s weekly so that you know it’s there, every Thursday through Monday, when you have the time.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is Monday, December 3, 2018, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on. It was posted shortly after noon, California time, on Thursday, November 29, 2018.

Tracks will be added to the playlist for the duration of the project.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):

Disquiet Junto Project 0361: Zork Diaries
The Assignment: Score a classic interactive fiction.

Step 1: Zork is the title of one of the earliest interactive text adventure games. The complete text of a spoiler-laden full run of the game is at the following URL, housed at Georgia Tech, or the Georgia Institute of Technology:

http://bitly.com/junto-zork

Step 2: If you’re not familiar with Zork and/or with interactive text adventures, consider reading up. Otherwise, just think of the script as exactly that: the bare-bones narrative of a story.

Step 3: Compose a score (along with, if possible, sound effects) for the first page or so of Zork. It is suggested that you begin with the fifth line of provided text (“West of House”) and end about a page down, where it reads “The door reluctantly opens to reveal a rickety staircase descending into darkness.”

Bonus Alternates: (A) You can, of course, end sooner or later. (B) You can, of course, play the game yourself and score the moves you make. (C) You can, of course, sort out a means to record alternate, forking versions, based on various potential outcomes of different decisions when playing the game. (D) You might open with a brief opening-credits theme.

Six More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0361” (no spaces or quotation marks) in the name of your track.

Step 2: If your audio-hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to also include the project tag “disquiet0361” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation a project playlist.

Step 3: Upload your track. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your track.

Step 4: Post your track in the following discussion thread at llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0361-zork-diaries/

Step 5: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 6: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Other Details:

Deadline: This project’s deadline is Monday, December 3, 2018, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are on. It was posted shortly after noon, California time, on Thursday, November 29, 2018.

Length: The length of your track is up to you.

Title/Tag: When posting your track, please include “disquiet0361” in the title of the track, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, post one finished track with the project tag, and be sure to include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Download: Please consider setting your track as downloadable and allowing for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution, allowing for derivatives).

Context: When posting the track online, please be sure to include this following information:

More on this 361st weekly Disquiet Junto project — Zork Diaries / The Assignment: Score a classic interactive fiction — at:

https://disquiet.com/0361/

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

https://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here:

http://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:

https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0361-zork-diaries/

There’s also a Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet to join in.

Image adapted (cropped, text added, etc.) from a Wikipedia photo by Marcin Wichary, thanks to a Creative Commons license:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Zork_photo.jpg

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

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Listening to Yesterday: Muted Victory

The smile-inducing ditty at the end of a New York Times' online crossword puzzle

  1. a sound cue in an online game
  2. a phone call interruption

xword

The payoff is a split-second filigree from a what appears to be a jazz piano trio. It sounds like the modest backing band to a quiz show or late-night talk show. The celebratory equivalent of a rim-shot, the sound in question is the little ditty that plays at the end of “The Mini” crossword, a daily feature on the website of the New York Times. I recently started doing the Mini in the morning, usually getting it done in under a minute (:54 today), sometimes a little over two minutes. Yesterday it took over 9 minutes, closer to 10. I might have just stopped trying, but I persevered, winding my way through various unfamiliar words — most sports-derived, if memory serves. If anything is going to flummox me, it’s sports-related information. I did take a short call in the middle of the puzzle, and neglected to hit pause on the Times site, so I can let that interruption account for perhaps two minutes of my extended linguistic struggle, brain slowly coming out of its slumber-fog. In the end the disappointment wasn’t that it had taken so long, but that I’d had the computer on mute, which meant that the jazz trio’s flourish never was heard from my laptop’s speakers. Games are games, so this user-experience ditty isn’t a matter of gamification, per se — of the application of game play to other types of activity. But it is a bit like “video-gamification”: the application of video-game elements to non-video games. Not getting to hear the riff after exerting so much effort provided a classic example of adding insult to injury.

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Tangents: Data Immersion, the Tuning of the Internet, Superloops, …

Plus: the emotional key of books, physical computer drums, quantum computer sounds, steampunk modular, and more

Tangents is an occasional collection of short, lightly annotated mentions of sound-related activities.

Data Immersion: Characteristically breathtaking video of a new work by Ryoji Ikeda, perhaps the leading installation poet of data immersion. This is of his piece “supersymmetry,” which relates to his residency at CERN, the supercollider. More at supersymmetry.ycam.jp:

In an interview he talks about the dark-matter research that informed his effort:

“Supersymmetry is being considered as a possible solution of the mystery of this dark matter. During the period I’m staying at CERN, there are experiments being carried out with the aim to prove the existence of as-yet undiscovered ‘supersymmetry particles’ that form pairs with the particles that make up the so-called ‘Standard Model’ catalogue of physical substances. Data and technologies of these experiments are not directly incorporated in the work, but I’m going to discuss a variety of things with the physicists at CERN, and the results of these discussions will certainly be reflected.”

Tones of the Internet: The tonal repository of the Internet is very different from the room tone of the Internet, which we explored in a recent Disquiet Junto project. Over at wired.com, Joseph Flaherty profiles Zach Lieberman, with an emphasis on his Play the World project, which scours the Internet for sounds — the music heard on radio stations — and then allows them to be played back. “Using the set-up,” Flagerty writes, “a person can literally turn the internet into a musical instrument.” What makes that sentence more than hyperbole is that the source audio is played at the note triggered by the user, though it’s by no means “the Internet” being played, and instead a fairly well-circumscribed and specific subset of the Internet. (The effort brings to mind the title of R. Murray Schafer’s classic book of sound studies, The Tuning of the World.) It’s part of DevArt, a Google digital art endeavor that has nothing to do with Deviant Art, the longstanding web forum for (largely) visual artists, or with Devart, the database software company. “Play the World, and several other DevArt projects,” reports Flaherty, ” will make their debut at the Barbican Gallery of Art in London in July, but the code is available on Github today.” There’s something intriguing about an art premiere that is preceded by the materials’ worldwide open-source availability. Here’s audio of the note A being played for 20 minutes based on a wide array of these sound sources. It appears to be from Zieberman’s own SoundCloud account, which oddly has only 15 followers as of this writing. Well, 16, because I just joined up:

The Singing Book: At hyperallergic.com, Allison Meier writes about an effort to extract the emotional content from writing and turn it into music. It’s a project by Hannah Davis and Saif Mohammad. Below is an example based on the novel Lord of the Flies. More at Davis and Mohammad’s musicfromtext.com. A few weeks back, the Junto explored a parallel effort to listen to the rhythm inherent in particular examples of writing, and to make music based on that rhythm:

Everyday Drum: The divisions between words like “analog” and “digital,” and “electric” and “acoustic,” are far more blurred than they get credit for, as evidenced by this fine implementation of an iPad triggering not just physical beats, but whimsically innovative ones made from bottle caps, buttons, grains tacks, and other everyday objects (found via twitter.com/Chris_Randall). The project is by Italy-based Lorenzo Bravi, more from whom at lorenzobravi.com:

LED Modular: Vice Motherboard’s DJ Pangburn interviews Charles Lindsay (the SETI artist-in-residence, who invited me to give that talk last month) on his massive LED installation, which involves the chance nature of modular synthesis applied to recordings of the Costa Rica rainforest. Says Lindsay:

“I love modular synthesis, the unpredictable surprises, the textures and wackiness,” he said of his heavily-cabled Eurorack modular synthesizer. “My rig is populated by a lot of SNAZZY FX’s modules. I’m part of the company, which is essentially Dan Snazelle, a wonderful genius, inventor and musician. We share an approach that says ‘let’s build these things and see what happens.'”

Also part of the LED exhibit, titled Carbon IV, is audio sourced from the quantum artificial intelligence laboratory at NASA Ames. Here’s audio from Linday’s SoundCloud account:

Superloops: Rob Walker shifts attention from the “supercut” of related material — like the “yeahs” of Metallica’s James Hetfield — to the superloop of standalone elements. “The opposite of a supercut,” writes Walker at Yahoo! Tech, “the superloop condenses nothing. To the contrary, it takes one brief moment of sound or video and repeats it.” It was an honor to be queried, along with Ethan Hein, in Walker’s research. I pointed him to the great sounds of the Star Trek enterprise on idle. … And in somewhat related news, in Walker’s “The Workologist” column in The New York Times, in which he responds to “workplace conundrums” from readers, he has some advice for someone bothered by an office mate’s gum chewing (“Other than the clicking of keys and occasional phone calls, it’s the only sound in an otherwise quiet office”); he writes, in part:

Because you’ve ruled out music, maybe a comfortable set of noise-canceling headphones — tuned to nothing — would be enough to blunt the irritating sounds. Or you could consider any number of “white noise”generators that are available free online. Noisli.com, for example, generates forest sounds, coffee-shop noise and the like. You also could do a little research on “ambient”music and use a service like Pandora to construct a nondistracting sound stream. Such approaches may be inoffensive enough that you can simply play the sound at low volume from your computer — no earbuds required.

Steampunk Modular: By and large, I tend to keep the threshold of coverage above the level of “things that look neat,” but sometimes that neat is neat enough that I can’t resist, especially when it’s tied to a fine achievement by a talented sound practitioner. Richard Devine has posted on Instagram this shot of steampunk-style effects module, encased in an old book, that he got from the makers of the Xbox One video game Wolfenstein: The New Order:

Synesthesia Robots: And here’s one from Kid Koala of his lofi visual interface for his sampler. Koala is a talented cartoonist as well as an ace downtempo DJ. Those efforts have collided in a score he’s made for a graphic novel, and in various staged performances he’s put together, and this achieves a functional correlation in a very simple manner:

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An Arcade of Reflection

Music for a secular service, played communally on PlayStation controllers

The composer Bryant O’Hara participates in the Sunday Assembly — a kind of non-religious church, as it were — in Atlanta, Georgia, where some aspects of the secular service involve music. He wanted to think of another means to introduce music into the communal activity, and came upon the idea of a collaborative video game system that uses game controllers to collectively build a composition in real time. As he describes it in some extensive documentation of his process, which also goes into his choice of programming languages, among other details:

I started thinking about this project after attending the first two meetings of Sunday Assembly Atlanta. There were several parts of the meeting where we did karaoke, and I was wondering whether there was another form of musical interaction ”“ perhaps even unique to the organization ”“ that we could do as a body. That got me thinking about new ways of looking at how music could be made and how it could be experienced.

This “shared” instrument, as he calls it, involves PlayStation controllers, and he has posted the above audio recording of a nearly half-hour performance, which dates from the end of last month. The result is a kind of meditative game parlor, an arcade of reflection, the steady beat layered with an ever-changing amalgamation of colorful beeps and bloops, whirry static, and other largely percussive sonic elements.

Here’s some silent video of the interface in action:

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/bryant-ohara. More on O’Hara’s project at intimateandintricate.wordpress.com.

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