Listen to the sounds of an office, a vinyl record from 1964

In 1948, Moses Asch founded the incredibly influential Folkways Records label to record and share music and sounds from around the world. Along with bringing the music of Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Lead Belly, and Elizabeth Cotten to wider audiences, Folkways, acquired in 1987 by Smithsonian, also issued incredible sound recordings from the Ituri rainforest, Navajo Nation, Peru, and many other locations and indigenous peoples across the globe. (In fact, the label provided several tracks for the Voyager Golden Record, now 12+ billion miles from Earth! Researching that project with my partner Tim Daly, a DIY musicologist himself, I've become absolutely enchanted by Folkways. If any of you dear readers have Folkways LPs collecting dust, I'd give them a wonderful home.)

Along with music, Folkways released LPs with poetry, language instruction, nature sounds (frogs! insects), and other field recordings. I recently discovered this curious Folkways release from 1964, Sounds of the Office, featuring a time clock, electric typewriter, adding machine, thermofax, pop bottle machine, and of course "coffee break." It reminds me of an early avant-garde tape music composition! You can hear two samples below and more at the Smithsonian Folkways site.

"The sounds of the office are essentially sounds of paper and machines. Here are some of them, in a rough chronological sequence, from the start of a day to its end, or at least the end of the morning," wrote the recordist Michael Siegel in the album liner notes.

It's interesting to imagine how a contemporary version of this album would sound. Read the rest

How sound is used to make you remember brands

From the THX sound to Windows startup chimes, audio is a key weapon in the psychological branding arsenal. In this video from Wired, Andrew Stafford (Co-Founder & Director at Big Sync Music) and Steve Milton (Founding Partner at Listen) provide commentary on some of the most famous.

There was a time, Stafford says, when the Nokia ringtone was being played 20,000 times a second. [via MeFi]

Encore: the story behind Sosumi, the most annoying Mac sound. Read the rest

Windows 95 startup sound slowed 4000%

Something about the soundtrack to Hi Stranger tickled neurons untickled for many years.

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Maxime Causeret's gorgeous animation shapes order from chaos

Break out your headphones for this one. Maxime Causeret has created a beautiful animation for Max Cooper's instrumental track "Order from Chaos." Seemingly random elements slowly coalesce into lifelike forms as the track moves from raindrops to increasingly complex sounds. Read the rest

Ambient "hipster" lifestyle soundtracks

Hipster Sound is a website with a simple, unerring purpose: to provide ambient recreations of "hipster" environments such as coffee shops, buffet cars and the capital of France. It's quite well thought-out. For example, the coffee shops have optional pianos. I couldn't find a meta-control for "coded resentment of fashionable young people," though. Read the rest

Scientists discover that giraffes "hum" at night

Giraffes aren't known for their vocalizations, a limitation thought to be caused by their long necks, but biologists have know determined that they do "hum" at night. According to cognitive biologist Angela Stöger at the University of Vienna, the animals produce a low frequency hum with "a complex acoustic structure." Hear it below!

"It could be passively produced – like snoring – or produced during a dream-like state – like humans talking or dogs barking in their sleep,” Stöger told New Scientist.

Stöger adds that the hum could also be how giraffes communicate with each other when it's too dark to see.

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Animal sounds yours for the listening

Cornell Lab of Ornithology may have digitized nearly 150,000 digital audio recordings [via], amounting to 7,513 hours and 10 terabytes of data, but do they have the sound of this mouse that thinks it is a wolf? I think not. Read the rest

Sparkle and grunt: The sounds of a solar flare

I really dig science that makes the inaudible audible. Earlier this month, I posted a link where you could listen to seismic waves from the Tohoku earthquake converted into sound. A couple years ago, we had sounds from space—plasma waves converted into sound.

This video, from and the University of Michigan, turns a coronal mass ejection from March 7th into some fantastic sounds—some resembling tinkling bells, and others sounding more like a 7th grade boys' locker room.

Via Steve Silberman

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Seismic waves from Tohoku earthquake converted into sound

The seismic waves of an earthquake happen at a lower frequency than what the human ear can hear. But, if you speed up those signals, compressing minutes or even hours worth of data into a few seconds, an audible sound emerges.

Zhigang Peng, associate professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, has turned the seismic waves from last March's Tohoku earthquake into audio files. The result is powerful, and powerful strange.

Recorded near Fukushima, the main earthquake sounds eerily like a huge wave crashing into a rocky beach. On the other side of the Pacific, in California, that same seismic wave sounds more like a peal of distant thunder. In both cases, the initial impact is followed by a cascade of popping, crashing, scraping, and twisting sounds—like cars being crushed at a junkyard. Those are the noises the Earth makes as tectonic plates shift and settle into their new places.

Check out all of Dr. Peng's audio files.

Via Joe Rojas-Burke

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