Would you guess the sound of ricocheting bullets on a Saturday morning cartoon? When isotopic geochemist, John Andrew Higgins, posted this to Twitter, people thought it was fake, a joke. He had to assure them it was not.
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Researchers in Berlin claim to have succeeded in re-creating the sound of the voice of an Egyptian person who died 3,000 years ago, and was entombed as a mummy. Read the rest
Composer Janek Schaefer drew from the work of John Cage, DJ Shadow, The Orb, Marina Abramović, Steve Reich, Chris Watson, and so many other greats to create this powerfully evocative and weird 90 minute mix. A former architect, Scahefer has masterfully designed a haunting, expansive environment of found sound. This is the way, step inside...
[mixcloud https://www.mixcloud.com/TheVinylFactory/new-dimensions-in-time-space-and-place-by-janek-schaefer/ width=100% height=120 hide_cover=1]
Schaefer also prepared a complementary essay and annotated tracklist for the mix. From The Vinyl Factory:
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I loved how sound creates images that you cannot see, capturing an impression of spaces and places that can only be revealed again thought playback over time...
This C-90 style mixtape, entitled ‘New Dimensions In Time, Space and Place’, is a meander through my physical collection of works that have inspired me over the last 36 years, and I still enjoy. The loosely connecting themes explore found sound, ready-mades, collage, samples, sound design, sculpture, performance, field recordings, sonic art, appropriation, alteration, and accidents. The context of these sounds brings meaning to the works, and our understanding of that context brings the work to life when listening to it.
Wanda Diaz Merced is an astronomer at the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Office for Astronomy Outreach in Mitaka, Japan. Diaz Merced is blind and uses a technique to transform data from astronomical surveys into sounds for analysis. Over at Nature, Elizabeth Gibney interviewed Merced about how "converting astronomical data into sound could bring discoveries that conventional techniques miss." From Nature:
How did you begin your work with sonification?
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Sonification has been around for a long time. In 1933, for example, US physicist Karl Jansky reported detecting the first radio waves from space, as an audible hiss in his antenna. But at some point, visualization came to dominate the way we interpret astrophysical data. When I was an intern at NASA in 2005, my mentor, Robert Candey, wanted me to create a prototype data analysis tool that would familiarize blind people with space-physics data. So we developed software that could map astronomical data into sound — its pitch, rhythm and volume. Then, in my 2013 PhD dissertation at the University of Glasgow, UK, I proved that it is useful....
Can you describe a real-world example?
There are many. Sonification can help us to study the habitability of an exoplanet, by understanding how much high-energy cosmic and solar rays interact with its magnetic field or atmosphere. Such interactions cause fluctuations of electromagnetic emission from that star system that vary in a way that relates to frequency . BBut because astronomers usually separate out different frequency components into many graphs, this is easy to miss.
The Australian Acoustic Observatory project, described by its creators as a kind of "Google Street View of sound," is a new acoustic sensor network of hundreds of microphones and digital audio recorders distributed across multiple remote ecosystems on the continent. The solar-powered system will record animal and natural sounds continuously for 5 years. According to lead researcher Paul Roe of the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Ecoacoustics Research Group and colleagues, the observatory will enable scientists and the public to listen to "a galaxy of sounds — it is like the heartbeat of the environment." While scientists will use the data to better understand the ecosystems and how they are changing over time, I bet sound artists have a (ahem) field day with the recordings once the public can listen in. From ABC News:
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It was hoped citizen scientists would embrace the hidden animal world that was being captured, along with students and artists.
"For example, we will have citizen science projects where we can kind of search for a particular animal within the soundscape. People can use it to explore the environment to understand what is happening, how does the sound change," he said...
Professor Roe said 400 sensors have been placed across 100 sites in seven distinct eco-regions covering desert, grassland, shrublands and temperate, subtropical and tropical forests.
It might be then that we get birds arriving because there has been some water and trees are flowering, or there might be frogs which are going to call, they are going to come out of the desert and call after rain.
The NASA Insight lander on the Martian surface is equipped with an ultrasensitive seismometer to detect and record vibrations, from marsquakes to soft breezes to other unidentified vibrations. Listen below. From Space.com:
If we were on Mars with our ears to the ground, our ears wouldn't be sensitive enough to detect marsquakes. Even the recordings taken by Insight are too low to be audible to humans, but by speeding up the audio and lightly processing it, you can listen to marsquakes that Insight captured earlier this year...
As of now, Insight has heard and recorded over 100 events on Mars. But while scientists are fairly certain that 21 of these events are marsquakes, the remaining could be quakes — or something else. Scientists think these remaining events could also be caused by other sources of vibration on the planet.
Being so sensitive, the SEIS instrument detects just about everything, from the movement of the lander's robotic arm to Martian wind gusts.
The Insight team has noticed that, particularly at night, the instrument picks up strange sounds that they refer to as "dinks and donks," according to the statement. They think that these strange sounds could be caused by the instrument cooling down.
More: "NASA's InSight 'Hears' Peculiar Sounds on Mars" (NASA)
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We've posted several times about blind people who have learned how to "see" and navigate the world using echolocation like bats, shrews, and whales. In the video above, YouTuber Molly Burke and echolocation educator Brian Bushway, who are both blind, try to teach It's Okay To Be Smart's Dr Joe Hanson, who is sighted, the fundamentals of this extraordinary skill.
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Security research Matt Wixey from PWC UK tried putting different kinds of consumer speakers -- noise canceling headphones, smart speakers, parametric speakers -- in an anechoic chamber after infecting them with malware that caused them to emit tones beyond those intended by the manufacturer.
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"There was a phantom beep going off somewhere in my house, driving me nuts," says Steve Onotera. "So using my audio engineering skills I set about to track it down." Read the rest
Researchers at MIT's Lincoln Laboratory, a United States Department of Defense research facility, developed laser systems that can "transmit various tones, music and recorded speech at a conversational volume" to specific people without the recipient wearing any special equipment. Basically, the operator points a laser at someone from a distance and that individual hears the transmitted audio even though others in the area don't. Conspiracy theorists, start your engines. From the Optical Society of America:
"Our system can be used from some distance away to beam information directly to someone's ear," said research team leader Charles M. Wynn. "It is the first system that uses lasers that are fully safe for the eyes and skin to localize an audible signal to a particular person in any setting..."
The new approaches are based on the photoacoustic effect, which occurs when a material forms sound waves after absorbing light. In this case, the researchers used water vapor in the air to absorb light and create sound...
One unique aspect of this laser sweeping technique is that the signal can only be heard at a certain distance from the transmitter. This means that a message could be sent to an individual, rather than everyone who crosses the beam of light. It also opens the possibility of targeting a message to multiple individuals.
"New technology uses lasers to transmit audible messages to specific people" (Phys.org via The Daily Grail)
"Photoacoustic communications: delivering audible signals via absorption of light by atmospheric H2O" (Optics Letter)
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For the first time, we can hear the "sounds" of wind on Mars as captured by the scientific instruments on NASA's InSight robotic lander. From NASA:
"Capturing this audio was an unplanned treat," said Bruce Banerdt, InSight principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California...
Two very sensitive sensors on the spacecraft detected these wind vibrations: an air pressure sensor inside the lander and a seismometer sitting on the lander's deck, awaiting deployment by InSight’s robotic arm. The two instruments recorded the wind noise in different ways. The air pressure sensor, part of the Auxiliary Payload Sensor Subsystem (APSS), which will collect meteorological data, recorded these air vibrations directly. The seismometer recorded lander vibrations caused by the wind moving over the spacecraft's solar panels, which are each 7 feet (2.2 meters) in diameter and stick out from the sides of the lander like a giant pair of ears.
image: "One of two Mars InSight's 7-foot (2.2 meter) wide solar panels was imaged by the lander's Instrument Deployment Camera, which is fixed to the elbow of its robotic arm." (NASA/JPL-Caltech)
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Remember the stories over the past year or so about mysterious attacks at U.S. embassies harming diplomatic staff and their families? William J. Broad's story in the New York Times today reports that doctors and scientists are now coming to the conclusion that microwave weapon strikes capable of causing “sonic delusions” and brain damage are to blame. Read the rest
Colored sand, a Chladni plate, and a little Bach make for a very soothing demonstration of cymatics. Read the rest
NASA scientists listen to the low-frequency pulsing hum of the Sun to gain insight into the star's atmosphere over time. The raw data comes from the ESA (European Space Agency) and NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) launched back in 1995. Researchers from Stanford Experimental Physics Lab then process and filter the data and speed it up "a factor 42,000 to bring it into the audible human-hearing range."
“Waves are traveling and bouncing around inside the Sun, and if your eyes were sensitive enough they could actually see this,” said Alex Young, associate director for science in the Heliophysics Science Division at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland...
Data from SOHO, sonified by the Stanford Experimental Physics Lab, captures the Sun’s natural vibrations and provides scientists with a concrete representation of its dynamic movements.
“We don’t have straightforward ways to look inside the Sun. We don’t have a microscope to zoom inside the Sun,” Young said. “So using a star or the Sun’s vibrations allows us to see inside of it..."
These vibrations allow scientists to study a range of complex motions inside the Sun, from solar flares to coronal mass ejections.
“We can see huge rivers of solar material flowing around. We are finally starting to understand the layers of the Sun and the complexity,” Young said. “That simple sound is giving us a probe inside of a star. I think that’s a pretty cool thing.”
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In 1997, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recorded "the bloop," a one-minute sound emanating 1,500 miles west of Chile's southern coast. The unexplained sound was never recorded again. Read the rest
Last week, I posted about The Sounds of the Office, a 1964 vinyl record released by Folkways Records of field recordings by Michael Siegel. This week, it's The Sounds of the Junk Yard, another 1964 Folkways collection of Siegel's field recordings, ranging from an Acetylene Torch to Alligator Shears to a Paper Baler.
Moses Asch founded the incredibly influential Folkways Records label in 1948 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.
Along with music, Folkways released LPs with poetry, language instruction, nature sounds (frogs! insects!), and other field recordings. The Sounds of the Junk Yard reminds me of an Einstürzende Neubauten album but was issued a decade before the birth of "Industrial Music" as a genre.
"Some junk yard equipment is common to all of them, some is more specialized," wrote Siegel in the album liner notes. "All these sounds were recorded in yards in Warren, Pennsylvania."
Hear more samples at the Smithsonian Folkways page here.
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