A better sonic experience

When we purchased a new MacBook last summer Apple was running a promotion whereby they would throw in a pair of AirPods for free, or a pair of AirPod Pro’s for $100. I jumped at the chance and purchased the AirPod Pros.

They have proven to be miraculously effective in staying in my ears no matter the activity – there have been one or two pairs of in-ear headphones that could fit securely in both my ears, Etymotic and Yurbuds, but they do so reluctantly.

Having access to Siri while doing various things is nice, though Siri itself is rather anemic and it’s utility beyond sending messages suspect.

The defining feature of the AirPods must be the noise cancellation which is pretty effective in my use cases.

One of the most interesting use cases for me, which though my son says I look like a Dweeb (and I agree), is to wear them while shopping at the grocery store. You never realize just how noisy retail environments are until you have the opportunity to remove all the background hum and machinations that this environment produces. I’ve listened to podcasts or some of the soundscape episodes I’ve produced, but walking around while cancelling noise is effective enough.

Now if there was only a way to reduce the amount of harsh blue light in the stores, the experience would be all the better.

Physical product noises

The noises made by physical products are not just part of their charm and emotional engagement. These noises provide clues to help us understand how the product works. We’ve often used these sounds in digital products but as time goes by they lose their significance to the listener – does a spinning dial in an app. need to map to an analog dial to reinforce it’s function?

Conserve the sound« is an online museum for vanishing and endangered sounds. The sound of a dial telephone, a walkman, a analog typewriter, a pay phone, a 56k modem, a nuclear power plant or even a cell phone keypad are partially already gone or are about to disappear from our daily life.

Accompanying the archive people are interviewed and give an insight in to the world of disappearing sounds.

Great project. I can guarantee my kids would not be able to recognize the majority of these products by sound alone.

Conserve the sound

An Instrument for the Sonification of Everday Things

Description below from maker Dennis Paul:

This is a serious musical instrument. It rotates everyday things, scans their surfaces, and transforms them into audible frequencies. A variety of everyday objects can be mounted into the instrument. Their silhouettes define loops, melodies and rhythms. Thus mundane things are reinterpreted as musical notation. Playing the instrument is a mixture of practice, anticipation, and serendipity.

The instrument was built from aluminum tubes, white POM, black acrylic glass, a high precision distance measuring laser ( with the kind support of Micro-Epsilon ), a stepper motor, and a few bits and bobs.

A custom programmed translator and controller module, written in processing, transforms the measured distance values into audible frequencies, notes, and scales. It also precisely controlls the stepper-motor’s speed to sync with other instruments and musicians.

Re: Sound Bottle

Jun Fujiwara’s Re: Sound Bottle collects sounds and turns them into music.

This is a music medium that can reproduce a recorded voice as music. It makes a database of sound sources that is managed and used as formal and automatic repetitions, and forms a music medium of the day. I felt something missing in the habitual use of music reproduction media, so I thought to create an interactive music medium that changes. By using everyday voices as sources of music, the sounds that are heard all the time every day carry infinite possibilities and help us reaffirm the enjoyment of music. I hope people can experience their own music.

Girl Running (excerpt from Inharmonicity)

Milan/Rome based Matteo Milani and Federico Placidi are sound artists whose work spans from digital music to electro acoustic improvisation. Unidentified Sound Object is born from the desire to discover new paths and non-linear narrative strategies in both aural and visual domains. U.S.O. is a continuing evolving organism.

Mobile Phone Audio – Lessons Learned from Games and the Web

Producing audio for mobile devices today is like doing game audio in the 80’s and Web audio in the 90’s. The similarities are striking – severe bandwidth constraints, cross-platform incompatibilities, arcane technical limitations, a plethora of file formats. What have we learned from these past experiences that might help the mobile audio industry in the future?
The Mobile Phone Audio group discussed questions such as: “If I knew then what I know now, what might I have done differently?” “What recommendations might we have for the mobile audio industry on how to make content providers’ lives easier and more profitable, based on similar experiences developing game/web audio systems?” “How can we help mobile audio producers avoid some of the pitfalls and problems game/web audio producers have faced in similar situations?”

Project Bar-B-Q, 2004, report, section 4

Aesthetic Issues of sound art.

“A sound artist, then, is an artist whose materials include physical media, sound, and environments. A sound artist creates all of these, not taking any of them for granted. To a sound artist, the gallery in which her work is shown is part of her subject; the instrument used to create the sounds heard in a concert hall is her subject-including its sound, including its appearance, and including the actions required to make the instrument sound. Sound artists tend to be poorly represented by the modes of discourse that seem satisfactory for “pure” musical or visual art; they are poorly represented by the forms of presentation available (i.e. concert halls and galleries). ”
Read the rest

Adult chairs exhibited in Taipei

Never underestimate the power of fun.
Today one of my tangible interface experiments is being exhibited in Taipei as part of some industry showcase – apparently the President of Taiwan is going to have a look though after yesterday’s election I doubt he will have much enthusiasm for the fun my piece seems to provide. The continued quasi-popularity of Adult Chairs always suprises me as it was without a doubt the simplist interface I had made. I think it proves how important simplicity, discovery (surprise), and fun can be in creating these type of products (interfaces). At least in the context of everything else that was being produced by the company.
Adult chairs were shown in a greater exhibition I had back in January and were a part of a project I was running called smenms. They were very simple prototypes which consisted of 7 pressure sensors (couldn’t afford 8) hidden in 4 pillows which when activated controlled a simple parameter of music. I wanted to embed sensors in ordinary objects which would allow people to interact with music and sound with a form that had a completely different use. It was hoped that by making the interface invisible and a part of ordinary objects we could invoke a sense of wonder, surprise, and hopefully engage people in the creation of sound and music in a whole new way. The whole project followed an iterative project development cycle, with every cycle producing an increasingly expressive musical interface. This was a slightly different version of the first iteration which utilized a simple on/off interaction metaphor. In first experimenting with different sounds, music, and parameters in which to control (I originally wanted people to control wildly different parameters but no one found it fun – it sounded too “post modern”) I finally settled on controlling the volume of separate pre-composed tracks. I was disappointed in the amount of expression but the audience was enthused – perhaps the lively music I wrote and produced carried the day.
Yesterday Chientai and I were setting it up for likely the last time. I will miss projects like this.
Here is an example output of the song the chairs controlled called Sit and Dance.
More info. here and a related article which perhaps should have been the title of this one Never Underestimate the Power of Fun.

B!AS-International Sound Art Exhibition

I sorely missed a big event this past weekend in Taipei as Maywa Denki was performing at Luxy as part of the B!AS-International Sound Art Exhibition. I had no idea that particular exhibition and its associated YAGEO Sound Art Prize was taking place. It’s a pity for me as I have a number of works that fit that I would have entered. How does one find out about these events in Taiwan? The exhibition itself runs 9/24-11/20 at the Taipei Fine Arts Museum. Here is part of the press release in case it disappears into that Taiwan website wasteland (edited for encoding but not language).
“Since the 1990s, the use of the Internet has been a common platform for the collaboration and the sharing of resources in sound art; hence providing great access for international networking. From the individual experiments of combining technology and music in the Western world decades ago to today’s application of artificial intelligence, audio-visual collage and the exploration and practice of the aesthetics of error (incorrect use of software), sound art has become a crucial trend in the new media art and part of modern living. Through the global sound art community and network, YAGEO Sound Art Prize will encourage the sound artworks in all forms, including analogue, digital, the Internet, etc., whilst seeking the most inspiring sound art pieces with experimental, innovative and visionary quality.
YAGEO Sound Art Prize is also the first promotional campaign for “B!AS- International Sound Art Exhibition.” Curated by Jun-Jieh WANG and Wen-Hao HUANG, “B!AS” will open at Taipei Fine Arts Museum on September 24th. The show will exhibit a number of masters works, including German sound art guru Christina Kubisch, Acer Digital Arts Award first prize winner Edwin Van Der Heide from Holland, and new media art master Paul De Marinis, who specializes in large-scale public interactive installation. The young Spanish art group Alejandra & Aeron will be invited as visiting artists by the organizer. They will not only be on the jury for YAGEO Sound Art Prize will also create a “sound garden” (made of the unique sounds in Taipei), which will be exhibited in “B!AS.”
Press Release
Event Website
Taipei Fine Arts Museum