Feeling Sound, Physically: ‘Touch the Sound’ Documents Deaf Percussionist

What is sound? What does it mean, and why does it matter? It’s never too fundamental, too basic a question to ask ourselves again when we make music. So, I’ll leave this trailer otherwise largely without comment, except to say, it’s well worth watching (or re-watching). Touch the Sound, produced by German director Thomas Riedelsheimer in 2004, focuses on the work and world of nearly-deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie. See a trailer, below, and excerpt, above. Thanks to Morgan Hendry for the tip. IMDB link On this topic, and the inspiration for this link: For a Deaf Artist, The Process of …

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Your Hearing, According to MP3: Sounds for Humans, Played for 10^450 Years

The miracle of human hearing goes well beyond audiophile snobbery over “high fidelity,” or the machinations of sometimes-arbitrary, designed-by-committee industry specifications. But, in the context of my rant about perceived myths in audio, what can we hear, really? And how much perceptible sound can you squeeze into an MP3? For his master’s thesis at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Kyle McDonald investigated the deeper, existential issues behind common digital audio specifications. The question: what if you could play every single distinguishable sound that the MP3 specification can accommodate? (For the technically minded, that means …

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Notes and Neurons: Bobby McFerrin Shows Everybody Gets Pentatonic

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo. At the World Science Festival in June here in New York, specialists – including musical specialist Bobby McFerrin – gathered to ask what in music we humans hear universally, versus what is culturally specific. Is our response to music hard-wired or culturally determined? Is the reaction to rhythm and melody universal or influenced by environment? Join host John Schaefer, Jamshed Barucha, scientist Daniel Levitin, Professor Lawrence Parsons and musical artist Bobby McFerrin for live performances and cross cultural demonstrations to illustrate …

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Kids Using High-Pitched Ringtones Inaudible to Adults (What About You?)

In case you haven’t seen it yet, The New York Times reports today that New York-area schoolkids have resorted to an unusual solution to cellphone bans. Apparently unaware of phones’ vibrate mode, the students have opted for an incredibly annoying ringtone pitched at 17,000 Hz. Theoretically, “adults” shouldn’t be able to hear that. (The real issue is middle-aged adults, an ironic choice in New York schools where many of the faculty are younger.) I also think that’s a liberal estimate of hearing loss; while most people lose some of their high-end hearing as they age, the numbers from the private …

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Hearing Like Humans Do: New Sonic Analysis Methods Clear Through Noise, Promise Better Music Software

Hearing over the din of noise is something that humans do a lot better than computers. A new mathematical technique promises to provide highly accurate models of sound, even with broadband noise in the picture. Why does this matter, aside from mathematical curiosity? For one, better sonic analysis could mean more realistic models of instruments and more flexible sound editing tools, inspiring a new generation of music software. From our friend kokorozashi: ‘In a recent issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Marcelo Magnasco, professor and head of the Mathematical Physics Laboratory at Rockefeller University, has published …

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Happy Birthday, Doppler! Sounds, Sights, and Software of the Doppler Effect

November 29 is the 205th birthday anniversary of Christian Doppler, the Austrian mathematician and physicist who hypothesized what’s now called the Doppler Effect. (You know, that effect when an ambulance or other fast-moving vehicle flies by and the perceived pitch changes.) That calls for Doppler trivia, astrophysics, audio software, and a drink. In celebration, go check out the excellent Wikipedia page on the Doppler Effect, including one of my favorite Physics equations (while I wasn’t failing.) And if the idea isn’t sinking in, there are plenty of online demonstrations of why this effect occurs. (Science aside, I also recommend celebrating …

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Acoustics on the Road: Phase Cancellation and Your Car Muffler

Two things most people don’t care to understand: physics and how the heck your car works. But you’re different. Why, you probably already know that phase cancellation occurs when a sound source is delayed slightly (by a real-world reflection, or in recording and mixing), so that two coherent waveforms of opposite phase are superimposes and cancel each other out. (Er, in plain english: one wave’s crests cancel out the other’s troughs and vice versa.) Now, did you know this principle is what keeps your car’s exhaust from making a racket? How Mufflers Work [Howstuffworks] Basically, the muffler is a chamber …

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Reimagining Hearing: Hearwear Show in UK

While image technology has leaped forward, headphones and hearing aids still resemble 19th-Century tech. A show opening this week in London brings together designers seeking to change that. Ideas on view include glasses with built-in earphones that let you listen directionally to whatever you’re looking at, and “goldfish” earphones that repeat whatever someone said in the last 10 seconds — finally, I’ll be able to remember people’s names! My favorite: earbuds connected to a conductive strip so you can finally hear what your friends are saying at a bar. (Wait, maybe that’s not a good thing.) See a great roundup …

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