Soundbites: Deaf Bell, Social Sound, Venue-less Gigs

Recent reads (etc.) on sound

A lightly annotated sound-studies clipping service, collected in advance of the next issue of my This Week in Sound email newsletter (

The mother of the father of the telephone was deaf. Alexander Graham Bell’s own father developed a system called Visible Speech to facilitate communication. Bell eventually himself married a woman who had lost her hearing in childhood. And now, Katie Booth, in her new book, The Invention of Miracles: Language, Power, and Alexander Graham Bell’s Quest to End Deafness, traces this throughline in Bell’s life and work: “his creative genius and his misguided efforts to eradicate Deaf culture,” as Valerie Thompson puts it in a review. Here’s a particularly damning statement from Bell’s wife: “You are tender and gentle to deaf children, but their interest to you lies in their being deaf, not in their humanity.”

LinkedIn is reportedly looking to add an audio chatroom feature, which makes sense, given how much of Clubhouse, the “audio social network,” has been professional conversations. This feature expansion would be part of a broader range of changes LinkedIn is making to flesh out its social capabilities.

Miss live music? Then I recommend this Gabriele de Seta essay on Hong Kong’s “no-venue underground” (a term credited to Rob Hayler), drawing from personal experience (2012-2016) playing in a city with few places to perform experimental music in the first place: “It is somehow ironically appropriate that, in this city without ground, experimental musicians find themselves relegated to a precarious underground actively carved out of fleeting spaces strewn across the upper floors of post-industrial peripheries. These precarious venues appear and disappear following the inexorable inflation of property prices and the investment decisions of landlords, leaving local show organizers to work in the present tense with whatever space is available at the moment.” It’s a timely, applicable piece during our moment of place-less livestreams. The essay is from the new book Fractured Scenes: Underground Music-Making in Hong Kong and East Asia, edited by Damien Charrieras and François Mouillot, both professors at universities in Hong Kong.

Erik Davis, author of Techgnosis and a friend of mine since college, writes about taking guitar lessons for the first time since high school. I myself started taking weekly lessons a few years ago, and can relate to this distinction he draws: “Rather than playing guitar, I am practicing with it. I don’t mean rote exercises — though I do some of those — but something more like meditation practice: a daily commitment to disciplined method and unpredictable encounter, to emotional exploration and deconstruction, to attention and listening as much as to performance or ‘doing.’” Likewise, he talks about trying to reconsider the role of recording in his efforts: “I want the recording device to become part of practice rather than ambition, no longer a staff sergeant of the Productivity Regime but a challenging feedback friend, breaking the spell to deepen it.”

News of Google’s Project Wolverine goes back a month, but I don’t want to lose track of it. It’s reportedly a supercharged earbud. According to a summary by Ashley Carman, “[T]hey’re currently trying to figure out how to isolate people’s voices in a crowded room or make it easier to focus on one person when overlapping conversations are happening around you.” Carman compares this with Whisper (, and others to the lamented, defunct Doppler Labs. As David Pierce put it in his overview of Doppler’s fall back in 2017, it “had the bad luck of being a hardware company at a time when the biggest players in tech — Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon, and Facebook — are all pouring billions into developing their own gadgets.” Now Google appears to be pursuing the endeavor.

Stop Sign

A mesostic

          I will misS this peace
  even when so much That I miss
returns in the wake Of
         the world oPening
                 up, when 
             I will See 
        more people In a day
  than I hear drivinG far too speedily
                 dowN our street


A mesostic

         MoSt evenings
something aKin
   to The CArs That
          ATe Paris
       happEns on our street,
 when kids Bored by pandemic
  restrictiOns rejoice in the
      open Air opportunities of
         caR-devoid pavement, and rattle
      arounD (fairly quietly) for hour

Now that the <pre> command works on this site, I may dip into mesostics on occasion. I created a mesostic tag, which unearthed a Rick Tarquinio recording from 2012 and a Felix Schramm exhibit from 2007. WKRP, Debris, Chernobyl

I do this manually each week, collating the tweets I made at (which I think of as my public notebook) that I want to keep track of. For the most part, this means ones I initiated, not ones in which I directly responded to someone. I sometimes tweak them a bit here. Some tweets pop up on sooner than I get around to collating them, so I leave them out of the weekly round-up. It’s usually personally informative to revisit the previous week of thinking out loud. They’re here pretty much in chronological order. Looking back at the tweets makes the previous week seem both longer and shorter than it was. The cadence is a way to map how time progressed. The subjects are another map of the same territory.

▰ 7:34am sounds: House creaking as it heats; wind outside much like a furnace itself, thought it’s anything but warm; garbage trucks peculiarly muted, dare say respectful. No birdsong, no airplane jet or motor noise. Occasional car engine, rumbling a block or so away.

▰ Small audience for this tweet, but I’d love 2021 to be the year for intriguing 1U modules

▰ YouTube’s grid of recommended videos put Steely Dan’s Walter Becker next to WKRP’s Les Nessman looking like he’s crooning: an algorithmic nightmare of a boomer concert cruise. (I’m Gen X, myself)

Better still is this Richter painting that the Facebook mobile thumbnail reduced it to.

▰ Eating ice cream and watching dan dan noodle recipe videos. G’night!

▰ Three episodes in, Debris had its first sonic clue last night, involving a phantom 2D portal (“the square”) in the middle of a field, the most interesting bit being that at first the audio was only caught on recordings, not heard in person.

▰ If you live in San Francisco and miss the Tuesday noon siren, as I do, don’t miss these Dutch air raid sirens, courtesy of Jostijn Ligtvoet:

▰ It’s unfortunate my Bluetooth headphones died barely a month after I got them, though it is reassuring that my [I’m sort of out of negative words] toward Bluetooth remains justified, but in any case the Muzak “We’re in This Love Together” hold music is textbook insult-to-injury.

▰ Can’t remember if I shared this previously, so here’s a shout-out to the excellent virtual synthesizer module developer (voxglitch) who put a request for assistance into the faceplate of of their modules.

▰ Yeah, I posted about new tracks with beats two days in a row on What a weird year this is shaping up to be, huh?

▰ Today I became a dog person. (If you haven’t contributed to the 1.4 million views of this dog singing along with wind chimes, you must join in.)

▰ Very glad Mayans MC is back on television, and also somewhat distracted by imagining conversations between Edward James Olmos and Michael Irby in which they discuss their distinguished careers as space admirals.

▰ I listen to the Chernobyl score a lot, and every time it gets around to “Vichnaya Pamyat,” I think it’s a track I’d forgotten from Todd Rundgren’s A Cappella.

▰ Friends report bot-spam on their friends’ social media accounts

▰ It’s Friday, and the birdsong outside is louder than the Zoom bleed from adjacent rooms in the house, and the cray cray has (relatively) quieted in my social media feed, so I’m gonna take that as a positive sign to, shortly, begin my weekend social media fast. I enjoy yapping with folks intermittently during the day, but there is something at the end of each day, and especially on Friday afternoons when I just shut it all down, that feels quite like a holiday has begun. Especially these days when I’m at home pretty much all the time, shutting off social media feels like coming home, quieting the world, focusing. So, on that note, have a great weekend.