Carryl Baldwin, a professor of cognition and applied auditory research, designs and tests sounds for "use as alarms in household, aviation, medical, and automotive settings." Atlas Obscura explores the art and science of making sounds that convey a spectrum of urgency:
One of the main considerations is the annoyance factor. To test for annoyance in the lab, says Baldwin, “we’ll construct sounds and we’ll look at all of the different acoustic parameters, so we might vary, for instance, intensity, frequency, the number of harmonics, how fast it ramps up and down, the temporal characteristics—like whether it’s going d-d-d-d-d-duh rapidly or duhhhh-duhhhhh-duhhhh.”
The faster an alarm goes, the more urgent it tends to sound. And in terms of pitch, alarms start high. Most adults can hear sounds between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz—Baldwin uses 1,000 Hz as a base frequency, which is at the bottom of the range of human speech. Above 20,000 Hz, she says, an alarm ”starts sounding not really urgent, but like a squeak.”
Harmonics are also important. To be perceived as urgent, an alarm needs to have two or more notes rather than being a pure tone, “otherwise it can sound almost angelic and soothing,” says Baldwin. “It needs to be more complex and kind of harsh.” An example of this harshness is the alarm sound that plays on TVs across the U.S. as part of the Emergency Alert System. The discordant noise is synonymous with impending doom.
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
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.
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
Brendan Chilcutt's Museum of Endangered Sounds preserves the sounds made by "old technologies and electronics equipment." Read the rest
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.
(top photo by Richard Darbonne) Read the rest
433 Hz. Now you know. Read the rest
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)