Sound

Preserving the rainforest’s soundtrack

Photo credit: David Riaño Cortés from Pexels

MIchael J. Coren, Quartz, writes about bioacoustics, a burgeoning field that uses “microphones to capture the aural signature of an ecosystem’s inhabitants from its tiniest creatures to its resident humans.” The goal of bioacoustics is to “monitor biodiversity, on a budget, over vast areas of remote rainforest.” Coren writes about a recent paper in the journal Science, where the authors suggest that bioacoustics “could fill a critical gap for conservation projects” by monitoring the forest’s health after it’s been saved.

Click the link to listen to the recordings that accompany the piece.  Two of them are soundscapes of healthy forests, while the third is clear-cut jungle now worked as a palm oil plantation.  The difference in the range and loudness of sound is apparent.

 

For the love of sound, a whole city must keep quiet

Photo credit: trolvag licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This delightful article by Max Paradiso in the New York Times describes an ambitious recording project in Cremona, Italy. Paradiso writes that the project aims to digitally record the violins crafted there centuries ago, preserving “the sounds of the Stradivarius instruments for posterity, as well as others by Amati and Guarneri del Gesù, two other famous Cremona craftsmen.” And to do this, the streets surrounding the auditorium where the recording is taking place must be quiet.

One wishes all cities could make similar efforts.

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.

How ASMR is changing food videos

Photo credit: mali maeder from Pexels

What is ASMR? It’s the acronym for “autonomous sensory meridian response,” a tingling sensation on the skin that is “most commonly triggered by specific auditory or visual stimuli,” or, as Matthew Sedacca, Eater, calls it, “brain-gasms.” Sedacca introduces us to the world of ASMR food videos, which range from YouTube favorites who film themselves eating, part of the “alt-food-porn community,” says Sedacca, to other YouTube stars who simply film themselves cooking without dialogue. Cooper Nelson, who started Silently Cooking, “focused his show entirely on meal preparation and made special use of the sounds that occurred naturally as he was cooking.” To his surprise, his channel is a hit with ASMR fans on Reddit.

The Eater article dives deeply into what draws people who experience ASMR to these food videos, but could the reason, in part, be that the viewer can focus on pleasurable sounds without being overstimulated by competing ones? It’s just a theory, but Sedacca tells us that Nelson was motivated to post his videos because he was “[t]ired of cooking shows with egocentric hosts and cheesy music.” We agree.

In the end, perhaps the draw of these videos is that they offer respite In a world oversaturated with sound, and by stripping away the layers they allow us to really hear.

Is there sound on Mars?

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech (not subject to copyright protection)

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This fascinating article by Kenneth Chang in the New York Times describes Martian winds rattling the solar panels on the recently landed InSight lander. The sounds weren’t picked up by a microphone, Chang writes, rather they were captured by seismometers, instruments “designed for measuring the shaking of marsquakes picked up vibrations in the air — sound waves, in other words.” Said Chang, “[t]he seismometers act as the cochlea, the parts of your ears that convert the vibrations into nerve signals.”

It’s not clear to me if a human could hear the wind on Mars–the atmosphere is very thin, and of course a human would have to be wearing some sort of space suit, unlike in the Star Wars movies or Star Trek television shows–but provides an interesting sidelight (or side sound?) to space exploration.

You can listen to the sound, but Chang suggests that you “hook up a subwoofer or put on a pair of bass-heavy headphones. Otherwise, you might not hear anything.”  We advise that you skip the headphones and opt for NASA’s enhanced version:

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.

A nice way to spend a lazy afternoon

Photo credit: Christopher Michel licensed under CC BY 2.0

Drop in and listen to the orcas. Matthew Taub, Atlas Obscura, writes about OrcaSound, an internet app that “allows citizen scientists to livestream the ocean sounds of the Pacific Northwest from anywhere in the world, to help gather data about the resident killer whales and their environs.” OrcaSound has a library of recordings that let you explore various ocean sounds.  Perfect for a leisurely holiday.

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.