Posted by: kaleidophonic | June 30, 2014

Cities & Memory Project

Hey all!

Today’s post comes by way of my friend Claire CH, who gave me a heads up about a CBC radio episode of “Spark” featuring the “Cities and Memory Project”.

Stewart Fowkes is the creator of “Cities and Memory”, “a sound project that attempts to capture the reality of a place, as well as its imagined counterpart.” The episode also features Matt Parker, a sound artist and guest contributor to the project, who presents a piece imagining what cloud computing sounds like!

Check out the episode at the CBC website, here. The original broadcast dates from May 2014.



Posted by: kaleidophonic | May 27, 2014

Graphics Update

Look up, look waaaay up ^^

Just a quick note that I updated the header with a new image.

I felt that the old one, a sketch of a long-legged eye and some sort of flying robot , was too focused on the visual. Since that didn’t make much sense for a sound-studies blog, I redesigned it. I wanted to keep the  DIY spirit of the previous banner so I kept the same text, which is composed of letters I physically cut out of a magazine, assembled on a piece of tape, photocopied, then scanned, way back when I started this blog in 2009. The figure in the image is the toastmaster for the 1908 Olympic Games in London. The swirling background is an image from the Kaleidoscope Pavilion at Expo 67.

Hope you like it.

Posted by: kaleidophonic | May 26, 2014

Montréal To Purchase Sound Cannons

Last week the Montréal press revealed that the City of Montreal Police are in the process of purchasing two models of the American-made LRAD (Long Range Acoustic Device) to add to the municipal police crowd-control arsenal.

Through the purchase of these devices Montréal Police gain the ability to overcome people’s sensory tolerance for sound, with an ear-piercing noise designed to not only deafen but to cause physical pain to the ear. Of the two models ordered, one LRAD, the 300 X, can operate at 143 decibels and in close proximity would physically blow out a person’s eardrum.

The LRAD 300x Sonic Weapon System

The LRAD 300x Sonic Weapon System

This is a new scale of violence for the Montréal police, and I find this news very troubling. The Montréal police, especially in the months and years since the student strikes of the Printemps d’Erable, have developed a reputation for violating peoples rights to free assembly, using illegal techniques such as “kettling”, as well as outright violence against peaceful protesters. Now, with the addition of two sound cannons to the police armoury, the forces of law and order will gain the ability to rob people of their rights to freedom of speech as well.

This isn’t the first time I’ve blogged about the LRAD. Back in 2010, when Toronto moved to purchase an LRAD just before the G20 summit, I wrote a lengthy essay called “Sound Cannons: Acoustic Imperialism and the Power of Noise“. Much of what I wrote in that essay still holds true: that sound cannons embody the militarization of noise, and are most often used to drown out voices of dissent and disperse crowds of protesters. But more importantly the LRAD and its deployment are revealing of dynamics of power, voice, and silencing that operate in our society. I’ve also blogged about the LRAD and militarization of sound here,  and dealt with other noise-emitting devices designed to silence as well.

I urge you to read up on the LRAD and think about what it is designed to do, especially in relation to the dynamic between power and loud noise. As the voices of dissent in our society become louder and more insistent, it is only natural that the status quo would seek to drown out and disperse discord with its own display of sonic power. It is revealing that this tactic – the silencing of dissent through militarized noise – is the tactic chosen over tolerance, discussion, and listening. In a democracy such as ours, the health of political discourse should be measured by the vibrancy and coloured cacophony of debate. To resort to drowning out dissent with painful waves of screaming electronic vibration, sounds, to me at least, quite alarming.

Posted by: kaleidophonic | May 21, 2014

Head Noises?


Not too long ago I came across this advertisement in an old newspaper. The caption, “Stop worrying about your head noises and get help” initially made me think it was about schizophrenia, but, no, it was an advertisement for a hearing specialist!




The ad made me wonder: before the age of hearing technologies and medical understanding of the functions of the parts of the ear, how did people who experienced tinnitus (buzzing or ringing of the ear) understand the phenomenon? Did people think that it was their brains that were buzzing? Did they think something had penetrated their heads and they were hearing a foreign object or spirit making noise within their skulls? (I once had a bug fly into my ear canal, get stuck, and buzz in a panic for what seemed like hours. It was VERY distressing!!!). Before modern medical science was widely developed and practiced, would hearing problems such as buzzing, crackling, ringing or humming be diagnosed as mental illness? And conversely, would mental illnesses such as those where people hear voices or noises that others don’t, be diagnosed as problems of the ear rather than the brain?

I confess that I just don’t know, but the question itself is interesting, especially since more and more I seem to be finding connections between sound studies and disability studies.

Food for thought…


Posted by: kaleidophonic | May 14, 2014




Okay, so I admit it. I’ve been very neglectful of my poor Kaleidolings over the last 9 months or so. No one seems to have voiced too much displeasure (BOO!! HISS!!) but even so I’m going to make a concerted effort to get back on top of regular posts.

I’ve been absorbed in the writing of my dissertation, and am currently working on a section regarding the voicing of dissent and displeasure in the public arena. So imagine my delight when I stumbled across an episode of Freakonomics (the podcast dedicated to “exploring the hidden side of everything”) that dealt with exactly that: the voicing of displeasure in the public sphere.

Looking at the decline of booing and hissing as aural expressions of discontent in American culture and politics, the Freakonomics episode presents an interesting and entertaining look at how dissent is voiced, and why there seems to have been a steady decline since the heyday of the boo. That said, the boo continues to thrive in the sports world (as well as in standup comedy – who doesn’t love booing a terrible comedian??). Freakonomics asks, is booing just a hangover from a different time? Or are there concrete reasons why sports fans feel comfortable voicing displeasure during a game, but this sort of aural activity is rarely heard outside the arena, field or court?

The “Boo..Who?” episode of Freakonomics radio can be streamed for free directly from their website, here. Or you can subscribe and listen (also for free) via the iTunes store.

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