Sound

Teach yourself to echolocate

Photo of Daniel Kish by PopTech licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Jessica Leigh Hester, Atlas Obscura, writes about how we can learn to navigate with sound. Hester introduces us to Daniel Kish, who, after losing his vision as an infant, taught himself to move around with echolocation. You may be aware that bats use echolocation for navigation, and, apparently, so does Kish. Hester writes that he “uses his mouth to produce a series of short, crisp clicking sounds, and then listens to how those sounds bounce off the surrounding landscape.” By employing echolocation, Kish can then map out his environment.

Want to give it a try? Kish teaches echolocation, mostly to blind students, and he gives Hester an introductory lesson on how to get in tune with your sonic environment. Click the link for Kish’s primer.

Want to get away from the noise?

Photo credit: Peter Rintels licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

You are not the only one. Jess Bidgood, The New York Times introduces us to Dennis Follensbee, a programmer from New Hampshire, who is on “an exhaustive search for the noiseless hollows and dells of New Hampshire’s White Mountains.” The good news is that Follensbee has mapped 23 quiet places to date. The bad news is that he will only share this information with family and “close friends,” because “[i]f quiet places are widely known, he reasons, ‘they cease to be quiet.’”

But despite keeping his information secret, formerly quiet places have been found and are being “enjoyed” by those who love noise. Writes Bidgood,”people whose passions make noise — like snowmobilers and motorcyclists — say they, too, have the right to enjoy the wilderness.” That is, they believe they have the right to make as much noise as they want because they like it, and they are seemingly unburdened by the needs of others who go to the wilderness to enjoy natural sounds. Bidgood speaks to a 75-year old motorcyclist who finds the noise he creates “thrilling,” saying that it is “part of the attraction.”

Which suggests, sadly, that Mr. Follensbee list will likely see some subtraction. One can only hope that in some future enlightened time (ed: it could happen) those who are entrusted with protecting our natural spaces understand that it includes the natural soundscape.

Travel with your ears

Photo credit: Adrian Glover licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5

The New York Times Magazine has produced a slick and interesting piece where they travel around the world to various locations and focus on what you would hear if you were there. In the piece we hear the sounds of lava flowing from Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, then travel to northern Chile to hear the cracking of the Atacama Desert, stop briefly to hear the sound of rats conversing in New York City, and so on.

Sit back, relax, and click the link above.

Silence, please! Is it really possible to mute the world?

Photo credit: Kat Jayne from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

In a word, no. But this fascinating essay mentions a 1957 science fiction story by Arthur C. Clarke predicting a machine that does that, and now scientists are working on actualizing that idea.

We’ll see how successful they are, and of course how much the new technology costs. But it seems to me that it’s much simpler to use existing technologies, or even just to enforce existing noise ordinances, than to try to develop a whole new technology. Acoustic technology is highly developed. Reduce noise at the source by design and material choices, and if that can’t be done, insulate, isolate, reflect, or contain the sound. And laws to reduce harmful and unwanted noise have long existed, including building codes, zoning codes, federal laws about vehicle mufflers, local laws about horn use, etc.

As noise pioneer Arline Bronzaft PhD wrote many years ago, it’s a matter of will, not of way, to make the world a quieter and more enjoyable place for all.

I sent these remarks to Dr. Bronzaft as a courtesy, to make sure she wanted to be quoted and to make sure I got it right. She replied with a wonderful insight: people don’t want silence, they want quiet so they can hear others talk, hear the raindrops fall, hear birds singing.

Of course, she’s right!

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

The BBC dabbles in slow radio

The BBC is getting into “slow radio.” What is slow radio? According to Rosie Spinks, Quartz, The BBC‘s Radio 3 programming “will invite listeners to relax to the sounds of Irish cows being herded up a mountain and leaves crunching on walks through the country.” Alan Davey, Radio 3 Controller, says the programming with provide the audience with “a chance for quiet mindfulness.” Spinks notes that the programming sounds a lot like autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR, which is “the subjective experience of ‘low-grade euphoria’ characterized by ‘a combination of positive feelings and a distinct static-like tingling sensation on the skin.'” Or sounds that make you feel good.

According to Spinks, the slow radio programs will feature a range of sounds “from the animal murmurings of a zoo at dusk to one of the UK’s largest collections of clocks,” and “[o]n Christmas Eve, listeners can look forward to hearing a three-hour walk through the Black Forest in southwest Germany.”

Radio 3 already has a few offerings for you to enjoy via iPlayer radio, but, sadly, it’s not yet available in the U.S.

Tourists complain French cicadas are ‘too loud’

We understand. Cicadas can be loud and a forest full of them can be overwhelming. But the tourists accusing the insects of destroying their vacations need to reel it in a bit. The mayor of Beausset said that five different groups came to speak to him because they were being annoyed by the sound of the cicadas from morning to night. Said the mayor, “[f]or them the song is an infernal noise — crac-crac-crac — and they cannot understand that it is like music to the ears of us southerners.”

The cicada haters are joined by other tourists to rural France who “were ridiculed for asking for the bells on the village church to be silenced because they kept waking them at seven in the morning.”

When in Rome….