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Minimalist Ringtones

Minimalist iPhone Ringtones

Monday
May042009

Sound and levels of annoyance

Last week I experienced two completely different soundscapes. First it was Queensday in Amsterdam, which means a whole day of loud music, masses on the streets, shouting children, overdriven speakers and boat horns. A day on which my head had to stand a lot of sonic pressure.


I spent the weekend in a forest in Belgium, with no one around except for a casual walker, enjoying the oxygen-filled forest air in spring. A complete opposite of the screaming city soundscape I experienced two days before.

I need silence at times. After a long day of teaching, traveling or working on a sound design project I don’t switch on my stereo when I get home to listen to some new music. It’s like I can only handle a certain amount of sound a day, next to the fact that I don’t like to just play some music without being able to really pay attention to it.

Sitting on a grass field in the forest I was surprised though by what I heard. It wasn’t that quiet at all.

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Thursday
Apr302009

Prepared turntable by Yuri Suzuki

Yuri Suzuki, born in Tokyo and now working in London, created the 'prepared turntable'. We could call it an analog looping machine, with great looks! This is a good example of a sound installation with a great visual aspect to it, yet still what you see is totally functional.

On the sonic side I don't find the prepared turntable particularly interesting, but of course there only so much you can do with a two-second loop. I like how Suzuki reminds us of the physical side of sound, a side we almost forget in these days of digital files and the internet.

Wednesday
Apr292009

International Noise Awareness Day

Today is International Noise Awareness Day. I didn't even know this existed, until a woman on the street handed me a flyer advertising a soundwalk - a walk through the city passing the most interesting sounding spots, while listening carefully to the soundscape. A nice idea. I do it all the time.

The flyer also mentioned International Noise Awareness Day. A day to become aware of the impact of noise on hearing, health and the quality of life. Noise is everywhere around us, it's a by-product of our industrial society, but we are not very aware about how it can cause negative physical and psychological changes in humans.

What can we do about it? Everybody makes noise, it's not just there. So we can start by paying attention to the noise we make ourselves. The Center for Hearing and Communication in New York has a recipe for a quiet diet on their website. A good place to start.

Photo by: BarelyFitz

Tuesday
Apr282009

Morocco: Crowded Jamaa el Fna square

Join me for five minutes on the Jamaa El Fna Square in Marrakech, Morocco. It's one of the busiest places I've ever been. At the entrance of the Medina (the old city) of Marrakech, the Jamaa El Fna Square forms the hot-spot of the city for tourist planning to go shopping, dining, or riding a horse carriage.

Groups of musicians play traditional Gnaoua music, there are a lot of stands with food, orange juice, olives, and motor scooters try to navigate their way through the crowd. Children are running around, even late at night. The smell and the smoke of the grills is surrounding us.

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Monday
Apr272009

Tank-FX: a huge tank for natural reverb

Why try to emulate the reverb of a space if you can have the real thing? Tank-FX is a website where you can upload a sample and have it played back in a huge 11m high former water tank. The sound gets sent back to you immediately, including the natural reverb from this tank:

On their website tank-fx.com (German only for now) you can upload a sample from an Akai S-2000 style interface. You can set the desired output file format (flac, ogg, mp3), and the dry/wet ratio. Your sound will be played through a set of JBL speakers and recorded by a matched pair of Røde NT-5 microphones, providing a good quality recording. I was expecting to hear a huge reverb tail and I found the result a bit disappointing the first time, but it actually sounds very good. Try it yourself or get an idea by listening to the examples on their website.

Photo by tank-fx.com

Friday
Apr242009

Can the human body be an instrument?

Yesterday I visited Steim to see Tanto de Nada for voice, live electronics and live video by duo bang.grab.stutter and Eric Lyon with The Biomuse Trio. Tanto de Nada is a very nice composition by Evelien van den Broek and Danny de Graan, in which the voice controls software processing the voice, resulting in a pleasant and dynamic sonic experience based on sung and spoken words in different languages.

The Biomuse Trio showed a work in progress by composer Eric Lyon consisting of sound input from violinist Gascia Ouzounian, processed by software controlled by sensors attached to Benjamin Knapps' arms. After the performances there was room for discussion and one interesting question arose: Do those sensors attached to a persons body form an instrument?

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Thursday
Apr232009

Social sound design: Tweet a Sound

Tweet a Sound is a small application that lets you design a simple sound and send it over Twitter. You download the application from the Sound + Design website, and you can start tweaking your sound. Once you're happy with the result you can tweet it, which sends an unreadable tweet to your account. It's just a series of numbers prefixed with #tas:

Tweet on twitter

It would be nice to have Twitter integrated in the program so you can receive sounds directly. This is not possible though. You'll have to copy paste the code into the program in order to play the sound.

Now why would you want to do this?

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Wednesday
Apr222009

Soundwalkers by Raquel Castro

How do we listen to the world around us? How do we use this information to navigate our way through the world? What is music? What is noise? How did our city soundscape transform from vertical to horizontal? How is that influencing us? Should we get used to this?

A couple of questions Raquel Castro asks in Soundwalkers. It's great to see this movie now I just started this website, as Soundwalkers gives a very nice overview of the subjects I write about on Everyday Listening. It's a nice beginner's guide to listening more consciously.

Tuesday
Apr212009

Fight against sound pollution: dance!

There's a lot of sound surrounding us. A busy city is not a quiet place. Cars and trucks produce sound, people produce sound, but some of it is really just pollution. Motor scooters with annoyingly loud exhausts, kids on the train listening to urban beats from the thin sounding speakers of their mobile phones, it's a pathetic sight.

What can you do about it? Well, accept it if you want to survive everyday city life, or dance your feet off like this man does. A subtle and fun way to express your discomfort, isn't it?

Monday
Apr202009

Mexico City: Coyoacán market by morning

In the Places catergory I will share recordings I've made of places I've been to. It's inspiring to hear how different parts of the world sound. If you close your eyes the sound takes you there for a moment.

In this first part an easy, sunny morning at the beautiful Coyoacán market in Mexico City. I was sitting there, enjoying a freshly made cappuchino, when an organ player came by with his interestingly tuned instrument.

Street musicians change the atmosphere of a place. They create a context in which you look at things. Sometimes it just fits, like in a movie, in which a quiet scene gets accompanied by music. But you need to take the time to let this happen.

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