The Young Man's Book of Amusement

From the title of this Victorian science book it's not out of line to assume that there might be at least a few diy methods for accidentally electrocuting yourself, but that's just the beginning.

The tome in its entirety is supposed to be available for free as a hi-res e-book sometime this month, but for now you can see a full list of some actually really beautiful sounding demonstrations, (like how to make phosphorescent displays using oyster shells), and some other cool heirloom science excerpts at Lateral Science.

Thanks to Tim O'Reilly for the link. Read the rest

Whistling Speech

I really love the research that they're doing over at Yale's Haskins Laboratories: instead of studying speech perception and production in terms of faithfully replicating alllll of the sounds we make with our mouths, (like the minute clicks, pops, and hisses of consonants), the team is proposing that all we need to understand speech is to track and re-create a few select resonances of the vocal tract. I like to think of speech production in this context as a series of bottles with varying levels of water in them--the mouth is one bottle that changes pitch resonance when you move it to open it or close it, the nasal cavity another, and so on throughout the vocal tract. It ends up sounding like a bunch of complicated melodies that are then combined into a complex micro-tonal harmony, a.k.a., we're all better at perceiving and making music than we think we are!

The examples below break it down into isolated sine-wave patterns that you can combine yourself to build a sentence. What do you think? How easily can you hear words emerge?

Tone combinations

Play Tone 1 alone | Play Tone 2 alone | Play Tone 3 alone | Play Tones 1 and 2 together

Play Tones 1 and 3 together | Play Tones 2 and 3 together

If you like this, you can go here for more interactive demonstrations, or check out this great sine-wave-synthesized Robert Frost poem.

Thanks to Robert E. Remez, as well as Phillip Rubin and Jennifer Pardo at Haskins Labs for allowing me to embed their work here. Read the rest

Música da Lagoa

Miles Davis called him "the most impressive musician in the world". He's Hermeto Pascoal from Brasil, and this is how he does it:

Aside from Hermeto's infectiously liberated attitude, this performance is unique as an exploration of the physical edge of two sound mediums. He makes entirely underwater concerts seem tame by comparison.

Full disclosure: when I was in high school I used to spend a couple of hours a day in the bathtub listening to what water did to different sounds - now I can see what a flute and an explosion of yellow butterflies would have added... Read the rest

Guest blogger: Meara O'Reilly!

Hello! I'm Meara O'Reilly. My thing is auditory perception. I've been exploring this through making instruments, heirloom science demonstrations, auditory illusions, and singing.

I write and build things for Make and Craftzine.com. I was in the band Feathers, and have played a lot in Brightblack Morning Light and with Michael Hurley, but now I do my singing alone, sometimes with a chladni plate. Right now I'm trying to make a glass vocoder and I live with the people from Encyclopedia Pictura, at our experimental woodland creative dojo.

These next couple of weeks, I'm going to write about new musical instruments and technologies, auditory perception, and inspirational approaches to farming and land management. I'll also profile some incredibly unique musicians and composers that maybe you haven't heard yet. Thanks to Mark for inviting me here, I'm really excited to be a part!

(Photo: Aubrey Trinnaman) Read the rest