Keep it down, s’il vous plaît

After reading about how Venice is planning to use technology to control its tourists, here’s an article on Paris’s plans to tackle noise pollution.

Paris will try using sound sensors to fine vehicles causing noise pollutionQuartz
Similar technology has been used by police departments in US cities to determine the location of gunshots, but French cities have been pioneers in cracking down on noise as a traffic violation and public health hazard. Mayor Anne Hidalgo made reducing noise pollution part of her 2020 reelection campaign. Noise pollution is a top issue in France after air pollution. A study by Bruitparif found that in the greater Paris region, the health impacts of noise can cost a person an average 10 months of a healthy life, and July 2021 study estimated that the resulting social health costs from noise pollution—illness, hospitalization, lost years of work—could cost France €156 billion ($181 billion USD) per year.

I’m all for it.

NoiseWHO Europe
Excessive noise seriously harms human health and interferes with people’s daily activities at school, at work, at home and during leisure time. It can disturb sleep, cause cardiovascular and psychophysiological effects, reduce performance and provoke annoyance responses and changes in social behaviour.

Traffic noise alone is harmful to the health of almost every third person in the WHO European Region. One in five Europeans is regularly exposed to sound levels at night that could significantly damage health.

Another reason to go electric? Not necessarily.

Martian music

How would a piano sound on Mars? Embark on an interplanetary sonic journeyAeon Videos
If the Universe is born and no one is present to hear it, does it still make a sound? Well, theoretically, yes. As this video from the US filmmaker John D Boswell explores, where a ‘thick soup of atoms’ is present, sound is possible. Made in collaboration with the podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz, this short documentary deploys dramatic CGI visuals, a pulsing score and the voices of prominent scientists to explore the sounds of space – from those humanity has recorded to those we can only speculate about.

The Sounds of Space: A sonic adventure to other worldsYouTube
Space is more than just a feast for the eyes. It’s a feast for the ears. You just have to know where — and when — to look. Floating in the silent void of space are trillions of islands of sound, each with their own sonic flavor — some eerily familiar, some wildly different than Earth’s. And even space itself was once brimming with sound.

Unlikely journeys

I think I’ve incorrectly conflated two separate topics when I think about cars of the future; electric cars and self-driving cars. The former doesn’t have to rely on the latter, right? Perhaps that’s just as well.

The costly pursuit of self-driving cars continues on. And on. And on.The New York Times
The wizards of Silicon Valley said people would be commuting to work in self-driving cars by now. Instead, there have been court fights, injuries and deaths, and tens of billions of dollars spent on a frustratingly fickle technology that some researchers say is still years from becoming the industry’s next big thing.

Now the pursuit of autonomous cars is undergoing a reset. Companies like Uber and Lyft, worried about blowing through their cash in pursuit of autonomous technology, have tapped out. Only the deepest-pocketed outfits like Waymo, which is a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet; auto giants; and a handful of start-ups are managing to stay in the game.

But as we’ve seen before, electric cars come with their own unique challenges.

Electric cars can sound like anything. That’s a huge opportunity to craft the soundscape of the futureTime
Then there’s whatever BMW is doing with its i4 electric-sedan concept. At low speeds, the i4 sounds like an electrified orchestra warming up for a performance. But as it accelerates, the tone becomes deeper and lower. Then comes a high-pitched skittering effect, as if some kind of reality-bending reaction were taking place under the hood. “We conceived a sound to celebrate the car, intended as a highly complex performative art installation,” says BMW sound designer Renzo Vitale. Vitale, who worked alongside famed film-score composer Hans Zimmer on the i4, says it was his counterintuitive idea to make the noise deepen as the car gains speed. “It was a metaphoric way to say, ‘We are looking at the past,’” he says.

Perhaps, by the time all this is resolved, there’ll be less need for these crazy machines.

Commuting is psychological tortureWelcome to Hell World
I can’t even calculate the savings in gas, wear on my car, etc. But I can tell you that with nearly two hours back in each of my days, plus the extra 40 minutes or so of making myself presentable to be in close proximity to others, I have been able to reinvest that time in myself. I have been eating better, I have time for the gym, I have time to give my dogs the exercise they need. I know this year has been mentally taxing on so many, but I’ve found these changes work so much better for me.

This is my silence

Tinnitus is a strange thing — invisible and, to everyone else at least, silent. That’s the one thing it takes away from us, though. Today is the first day of Tinnitus Week 2021, and the theme this year is #ThisIsMySilence.

#ThisIsMySilenceBritish Tinnitus Association
As a hidden condition, people without tinnitus do not truly understand the huge impact it can have on someone’s life: on the ability to get a peaceful night’s sleep, to concentrate, or just to enjoy silence. Tinnitus can and does have a huge impact on mental health and we need your help to make more people aware of this. The more we show the real impact tinnitus has, the more likely we are to be successful in making tinnitus research funding an urgent priority.

Yes, it’s horrible and there’s no cure, but help and support are available, from AI chatbots and white noise generators, to the BTA’s phone lines and web chats.

British Tinnitus Association presents #ThisIsMySilenceYouTube
For people living with tinnitus, there is no silence. As a hidden condition, people without tinnitus do not truly understand the huge impact it can have on someone’s life: on the ability to get a peaceful night’s sleep, to concentrate, or to just enjoy silence.

If you need support with your tinnitus, contact us for information, advice and an understanding ear. Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm: Freephone: 0800 018 0527, Web chat: tinnitus.org.uk, Email: helpline@tinnitus.org.uk, Text/SMS: 07537 416841

Their latest report, looking into the patient journey and how referrals are managed (or not), makes for interesting reading.

This is my silence: Please listen – Three steps that must be taken to improve the tinnitus patient journeyBritish Tinnitus Association
It was identified in the report that there has been a 22% drop in the number of tinnitus patients offered a referral to specialist care by their GP since March 2020 – despite a climb in cases, links with anxiety and depression, and new National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance emphasising the importance of referrals.

Pardon?

Glad it wasn’t just me and Hugh struggling with this.

Tenet up: listen, Christopher Nolan, we just can’t hear a word you’re sayingThe Guardian
It’s hard to be anything other than completely perplexed by Tenet’s sound mix, where almost every scrap of dialogue that isn’t being screamed by Kenneth Branagh is smothered under a thick blanket of soupy noise. Don’t get me wrong, it might still be a good film – I’m looking forward to watching it at home with the subtitles on to find out – but a movie where you have to try to lip-read several complicated theories about the nature of time isn’t exactly accessible to a mass audience.

Sounds good to me #2

Abbeys, acetylene torches, acid blobs, Africa, air conditioning, air raids, aircraft, airports, alarms, America, amplifiers, angels, animals, anti aircraft batteries, applause, aquaria, army, articulated lorries …

BBC Sound Effects
These 16,000 BBC Sound Effects are made available by the BBC in WAV format to download for use under the terms of the RemArc Licence. The Sound Effects are BBC copyright, but they may be used for personal, educational or research purposes, as detailed in the license.

… revolvers, rickshaws, rivers, roadsides, roadworks, rocket ships, rockets, Romania, routers, rubbish tips, rumbles, sanding machines, saws, schools, scratches, screams, scuba diving, seawash, seventy-eight RPM records, sewing machines …

Bird watching, kind of

Find yourself staring out of windows? Try some different ones.

WindowSwap lets you cycle through picturesque views from all over the worldThe Verge
There’s something very positive about the experience. Strangers are taking their time to share their favorite watching spot to help those who might not have one (or are just tired of their own). It is a small gesture of kindness and reminder of the positive ways the internet can make the world feel smaller.

As I mentioned before, one of the benefits of working from home is I get to enjoy the view of our little bird feeder all day. I’ll be back in the office at some point, I’m sure, but I know which website to turn to when I get there.

Bird Library, where the need to feed meets the need to read
Welcome to the Bird Library, feeding the birdbrains of Virginia. Concerned about bird literacy? So are we. We believe in biodiversity and welcome birds of all colors, shapes, and species … even squirrels.

Its live video feed is the only way I’ll get to see cardinals, I think, and all the library’s other exotic (to us in the UK, at least) patrons.

But if you’re wanting to see some truly beautiful birds:

Fantastical images of birds from the 2020 Audubon Photography AwardHyperallergic
The National Audubon Society annually rewards excellence in nature photography; the 2020 winners offer a stunning array of aviary photographs that continue to amaze with their vivid colors and curious behaviors.

This hypnotic artwork from Andy Thomas is my favourite, I think. I’ve seen visualisations of bird flight before, but not their song. These reinterpretations of bird song take very strange and dramatic forms reminiscent of flowers, insects and the birds themselves.

Digital sculptures visualize chirps of Amazonian birds in a responsive artwork by Andy ThomasColossal
Based on an audio recording from a 2016 trip to the Amazon, Australian artist Andy Thomas interprets birds’ trills, squawks, and coos through an animated series of digital sculptures. … With each chirp, the fleeting masses contort, grow, and disassemble into a new, vibrant form.

Instead of a window I could happily have this playing on a loop all day on a monitor on a wall or something. I wonder what the sparrows and goldfinches on my bird feeder would make of that.

Top score

You’ve heard of 8 Bit Cinema, retelling movies as old school arcade games? Well, there was this competition to compose a soundtrack to accompany a scene from Westworld …

Westworld scoring competitionSpitfire Audio
We teamed up with HBO’s Westworld to bring you an exclusive competition: to download and score a scene from Westworld Season 3 for your chance to win some amazing prizes – as well as the opportunity to showcase your work to the best in the business. What happened next was extraordinary. We received 11,000 entries, in a variety of styles and re-imaginings.

The announcement of the eventual winner left many people either scratching their heads or picking up their jaws off the floor. Listen for yourself. It starts conventionally enough, but then—

It stands out, at least, which is more than could be said for the indistinguishable runners-up. But it seems not everyone appreciates this ‘dares to be different’ approach.

Why are some people upset about this ‘Westworld’ scoring contest?No Film School
Responses to the winning entry have been mixed. For instance, on Twitter, game composer Austin Wintory called Kuddell’s work “out-of-the-box” and a “bold move.” But many other composers who entered the competition commented that they were confused about how the winning score met the brief.

The controversy has prompted one composer to revisit that pompous Hans Zimmer Masterclass YouTube advert.

That Hans Zimmer ad, but it’s chiptuneCDM
“In music, you’re basically having a conversation…” Sometimes that conversation is best expressed in 8 bits. … Hans Zimmer’s ad for Masterclass already felt like self parody; this just goes next level.

But wait, there’s more. Much more.

A new family of brass instruments

I have the pleasure (?) of living in a household with a number of brass instruments, but I’ve never seen anything like these.

Brass horns mounted in interactive sculptures by Steve Parker emit sound by touchColossal
Artist and musician Steve Parker’s latest interactive projects invite viewers to feel the music⁠—literally. Activated by touch, “Ghost Box” plays randomized audio segments on a loop, including the ticks of Morse Code, the chorus of spirituals, and the blows of the shofar and Iron Age Celtic carnyx. Each time someone makes contact with a part of the wall sculpture, a new noise emits. Inspired by WWII era short wave radio, the mounted piece is constructed from a mix of salvaged brass, tactical maps, paper musical scores, wires, map pins, electronics, audio components, and an instrument case. The name even references the paranormal tool sometimes employed when people try to communicate with those who have died.

brass

brass-2

Ghost BoxVimeo

And whilst these may look loud, they’re actually listening devices that remind me of those concrete sound mirrors.

TubascopesSteve Parker
The Tubascope is a sculpture that works likes a telescope for your ears. Modeled after obsolete WWII acoustic locators, the Tubascope is made from reclaimed and repurposed brass instruments that have been augmented with tubing and headphones. When used, the Tubascope helps a person focus their listening on specific, far away sounds that may have been otherwise unnoticed.

brass-3

brass-4

TubascopesVimeo

Now, these mad trombone and trumpet shapes really reminded me of paintings I first came across at university (25 years ago now? goodness me), but I couldn’t for the life of me remember who they were by—murals, I think, in collaboration with school children, somehow. And for all I moan on about Google, it did come to the rescue with such vague search terms as painting, trumpets, children, mural.

Tim Rollins & K.O.S.Institute for Research in Art
The history of Tim Rollins and K.O.S. (Kids of Survival) is a story of art and education triumphing over the hardships of life. It is a story which might have been torn from the pages of great literature. In fact, the group uses pages cut from classical literature as the groundwork for many of their paintings and as the source of imagery for their works.

Yes, that’s the one! He was a teacher in the 80s working with under-privileged kids to create art that would “transport his students from the tough streets of New York to the inner sanctums of major museums as celebrated artists”.

kos1

But alas.

Tim Rollins, artist and activist whose work thrived on collaboration, dies at 62ARTnews
Tim Rollins, whose work bridged the gap between activism and art, bringing together strands of literature and art history, painting, Minimalism, conceptual art, and social justice, has died of natural causes, according to the Maureen Paley gallery, which showed him in London, and Lehmann Maupin, which showed him in New York and Hong Kong. He was 62.

Far too young.

A mysterious seismic hum

That really faint noise? For me, it’s a quiet, high-frequency tone that seems to be coming from the centre of my head. For that guy in Arizona, it was a low-pitched drone coming from a neighbouring data centre. But these other unexplained low-frequency rumbles, heard around the world, could be much more elemental.

Ear-pleasing new report confirms volcanic source of mysterious global humSyfy Wire
Now a German scientific team has apparently solved the mystery of a strange seismic humming experienced around the globe since it was first detected in late 2018. And despite many believing it was some alien doomsday device warming up to unleash its planet-killing spores, it appears to be caused by a massive underwater volcano forming just off the coast of Madagascar.

Hiding noise with more noise

A few days after that post on tinnitus, this Quartz Obsession email arrived in my inbox, all about white noise. Apparently white noise technology is big business now, as more and more of us get increasingly fed up with noise pollution and are seeking a way out.

White noiseQuartz
The business of white noise has been commodified and packaged as a path to “silence” in a noisy world. Therapists and attorneys place white noise machines outside their office doors, like tiny privacy sentries. Parents clip white noise machines masquerading as cuddly lambs and owls to car seats and cribs to soothe babies to sleep. Apps offer personalizable white noise soundtracks.

As the world gets louder and noise pollution scales to what some claim as a public health crisis, white noise technology is facing a demand like never before, and business is quietly booming.

I hadn’t realised how much it can help with tinnitus, though.

Tinnitus is a chronic condition associated with the misfiring of neurons damaged by high excessive noise-exposure that leads to hearing phantom sounds. People affected by extreme noise are also more likely to develop dementia, anxiety, and have their learning ability impaired, suggesting sound exposure may have even wider neural effects. White noise is being pitched as one of the solutions to the problem. Research backed up by studies done on mice suggests low-level noise can reduce symptoms of tinnitus, and has become a recommended treatment method.

And it can come in all sorts of flavours, too.

Colored noise, and how it can help you focusYouTube
Colors like white, pink and brown aren’t just for clouds, flowers and cows! They also describe special sounds that can actually help you focus and sleep!

But let one of my favourite authors have the last word.

The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

William Gibson, Neuromancer

Can you hear this?

It’s been there since my teenage years, I think. But this last year, it’s really been making its presence felt.

Tinnitus
Tinnitus is when you can hear sounds inside your head that are created by your hearing system, not your environment. It could be a ringing, humming, pulsing or hissing. It is more prominent in quiet areas or at nighttime. … You can’t turn it off or move away from it, so it can be spectacularly annoying.

I think mine’s something like Tone 5 in this video of examples — very high pitched. The thought that the ringing will never, ever stop feels more stressful than the ringing itself, sometimes. Is this going to get worse?

Does tinnitus lead to hearing loss?
Even though tinnitus can’t be cured, there is still lots you can do to help with your symptoms. It’s important to understand that with rare exceptions, tinnitus isn’t caused by a serious condition and doesn’t lead to other symptoms. It certainly isn’t because you’re going mad. Nor is it going to keep on getting worse – in fact, it often gets less noticeable over time.

I’m not the only one with this problem.

White Noise – Tinnitus Radio Documentary
What happens when sounds exist inside your head? How do you cope with an internal soundtrack from which you can’t escape and only you can hear? These questions are explored in White Noise, a new Documentary On One production that investigates the mysterious world of people who suffer from tinnitus and the impact it has on their lives.

A fascinating, moving, award-winning documentary, full of people trying their best with this, created by someone who knows what she’s talking about.

Living with tinnitus – Documentary On One
I was prompted to make this documentary when I was diagnosed with tinnitus myself. About two years ago, I noticed an intermittent sound in my head that, over time, became a constant presence. You’ll hear tinnitus sufferers talk about ‘their sound’ and mine resembles stormtrooper boots marching on loose gravel, if you can imagine that. Then I began to wonder who else had it, and how do they cope with it on a day-to-day basis.

Will there ever be a cure?

Tinnitus: why it’s still such a mystery to science
It’s estimated that 30% of people worldwide will experience tinnitus at some point in their life. This number is likely to rise, as increases in life expectancy and exposure to loud music are all reasons people develop tinnitus. But while it’s more important now than ever to find a cure for this condition which is likely to become more common, researchers still struggle to find one because of how complex tinnitus is.

There seems to be no lack of research going on, though.

Tinnitus Week 2019
The positive take away from this, Dr. Aazh concludes, is that there are a number or rehabilitative approaches such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, that can help a patient reduce their annoyance and the emotional distress caused by tinnitus, thus reducing the perceived volume of the tinnitus. This is something many people can achieve.

In the meantime, I should start following this advice from the British Tinnitus Association, and r e l a x .

Relaxation
The beauty and strength of the breathing exercises are that you can do them anywhere and at any time – standing, walking, sitting or lying down. They can be extended and control of the abdominal muscles can be introduced and combined with breath control. You can find more breathing exercises in books on stress management, relaxation, yoga, etc. so take an interest in learning to control your breath. Making breathing exercises a routine will allow you to see “letting go” as a first resort, not a last resort, in times of stress.

Here’s another take on that.

What being a tinnitus sufferer has taught me about silence
The only thing I can liken it to is when you own a refrigerator that hums, it’s really annoying and at first it’s all you can hear, but then as you live with it for a while your brain learns to tune it out – because it’s irrelevant noise. I’ve tried all kinds of ‘remedies’, I even got referred to the audiologist and had a full check up but no source for the tinnitus was found. The last thing the audiologist said to me when I left was “just try and forget it” – that’s pretty lame advice coming from a medical practitioner, but he was right actually. There is no known cure for tinnitus and the cause of mine is still unexplained, but sure enough things did get easier when I gave up trying so desperately to solve it, because the more attention you give to a sound the more prominent it will become.

I see his point in theory, but …

Sounds good to me

Yes, it can get a little too loud for us oldies sometimes, but movie music — and cinematic sound more broadly — is such a fascinating area.

Making Waves: The art of cinematic sound
Directed by veteran Hollywood sound editor Midge Costin, the film reveals the hidden power of sound in cinema, introduces us to the unsung heroes who create it, and features insights from legendary directors with whom they collaborate.

An incredible amount of vital yet laborious work goes on behind the scenes.

A new documentary explores the underrated art of movie sound
Synchronised sound came in with “Don Juan” in 1926, and synchronised speech followed in 1927 with “The Jazz Singer”, starring Al Jolson. But sophisticated sound design wasn’t born until 1933, when Murray Spivack created the giant ape’s bellow in “King Kong” by mixing a lion’s roar with a tiger’s roar, and playing it backwards at half-speed. Cece Hall did something similar on “Top Gun” more than 50 years later. Actual fighter-plane engines “sounded kind of wimpy”, she recalls, so she concocted her own substitute from big-cat growls and monkey screeches. The producers nearly fired her for her pains, she says, but she went on to win an Oscar.

The documentary is the work of Midge Costin, a sound editor-turned-academic. It took some time to get off the ground, however — getting clearance for the samples of so many movie clips can be a costly affair.

Making Waves: behind a fascinating documentary about movie sound
The courts have since ruled that sampling footage will be acceptable so long as it’s done in the spirit of public edification, and just like that, Costin was off. Between the connections she’d made in the industry and favors called in from fellow sound people, she put together an all-star lineup of commentators. From her former student Ryan Coogler to Steven Spielberg, who named her the Kay Rose chair at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, the deep bench of experts dissect scenes classic and contemporary to illustrate the great quantities of work that go into creating and fine-tuning a soundscape. Spielberg, for example, goes into the subtly expressionistic quality of the shellshocking beach invasion that opens Saving Private Ryan.

The bizarre methods by which sound effects are captured often remains a mystery, but in this music video, it’s all on show.

A brilliant highly rhythmic music sample created from abandoned industrial equipment on the docks
Multimedia artist Daniel Gourski and DJ Jonas Appel have created “Docks”, a brilliant, highly rhythmic music sample made entirely from abandoned industry equipment. Gourski and Appel creatively banged, scraped and knocked at the waterside equipment with all sorts of objects.

Gourski & Appel – Docks

Can you hear that?

After that post about movie music being too loud for Hugh Grant and others, myself included, here’s an in-depth investigation into more noise pollution, this time of a quieter but more insidious kind.

Why is the world so loud?
Some nights, Thallikar couldn’t sleep at all. He started wearing earplugs during the day, and stopped spending time outdoors. He looked for excuses to leave town and, in the evenings, returned to his old neighborhood in Tempe to take his constitutionals there. As he drove home, he’d have a pit in his stomach. He couldn’t stop himself from making the noise a recurring conversation topic at dinner.

Not only was the whine itself agitating—EHHNNNNNNNN—but its constant drone was like a cruel mnemonic for everything that bothered him: his powerlessness, his sense of injustice that the city was ignoring its residents’ welfare, his fear of selling his home for a major loss because no one would want to live with the noise, his regret that his family’s haven (not to mention their biggest investment) had turned into a nightmare. EHHNNN. EHHNNNNNNNNN. EHHNNNNNNNNNNNN. He tried meditating. He considered installing new windows to dull the hum, or planting trees to block the noise. He researched lawyers. And he made one final appeal to the newly elected members of the Chandler city council.

The eventual cuplrit? CyrusOne, a massive data centre just down the road. It already looks enormous but, according to the slick promotional video, it’s set to get much larger.

just-turn-it-down

Lots of talk about security, air flow, redundancy and so on, but nothing about the effects of noise pollution on the neighbouring residential areas.

After a few other stops, we doubled back to concentrate on the area around CyrusOne. For more than an hour, we circled its campus, pulling over every so often. As the sun and traffic dropped, the intensity of the hum rose. The droning wasn’t loud, but it was noticeable. It became irritatingly noticeable as the sky dimmed to black, escalating from a wheezy buzz to a clear, crisp, unending whine.

“This is depressing,” Thallikar said as we stood on a sidewalk in Clemente Ranch. “Like somebody in pain, crying. Crying constantly and moaning in pain.”

We were silent again and listened to the data center moaning. Which was also, in a sense, the sound of us living: the sound of furniture being purchased, of insurance policies compared, of shipments dispatched and deliveries confirmed, of security systems activated, of cable bills paid. In Forest City, North Carolina, where some Facebook servers have moved in, the whine is the sound of people liking, commenting, streaming a video of five creative ways to make eggs, uploading bachelorette-party photos. It’s perhaps the sound of Thallikar’s neighbor posting “Has anyone else noticed how loud it’s been this week?” to the Dobson Noise Coalition’s Facebook group. It’s the sound of us searching for pink-eye cures, or streaming porn, or checking the lyrics to “Old Town Road.” The sound is the exhaust of our activity. Modern life—EHHNNNNNNNN—humming along.

How about we end with a more lyrical hum?

Philip Glass – Changing Opinion

Affecting and infecting movie music

In this video from Vanity Fair, director Todd Phillips talks us through a few of the opening scenes from his new film, Joker.

Joker director breaks down the opening scene

At 3:40 or thereabouts, he’s talking about what really helps Joaquin Phoenix get into a scene.

And I think, if I remember it right, in this particular scene I was playing the score for him, in the room, because – we had Hildur Guðnadóttir, who was our composer, I had her write music before we shot the movie, which isn’t done very often, and she wrote it based on the screenplay – and I wanted that because I wanted the music to really affect and infect the set in a way, really, even the camera operators, the set dressers, wardrobe, everybody to feel this music.

(That’s a name to look out for in the future.) Todd Phillips is not the first director to use this technique, however.

Why Sergio Leone played music on set

It might be too much for some people, though.

Deafening cinema sound is ruining films, claims Hugh Grant
Joker, the sinister hit starring Joaquin Phoenix, is dividing film critics. Hailed as a masterpiece by some, it has left others balking at its violence. For the actor Hugh Grant, the experience of watching at his local London cinema last week was “unendurable”, but not because of Todd Phillips’s menacing vision as director.

Grant felt high noise levels in the auditorium had made his trip to see Joker at the Vue in Fulham “pointless”, he complained on Twitter, adding: “The joke was on us”. “Am I old or is the cinema MUCH TOO LOUD?” the film star asked.

Futuristic noise pollution

This story of unforeseen consequences of new technology reminds me of those energy-efficient LED traffic lights that couldn’t cope with snow.

Here’s The Guardian last year.

New law to tackle electric cars’ silent menace to pedestrians
They are green, clean and make very little noise. It is this latter quality, initially seen by many as a good thing, that has become an acute concern for safety campaigners, who fear that the rising number of electric vehicles constitutes a silent menace.

When they travel at under 20kph (12 mph) the vehicles can barely be heard, especially by cyclists or pedestrians listening to music through headphones. “The greatest risks associated with electric vehicles are when they are travelling at low speeds, such as in urban areas with lower limits, as the noise from tyres and the road surface, and aerodynamic noise, are minimal at those speeds,” said Kevin Clinton, from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

But the days of silence are numbered. From July next year, all new electric and hybrid models seeking approval in Europe will have to emit a noise when travelling at low speeds. Existing vehicles are expected gradually to be retrofitted with devices.

So, it’s now ‘next July’, and has the situation improved?

Futuristic sounds to make electric buses safer hit wrong note
John Welsman, from the policy team at Guide Dogs UK, who attended a TfL presentation last month, described the sounds as “all very spaceshippy” and said he would prefer electric buses to be fitted with a canned recording of the old Routemaster bus.

Welsman added: “They did play us a sound like someone blowing bubbles through a pipe. That just wouldn’t work. And there was an intermittent bleeping sound like an email alert that would increase or decrease in rapidity depending on the the speed of the vehicle. It was very irritating.”

Buses that sound like email, cars that sound like something out of Star Wars.

Electric cars could sound really weird thanks to new EU regulations
After mood boards, focus groups, and plenty of testing, Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) came up with a futuristic sound akin to a spaceship in a sci-fi film – a suitable representation of the modern, sleek vehicle. But then they tested it on people, rather than looking around for the oncoming car, they looked up – apparently wondering where the alien spacecraft was. “It was very futuristic and did cause people to look in the wrong direction… upwards rather than outwards,” says Iain Suffield, noise, vibration and harshness engineer at JLR. […]

Some carmakers are already trying to be a bit different. Citroen’s concept car, the Ami One, has a unique sound design for its AVAS. Here, the aim is to use a human voice — not to shout warnings to pedestrians while it glides by them, but as the basis for the sound, layering a male and female voice together into the sustained sound required by regulations. It sounds a bit like a digital backup singer, or a robot humming.

Perhaps they should copy these old electric vehicles and use the clinking of hundreds of glasses bottles.

Update 31/12/2019

Listen to the mesmerising sound of London’s new electric busesWired UK
“It’s meant to be super easy to listen to,” says Matt Wilcock, of Zelig Sound, which created the short track for TfL. It’s the first time the company has designed a sound for a moving vehicle, most of its work involves creating sound for TV commercials, films and games. “This approach of it being rhythmic and having a beacon sound has not been considered before. We wanted it to be nuanced enough that even people who are into music and sound are still going to appreciate it but also it has to be loopable, constantly.”

Listen to this, ol’ timer

Here’s an addition to the god-that-makes-me-feel-old list — the Walkman turns 40 this year. Fancy having to explain to someone what a Walkman was. Or what Napster was…

Walkman turns 40 today: How listening to music changed over the years
Though it was first invented 40 years ago, in 1979, the iconic cassette tape player defined the decade when legwarmers weren’t part of costumes and Reaganomics ruled the land. It was the first device that allowed listeners to take music with them on the go (hence, the name).

Since then, we’ve evolved to CDs, iPods, and the current age of streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. It’s easy to forget how revolutionary the Walkman was for its time, and that it marked a pivotal moment in the nearly 150-year-old history of recorded music.

With that in mind, here’s a look at how we’ve listened to music through the years — from the 1800s to today.

There are some great photos here. We’ve certainly gone through a number of formats here. I wonder what’s next.

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Seeing sounds

It was the one on how quartz watches work that first caught my eye, but I’ve been enjoying working my way through the rest of Steve Mould’s science videos.

These two are my favourites so far, though I’ve yet to see them all.

Laser + mirror + sound
A laser shining on a mirror driven by a speaker creates cool patterns.

Interaural time difference and how to find your phone instantly
The science of sound localization is really interesting. This video is specifically about interaural time difference and how mobile phone ringtones are badly designed for the way our brains detect sound direction. You can make you phone easier to find by changing the ringtone to white noise. Also, emergency vehicle sirens like ambulances are badly designed for the same reason.

The sounds of up north

Made as part of BBC4’s ‘Listen to Britain’, this glimpse into a typical day and night round here shows that it’s not all green Dales and romantic moors.

That Yorkshire sound
A hand drawn animated documentary, following the rhythms of a day in Yorkshire. It captures the sound of Yorkshire, from it’s multicultural and bustling cities like Bradford and Sheffield, to the delicate sounds of birds in the country side and the hypnotic rhythm of the motorways and train tracks.