Webhamster Henry's Top 10 Imaginary Sound Events of 2022
- On the road again Highway Patrol (2022)
America's infrastructure has be crumbling for years. To better evaluate the damage, robotic cameras have been scanning the highways and byways, bridges and tunnels making up America's transport infrastructure.
The textures of the roads, combined with gravel, layers of peeling asphalt, cracked concrete, jetsam, animal carcasses and what-all, are captured as a continuous stream. This year's disastrous flooding in Eastern Kentucky and elsewhere, added and removed textures from these civic projects.
The better to understand the worst of the damage, the data have been sonified into an orchestral tone poem, sounding not unlike something by Krzysztof Penderecki.
- Loofah Quartet Pieces Loofensemble (2022)
The hollow scrappiness of the loofah is highlighted here as a family of the scruffy sponge-like plants is bowed, scraped and blown into to provide all the sonic material in these 8 tone-poems and one extra blues.
- Godowsky's Biltmore Java Suite Atticus Newman, Piano Relics (2022)
Leopold Godowsky was a premiere pianist at the turn of the 20th century, and one of the recording artists for the AMPICO reproducing piano system. For a special concert at the Biltmore hotel, he played duets with his recorded self and demonstrated compare-and-contrast sessions of short classical pieces. But taking true advantage of the roll playing automaton, Godowsky at one point had recorded a few custom "endless" rolls made up to play parts of an early version of his Java Suite continuously for him to improvise over. The Java Suite is inspired by gamelan music, so the repetitive nature of the roll was totally in character.
These experimental rolls were thought lost to time, but when the Biltmore was gutted in the early 1980s, they were rediscovered jammed into the hotels forgotten pneumatic tube system. The rolls were restored and recorded on a period AMPICO equipped Steinway by reproducing piano fanatic Atticus Newman, who also found period notes and sketches of the improvised part of the composition, enough to record a credible re-rendering of this piece, lost to time.
- Carriage Rhythm Wheels Philippa Dobbin, YouTube (2022)
The large wheels of horse carriages and the periodic clopping of hoofbeats made a carriage ride into an unintended percussive piece. It turns out that for the holidays, the wheels could be swapped with tricked-out musical wheels, which had bells at the bottom of tubes with ball bearings in them which would ring as they reached the bottom of the wheel. Sophisticated logic involving a network of piping and internal shunts, manufactured by the Horsebeat company of North Tonawanda, NY, made it possible for different tones to be played on each revolution. When all four wheels were similarly equipped, the rider and driver were treated to a late 19th century generative music journey.
Philippa Dobbin, carriage enthusiast, has collected several matching sets of these wheels over the years and recorded a few videos on lengthy rides along carriage paths and the Erie Canal towpath to give an idea of this experience. You can also contact her for a private concert ride.
- Hudson Skyline History Time Podcast with Dalton Johnston (2022)
The fabled skyline of Manhattan has changed over the centuries from its quaint Dutch roots though expansion into areas of empty, cheap remaining real estate. It grew past the Wall at Wall Street, the Canal at Canal Street, Houston at Houston Street, retail, Tammany, and vaudeville at 14th st, Ladies Mile up to 23rd st, the NY Herald and Macy's vs. Gimbel's at Herald Square, then rapidly up to the entertainment center at Longacre / Times Square, by which time the rest of the island's real estate was mostly snapped up. And this evolution, visualized as a sound wave stitched together from period paintings and photos taken from the Hudson, is played in Dalton Johnston's History Time podcast as an electronic ambient drone that ends in the static-y shriek of the latest additions to the NYC skyline, that is, the "Freedom Tower", and the pencil thin spikes at 432 Park Avenue, 220 Central Park South, Central Park Tower, One 57, 111 W 57th St, all of which contribute to the white noise.
- Boo-lon App Only Boo (Dec 2022)
Development goes really fast! On Dec 11, 2022, Elon Musk got roundly booed by a Chase Center full of Dave Chappelle fans. By Dec 12, the Boo-lon app was on sale in the App Store. This program lets you record your own "Boo" for Elon and it then uploads it to the Boo-lon repository, where the massive collection can be interactively remixed by pitch and length into your own composition, which changes as it's being played. The ever evolving Boo-lon stream can be played on your Tesla's entertainment system.
- Hey There! Belting the classics (2022)
My family has long been involved in being "angels" for Broadway shows, and shortly before I was born, my father was involved in investing and associate producing the classic musical comedy The Pajama Game. One of the many memorable numbers in that show, "Hey There" featured a duet of a man with his recorded self, played back on a Dictaphone machine. This recording was done live every night, and my father had a deal with the props manager to hand over the Dictaphone recording belts after each show. All through the previews, while the show was being tinkered with, the lyrics were being refined, and as a weird side effect, the dictaphone belts captured that process, with occasional notes from directors George Abbott and Jerome Robbins.
Dictaphone belts are a kind of obscure audio format, but with persistent online thrift shop watching, I turned up a working device and managed to transfer 83 of these belts to my own private collection. I've of course composited them into a supercut mashup, but am holding off releasing it until I can figure out the rights clearance.
- COVID tests music some carving necessary (2022)
Anyone who's survived 2022 and is a bit of a pack rat has accumulated a good supply of positive and negative covid tests. Besides playing Jenga with them, you can in fact put them to musical purposes.
- They make nice whistles (some carving necessary)
- They can be mini balafon keys (some carving necessary)
- They make pretty good emergency guitar slides and picks (some carving necessary)
- Artifice online / everywhere studios(2022)
This year, an explosion of massively trained machine learning resources have made plenty of creative communities uneasy.
Visually generated work has jumped out of the lab and virtual face makeup apps to being built into commercial programs, to change or fill in details in human created work, generate clickbait-y nearly content free web pages, and make stills from movie casting thought experiments. Audio generation has not been neglected, and has progressed from the mushy sounding past attempts at pastiche and weirdly phrased and pronounced text-to-speech to much more passable models. This development is now legitimately casting doubt on the human provenance of all creative arts.
But is that important? And does it actually shine a harsh light on even human created art that is produced on demand from specific prompts and feedback from art directors?
And who better to debate these questions than a cadre of competing Machine Learning models. While it wasn't even anyone's actual project, researchers "for fun" put some internet connectivity into the various Transformer chatbots so they could train themselves on new data, but that also let them discover each other. Piping their automated musings into text-to-speech, Artifice (arti.fish) plays 24/7 in a literal echo chamber (well, plate reverb) in the COVID-closed abandoned "everywhere studio".
- Music Mastodon Mastodon server (2022)
As Twitter devolves into a doom-scrolling dumpster fire, tweeters are changing to tooters as they join up in the federation of Mastodon servers.
Mastodon servers are very much analogous to the good old USENET newsgroups and cobbled together home BBS systems. That also means that the possibility of customization is greatly enhanced.
The Music Mastodon bot is a waveguide simulation of the interior resonating spaces of the extinct pachyderm's neck and head, used to make authentically modeled mastodon calls, snorts, and subsonic whistles. It hangs out on its own private server for now, listening for toots directed at it, which it converts into the codes for making these ancient calls, and even generates some low frequency melodies. In progress: a listening Mastodon app that back translates the toots.