Our ears make sounds

The cilia of the inner ear - downloaded long ago, no source
The cilia of the inner ear - downloaded long ago, no source

According to this interesting article in New Scientist, our ears make sounds.  Called otoacoustic emissions or OAE’s, the tiny hairs in the ears (above) make very quiet sounds that are unique to an individual.

That’s because “hearing is an active process – the ear actually puts energy into the incoming sound waves to replace energy lost as sound is absorbed by the ear’s structure”, says Stephen Beeby, an engineer at the University of Southampton, UK, who is leading the research. “This process helps us hear things we otherwise would not, but as a result some of the energy added by the hair cells escapes as OAEs.”

Jacob Kirkegaard recording "Labyrithitis"

These sounds are between 0-5kHz and are thought to maybe be a kind of biometric password to be used over the phone.  A quick search found no recordings of OAE’s but did turn up the work “Labyrinthitis” by Jacob Kirkegaard.  The work is complicated, but Kirkegaard essentially recorded the frequencies his ear produced, synthesized and arranged a composition with them, and output them in a large performance/installation at the Medical Museion in Copenhagen.  The description of this work goes into more detail of how the piece was constructed and well worth the read.  An excerpt of a recording is below:

“Incomprehensible commentaries”

In his liner notes and broadcasts, [pianist Glenn] Gould created more than two dozen alter egos for satirical, humorous, or didactic purposes, permitting him to write hostile reviews or incomprehensible commentaries on his own performances. Probably the best-known are the German musicologist “Karlheinz Klopweisser”, the English conductor “Sir Nigel Twitt-Thornwaite”, and the American critic “Theodore Slutz”.

From the liner notes to Bach Partitas, Preludes and Fugues, p. 14: Sony CD SM2K-52597.

Via: Wikipedia

Pizza deliveries cataloged on Google Maps

Pizza delivery and military base

While looking at a grayed-out military base on Google Maps sent to me by a friend and visible above in the lower right-hand corner, I found a link to the above map.  It appears that pizza delivery driver Will Dockery and his fellow employees have documented their deliveries from October 20, 2008 until the most recent update on September 8, 2009.

I love the overlapping histories and trajectories; Dockery’s deliveries bounded by the forbidden zone of the military base.  What if every cell phones enabled a simple tracking of a behavior, overlaid on a map?  What if this kind of data were as ubiquitous as photography?

The music of decaying instruments


When I first bought my Fender Squier (above) for about $100 ten years ago, I didn’t know anything about guitars and it was basically the only one I could afford anyway.  After a few years I realized how crummy it was as a status object, even though it played fine.  I was embarassed, thinking that “real” musicians had vintage guitars worth thousands and I had my cheap, Indonesian-made knock-off of the real thing.

Time passed, and I grew up.  The guitar played (and continues to play) amazingly.  Maybe not the delight of a perfect 1960’s Strat but still completely useable.  There have been hiccups in my confidence; nothing could have brought my self-consciousness out more than playing in Rhys Chatham’s “Crimson Grail“.  Four-hundred guitarists in NYC is sure to bring out the gear fetishist in everyone.  That said, I love my guitar and now take pride in playing with it.

Lately, though, I’ve been thinking about my guitar in a slightly different way.  First, that I’ve had this guitar so long that I know how to play it in a way that can’t be bought.  Ten years of learning it’s quirks and touches isn’t something to be passed up.  I don’t have to think, just play.

But more interestingly I think is that I’ve never had any work done on the guitar – it’s never be re-setup, had a fret job, nothing.  So the guitar decays.  I’ve noticed this recently because the neck is starting to get loose.  Much more easily I can push or pull on it and change the pitch.  I enjoy this, because I can now articulate sounds with my whole body, not just my fingers and along with some new tunings I’ve come up with the sound gets really full and subtle, like a Leslie cabinet.

A few days ago I was doing some improvising in preparation for a performance and was tipping the guitar upside down and back.  The weight of the neck alone was causing deflection and pitch change.  The “problem” is easily fixed with a few turns of a screwdriver but I’ve decided to let it go.  I’m going to age with the guitar and see where it takes me.  If, eventually, the neck falls off I’ll be making some weird music for sure, but I like the idea of following path of the instrument.

Blurred leaves


Found this today while looking through some photographs.  I love the blur when you shake the iPhone while taking pictures.