Week 1


Careful listening. Step 1 - listen far. Listen first to sounds near you, then proceed outward to the edge of your perception, attempting to hear sounds from as far away as possible. Step 2 - listen close. Find a repeatable sound, like footsteps, a keystroke on a keyboard, etc. Listen as closely as possible to this sound, attempting to perceive the sound not as a singular sonic "icon" but as a complex phenomenon with many components. Write down your observations and be prepared to share them in class next week. Also, record a short sample (1-5 seconds) of the close listening, to present in class, and post it in your sketchbook as /1/1.mp3

The far sound I chose was a rope from a flagpole in tribeca hitting against the metal pole. At the furthest point where it was audible, I only heard the high-pitched 'ting' sound. Moving closer, the resonance of the sound became more noticeable, and when very close I could hear a lower-pitched, almost 'thud' sound.

For the near sound, I tried recording the ticking of a wind-up alarm clock. I tried putting the clock on a variety of boxes and open containers to help amplify the sound, but I couldn't get a decent recording. Listening close, however, it was clear that clock makes a 'tick-tock' sound, not a 'tick-tick'. There's one part of the gearworks that ratchets back and forth, and that seems to be making the sound.

Part of the problem is that my radiator hisses loudly, masking other subtle sounds. So, I tried recording the radiator (in the spirit of swapping foreground and background). However, the radiator just sounds like white noise. It's not clear when listening to the recording that there is anything there at all.

So then I recorded running the faucet in the bathtub: sample.

Without knowing what it is, it sounds almost like fire crackling, but then you hear some high-pitched bits that are unmistakeably water.

The bathroom has a lot of echos in in from the hard surfaces, and I tried doing a filter against the noise. sample But this has a lot of digital artifacts in it.

This exercise reminds me of something called "Five Sounds in Search of an Author" which is a weekly contest as part of WNYC's show, The Next Big Thing. They play sounds that are often difficult to identify, and you're left listening to the sounds as sounds rather than as attributes of something you're looking at.


If you haven't heard "Rebel Without a Pause" you have to. A lot of "Bootlegs" or "Bootz" were made starting in the 90s, after sampling technology made it easy to mix two otherwise unrelated songs. The Evolution Control Committee put out an album called "Gunderphonic" which contains, among other tracks deemed illegal by the RIAA, "Rebel Without a Pause" (first link on the Virtual Gunderphone page), which is a mix of Public Enemy, "The Rhythm, The Rebel" and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, "Bittersweet Samba".
It's cool.


Max/MSP for Windows is $250, but requires Windows XP (98, 2000, NT, etc. won't work). But, IBM has used desktops for $427
Pentium III 866MHz, 256MB of memory, 20GB hard drive, CD-ROM, 56K modem Ethernet, Windows XP Home Edition and 3 months limited warranty.


A company has made software that analyzes 18 parameters of voice in real-time to determine, with ~90% accuracy, whether the speaker is lying. EE Times article with info and link to free download.


Microsoft's Paul Allen has founded a museum in Seattle, the Experience Music Project.

From the site:
"Featuring a world-class collection of artifacts, unique architecture by Frank O. Gehry, state-of-the-art technology, and exciting interactive presentations, EMP will encourage visitors of all ages and backgrounds to experience the power and joy of music in its many forms. Visitors to EMP will take an unprecedented and technologically advanced journey that will inspire them to explore and celebrate music as never before. EMP is dedicated to capturing and reflecting the essence of rock 'n' roll, from its roots in jazz, soul, gospel, country and the blues, to its influence on hip hop, punk and other more recent genres. EMP invites visitors to participate in a total sensory experience: see rare artifacts and memorabilia, hear musicians tell their stories, or play an instrument and create your own music."


Initial Sound idea - hearing the components of a sound rather than just its 'meaning'.
Glass Breaking - normal speed
Glass Breaking - half speed
Glass Breaking - quarter speed
Glass Breaking - eighth speed

At the slower speeds, the pitches of each bit of glass shattering become clear, and sound almost waterlike.


A Foucault's Pendulum would be an interesting implementation of the Pendulum Music idea.
Since we're not at the pole, a full rotation wouldn't take 24 hours, but I don't know what the correct number would be.
The UN has one in the main lobby, with a weight of 200lbs and a length of 75ft. I used to work there, so know that getting the permission to attach a microphone and speakers to their setup would take about 2 years for all the approval to happen.
The original had a weight of 62lbs and a length of 220 feet.
The biggest one in the world weighs 900 pounds but is only 70 feet long.
If my memory is correct, the length of one meter was established because it is the length required for a pendulum to have a period of exactly one second, regardless of the weight. A heavier weight just guarantees that there is enough inertia to keep the thing swinging over several hours.
If we were to try Foucault's experiment in class, we'd be limited to a length of about 3 meters, and thus a shorter period, which would mean more friction at the joint holding the rope, so it would decelerate sooner. The main thing would be to get a really heavy weight.
Something else to try is to launch the thing in a figure-8 pattern over a circle of speakers emitting different sounds.

We won't have to worry about it, but pendulums exhibit odd activity during solar eclipses, possibly because the 'gravity waves' from the Sun are blocked. That sounds like a tinfoil-hat explanation, but it's on a NASA site.