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Posts Tagged ‘sound

“Have you ever heard a blindfolded octopus unwrap a cellophane-covered bathtub?”*…

The relentless progression of human technology leaves us with many relics: the Walkman, the Game Boy, the payphone, the VCR. But there’s an aspect to these devices that isn’t preserved when you let them gather dust on a basement shelf: their signature beeps, clicks, and whirrings.

In the interest of salvaging these obsolete noises, Brendan Chilcutt has since 2012 maintained the Museum of Endangered Sounds, for which he aims to complete data collection by 2015. Then he’ll “spend the next seven years developing the proper markup language to reinterpret the sounds as a binary composition.” Suggestions of exhibits to include are welcome.

The site is already fascinating place to click around; depending on your age, you’ll be transported by the original default Nokia ringtone, or the Windows 95 startup chords. The AOL Instant Messenger alerts in particular take me back—someone wants to chat! Is it the devastatingly cute girl I have a crush on? No, just one of my fellow nerds. But hope lives on.

When technology reaches a stage of silent frictionlessness, Chilcutt says, these audio files will offer some of the most direct links to our mechanical past. Nice to have them all in one place…

The din of typewriters and Tamogatchis lives on: “Museum of Endangered Sounds keeps vintage noises alive.” Explore the museum here.

See also: Conserve the Sound’s “Projekt.”

* Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth

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As we listen carefully, we might recall that it was on this date in 1830 that the Anti-Masonic Party, the official first third-party in United States political history, convened its convention. The Anti-Masons formed, as the name suggests, to combat the perceived secret government influence Freemasonry held in the U.S. While the party quickly dissolved after anti-Masonic public feelings died down (most of its members folded in the Whig Party), It did pioneer presidential nomination conventions and the adoption of a party platform.

For more on the Anti-Masons see “Nearly two centuries ago, a QAnon-like conspiracy theory propelled candidates to Congress.”

“Soon silence will have passed into legend”*…

 

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The idea behind myNoise is to use the noises you most enjoy to mask the noises you don’t want to hear: chatty colleagues, your tinnitus, or even your inner voice when you can’t shut it down! The concept is simple, works extremely well, and doesn’t require expensive noise-cancelling headphones. Thanks to its sound quality and unique audio engineering, myNoise sets the standard among online background noise machines…

Missing the buzz of the coffee shop?  Anxious to mask unwanted audio distractions? Need to concentrate (or sleep)?  MyNoise is ready to help.

[Image above: Flickr user Sascha Kohlmann, via]

* “Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation…tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling bolster his ego. His anxiety subsides. His inhuman void spreads monstrously like a gray vegetation.”  — the censorious Jean Arp (who, if he were alive today, might or might not agree that “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”…)

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As we bathe in sound, we might recall that it was on this date in 1955 that that Bill Haley & His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” reached number one on the Billboard charts– the first rock and roll record to ascend to that pinnacle.

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Exactly one year later, Dick Clark began one of television’s longest-running stints as a host when he debuted Bandstand on WFIL, a Philadelphia TV station.  The show was eventually picked up by ABC-TV and changed its name to American Bandstand.

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“I see by hearing”*…

 

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Daniel Kish navigates the world like a bat does—and he does so without ever leaving the ground.

After losing his vision as an infant, Kish taught himself to move around with the help of echolocation. Like bats, Kish uses his mouth to produce a series of short, crisp clicking sounds, and then listens to how those sounds bounce off the surrounding landscape. (Our winged neighbors tend to emit these clicks at frequencies humans can’t hear, but Kish’s clicks are perfectly audible to human ears.) From there, Kish makes a mental map of his environment, considering everything from broad contours—like walls and doors—down to textural details.

Kish now teaches echolocation, mostly to students who are blind. For these students, Kish believes that an echolocation practice can buoy confidence and independence. Kish’s own experience is persuasive—he famously bikes along hilly, car-lined streets—and a growing body of scholarly research has begun to unpack exactly how expert echolocaters do their thing. This research has also backed up the idea that this skill is highly learnable. When researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, asked novice echolocators to use tongue clicks to determine which of the two objects in front of them was larger, the newbies were soon able to do so in a way that the scientists couldn’t attribute to chance.

Whatever your sightedness, there’s something to be said for learning to listen more attentively to sonic scenery. Kish believes that vision has a way of blunting the other senses unless people work to really flex them. Deft echolocators, he says, are able to perceive fine differences—distinguishing, say, between an oleander bush (“a million sharp returns”) and an evergreen (“wisps closely packed together, which sound like a bit like a sponge or a curtain”). They’re discovering sonic wonder wherever they go…

A beginner’s guide to navigating with sound: “Teach Yourself to Echolocate.”

* Darrin Lunde, Hello, Bumblebee Bat

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As we take sound advice, we might send closely-heard birthday greetings to Sir Frederic Charles Bartlett, FRS; he was born on this date in 1886.  A psychologist (and the first professor of experimental psychology at the University of Cambridge), he was one of the pioneers of both cognitive psychology and cultural psychology.  His 1932 book Remembering was hugely influential in its demonstration (via the experiments it reports) that memory is not a consultative process that retrieves facts from an immutable record, as most then believed; rather, it is reconstruction, open it a variety of influences that can shape what is recalled.

But relevantly here, he also studied sound and its impact on humans.  His 1934 book The Problem of Noise is a study of “sound that is a nuisance,” and its impact, both physiological and psychological, on hearers.  It was, though probably unintended, Bartlett’s contribution to “clearing the air” for echolation.

Bartlett source

 

Written by LW

October 20, 2018 at 1:01 am

“There is in souls a sympathy with sounds”*…

 

A Marconi-Stille recording machine, which the BBC helped to develop. It used thin steel for tape, a single spool of which weighed more than 20lb. (Photo taken in 1936)

In the worlds of television. audio, and film production, The BBC Sound Archive is legendary.  Founded in 1936, its holdings date back to the late 19th century and include many rare items, including contemporary speeches by public and political figures, folk music, British dialects and sound effects– along with most BBC Radio programs.  The pace of collection has flagged a bit under recent budget pressures; still, the archive is 350,000 hours of material in total duration.

The public has had some access to the archive through the British Library.  But now there is a more direct channel: the BBC has made 16,000 sound effects available (for personal, educational or research use) for download directly on its web site. From “Drilling and reaming machine operating, with occasional pauses” to “Tropical Forest, West Africa at dawn.” there’s (literally) a world there to hear.

* William Cowper

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As we lend an ear, we might recall that it was on this date in 1888, that Nikola Tesla was issued several patents relating to the induction magnetic motor, alternating current (AC) sychronous motor, AC transmission, and electricity distribution (Nos. 381,968-70; 382,279-82).

In his extraordinary career, Tesla patented over 110 innovations, ranging from these (which he deployed at Niagara Falls among other spots; in the long run, Tesla was right and Edison– proponent of direct current/DC, and vicious opponent of Tesla– wrong: AC became the standard) to the first wireless remote control.  Tesla designed and began planning a “worldwide wireless communications system” that was backed by JP Morgan…  until Morgan lost confidence and pulled out.  “Cyberspace,” as described by the likes of Bill Gibson and Neal Stephenson, was largely prefigured in Tesla’s plan.  Often mis-remembered (as a fringe figure, almost a looney), if at all, Tesla was a remarkable genius, whose talent ran far, far ahead of his luck.  He died penniless in 1943.

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Written by LW

May 1, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Ah this indeed is music–this suits me”*…

 

When Bebe and Louis Barron got married in 1947 they received a wedding gift from the future. Louis’s cousin was an executive at 3M and his present was one of the first tape recorders in the United States, plus a steady supply of reels of newly created magnetic tape. Bohemians, musicians, and tinkerers, the Barrons took their gear with them to Manhattan, where they set up a legendary electronic studio for the avant-garde at 9 West 8th Street…

Pressing [Anaïs] Nin readings to red vinyl and collecting “small sounds” for John Cage didn’t really pay the bills, so they jumped at the chance to make sounds for Hollywood… Rather than compose, though, they built…

Norbert Wiener was fixated on the possibility that delegation of weapons control to machines running game theory models would likewise wipe out the human race. But in their studio, Bebe and Louis were inventing a different and more interesting kind of future, a greenhouse of messy, perverse electronics that coexist with us, a population of cybernetic familiars and kinds of minds all singing together…

From the always-fascinating newsletter Passing Current, “The Overload.”

* Walt Whitman

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As we tweak the gain, we might recall that it was on this date in 1972 that the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed by the Senate and then sent to the states for ratification.  The ERA, as it became known, prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender, stating, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex,” and that “the Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”  Although 22 of the required 38 states quickly ratified the Amendment, opposition arose, ostensibly over concerns that women would be subject to the draft and combat duty, along with other legal concerns.  Despite an extension of the deadline to June 1982, the ERA eventually failed (by 3 states) to achieve ratification.

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Written by LW

March 22, 2017 at 1:01 am

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