Sound

Being able to hear the music

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

My father used to say that people don’t know how important some things are until we don’t have them. He wasn’t talking about physical things, but about health, love, and security. Well, money and food, too.

The same is true of music. Those of use born with normal hearing don’t appreciate how wonderful it is to enjoy music, whatever type of music we like to listen to.

But for someone born with profound hearing loss, cochlear implants offered her the opportunity to hear music for the first time.

After seven years, she wrote this wonderful essay, which we want to share with you.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and 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.

Sounds like Russian psyops to us

Zaria Gorvett, BBC.com, writes about “[t]he ghostly radio station that no one claims to run.”  Gorvett tells us that the radio station, located outside of St. Petersburg, Russia, has been on the air 24/7, seven days a week, for the past 35 years. So what does it broadcast? Not your typical radio fare. Says Gorvett:

[I]t’s been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it’s joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues.”

Once or twice a week, a man or woman will read out some words in Russian, such as “dinghy” or “farming specialist”. And that’s it. Anyone, anywhere in the world can listen in, simply by tuning a radio to the frequency 4625 kHz.

Apparently the radio station has its fans–thousands of them–even though they don’t know what they are listening to. Gorvett writes that “[t]here’s no shortage of theories to explain what the [radio station] might be for,” including the theory that it is operating as “a ‘Dead Hand’ signal. That is, in the event Russia is hit by a nuclear attack, “the drone will stop and automatically trigger a retaliation. No questions asked, just total nuclear obliteration on both sides.”

What follows is a long discussion of other theories, along with an explanation of “numbers stations,” i.e., “radio stations that broadcast coded messages to spies all over the world.” Gorvett tells us about one famous number station that was known as the “Lincolnshire Poacher,” which was the name of the English folk tune that would play at the beginning of the hour (the first two bars repeated 12 times). After the music finished playing, it was followed by “the disembodied voice of a woman reading groups of five numbers – “1-2-0-3-6” – in a clipped, upper-class English accent.”

In the end, we wonder if the station exists just to play with our heads. Or maybe it’s partly a jobs program, partly performance art? Gorvett says that many believe it’s a different type of hybrid, with the constant drone serving to keep other people from using the frequency, but in the event of a crisis, such as Russia being invaded, the station would become a numbers station. In which case, she concludes, “let’s just hope that drone never stops.”

And for once we hope the noise does not end.

 

 

 

 

 

The Sounds of Protest

Photo credit: John Hilliard licensed under CC BY 2.0

are getting louder. Alastair Boone, City Lab, writes about Stuart Fowkes, the founder of a new project called Protest and Politics, “a sound map that documents the sounds of protest, as they grow louder in cities around the world.” Boone reports that “from Brexit to Trump’s election, the past year has known more protests than many before it,” but he adds that Fowkes’ project includes sound from as early as the Gulf War in 1991.

Protest and Politics is part of a larger program founded by Fowkes, Cities and Memory, which is essentially a world sound map. What makes his new project different is that it is “the first to document the sounds of history.” “What’s great about this project is that it’s little slices of history,” Fowkes explains.

Listening to his recordings of protests in the United States, one can hear the same chants across the country. The “same sort of unity is present abroad,” where “casserole protesting, for example, using pots and pans to make noise in lieu of voice,” which originated in Latin America, is also heard in recordings from Europe and Canada.

Taken together, Fowkes hears “something of a unified voice that’s becoming stronger, becoming louder.” He concludes that “[m]ore and more, people feel like they’re part of something.” And that is what Fowkes hopes people take away from listening to his project. Says Fowkes, “I think there’s a general feeling that we need to rise up and make our voices heard.”

 

Attention: DJs and clubgoers

Stoneyroads.com interviews DJ Dom Dolla about the importance of protecting your ears in nightlife. The article begins with the observation that “[m]any of your favourite musicians suffer from tinnitus, and the condition can worsen over time from exposure to loud noises.” Dolla, we are told, is one of them.  Dolla notes that the “average nightclub sits at around 110 dB (Decibels), often louder.” He mistakenly relies on then occupational noise exposure standard when he claims that “anything over 85db is dangerous for our ears,” but correctly adds that “at 110 dB you can accumulate permanent hearing damage in a very short number of minutes.” This is particularly concerning since “[w]e’re part of a generation that spends such a disproportionate amount of time around loud music.”

So what’s Dolla’s advice? “[G]rab yourself some 25+ dB reduction earplugs and wear those bad boys religiously.” And he tells DJs that they must “resist the temptation to pull them out when you’re performing,” adding that if they “keep them in, it’ll only be a matter of time before your brain cranks up your internal gain and you’re used to playing with them.”

Dolla gets it mostly right, but his statement that 85 dBA is the point at which hearing can be damaged is dangerously wrong. As we have reported here before, 85 dBA is an industrial-strength standard developed by NOISH and OSHA for workers, not the general public. To the extent that Dolla’s advice is directed towards club workers, quoting the occupational noise exposure standard isn’t technically incorrect, but that standard is never appropriate for the general public. Says Dr. Daniel Fink, Chair of The Quiet Coalition, “the only way to prevent tinnitus and other hearing disorders caused by exposure to loud noise is to avoid loud noise or wear ear protection if you can’t.”

The importance of sound in understanding our past

 

Photo credit: Martin Belam licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Science Daily reports that many attempts have been made “to explain how past people experienced their wider world,” but those attempts have primarily “focused on sight at the expense of sound.” But things are changing, as “researchers from the University at Albany and the University at Buffalo have developed a tool that puts sound back into the ancient landscape.” The researchers “use[d] GIS technology to advance a largely theoretical discussion into a modeled sensory experience to explore how people may have heard their surroundings throughout an entire archaeological landscape, or soundscape.”

Science Daily writes that the “attempt to infuse character into the material world and incorporate the relationship between people and their surroundings is part of what’s called phenomenology.” Says Kristy Primeau, an archaeologist, PhD candidate, and employee at the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:

From a phenomenological perspective, the difference between a space and a place is critical. People don’t live in a vacuum and we have to look at all aspects of the lived experience.

Do click the link above to read the entire piece. It’s a fascinating topic and well worth your time.

Being Hear

 

Photo credit: Michael Gäbler licensed under CC BY 3.0

Watch this excerpt from the new film “Being Hear,” about sound recordist and ecologist Gordon Hempton. The film, “[a]t once a profile, a guided meditation and a call to action,” follows Hempton as he records sounds on Washington State’s Olympia Peninsula, a national park that contains the continental U.S.’s only rainforest. Says Hempton,” Nature is music. I’m not asking you to get all theoretical here — I saying, just listen.”

To hear more of Gordon Hempton’s captured sounds of nature, check out his YouTube channel.