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Posts Tagged ‘sound

“The empty vessel makes the greatest sound”*…

 

Hours of fun!

* Shakespeare, Henry V (quoting a proverbial saying often attributed to Plato)

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As we become one with the Cosmos, we might recall that it was on this date in 1966 that Capitol Records released the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations.”  Reputedly the most expensive single ever produced to that date, it’s in any case true that composer and producer Brian Wilson is credited with a huge step forward in the use of the recording studio as an “instrument” in its creation  The record was the Beach Boys’ third #1 song in the U.S. (their first in the U.K.) and has been included in both the Grammy and the Rock and Roll Halls of Fame.

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Written by LW

October 10, 2015 at 1:01 am

“If you talk to the animals they will talk with you”*…

 

The Macaulay Library is the world’s largest and oldest scientific archive of biodiversity audio and video recordings. Our mission is to collect and preserve recordings of each species’ behavior and natural history, to facilitate the ability of others to collect and preserve such recordings, and to actively promote the use of these recordings for diverse purposes spanning scientific research, education, conservation, and the arts.

Scientists worldwide use our audio and video recordings to better understand and preserve our planet. Teachers use our sounds and videos to illustrate the natural world and create exciting interactive learning opportunities. We help others depict nature accurately and bring the wonders of animal behavior to the widest possible audience. It is an invaluable resource at your fingertips.

This archive grows through the efforts of dedicated recordists who share their recordings with the community. We encourage recordists around the world to contribute their recordings and data to what has become an irreplaceable resource…

Browse the collection and learn more about its work at Cornell’s Macaulay Library.

And explore more “sounds that never die” at “The Eternal Auditorium.”

* Chief Dan George

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As we peel our ears, we might spare a thought for John W. “Jack” Ryan; he died on this date in 1991.  A Yale-trained engineer, Ryan left Raytheon (where he worked on the Navy’s Sparrow III and Hawk guided missiles) to join Mattel.  He oversaw the conversion of the Mattel-licensed “Bild Lili” doll into Barbie (contributing, among other things, the joints that allowed “her” to bend at the waist and the knee) and created the Hot Wheels line.  But he is perhaps best remembered as the inventor of the pull-string, talking voice box that gave Chatty Cathy her voice.

Ryan with his wife, Zsa Zsa Gabor. She was his first only spouse; he, her sixth.

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Written by LW

August 13, 2015 at 1:01 am

“There is no noise, only sound”*…

 

Unlike sex or hunger, music doesn’t seem absolutely necessary to everyday survival – yet our musical self was forged deep in human history, in the crucible of evolution by the adaptive pressure of the natural world. That’s an insight that has inspired Chris Chafe, Director of Stanford University’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (or CCRMA, stylishly pronounced karma).

In his intensive, data-driven endeavour, Chafe takes the unnoticed rhythms of the natural world and ‘sonifies’ them, turning them into music – all the better to see how nature resonates with the music inside us. By pulling music out of the strangest places – from tomato plants, economic stats, even dirty air – he enables listeners to perceive phenomena viscerally, adding a new dimension of understanding to otherwise barely noticeable aspects of the world…

Read more– and hear some of Chafe’s work– at “Sonifying the World.”

* John Cage

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As we muse of the music of the spheres, we might recall that it was on this date in 1954 that Sam Phillips‘ Sun Records released the first single by Elvis Presley, “That’s All Right (Mama)”/”Blue Moon of Kentucky.”

The tracks were covers that clued early listeners to the influences that Presley would marry with such power as he rose to royalty: “That’s All Right” is a blues song by Arthur “Big Boy” Cruddup, while “Blue Moon of Kentucky” is a bluegrass ballad by Bill Monroe.

But that stardom was still in the distance; while Presley’s renditions became instant hits in Memphis, hometown of both Elvis and Sun, the 45 received mixed reviews in the rest of what would become Presley’s kingdom.

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Written by LW

July 19, 2015 at 1:01 am

“You must always believe that life is as extraordinary as music says it is”*…

 

Left: Advertisement showing Regency amplifier, ca. 1954. Right: Living room stereo, ca. mid 20th century.

 

In 1954 House & Home reported that “half a million new hobbyists joined ranks of Hi-Fi enthusiasts last year”; by 1955, one authority noted that “High Fidelity at low cost is available to everyone.” (The rise of specialized publications catering to the new audiophiles is another indicator of the trend.) In fact, although stereo technology had been developed in the 1930s, it was not until February 1954 that RCA made the first commercial recording (a performance of The Damnation of Faust, by Berlioz, at Symphony Hall in Boston). Toward the end of the decade one observer would declare that “1958 will be remembered in America as the year when Stereo arrived.”…

Radios and phonographs had been around since the 30s, but with the rise of stereo…

Listening to music on hi-fi systems was not only central to music culture but also an accepted part of domestic culture — a complementary activity to almost anything else that could be done at home, from housework to recreation to eating to sex. As the cultural critic George Steiner wrote, in 1961, “The new middle class in the affluent society reads little, but listens to music with knowing delight. Where the library shelves once stood, there are proud, esoteric rows of record albums and high-fidelity components.” Listening to music was fast becoming one of the most important shared experiences in the American home…

More on the huge impact of the hi-fi at “A Tiny Orchestra in the Living Room.”

* Rebecca West

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As we load the changer, we might send sonorous birthday greetings to Robert Williams Wood; he was born on this date in 1868.  A physicist and inventor, Wood made substantial contributions to optics and to the development of infrared and ultraviolet photography.  He is probably best remembered as the first to photograph the reflection of sound waves in air, and for his investigated the physiological effects of high-frequency sound waves.

Wood, R. W. (1900) “The photography of sound waves and the demonstration of the evolutions of reflected wave fronts with the cinematograph.” Nature, 62: 342-349

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Written by LW

May 2, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Mr. Watson — Come here — I want to see you”*…

 

 click here (and again on the image there) for a much larger, scrollable version

There were 5.8 million telephones in the Bell/AT&T network in 1910, when this map was published. It shows the uneven development of early telephone service in the United States, and gives us a sense of which places could speak to each other over Bell’s long-distance lines in the first decade of the 20th century.

The Bell Telephone Company, which was founded in 1877, faced some competition early on from Western Union, but then enjoyed a virtual monopoly on telephone service until 1894, when some of Bell’s patents expired. Sociologist Claude Fischer writes of the years after that expiration: “Within a decade literally thousands of new telephone ventures emerged across the United States.” Some of those independents went into rural areas that Bell had not covered, because the company had focused on developing service in the business centers of the East Coast.By the time this map was printed, Bell had tried several different strategies, clean and dirty, to fight back against its competition, including (Fischer writes) “leveraging its monopoly on long-distance service,” pursing patent suits, controlling vendors of telephone equipment, and simply using its deep pockets to outlast smaller companies that tried to enter the market.

Theodore N. Vail, who took over in 1907, changed strategies, accepting limited government regulation while buying competitors or bringing them into the Bell system. The map shows Bell’s market penetration in 1910, three years after Vail took over. Some rural areas—Oklahoma, Iowa, northern and eastern Texas—are surprisingly well-covered, while others in the Southeast remain empty.

The discrepancy between coverage in the East and the West is perhaps the most striking aspect of the map. California remains sparsely served, and no long-distance lines reach all the way from coast to coast. AT&T constructed the first transcontinental line in 1914.

– Rebecca Onion, “A Telephone Map of the United States Shows Where You Could Call Using Ma Bell in 1910.”

* Alexander Graham Bell (the first intelligible words spoken over the telephone, March 10, 1876)

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As we listen for the dial tone, we might recall that it was on this date in 1857 that Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville received a patent for his “phonautograph,” the earliest known device for recording sound.  Intended as a laboratory instrument for the study of acoustics, it transcribed sound waves as undulations (or other deviations) in a line traced on smoke-blackened paper or glass.

Hear a sample– an excerpt of “Au Clair de la Lune” recorded by Scott himself in 1860, and believed to be the earliest recording of the human voice– here.

An early phonautograph (1859). The barrel on this version is made of plaster of paris.

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Written by LW

March 25, 2015 at 1:01 am

“There is music in the spacing of the spheres”*…

 

… just one of the collections to be found at NASA’s Soundcloud stream.

Here’s a collection of NASA sounds from historic spaceflights and current missions. You can hear the roar of a space shuttle launch or Neil Armstrong’s “One small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind” every time you get a phone call if you make our sounds your ringtone. Or, you can hear the memorable words “Houston, we’ve had a problem,” every time you make an error on your computer…

Or just listen with wonder…

* Pythagoras

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As we tune our ears, we might send celestial birthday greetings to Fred Lawrence Whipple; he was born on this date in 1906.  An active astronomer at the Harvard College Observatory for over 70 years, Whipple discovered a variety of asteroids and comets, came up with the “dirty snowball” cometary hypothesis, and designed the Whipple shield (which protects spacecraft from impact by small particles by vaporizing them).

You can hear a comet like the ones that Whipple studied here.

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Written by LW

November 5, 2014 at 1:01 am

The Eternal Auditorium…

Guglielmo Marconi, one of radio’s early pioneers, believed  that sound never dies; Nate DiMeo, of the podcast The Memory Palace, explains…

In his 60s, having suffered a series of heart attacks, Marconi dreamed “of a device that would let him hear lost sounds, let him tap into these eternal frequencies. He would tell people that if he got it right, he could hear Jesus of Nazareth giving the Sermon on the Mount…”

At the end of his life he could sit in his piazza in Rome, and hear everything that was ever said to him or about him. He could relive every toast and testimonial. And we all could — hear everything: Hear Caesar. Hear Shakespeare give an actor a line-reading. Hear my grandmother introduce herself to my grandfather at a nightclub in Rhode Island. Hear someone tell you that they love you, that first time they told you they loved you. Hear everything, forever.

There’s more in Rebecca Rosen’s appreciation at The Atlantic, “The Museum of Lost Sounds,” where she links to the Cornell Ornithology Lab’s sound archive.  You can hear the whole of DiMeo’s Marconi piece, “These Words, Forever,” here, and more of his wonderful podcasts at The Memory Palace.

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After we candle our ears, we might send both birthday greetings and notes of condolence to Johannes Hevelius; he was born on this date in 1611, and died on this date in 1687.  A councilor and mayor of Danzig (Gdańsk), Hevelius was an avid– and important– astronomer who worked from observatories he built across his city’s rooftops.  From four years’ telescopic study of the Moon, he compiled Selenographia (“Pictures of the Moon”, 1647), an atlas of the Moon with some of the earliest detailed maps of its surface.  A few of his names for lunar mountains (e.g., the Alps) are still in use, and a lunar crater is named for him. In Prodromus Astronomiae (1690), Hevelius catalogued 1564 stars, discovered four comets, described ten new constellations (seven of which are still recognized by astronomers), and was one of the first to observe the transit of Mercury.

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Written by LW

January 28, 2013 at 1:01 am

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