Stunning and weird portraits of musical note vibrations

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Artists Jeff Louviere and Vanessa Brown explore cymatics, the study of wave phenomena and how they are represented visually. Using black-colored water, a laptop computer, and a modified guitar amp, they captured "portraits" of the 12 notes in the chromatic scale. From my sister-in-law Heather Sparks's profile of their project in Nautilus:

In each ("portrait"), Louviere and Brown saw a distinct image: G looks like a devil, C# is the tree in the Garden of Eden, and F is something like the underbelly of a frog. If you were to repeat this experiment, you would get the same designs.

Pressing further their idea that “sight can be seen and images can be heard,” Louviere turned the 12 sound-induced patterns back into sound using Photo Sounder, a program that assigns sounds to the black and white values it scans along the x and y axes of an image. After applying the program to the 12 portraits, Louviere had 12 very distinct, “odd and bleepy” sound files, which he mixed together into a final soundscape born from the visuals of all 12 notes.

"This Is What Musical Notes Actually Look Like" (Nautili.us)

The audio is now available on a beautiful vinyl record: Louviere + Vanessa: Resonantia

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Fantastic short documentary on movie sound effect artists

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Director Daniel Jewel invites us into the magical and world of foley artist Pete Burgis and Sue Harding who create sound effects using techniques that look odd when you see them but sound spot on when paired with the right visual.

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Audio fandom: exploring the ambient noises of stfnal spaceships

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Spike Snell is a Star Trek fan whose thing is the ambient noise that the series' sound-designers created for the fictional spaceships, sounds that are never meant to be in the foreground, but which are always informing the viewer about both the ship's architecture and layout and its current status. Read the rest

What it's really like to read lips

Directed by David Terry Fine and based on the essay "Seeing at the Speed of Sound" by Rachel Kolb, who narrates this short film.

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Dead media soundboard: the Museum of Endangered Sounds

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Brendan Chilcutt's Museum of Endangered Sounds preserves the sounds made by "old technologies and electronics equipment." Read the rest

Trumpet sounds heard across Jakarta signal end of the world (or not)

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Last Friday evening, numerous people in Jakarta, Indonesia reported and recorded mysterious, low trumpet-like sounds in the sky. Listen for yourself below. Scientists often try to explain away these strange noises as "Earth sounds" caused by shifting tectonic plates, atmospheric phenomena, geomagnetic activity, or the like. But we all know it's really the trumpets of the apocalypse.

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The man who seeks the sound of silence

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Gordon Hempton is an "acoustic ecologist" and field recording artist who seeks out the places on Earth that are free of noise pollution. The episode below of the Generation Anthropocene podcast features Hempton's story and some of his favorite recordings of the natural environment. For more from Hempton, check out his book "One Square Inch of Silence: One Man's Quest to Preserve Quiet."

(top photo by Richard Darbonne) Read the rest

BWAAAAP! Inception button makes everything dramatic

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Need to spice up your next meeting or school presentation? Dave Pedu created this handy button to play the now-ubiquitous musical sting! Read the rest

WATCH: Strobe-lit cymatics experiments reveal more complex patterns

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Don't watch if you're sensitive to strobes, but otherwise check out these interesting periodic patterns which appear in strobe-lit materials excited by sound waves. Read the rest

WATCH: What is the resonant frequency of googly eyes?

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433 Hz. Now you know. Read the rest

Engineers mimic owl wings to reduce wind turbine noise

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Aeroacoustics expert Nigel Peake of Cambridge University leads a group of engineers mimicking owl wing feathers to reduce noise on wind turbines. Read the rest

Hunting the source of the mysterious Windsor Hum

The Windsor Hum is a weird thing — a low-frequency buzzing that drives some people in Windsor, Ontario crazy and, yet, doesn't seem to be heard by the Americans who live closest to its source, an island crowded with industrial facilities. As part of a new feature exploring environmental mysteries, Kim Tingley looks at how grantees of the Canadian government are attempting to identify the exact cause of the Windsor Hum, and how an American company is getting away with banning them from the island. Read the rest

Hear Alexander Graham Bell speak

The voice you can hear above is Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone. Bell's voice, not likely heard anywhere since he died in 1922, was retrieved from a wax-and-cardboard disc recorded on April 15, 1885 and recently "played" for the first time in more than a century. That's the disc above, looking strangely similar to a CD. The recording was identified and digitized by a team including researchers from the National Museum of American History, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the Library of Congress. In the clip above, Bell says "Hear my voice, Alexander Graham Bell." You can listen to nearly five minutes more of the recording session below. (via Smithosnian and The Atlantic)

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Sound of Oblivion

An excellent SoundWorks Collection interview with Oblivion director Joe Kosinski and the sound of his new movie.

The Exploratorium's Sound Uncovered: A science museum in your hand (for free)

This review also appears on Download the Universe, a group blog reviewing the best (and worst, and just "meh") in science-related ebooks and apps.

When I go to science museums, I like to press the buttons. I'm convinced this is a special joy that you just do not grow out of. Hit the button. See something cool happen. Feel the little reward centers of your brain dance the watusi.

But, as a curmudgeonly grown-up, I also often feel like there is something missing from this experience. There have definitely been times when I've had my button-pushing fun and gotten a few yards away from the exhibit before I've had to stop and think, "Wait, did I just learn anything?"

Science museums are chaotic. They're loud. They're usually full of small children. Your brain is pulled in multiple directions by sights, sounds, and the knowledge that there are about 15 people behind you, all waiting for their turn to press the button, too. In fact, research has shown that adults often avoid science museums (and assume those places aren't "for them") precisely because of those factors. Sound Uncovered is an interactive ebook published by The Exploratorium, the granddaddy of modern science museums. Really more of an app, it's a series of 12 modules that allow you to play with auditory illusions and unfamiliar sounds as you learn about how the human brain interprets what it hears, and how those ear-brain interactions are used for everything from selling cars to making music. Read the rest

Brazilian Birds: ambient internet radio station of bird calls in the Amazon

My new ambient-sound-while-working internet radio jam: Brazilian Birds.

(Photo: Toucan eye, a Creative Commons image from doug88888's photostream) Read the rest

The lobster says, "Criiiiiiick chirp scratch"

In case you have ever wondered what lobsters sound like, here is a recording of Justitia longimanus, the West Indian furrow lobster. I literally jumped a bit when the lobster's voice came on. (Thanks to John Sutter for the awesome link!) Read the rest

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