Sounds like failure Dec 16 2014
Quick three minute video about how they made the Millennium Falcon hyperdrive malfunction noise for Star Wars.
Favorite detail: one of the sounds is from the clanking pipes in the studio's bathroom. (via df)
Quick three minute video about how they made the Millennium Falcon hyperdrive malfunction noise for Star Wars.
Favorite detail: one of the sounds is from the clanking pipes in the studio's bathroom. (via df)
John Lennon died 34 years ago today. The night he died, someone made a six-minute recording of what was playing on FM radio in NYC:
Almost every station was either discussing the death or playing a Beatles song. See also the front page of the NY Times the next day and the article in the Daily News about the shooting. (via wfmu & @UnlikelyWorlds)
Update: Legendary reporter Jimmy Breslin wrote a piece shortly after the shooting about the police officers that drove Lennon to the hospital that night.
As Moran started driving away, he heard people in the street shouting, "That's John Lennon!"
Moran was driving with Bill Gamble. As they went through the streets to Roosevelt Hospital, Moran looked in the backseat and said, "Are you John Lennon?" The guy in the back nodded and groaned.
Back on Seventy-second Street, somebody told Palma, "Take the woman." And a shaking woman, another victim's wife, crumpled into the backseat as Palma started for Roosevelt Hospital. She said nothing to the two cops and they said nothing to her. Homicide is not a talking matter.
And that last paragraph, wow. (via @mkonnikova)
Worth a listen: a 30-minute BBC Radio show on 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Francine journeys through time and space to uncover the mysteries of this 1968 classic. Searching for the mind of H.A.L. and lost alien worlds among the delights of the Stanley Kubrick Archive at London's University of the Arts. Joining Francine on her voyage of discovery are 2001 chronicler Piers Bizony, former urbane spaceman Keir Dullea and the woman who built the moon! Other voices include production designer Harry Lange, make-up genius Stuart Freeborn, editor Ray Lovejoy, all now so much stardust, as well as those of lead ape 'Moonwatcher' (Dan Richter) & Stargate deviser Douglas Trumbull.
A look at the sound design of Interstellar, including some of the cool rigs they built to record sounds for the movie, including a truck driving through a corn field, sand hitting the outside of a car, and robots walking.
I look forward to every Thursday in a way that I don't remember awaiting the release of an episode of anything recently. There's something very intimate about someone telling you a story that close to your ears.
That's Jason Reitman echoing the thoughts of the many listeners who have turned Serial -- a new podcast from the producers of This American Life -- into the fastest growing podcast ever. Twenty years ago, we were all hooked on TV and radio. Twenty years of technology advances later, we're all hooked on TV and radio. Content is king.
For those who are already knee deep in the Serial serial, Vox has a complete guide to every person in the podcast.
NASA has a new Soundcloud account with playlists like Rocket Engine Sounds, Solar System & Beyond Sounds, and Space Shuttle Mission Sounds. Here is the infamous Sputnik beep:
"Ok Houston, we've had a problem here":
And "one small step":
For the first episode of podcast called Working, David Plotz talks to Stephen Colbert about how he and his staff construct The Colbert Report. This is fascinating.
My show is a shadow of the news, so I have to know what shadow it's casting right now, so I can distort it in my own way.
At the 13 minute mark, he talks about how the team communicates with each other about how the show is shaping up, changes, concerns, etc. They do it all by what sounds like text messaging. Paging Stewart Butterfield, you should get those folks on Slack. (via digg)
Watch and listen as Anna-Maria Hefele demonstrates polyphonic overtone singing, a technique where it sounds as though she's singing two different notes at the same time.
This blew my mind a little, particularly starting around the 3:00 mark, where she actually starts to be more fluid in her singing. (via @anotherny)
Update: See also Tuvan throat singing, Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq (who posted a photo online of her infant daughter next to a dead seal, a "sealfie"), and many other cultures who practice overtone singing. (thx, @bmcnely, @ChrisWalks1 & james)
The sound made by the Krakatoa volcanic eruption in 1883 was so loud it ruptured eardrums of people 40 miles away, travelled around the world four times, and was clearly heard 3,000 miles away.
Think, for a moment, just how crazy this is. If you're in Boston and someone tells you that they heard a sound coming from New York City, you're probably going to give them a funny look. But Boston is a mere 200 miles from New York. What we're talking about here is like being in Boston and clearly hearing a noise coming from Dublin, Ireland. Travelling at the speed of sound (766 miles or 1,233 kilometers per hour), it takes a noise about 4 hours to cover that distance. This is the most distant sound that has ever been heard in recorded history.
A much much smaller eruption occurred recently in Papua New Guinea. From the video, you can get a tiny sense of the sonic damage unleashed by Krakatoa:
Holy smoking Toledos indeed. On Reddit, a user details how loud a Saturn V rocket is and what the effects would be at different distances. At very close range, the sound from the Saturn V measures an incredible 220 db, loud enough to melt concrete just from the sound.
At 500 meters, 155 db you would experience painful, violent shaking in your entire body, you would feel compressed, as though deep underwater. Your vision would blur, breathing would be very difficult, your eardrums are obviously a lost cause, even with advanced active noise cancelling protection you could experience permanent damage. This is the sort of sound level aircraft mechanics sometimes experience for short periods of time. Almost twice as "loud" as putting your ear up to the exhaust of a formula 1 car. The air temperature would drop significantly, perhaps 10-25 degrees F, becoming suddenly cold because of the air being so violently stretched and moved.
Even at three miles away, the sound is loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage. But that's nothing compared to the Krakatoa sound. The Saturn V sound is ~170 db at 100 meters away while the Krakatoa explosion was that loud 100 miles away! What happens at 170 db?
...you would be unable to breathe or likely see at all from the sound pressure, glass would shatter, fog would be generated as the water in the air dropped out of suspension in the pressure waves, your house at this distance would have a roughly 50% chance of being torn apart from sound pressure alone. Military stun grenades reach this volume for a split second... if they are placed up to your face. Survival chance from sound alone, minimal, you would certainly experience permanent deafness but probably also organ damage.
The word "loud" is inadequate to describe how loud that is. (thx, david)
In late June, Kurt Andersen's pop culture & arts radio show Studio 360 broadcast an entire show as if it were produced in 1914, crackly static and old-timey radio voice and all.
This week, Studio 360 is broadcasting from 1914, covering the cultural happenings of a remarkable year. Charlie Chaplin debuted the Tramp, the character who defines the silent film era, in that year; one of America's great newspaper cartoonists invented the first animated character, Gertie the dinosaur; and George Bernard Shaw opened a front in the war between the sexes with Pygmalion.
From HowSound, here's a behind-the-scenes on how they made Andersen sound like a 1910s radio man.
On this edition of HowSound, the staff at Studio 360 walks us through the metamorphosis of Kurt's voice. Senior Broadcast Engineer John DeLore dissects the production process including the use a cone from an Edison Standard Phonograph. David talks about writing in the diction of 1914. And, Kurt describes narrating in a stilted and formal voice.
From YouTube, a playlist of 12- and 24-hour-long videos of ambient space noise, mostly of the sounds of spaceships like the Tardis, the USS Enterprise, and the Nostromo (from Alien). I think the Death Star is my favorite:
Or the completely unrelaxing 12 hours of Star Trek red alert sound:
Audacity is a sound editing program, but it turns out you can open and edit image files with it. With varying results, mostly of the glitch art variety:
(via 5 intriguing things)
On each episode of the Song Exploder podcast, Hrishikesh Hirway interviews musicians about how their songs were made..."where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made." I listened to this episode about the House of Cards theme song via this 99% Invisible episode and the inaugural episode features Jimmy Tamborello of The Postal Service talking about The District Sleeps Alone Tonight:
Bradley Campbell drew the story structures of various public radio shows down on cocktail napkins. Here's the structure of This American Life:
"Napkin #1'' is Bradley's drawing for This American Life, a structure Ira Glass has talked about ad infinitum: This happened. Then this happened. Then this happened. (Those are the dashes.) And then a moment of reflection, thoughts on what the events mean (the exclamation point).
Soundboart is a Beyonce soundboard. I must have pushed the AH-AH-AH button a thousand times until I discovered the SURFBOARDT button.
Theremin is a simple and fun audio synthesizer built in HTML5. My kids did not want to stop playing with this.
Every year, a bunch of folks play a game called Last Man, in which the participants attempt to be the last person to find out the result of the Super Bowl. TLDR did an entertaining podcast on this year's contestants.
Think you can distinguish between 80 of the world's most spoken languages? Play the Great Language Game and find out. (Oof, I am bad at this.)
Mostly because of jet aircraft, there are very few places in the world free of man-made noise.
For the past 30 years, Hempton has made it his mission to discover what he calls the last great quiet places, areas that clock in at audible human noise-free intervals of 15 minutes or more. He only counts areas of around 3,100 square kilometres (1,200 square miles) or larger -- enough to create a sound buffer around a central point of absolute quiet. Over the years, his list has shrunk as he returns to a previously quiet spot, only to find it now polluted by noise. Still, he says 12 such quiet places exist in the US, with more found around the world. A spot in the Hoh Rainforest in Washington is one, as are places in Grasslands National Park in Canada, Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota and Haleakala National Park in Hawaii. The others, however, he keeps confidential.
Working for CBS and later on his own in the 40s and 50s, sound engineer Charley Douglass perfected the laugh track technique, which was then called sweetening. His secret weapon was the laff box, a machine that you could use like a typewriter to produce the type and sequence of laughter you needed for a particular situation. Here's how the machine worked:
The one-of-a-kind device -- affectionately known in the industry as the "laff box" -- was tightly secured with padlocks, stood more than two feet tall, and operated like an organ. Only immediate members of the family knew what the inside actually looked like (at one time, the "laff box" was called "the most sought after but well-concealed box in the world"). Since more than one member of the Douglass family was involved in the editing process, it was natural for one member to react differently to a joke than another. Charley himself was the most conservative of all, so producers would put in bids for other editors who were more liberal in their choice of laughter. Douglass used a keyboard to select the style, gender and age of the laugh as well as a foot pedal to time the length of the reaction. Inside the machine was a wide array of recorded chuckles, yocks, and belly laughs; exactly 320 laughs on 32 tape loops, 10 to a loop. Each loop contained 10 individual audience laughs spliced end-to-end, whirling around simultaneously waiting to be cued up. Since the tapes were looped, laughs were played in the same order repeatedly. Sound engineers would watch sitcoms and knew exactly which recurrent guffaws were next, even if they were viewing an episode for the first time. Frequently, Douglass would combine different laughs, either long or short in length. Attentive viewers could spot when he decided to mix chuckles together to give the effect of a more diverse audience.
I found out about the laff box from Kevin Slavin & Kenyatta Cheese's talk about how, with the Internet, the audience now has an audience.
I have previously reported on Rutherford Chang and his large collection of first-pressings of The Beatles' White Album.
Q: Are you a vinyl collector?
A: Yes, I collect White Albums.
Q: Do you collect anything other than that?
A: I own some vinyl and occasionally buy other albums, but nothing in multiples like the White Album.
Chang has taken 100 of those records, recorded the audio, and overlaid the resulting 100 tracks into one glorious track. Here's Side 1 x 100 (Side 2 is available on vinyl only):
The albums, as it turns out, have also aged with some variety. Some played cleanly, others had scratches, noise from embedded dirt, or vinyl wear. And though the recordings are identical, variations in the pressings, and natural fluctuations in the speed of Mr. Chang's analogue turntable, meant that the 100 recordings slowly moved out of sync, in the manner of an early Steve Reich piece: the opening of "Back in the U.S.S.R." is entirely unified, but at the start of "Dear Prudence," you hear the first line echoing several times, and by "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" the track is a nearly unrecognizeable roar.
The Roaring Twenties web site is "an interactive exploration of the historical soundscape of New York City".
The Roaring 'Twenties website is dedicated to that challenge, attempting to recreate for its listeners not just the sound of the past but also its sonic culture. It offers a sonic time machine; an interactive multimedia environment whereby site visitors can not just hear, but mindfully listen to, the noises of New York City in the late 1920s, a place and time defined by its din.
Steinway & Sons, the celebrated piano making company, recently produced this video of how their grand pianos are constructed. Their process for building pianos has changed so little that they were able pair 1980s factory tour audio from former chairman John Steinway to contemporary footage of their Astoria, NY factory.
You can see how little has changed as you watch this 1929 film of how a Steinway piano was made:
Some of the shots in the two videos are identical, e.g. the men pulling the piano rim out of the mold or choosing spruce for the sounding boards. It interesting to compare these two videos with Wednesday's video of how Telsa sedans are made. Together, the three form a view of the progression of automation in manufacturing. I wonder if the Tesla robots could construct a piano that sounds as good as a Steinway? (via open culture)
Volcanoes "scream" before they erupt. And they also have a heartbeat of sorts. Listen to these surprisingly intense sounds emitted by a volcano in Alaska before it erupted. The first recording condenses 10 minutes of audio into 10 seconds, so you can hear the pre-eruption scream:
The second recording is of 10 hours of pre-eruption mini earthquakes condensed into one minute of audio.
The pause right before the eruption is Mother Nature dropping the beat. (via @DavidGrann)
In 1964, when they were teenagers at New Trier High School near Chicago, Michael Aisner and James Stein interviewed Louis Armstrong backstage at one of his concerts. In his boxers.
You can't take it for granted. Even if we have two, three days off I still have to blow that horn a few hours to keep up the chops. I mean I've been playing 50 years, and that's what I've been doing in order to keep in that groove there.
Aisner also interviewed Muhammed Ali a couple years later.
If you slow down the Seinfeld theme by 1200%, it sounds like the soundtrack to a bad 80s sci-fi movie.
You may also enjoy Justin Bieber at 800% slower.
The audio of a complete broadcast day from radio station WJSV in Washington, D.C. The day in question is September 21, 1939. A partial listing of the schedule:
12:30 Road of Life (soap)
12:45 This Day Is Ours (soap)
1:00 Sunshine Report (news)
1:15 The Life & Love of Dr. Susan (soap)
1:30 Your Family and Mine (soap)
2:00 President Roosevelt's Address to Congress (speech)
2:40 Premier Edouard Daladier
3:00 Address Commentary (news)
3:15 The Career of Alice Blair (soap)
3:30 News (news)
3:42 Rhythm & Romance
3:45 Scattergood Baines
4:00 Baseball: Cleveland Indians at Washington Senators (sports)
5:15 The World Dances (music)
5:30 News (news)
5:45 Sports News (news)
6:00 Amos and Andy (comedy)
Alexander Graham Bell famously participated in the first telephone call, but until very recently, we had no idea how his voice sounded. Then researchers used high-resolution optical scans of old audio discs and cylinders and converted them to audio...and found a short passage recited by Bell:
If you can't quite catch it, Bell is saying "hear my voice, Alexander Graham Bell."
During a walk with noise historian Hillel Schwartz, Peter Andrey Smith discovers that parts of Manhattan, which many think of now as quite deafening, used to be even noisier.
"There was a constant flotilla of barges taking construction detritus away from the city, toward the Jersey shore," he said. "All of these Irish tugboat captains probably knew the service staff, and they would be signaling to them, 'Hi, I'm coming by!' But they would be signaling with these huge horns! And they would be signaling late at night, also, to their complement of workers, who were now on shore, drinking heavily in a nearby tavern: 'O.K., time to call it quits!' The number of horns recorded over the course of an evening amounted to thousands. I hesitate to call them toots. They were horn swarms."
Debbie Millman interviewed me for her Design Matters podcast the other day. Spoiler: we did not actually talk much about design.
BBC Research & Development have created a site using the Web Audio API that lets you recreate the sounds of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, stuff you may have heard on a Jon Pertwee-era episode of Dr Who. The Wobbulator is my favorite.
Every once in awhile, something somewhere will make a sound and no one really knows where it came from. Among the unexplained sounds listed on Wikipedia are mistpouffers, The Bloop, The Hum, and Julia.
The NOAA's Dr. Christopher Fox does not believe its origin is man-made, such as a submarine or bomb, or familiar geological events such as volcanoes or earthquakes. While the audio profile of the Bloop does resemble that of a living creature, the source is a mystery both because it is different from known sounds and because it was several times louder than the loudest recorded animal, the blue whale.
From inside the club, Aisner and his friend watched out the front window as Ali screetched up in a red Cadillac convertible, parked in front of a fire hydrant, and jumped over the car door.
For the next 20 minutes, Ali talked boxing, footwork, why he wanted to fight -- and launched into an epic, unprompted riff about traveling to Mars and fighting for the intergalactic boxing title. All went smoothly -- until Aisner realized he'd forgot to turn on the tape recorder.
"I was mortified," he says. "I said, 'Champ, do you think you could do that again?'"
The champ obliged.
MoMA Unadulterated is an unofficial audio tour of some of the works on the museums fourth floor, narrated by kids aged 3-10.
Each piece of art is analyzed by experts aged 3-10, as they share their unique, unfiltered perspective on such things as composition, the art's deeper meaning, and why some stuff's so weird looking. This is Modern Art without the pretentiousness, the pomposity, or any other big "p" words.
A lot of these sound like my internal monologue when looking at art. What's the difference between childish and childlike again?
And a podcast! It's called Here's the Thing and it features a different guest every two weeks.
Award-winning actor Alec Baldwin gives the listener unique entree into the lives of artists, policy makers and performers. Alec sidesteps the predictable by taking listeners inside the dressing rooms, apartments, and offices of people such as comedian Chris Rock, political strategist Ed Rollins and Oscar winner Michael Douglas. Here's The Thing: Listen to what happens when an inveterate guest becomes a host. Subscribe now and get new interviews every two weeks.
A recent episode featured David Letterman.
Eighteen months on, the alien who discovered Voyager's Golden Record still hasn't gotten around to listening to the whole thing.
"The wind, rain, and surf sounds are pretty cool, but I usually sort of zone out when it gets to the crickets chirping, and then I just end up turning it off," said Ellinger, adding that he will sometimes put the record on as background noise when he's cleaning his electro-biological habitat.
Current status of The Onion: still really pretty good.
The long periods of silence by Mike Daisey were among the most compelling parts of the most recent episode of This American Life...you know the one. Michael Sippey edited together the silences into one glorious clip, the best audio of silence since Cage.
Reading the transcript of the Retraction episode of This American Life is one thing; listening to it is another. The most interesting bits were the silences, not only because Daisey is so clearly uncomfortable answering the questions, but also because we've been trained as radio listeners to abhor silence -- it makes *us* incredibly uncomfortable.
This American Life is retracting their popular episode about Apple and their Foxconn factories, claiming that part of the story was fabricated.
Ira also talks with Mike Daisey about why he misled This American Life during the fact-checking process. And we end the show separating fact from fiction, when it comes to Apple's manufacturing practices in China.
The audio is not available on the site yet (because the show hasn't aired yet?), and the audio for the retracted show is no longer available on their site (but you can listen to it here). Mike Daisey, the performer of the retracted piece, responds on his web site:
What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed THIS AMERICAN LIFE to air an excerpt from my monologue. THIS AMERICAN LIFE is essentially a journalistic -- not a theatrical -- enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations.
I have difficult news. We've learned that Mike Daisey's story about Apple in China - which we broadcast in January - contained significant fabrications. We're retracting the story because we can't vouch for its truth. This is not a story we commissioned. It was an excerpt of Mike Daisey's acclaimed one-man show "The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," in which he talks about visiting a factory in China that makes iPhones and other Apple products.
You've likely seen other videos taken from cameras attached to the Space Shuttle and its boosters, but this is one is exceptional in two regards: it's in HD and the sound has been remastered by Skywalker Sound.
Watch, and more importantly, listen to the whole thing...at the very end, you can see the second booster land a few hundred yards away from the first one. Who knew that being in space sounds like being trapped with a whale underwater in a tin pail? (via ★mouser)
The bulk of the Jan 27th episode of This American Life was about Alabama's tough new immigration laws.
Last Summer, Alabama passed HB56, the most sweeping immigration bill in the country. It's an example of a strategy called "attrition through enforcement" or, more colloquially, "self-deportation" -- making life so hard on undocumented immigrants that they choose to leave the country. But as reporter Jack Hitt found, the new law has had lots of other unintended consequences.
College-age women end sentences in the lowest vocal register, a creaky vibration called vocal fry, possibly to broadcast themselves as part of a social group.
Update: About a minute into this clip from Louie, there's a great example of vocal fry used by "college-age women [to] end sentences":
From the Smithsonian, a 1964 album of office sounds..."rustling papers, draws closing, typing and footsteps are just a few of the sounds heard on this album". See previous obsolete sounds. (via @ian_crowther)
Remember the cleverly designed Hidden Radio?
The team behind it has turned it into a radio/Bluetooth speaker and is doing a Kickstarter campaign to get production up and running...all they need is to pre-sell 1000 units.
Mental Floss has a collection of clips of familar sounds from 20-30 years ago that are no longer around, including the TV channel selector clunk-clunk, manual typewriter clicking, and one of my favorite sounds: that of the rotary telephone dial. One I would have added: the manual credit card imprinter.
In late 2009, after Penn State was named the #1 party school in America by The Princeton Review, This American Life devoted an entire show to the school and its festive status.
Most of the This American Life production staff spent the weekend at Penn State, and found that drinking is the great unifier at the school. Ira Glass, Sarah Koenig, Lisa Pollak and Jane Feltes report on tailgating parties, frat parties, an article of clothing known as a "fracket," and a surprising and common drunken crime.
(via ricky van veen)
In this recording from 1914, Harry Houdini talks about his Water Torture Cell trick.
The audio was recorded on an Edison wax cylinder; one of six used that day by Houdini and now the only known recordings of his voice to exist.
A small (but embeddable) collection of historically significant audio clips on SoundCloud. Here's Nixon's resignation address:
Audiosurf is a racing game where the courses are determined by the music you play from your own library. There are all sorts of YouTube clips of the gameplay (which is reminiscent of Guitar Hero)...here's a representative one:
A fascinating look at how a Foley artist makes all of the sounds that find their way into Hollywood films.
The Inception iPhone app takes the music from the movie and remixes it with the sounds around you (office chatter, street noise, etc.).
Inception The App transports Inception The Movie straight into your life. New dreams can be unlocked in many ways, for example by walking, being in a quiet room, while traveling or when the sun shines. You will get realtime musical experiences, featuring new and exclusive music from the Inception soundtrack composed by Hans Zimmer.
Bad: I can hear the people in the office talking, which is the precise thing I'm attempting to prevent by wearing headphones.
If you've got a Mac, the "droid" sound that Android phones make -- yep, the one from the commercials -- can be produced in the following manner:
1. Open Terminal.app
2. Type say -v "Cellos" "droid" at the prompt
3. Experiment: say -v "Cellos" "droid. sucks."
4. Or say -v "Cellos" "droid want to be iphone when droid grow up"
5. And finally, say "i am trying to unlock the mysteries of the universe, like how the big bang happened and where all the lost socks go after being in the dryer that really makes me mad"
Pulsate is a simple but addictive game-ish music maker. Just click to create expanding circles that make music when they collide.
William Gladstone was very nearly Abraham Lincoln's exact contemporary, both born in 1809 (Lincoln was 10 months older), only he was born in Liverpool, not Kentucky. He was a legendary orator and liberal lion, like an approximation of Lincoln and Ted Kennedy. He served as a member of parliament for almost 50 years, including as Prime Minster four times, before retiring in 1894. (Could you imagine if Lincoln had lived until 1894?)
He also had a great nickname: G.O.M., for "Grand Old Man." His Tory counterpart Disraeli called him "God's Only Mistake."
In 1888, a recording was made of Gladstone's voice on a phonograph cylinder and sent to Thomas Edison. So even though we don't have Lincoln's voice, we have Gladstone's. This is a section of the text he read:
The request that you have done me the honour to make - to receive the record of my voice - is one that I cheerfully comply with so far as it lies in my power, though I lament to say that the voice which I transmit to you is only the relic of an organ the employment of which has been overstrained. Yet I offer to you as much as I possess and so much as old age has left me, with the utmost satisfaction, as being, at least, a testimony to the instruction and delight that I have received from your marvellous invention. As to the future consequences, it is impossible to anticipate them. All I see is that wonders upon wonders are opening before us.
Via Max Deveson at the BBC.
and Edison either:
Anyways, the following clip has been put forward as a more credible candidate for being an actual recording of octogenarian Gladstone (reading the same text, which if true throws doubt on the whole "he sent somebody else to read it" theory):
Actually, I can imagine this scenario:
Clearly, Kate Beaton needs to draw this comic.
Electro-acoustic sample wizards The Books have a new album out, and they have a Tumblr that annotates each track. "A Wonderful Phrase By Gandhi" includes a sample of the Mahatma's voice from a 1931 gramophone recording.
Mostly I think of this track as a P.S.A. Everyone should know what Gandhi's voice sounds like; it's timbre communicates so much regardless of what he's saying, if we can help spread it in our small way it seems worth the 18 seconds.
Nick Zammuto goes on to compare Gandhi's voice to Einstein's, whose voice graces a track on the band's second album. This comparison, and the scarcity of fair-quality recordings of Gandhi's voice, made me realize how important our memory of an historical figure's voice can become. Try to imagine FDR, Martin Luther King Jr, or Hitler without thinking of their voice. Yet we don't know what Lincoln sounded like, or Napoleon, let alone Confucius or Cicero.
No, this is not a story from The Onion or about a new Facebook game called Pharmaville. The state of Oklahoma is concerned about kids listening to audio files "designed to induce drug-like effects" because that might be a gateway to actual drug use.
"Kids are going to flock to these sites just to see what it is about and it can lead them to other places," said OBNDD spokesperson Mark Woodward. The digital drugs use binaural or two-toned technology to alter your brainwaves and mental state. "Well it's just scary, definitely scary. Just one more thing to look out for," said parent Kelly Johnson.
I just got so wasted on this and then did a whole kilo of pure heroin; stuffed it right into my ears:
Look at that, I'm a drug dealer now! Now you'll all be pounding on my door in the middle of the night looking to score some tunes. (via clusterflock)
In 2005, David Foster Wallace gave the commencement address at Kenyon College. After a transcript of the speech was posted online (the original was taken down...a copy is available here), it became something of a high-brow viral sensation and was eventually packaged into book form.
The original audio recording (i.e. as read by Wallace on the Kenyon podium) has just been released on Audible.com and is also available through iTunes and on Amazon (this is the cheapest option). Note: there is also an audiobook version of the speech read by Wallace's sister...but I think the original is the best bet. It's a fantastic speech. (via howling fantods)
In Pursuit of Silence is a book about silence. And noise.
Instead of being against noise, I think we need to begin making a case for silence. This means getting imaginative about expanding our understanding of silence in ways that develop associations between silence and a vibrant, fulfilling life. Anti-noise activists often compare noise pollution to air pollution. But unlike smoke, lots of noises are good, at least some of the time. Instead, we might frame noise as a dietary problem. Most of us absorb far too much sonic junk. We need to develop a more balanced sound diet in which silence, and sounds we associate with quiet states of mind, become part of our daily regimen.
The author, George Prochnik, keeps a silence blog as well.
I try not to do too many interviews these days (they tend to get in the way of actually getting stuff done), but I was pleased to be interviewed for an episode of Dan Benjamin's Pipeline podcast.
They discuss blogging for a living, general vs. niche blogs, content longevity, making the transition to full-time blogging, how taking a break (even for a week) can affect traffic, finding links, guest bloggers, the good and bad of comments, and more.
(Christ, is that my voice? I *was* just getting over a cold...)
I feel like I've linked to this before but in case I haven't: the BBC and The British Museum are collaborating on a radio series (and more) called A History of the World.
At the heart of the project is the BBC Radio 4 series A History of the World in 100 objects. 100 programmes, written and narrated by Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, and focusing on 100 objects from the British Museum's collection. The programmes will travel through two million years from the earliest object in the collection to retell the history of humanity through the objects we have made. Each week will be tied to a particular theme, such as 'after the ice age' or 'the beginning of science and literature'.
This episode of This American Life about murder will put you in a weird mood. For instance, you might find yourself about to cry in the dairy aisle at the supermarket (not that such a thing happened to me, nosirreebob).
Act Two. The Good Son. - A story about a mother who wants to commit suicide and a son who dutifully helps her do it-even though his mother is a happy, healthy, independent person. How did they manage to pull it off? Practice, practice, practice.
We catch back up with the people we met in 2008, to see how they've fared over the last 18 months. We talk to Clarence Nathan, who in 2008 received a half million dollar loan that he said he wouldn't have given himself; Jim Finkel, a Wall Street finance guy, who put together and managed complicated mortgage-based financial securities; Richard Campbell, the Marine who was facing foreclosure; and Glen Pizzolorusso, the mortgage company sales manager who led the life of a b-list celebrity.
The newest episode of Radiolab is about parasites. It features what is one of my favorite links from the past few years: the story of Jasper Lawrence's quest to infect himself with hookworm in order to cure his asthma (also available here).
Based upon what I read, and what I learned about the hookworms I decided that I was going to try and infest myself with hookworms in an attempt to cure my asthma. I was not willing to wait ten or more years for the drug companies to bring a drug to market. It was obvious to me that hookworms, for a healthy adult with a good diet, are quite benign. This account details my experiences, how I went about it, and the things I have done since infestation to calibrate my level of infestation so that in the end I was able to cure my asthma and hay fever with hookworms. These same techniques are of course applicable to any hookworm infestation, whether you want to control asthma, hay fever, colitis, Crohn's disease or IBD.
Lawrence even sells hookworms to others so that they won't have to travel to a third world country to contract them.
A Life Well Wasted is a well-produced podcast about "video games and the people who love them", sort of a gaming version of Radiolab or This American Life. Each episode is accompanied by a limited edition poster designed by the awesome Olly Moss.
Update: The Bygone Bureau has an interview with A Life Well Wasted's creator, Robert Ashley.
So, I finally got the T-Pain iPhone app working.
Introducing the first iPhone app to give you Auto-Tune in the palm of your hand. You can sing along to T-Pain's hits or create your own. You can record and share your genius with the world.
It didn't work too well with my voice so I tried it on Ollie. Here's Ollie singing his ABCs in Auto-Tune:
Stick around until the end...it's the best part.
Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood doesn't think that the supposed low sound quality of MP3s is something to get worked up about.
We had a few complaints that the MP3s of our last record wasn't encoded at a high enough rate. Some even suggested we should have used FLACs, but if you even know what one of those is, and have strong opinions on them, you're already lost to the world of high fidelity and have probably spent far too much money on your speaker-stands.
This conversation with Greenwood is part of a new series by Sasha Frere-Jones' on the sound quality of recorded music.
Sine-wave speech -- artificially degraded speech that sounds like old Doctor Who sound effects -- can be difficult to understand but becomes clear once the listener knows what to listen for.
Listening to the sine-wave speech sound again produces a very different percept of a fully intelligible spoken sentence. This dramatic change in perception is an example of "perceptual insight" or pop-out. We have argued that this form of pop-out is an example of a top-down perceptual process produced by higher-level knowledge and expectations concerning sounds that can potentially be heard as speech.
iTunes U is a section of the iTunes store that houses educational audio and video files for free use by anyone.
iTunes U is a part of the iTunes Store featuring free lectures, language lessons, audiobooks, and more, that you can enjoy on your iPod, iPhone, Mac or PC. Explore over 75,000 educational audio and video files from top universities, museums and public media organizations from around the world. With iTunes U, there's no end to what or where you can learn.
Check it out in the iTunes Store. iTunes U includes the formidable series of podcasts from the University of Oxford. (via vsl)
Afternoon todo list -
3pm: Listen to Radiolab's season premiere about Choice live on WNYC or online.
This radio program made the rounds last week, but I finally got caught up this weekend so I'll add my voice to the chorus urging you to listen to This American Life's episode on the financial crisis, Another Frightening Show About the Economy. Paired with The Giant Pool of Money from back in May, this is an excellent overview of what's going on in the financial markets right now. The hosts of the two shows are also doing a daily blog/podcast thing at Planet Money In addition, the last half of this week's TAL concerns the political angle of the financial mess. I haven't had a chance to listen yet, but check it out if you're into that sort of thing.
The speech accent archive uniformly presents a large set of speech samples from a variety of language backgrounds. Native and non-native speakers of English read the same paragraph and are carefully transcribed. The archive is used by people who wish to compare and analyze the accents of different English speakers.
Another great-but-disturbing episode of This American Life: The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar.
Host Ira Glass plays the song "Mystery of the Dunbar's Child" by Richard "Rabbit" Brown. It describes Bobby Dunbar's disappearance and recovery and the trial of his kidnapper, all of which was front page news from 1912 to 1914. Almost a century after it happened, Bobby Dunbar's granddaughter, Margaret Dunbar Cutright, was looking into her grandfather's disappearance and found that the truth was actually more interesting than the legend. And a lot more troubling.
I just finished listening to this amazing episode of This American Life about two babies who were switched at birth and didn't find out FOR MORE THAN FORTY YEARS even though one of the mothers knew all along.
On a summer day in 1951, two baby girls were born in a hospital in small-town Wisconsin. The infants were accidentally switched, and went home with the wrong families. One of the mothers realized the mistake but chose to keep quiet. Until the day, more than 40 years later, when she decided to tell both daughters what happened. How the truth changed two families' lives -- and how it didn't.
The worst part about the whole thing is that the mother that knew, Mrs. Miller, always treated her non-biological daughter differently, like she wasn't really a full part of the family. The Millers sound like awful people.
We hear a long interview with Benny Perkins, who won the truck one year and was back the year they made their film to try to win again. He says a contest like this is not easy money. You slowly go crazy from sleep deprivation.
RealScoop's software analyzes statements made by public figures in audio or video and plots the results on a scale of believability that runs from believable to highly questionable.
RealScoop uses advanced emotion-based voice analysis technology to rate the believability of people's statements.
For instance, here's Michael Vick apologizing for holding dog fights, Eliot Spitzer resigning the governorship of NY, and Bill Clinton's infamous "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" statement. The Clinton audio and associated metering is really pretty good...it spikes in all the right places. (thx, john)
This a bit old but the dude that runs the stylish cameron i/o site (who is coincidentially named Cameron) built a trumpet-like bell for the iPhone out of a used toilet paper tube.
I wanted to listen to my music in the shower but the iPhone's speaker would get lost in the noise from the shower. So I directed the iPhone's audio straight towards me. Worked pretty well. Just ask my neighbors.
The recent discovery of a phonautogram by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville may be the earliest recording of sound in the world, predating that of Thomas Edison by almost 20 years.
Scott is in many ways an unlikely hero of recorded sound. Born in Paris in 1817, he was a man of letters, not a scientist, who worked in the printing trade and as a librarian. He published a book on the history of shorthand, and evidently viewed sound recording as an extension of stenography. In a self-published memoir in 1878, he railed against Edison for "appropriating" his methods and misconstruing the purpose of recording technology. The goal, Scott argued, was not sound reproduction, but "writing speech, which is what the word phonograph means."
Some cultures use whistling languages to communicate when regular speech becomes ineffective over large distances. From Wikipedia:
Whistled languages are normally found in locations with difficult mountainous terrain, slow or difficult communication, low population density and/or scattered settlements, and other isolating features such as shepherding and cultivation of hillsides. The main advantage of whistling speech is that it allows the speaker to cover much larger distances (typically 1 - 2 km but up to 5 km) than ordinary speech, without the strain (and lesser range) of shouting. The long range of whistling is enhanced by the terrain found in areas where whistled languages are used.
Here's an mp3 of two men communicating via whistling. It sounds very much like R2-D2.
Quick hitter from Radiolab as a preview of the new season: composer David Lang talks about a piece of music he made for a morgue. Appropriate listening for the crappy rainy day here in NYC. Hopefully the weather will be better for Radiolab's live premiere of their fourth season on Feb 21 at the Angelika.
New York Works is an audio portrait of a vanishing city. From a knife sharpener who still makes house calls to one of Brooklyn's last commercial fisherman, New York Works tells the stories of those who keep the city's past alive.
I've gotten totally re-obsessed with Kathy Acker, the East Village writer who died in 1997. It started with this recording of Acker reading a poem [Warning: audio, 2 minutes, 28 seconds, and not really safe for work!] that was released in 1980 on the LP "Sugar, Alcohol & Meat" by Giorno Poetry Systems and recently digitized by UbuWeb. Her New York accent is one that has largely disappeared since; she sounds amazing. Then I found this, which is an incredibly long mp3, the first 3/4s of which is a Michael Brownstein reading. The end, though, is a monologue which then becomes a stageplay by Acker about a woman, her suicide, her grandmother, and her psychiatrist. It is absolutely not safe for work, what with its endless use of a certain word for ladyparts that goes over well in Scotland but not at all (yet!) in the U.S.
The Sound of Young America's Jesse Thorn interviews Wendell Pierce and Andre Royo, who play The Bunk and Bubbles on The Wire. (thx, jesse)
Barnes & Noble's Media section is filling out nicely with audio and video interviews, readings, and conversations with a wide range of interesting authors.
Ten incredible sound recordings, including those of a castrato (a man who was forcibly castrated so that he would retain his boyish soprano), the first recorded human voice from 1878, and the last 30 minutes of audio from the Jonestown Massacre.
Influential Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni listens to the sounds of Manhattan waking up in the morning. "The sheets of metal. A short clatter, like gunfire. A train passes, perhaps the elevated. A peal, prolonged, and then the siren, abrupt. Gone. The sounds change in a moment, they arise and die again immediately. The hum reasserts itself, advancing like a camouflaged army, approaches, closes in, on the alert, ready to take over completely." The hum reasserts. I hear that one all the time as traffic ebbs and flows outside our apartment.
These audio clips from the World Livestock Auctioneer Championships are fun to listen to. The newest ones have the best audio quality. (thx, mlarson)
A friend of mine who works at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln emailed to let me know that they've posted both audio and video of a talk that Chris Ware gave at the school last week. If you're short on time, the real meat of the video starts around 18:30 when Ware starts a slideshow that delves into his process. In addition to his series of Thanksgiving-themed New Yorker covers from last year, he also talks about some of his other work, including Rusty Brown and the strip he did for the NY Times Magazine.
Quick little article on Bernie Krause, who is compiling a database of animal sounds from habitats around the world. I heard Krause speak at the first Foo Camp and his was one of the most interesting talks I've heard at a conference. "Krause noticed that birds who settled in compromised habitats -- logged-over second-growth forests, for instance -- encountered unexpected vocal competitors from other species and found their mating songs masked. Warblers that failed to find unoccupied [audio] bandwidth failed to breed, Krause observed, eventually convincing him of the validity of his niche hypothesis, the contention that animals evolve to fill vocal niches to best be heard by potential mates." (via tim o'reilly)
Reagrding the 70-hour unabridged War and Peace audiobook I posted about back in December, the Washington Post has a short profile of the audiobook's reader, Neville Jason. "But if the world has ever been ready for nearly three straight days of recorded Tolstoy it's ready now. A few years ago, publishers had to beg retailers to stock audiobooks longer than three CDs. Now, that's considered an ear snack. Unabridged is king. And abridged isn't just on the wane. It's basically stigmatized." (thx, mr. d)
Long audio interview with Michael Lewis by economist Russ Roberts on "the hidden economics of baseball and football". "Michael Lewis talks about the economics of sports -- the financial and decision-making side of baseball and football -- using the insights from his bestselling books on baseball and football: Moneyball and The Blind Side. Along the way he discusses the implications of Moneyball for the movie business and other industries, the peculiar ways that Moneyball influenced the strategies of baseball teams, the corruption of college football, and the challenge and tragedy of kids who live on the streets with little education or prospects for success."
Long but great NPR interview with Ed Burns, writer and producer of The Wire. We just finished season 4 last night and it took the stuffing right out of me. I haven't been this depressed for months. (thx to the several people who recommended this)
Before YouTube and Google Video came along, video on the web often suffered from taking too many cues from the production values of traditional media. Even in the early days of YouTube, a typical video made by someone for an audience was like a mini-movie: 15 seconds of titles, followed by 10 seconds of the actual content of the video, and then 10 seconds of closing credits. Eventually, many people came to realize that all that crap at the beginning and end was unecessary...it's OK not to have a 40 second video if you only have 10 seconds of something to say. Ze Frank took this notion to the extreme; he often launches right into something at the beginning, eschews transitions, and he just stops at the end. If an episode of The Show is 2 minutes long, it's because he has 2 minutes of something to say.
Podcasters have been slower to break out of the mold provided by talk radio. The playing of music before segments and as transitions between segments makes some sense on the radio, where it's used in some cases to fill airtime. But for podcasts, there's no need to fill airtime with anything but content. 30 seconds of music before the actual podcast begins is the audio equivalent of Flash splash pages on web sites. For instance, the Diggnation podcast has 10 seconds of ads and 30 seconds of theme music before the hosts start talking and even then it's more than a minute before there's any new information. It's important to set expectations and the mood (also know as branding), but it's possible to do that in a much more economical way -- something more akin to the Windows startup sound + "hi this is [name] from [name of show] and let's get started" -- or at other times during the podcast.
Interestingly, when I was looking around for examples of this wasted airtime, the folks making the most economical use of the listener's time in producing podcasts were from the mainstream media. That is, the people innovating on the form are not the same as those who are innovating on production. Perhaps in an attempt to seem more credible, native podcasters have embraced more traditional forms while those with experience producing audio content for other media are more free to tailor their content to the new medium.
Great little interview with professional rock, paper, scissors player, Jason Simmons. "The game started long before we actually threw the first throw." (via sippey)
Lengthy radio interview with Michael Lewis about The Blind Side. Available in RealAudio and MP3 formats. (thx, steve)
Profile of Walter Werzowa, the man responsible for the Intel Inside theme. More here about tiny music makers, including the Windows 95 startup sound by Brian Eno, the THX theme, and the Mac startup sound.
The Dr. Strangelove DVD has this clip on it (or something very similar): an audio recording of Peter Sellers seamlessly transitioning from one British accent to the next. (via clusterflock)
The International Dialects of English Archive has a ton of mp3 files of people speaking English from all over the world. "All recordings are in English, are of native speakers, and you will find both English language dialects and English spoken in the accents of other languages."
Audio versions of dozens of New Yorker articles. Perfect for the long morning commute (if I had a long morning commute). The same site also has audio versions of several other publications, including Wired, The Atlantic Monthly, and Scientific American. What a great resource. (via rw)
Update: Get them all at once, instructions here.
Cheese by Hand is a project by Michael Claypool and Sasha Davies to "capture the experience of cheesemakers around the country, in their own voices, and share them with consumers and cheese fans everywhere". Jasper Hill Farms cheese = great; audio about JHF approach to cheese, even better. (via megnut, who, if you haven't noticed, is blogging up a storm about food lately)
The Edge has a transcript and an mp3 recording of an event called The Selfish Gene: Thirty Years On. The speakers include Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins.
NPR report on The Elder Wisdom Circle, a group of seniors who use the combined wisdom of their ages to help people who write in with questions. What a nice idea. I love the response to the first letter..."if she really was serious about you, boy, oh boy, she would be running to the court to get a separation and divorce". Here's the EWC web site. (thx, jeff)
How do audiobook producers deal with things like footnotes, photos, interesting punctuation, and the like? "The voice manipulation, for which audiobook producer John Runnette used a 'phone filter' -- a voice-through-the-receiver effect used in radio dramas -- was an attempt to aurally convey Mr. Wallace's discursive, densely footnoted prose." Includes sample audio with examples. (thx, bill)
3quarksdaily has the full-text of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech given on August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Wash. DC. Audio of the speech available here. (Also, King's I've Been to the Mountaintop and declaration against the Vietnam War.)
The story of the Hindenburg disaster. Amazingly, 2/3 of the zeppelin's passengers survived the crash. Here's an audio recording of the famous Herbert Morrison radio broadcast ("oh, the humanity") of the disaster.
Starting on Monday, Dec 5th, Ricky Gervais (of The Office and Extras fame) will doing a 12-episode series of podcasts for The Guardian. (thx nicholas)
Since recording the walk signal sounds in Hong Kong, I've been a bit slack in documenting the sounds as I travel around Asia (because frankly the iPod is one more thing I don't want to lug around with me all day). Stuff I've missed:
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