Tag Archive: sound

Tweets about Sound

(Picture taken in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, somewhere in the wilderness…)

I don’t really know what to do with Twitter. I mean, tweeting about personal trivialities is boring and the 140 characters of a tweet only leave space for a less-than-complex form of communication. But sometimes less-than-complex can be good: reading a short punch line that sticks in mind, social or political commentary that reduces complicated issues to an invocing sentence without simplifying matters. Anyhow, I decided to use Twitter as a kind of container or scrapbook for citations concerning sound, listening, noise and silence I find in books, films or articles. It’s not about collecting the best sound quotes that everybody already knows, it’s more like a personal anthology of findings while being exposed to media, little gems I don’t want to forget and that have a particular meaning to me because they appeared in a certain context. I hope it doesn’t look like I’m boasting with cultural knowledge, maybe it does… Well, here are the tweets of sounds of the last two years:

“Movement is the silent music of the body.” – William Harvey

“There is a silence where hath been no sound. There is a silence where no sound may be in the cold grave under the deep deep sea” – Thomas Hood

“Tonight I’m a noisy swamp squelching under your bare toes.” – Dorothy Porter

“Silence is the universal refuge, the sequel to all dull discourses and all foolih acts, a balm to our every chagrin, as welcome after satiety as after disappointment.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Lauscht, hört aber nichts. Nichts regt sich, spricht. Das Dorfgehirn, zerschlagen, schaut mit kleinen Augen.” – Steffen Popp

“Silence is not the absence of sound but the beginning of listening.” – Salomé Voegelin

“The final thing. The illiterate. The dumb. Speech? Quiet but still something? Noises? Nothing?” – Tom Lubbock

“Their pleasantness or unpleasantness is felt without the listener knowing where the grounds for such feelings lie.” – Hermann von Helmholtz

“Du musst doch hören können was ich denke.” – Franziska Schaum

“And the hum, always that hum, which maybe wasn’t an echo after all, but the sound of time passing.” – Jennifer Egan

“And her shape is of such mysterious nastiness that you brace yourself to listen…” – Henri de Régnier

“Hunderte Töne waren zu einem drahtigen Geräusch ineinander verwunden, aus dem einzelne Spitzen vorstanden, längst dessen schneidige Kanten liefen und sich wieder einebneten, von dem klare Töne absplitterten und verflogen.“ – Robert Musil

“The ghost is fascinated by the soldier’s mysterious sound device.” – Apichatpong Weerasethakul (script of “Tropical Malady”)

“Und groß die Stille/groß wie der frischgeteerte Himmel/man müsste sie hören können. Ein tragender Ton für ein paar Sätze” – Christoph Aigner

“The static’s like the sound of thinking. It’s like the sound of thought itself, its hum and rush.” – Tom McCarthy

“In den Regen gesprochen, geflüstert. Staub u Schatten – welch Großeslärmen doch um die-Toten ist. Um die Lebenden Stille” – Reinhard Jirgl

“The longest silence is the most pertinent question most pertinently put. Emphatically silent.” – Henry David Thoreau

“Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter.” – John Keats

“Im Sehen erfassen wir das Skelett der Dinge, im Hören ihren Puls.” – Erwin Strauss

“As if that sound were forming, unlikely as that might be, into a single high, strong voice striking the ear as if trying to penetrate further than into the mere human sense of hearing” – Franz Kafka

“The most exciting moment is the moment when I add sound… At this moment, I tremble.” – Akira Kurosawa

“On the way to a full silence the mark of language brands the body with a reminder of the time.” – Delphine

“Was aber ein regelmäßiges, stumpfes, sinnloses und sich stundenlang wiederholendes Geräusch angeht so müssen die Gehirne wohl verschieden gebaut sein.” – Kurt Tucholsky

“One can see looking. Can one hear listening, smell smelling, etc…?” – Marcel Duchamp

“By listening, one will learn truths. By hearing, one will learn half truths. Lucky numbers 6, 14, 19, 27, 30, 34.” – from a fortune cookie

“Bloom heard a jing, a little sound. He’s off. Light sob of breath Bloom sighed on the silent bluehued flowers. Jingling. He’s gone. Jingle. Hear.” – James Joyce, Ulysses

“Fear of sound, fear of sounds, all sounds, more or less, more or less fear, all sounds…” – Samuel Beckett

“Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

“Those unmindful when they hear, for all they make of their intelligence, may be regarded as the walking dead.” – Heraclitus

“While a word awakens other words, silence raises no echo. Silence only prolongs silence.” – Edmond Jabés

“Hearing is a physiological constant, listening is a psychological variable.” – Bruce R. Smith

“This music is about the silence. The sounds are there to surround the silence.” – Martha Ainsworth

“Noise and nausea, noise and nautical, noise and navy have the same etymology. We never hear white noise better than when at sea.” – M. Serres

“I don’t push the sounds around.” – Morton Feldman, responding to Stockhausens question about his secret

“And just imagine that in this infinite sonorous silence everywhere is an impenetrable darkness.” – Béla Tarr, Werckmeister Harmony

“I try to listen to the still, small voice within, but I can’t hear it above the din.” – Eliza Ward

“The only sound that I hear, the only sound in the entire world, is my heart beating.” – Dexter

“Imprisoned in a cage of sound, even the trivial seems profound” – John Betjeman

“Das Schweigen wird nur zum Zeichen, wenn man es sprechen lässt.” – Roland Barthes

“Im Ohr nistet eine Spinne, im anderen eine Grille.” – Michelangelo

“Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” -Shakespeare

“Any given silence takes its identity as a stretch of time being perforated by sound.” – Susan Sontag

“Noise may have lost its power to offend. Silence hasn’t.” – Dan Warburton

“When I am inside a sound then I am inside time.” – Christoph Korn

“Sound: everything we hear and many things we don’t” – Allen S. Weiss

“Sound is touch at a distance.” – Anne Fernald

“We should be sensitive to the thread of silence from which the tissue of speech is woven.” – Maurice Merleau-Ponty

“…unlike other sounds, noise is a nomad; it has no place to go once it has departed.” -Haroon Mirza

„Er fühlte sich wie gehäutet von der Scharfkantigkeit der Geräusche…” – Ralf Rothmann

“…the roar of more slamming doors, the last one finally hammering shut, leaving the room satured in silence.” – M. Danielewski

“L’odeur du silence est si vieille.” – O.W. De L. Milosz (“The odor of silence is so old.”)

“Gerade weil sich die Musik der wörtlichen Beschreibung entzieht, finden sich unter Musikkritikern die größten Metaphoriker.” – R. McCormack

“Hearing silence is successful perception of an absence of sound. A deaf man cannot hear silence.” – Matthew Nudds

Everyday Listening

Hugo Verweij runs the blog Everyday Listening which quickly became one of my favourite spots on the internet for sound-related findings and reflections. Hugo is a composer and sound designer but also gives lectures at the Utrecht School of the Arts, which might be the reason why his site is so well informed and focusses on the mediation of sonic ideas instead of the navel-gazing and self-promoting many blogs of composers and musicians indulge in (like mine I suppose…). Since February Hugo runs a series of “Five Sound Questions” on a weekly basis where many artists contributed their answers and revealed some intersting insights in their personal views on listening, favourite places for their sound qualities and sound-related childhood remembrances. I was happy to answer his questions as well (ah, here it is again, the navel-gazing…).

The Sound of a Volcano

Since 5 days now Europe is plagued by the ashcloud caused by Iclandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull (I had to copy-and-paste this name – gosh, how to pronounce the word…) Beautiful pictures taken from the eruptions are easy to find in the net, also nice speculations like the Guardian’s “How an Iclandic volcano helped spark the French Revolution“, but has anybody thought about the sounds of a volcano? The eruptions of a volcano are hard to get on tape – most active volcanos are no-go-areas because of the fatal dangers that can happen in closer proximity. There are only few volcanoes on earth which are accessible for non-scientists, Mt. Yasur on Pacific Island Tanna, part of lovely laid-back Vanuatu, is one of them, sometimes promoted as the world’s most active publicly accessible volcano. I did this recording on the edge of the volcano during a longer stay on the island in 2004. I had the chance to go to the rim of the volcano for three nights and to stay longer then the tourist crowds who would have spoiled the recordings with their “aahs” and “oohs”. Suffice to say that it was a bone-chilling and mesmerizing experience which is not really carried along with this uncompressed and raw sound recording if heard at normal level – so please turn up the volume for a bigger effect (and imgine the smell of sulfer crawling up your nose)…


During my stay on the island, Mt. Yasur was on a low activity level – the breathing of the volcano almost feels peaceful, like a hyperventilating giant with occasional sighs and coughs. To get a feeling of how it looks like on the rim of the volcano, check this video (turn the volume back to normal before watching this):

Mt. Yasur still is a potentially dangerous volcano, with this sort of activity now going on for hundreds of years. Tourists have been killed by hazardous lava bombs which can reach over the crater rim after strong eruptions. Here is a tourist videotaping a group of people nearly targeted by such a lava bomb:

Ice Recordings Updated

Since Tim Prebbles fantastic blog the music of sound pointed to my post about “dispersion of sound waves in ice sheets” and then later sound and music as well as kottke.org linked to the same post, hits on my site here exploded. So thanks to everybody for the nice comments and emails I received! Let me take the opportunity to draw the attention to some other very interesting webpages concerning the sound of ice. First, there is the Audio Live Stream from Antarctica hosted by the German Alfred-Wegener-Institut. You should give it a try even though sometimes the connection doesn’t work. Only the possibility to listen in to what is happening under the ice shelf in Antarctica, to hear seals whistling their electronic sounds and whales clicking is just thrilling. Most of the time there are no ice sounds in the live stream, but occasionally something like this happens (wait for the sound at 40sec to start):

The scientists from the Alfred-Wegener-Institut do not know exactly how and why this sound happened. But it was incredibly loud and could possibly come from strong forces within the ice. I wrote about it here. Subsonic sounds emitted by a huge iceberg were recorded by Christian Müller, a scientist collaborating with the Alfred-Wegener-Institut. The infrasounds of the iceberg were pitched higher into the audible range of the human ear and the term “singing iceberg” was coined. The sound can be heard here. National Geographic wrote about it and Müllers paper is available here. He also gave me the permission to incorporate the sound in my piece frost pattern, along with the other above mentioned ice noises. New Scientist has a video online about research of the University of Chicago with some other subsonic iceberg sounds:

Then there are several other sites on the web that feature ice related sounds. One collection is available for free download from the German label Gruenrekorder, called the sound of snow and ice. Another nice recording – at the edge of the ice – was done by Mike Rooke and can be heard on the sound is art website. Also check Marc Namblards CD chants of frozen lakes at Kalerne, there are some audio excerpts as well. By the way: my ice recordings will be part of the CD release “fire and frost pattern” due to be out at Gruenrekorder in June this year.

In the comments of the ice dispersion post Jason turned my attention to this nice little video with an ice fishing guy experiencing strong breaks in the surface:

Sometimes a multitude of such breaks can cause a lake to “sing” in a certain tone, as is documented in this video:

I should not forget to mention that recording endeavours on the ice or at glaciers and icebergs can be extremely dangerous. I was warned in Greenland when I was trying to do sound recordings of calving glaciers and I saw once how davastating such a bigger incident can be. Flipping icebergs are also a very dangerous threat, look at this (sorry for the stupid music background):

And see what a tsunami caused by a flipping iceberg can do to some poor fishermen in Greenland:

Finally you can ooze your frozen fingers with some tunes played on ice instruments by Norwegian musician Terje Isungset on his myspace site.

Update: also check the fantastic recordings of Yosemite’s frozen lakes by Cheryl E Leonard (15th Feb. 2012)

Listening is Making Sense

The second issue of gruenrekorders field notes is titled “Listening, Documenting” and features a longer essay by my own called “Listening is Making Sense”. There are other texts by Gabi Schaffner, Stefan Militzer, Yannick Dauby, Lin Chi-Wei and an interview with Walter Tilgner. English and German versions of the PDF magazine can be downloaded here.

“During the night all the sounds are louder…” great video from diluvio.
(via the music of sound)


Half hour documentary from Raquel Castro about sound and listening featuring interviews with Christoh Cox, Janek Schaefer, Peter Cusack, Rafael Toral, Sabine Breitsameter and many others. I liked the story about a young mother who used sound to communicate with her downstair neighbour, an old lady she didn’t liked because the lady controlled her comings and goings. When she made love to her husband, she had a bed with a broken mattress and she wouldn’t fix it because, whenever she makes love to her husband the neighbour downstairs will listen. Also two nice quotes from Allen S. Weiss in the documentary: “Sound: everything we hear and many things we don’t” and “Sound Art: what we do with what we hear.”
(via SAM)

TED Talk: How Sound affects us

TED talks are mostly super slick presentations that sometimes appear to me as if someone is trying to sell me a new idea instead of making me think about it or raise deeper questions. The show part of a TED talk often leaves a stronger impact than the actual content. Maybe I only feel more in favor of insecure but somehow emotionally convincing speakers compared to marketing experts for ideas. Anyhow: recently they had Julian Treasure at TED to talk about how sound affects us and how businesses can facilitate sound to increase productivity and sales. This 5 min. presentation could be the most compressed demonstration of the effects of sounds to my thinking. If he wins over the rest of the business world, one day our shopping experiences might be accompanied by perfectly designed soundscapes and our working space is filled with bird song. Here is the first company that provides you with a nature live stream at home or at work – for free, if you manage to deal with an advertising break every 10 or 20 minutes… Brave new world…