How to bring back the Mac chime

I learned this morning that the Mac chime – the epic C Major chord that plays when you boot an old Mac – can be turned on in newer models. Here's the terminal command, courtesy of Mr. Macintosh:

sudo nvram StartupMute=%00

And to turn it off again:

sudo nvram StartupMute=%01 Read the rest

Someone flushed the toilet during today's livestreamed Supreme Court arguments today

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-a4EU0dPHWA

At least all we heard was the flush.

From CNN:

The case at issue concerned the Telephone Consumer Protection Act that prohibits unwanted calls to cellphones by use of an automated system. Challengers say one provision violates the Constitution. Lawyer Ramon Martinez, representing political groups challenging the law, was pressing his point when the offending flush occurred.

Martinez did not seem fazed or publicly notice the interruption.

Read the rest

Listen to the sound of one screw falling into a turbine engine

This is super neat. Read the rest

Music that inspired 1980s Japanese environmental music composer Yukata Hirose

Yutaka Hirose is a Japanese composer who was a key figure in that country's ambient/environmental music scene of the 1980s that in recent years has been rediscovered by crate-diggers around the world. Hirose's "NOVA" (1986) is a classic of the genre, a soundscape that Misawa Home Corporation commissioned as a "soundtrack" for the prefabricated houses. While original LPs have sold for hundreds of dollars, WRWTFWW Records have recently reissued the record as an expanded double LP and double CD. (For a further exploration of Japanese environmental music of the 1980s, Light in the Attic Records' "Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990" is a perfect portal.)

To celebrate the NOVA reissue, The Vinyl Factory asked Hirose to create a mix of music he was listening to and inspired by in the 1980s Listen above. It's a beautiful, sometimes-jarring, and totally compelling journey through avant-garde sounds of the time. Here's the tracklist:

1. Jan Steele – All Day 2. David Toop – Do The Bathosphere 3. Gavin Bryars – 1, 2, 1-2-3-4 4. Joan La Barbara – Poems 43, 44, 45 5. Meredith Monk – Waltz 6. Karlheinz Stockhausen – Stimmung 7. John Cage – Seven Haiku 8. Throbbing Gristle – Almost A Kiss 9. Robert Ashley – Yellow Man With Heart With Wings 10. The Flying Lizards – The Window 11. Henry Cow Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road 12. Faust – Faust 13. CAN – Future Days 14. Tangerine Dream:Rubycon 15. Michael Nyman – Decay Music 16.

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Music of the circuit-bent smoke alarms

Dylan Sheridan circuit-bent some smoke alarms and posted the results of his sonorous experiments to Bandcamp. [via Metafilter]

Circuit Bent Smoke Alarms - Ringtone Collection by Dylan Sheridan

Unprocessed sounds of circuit bent smoke alarms. If anybody uses these let me know I can't tell you how happy it would make me

Big fan of the solid feet-on-the-floor beat of call_1 but its the intricate structures of call_5 that really speak to me. I am two glasses of sawbuck wine away from making a pounding EDM track that integrates these. Read the rest

Entrancing interactive Gregorian Chant generator

Signal processing engineer Stéphane Pigeon created this captivating Gregorian chant generator. It enables you to simply "conduct," mix, and process the sacred a cappella songs heard in the monasteries of the Roman Catholic Church since the 9th century.

Gregorian Voices: Early Roman Catholic Church Song Generator

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Musician uses audio engineering skills to search for annoying mystery beep in his home

"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

Ah, the sound of a dot matrix printer!

One of my first jobs, back in the late 80s, stuck me in a room with an IBM /36, a gigantic floppy drive, and a printer the size of a Volkswagen Scirocco. I think I woke up today still hearing this... Read the rest

Listen to the "sounds" of wind on Mars for the first time ever

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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Howler Monkeys are coming for your soul

Beautiful beaches. Lush jungles that thrive in volcanic soil. Friendly people and amazing local cuisine. You can keep 'em all. One of the things I enjoyed most about my last trip to Costa Rica were the calls of local howler monkeys. It didn't matter that I knew what was making their horrific calls. Hearing their low, simmering rage-filled grunts and screams never failed to make the lizard bits of my brain insist that my face was about to be eaten and that I would soon be dead.

  Read the rest

The best online white noise machine

There are various apps that purport to generate white noise, but the free ones I've tried have all been strange or skeevy, and YouTube's a minefield of allcaps woo and bad ads. Turns out that the best place to get it is a website: NoiseMachines.

The white noise generator is perfect, with an equalizer, presets and options to save and share your own. (Here's one I made for you that I'm calling "24 hours of bridge noise but something's very wrong with the spaceship")

But there's also lots of sample-based blends of noise, too, such as thunder, vinyl scratches, generative piano music (my setting), data centers, binaural beats, etc.

The creator is Stephane Pigeon, a sound engineer with various other similar projects to enjoy. Read the rest

When birds sound like heavy metal and hardcore vocalists

TIL two things:

1. YouTube is home to the world's only heavy metal-themed talk show. It's called Two Minutes to Late Night.

2. Vocalists of all metal subgenres often shriek and squawk like birds. To prove it, the Two Minutes to Late Night host recently asked ornithologist Tom Stephenson of BirdGenie (an app that identifies birds by their sounds), "What Birds Do Metal Singers Sound Like?" He had no problem matching birds to their metal equivalent.

For instance, the (most-non-metal) bird expert (ever) identified the Northern Potoo as a close match to the screeching vocals of Converge's 2001 metalcore song "Concubine." Ok, sure.

(The Awesomer) Read the rest

Pouring water down a 165 foot well sounds surprisingly odd

At the Nuremberg Castle in Bavaria, Germany, there is a 50 meter (165 foot) well. The delay between when water is poured into it and its splash at the bottom delivers a surprising thrill of anticipation. (via r/videos)

Read the rest

The Earth's constant hum comes from the ocean floor

For more than fifty years, scientists have known that the Earth hums. We can't hear the sound as it's at a frequency 10,000 times lower than our hearing threshold but new research suggests that it's coming from the ocean floor. Scientists from the Paris Institute of Global Physics analyzed data from earthquake sensors on the Indian Ocean floor and found the familiar and constant oscillations of between 2.9 and 4.5 millihertz. From National Geographic:

"To better understand where the signal comes from, we believe that observing oscillations from the ocean bottom can help," says co-author Martha Deen...

Since early observations, a number of studies have hypothesized that the Earth's free oscillations are a side-effect of the pounding of ocean waves. Other research suggests the hum could originate from atmospheric turbulence, or the wind motions around the globe, cued by storms. The current study says turbulence could account for part of the vibration, leading the rest to be fueled by ocean waves...

By studying the Earth's hum signal from ocean-bottom stations, scientists can map out a detailed landscape of the Earth's interior. Currently, they can only look at the inside of the planet during earthquakes, which limits studies to certain times and areas. And when looking at seismic activity from land monitors, researchers can't chart places far removed from islands and land masses. But the hum signal, droning and constant, can be detected across the world.

Read the rest

The story behind the sounds of Pong, Pac-Man, and Doom

Four video game audio designers explore the psychoacoustics of vintage video games, from the accelerating heartbeat of Space Invaders to the dramatic woosh of Myst's linking books. From Wired:

With only a few channels of audio to play with, early videogame designers had to get very creative if they wanted their sounds to stand out. Pong, created in 1972, took a single tone and made it iconic, while Donkey Kong utilized the limited sounds of a Game Boy to trigger a range of cues and emotions.

As the games got more complex, so did the audio, and the theories behind it. A loop, or short, repeated section of audio, acts as a recurring cue. Dissonant sounds communicate failure, while consonant ones—think of the sympathetic vibrations of Super Mario Bros.—encourage players to continue. The tones can even mimic human sounds—a modulating synthesizer approximates laughter, like the “wawawawawa” in Duck Hunt.

Read the rest

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

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