Over his long career, Gordon Hempton has mastered the art of truly listening. He’s known as the Sound Tracker. Some people call him an acoustic ecologist. His recordings and books have made him an international expert on the beauty and importance of undisturbed, natural soundscapes — and the ways human beings have changed them.
Now, Gordon Hempton is losing his hearing. But with that loss has come an intense urgency to share his life’s work — and his passion — with as many people as are willing to listen.
In the late '70s, NASA launched Voyagers 1 & 2 to explore the furthest reaches of our solar system and beyond. But something amazing was included on those space probes... a 90-minute time capsule of sounds, language, and music from Earth called The Golden Record. Its intended recipient? Any intelligent extraterrestrial life that might stumble upon it. What did Carl Sagan and his team put on the record to represent all of humanity? How would aliens decode it?
When was the last time you stopped and really listened to birdsong? Ever wonder what they’re singing about? We chat to Kenn Kaufman and Dr. Irene Pepperberg about the extraordinary complexity to the avian arias, how they’re produced, what they mean, and how vocal acrobatics can reveal a surprising hidden intelligence.
As technology advanced rapidly over the course of the 20th century, the telephone industry went through several transformations. From Strowger switches to rotary dials, the Bell company continually experimented with inventive ways of making phone calls. In 1963, AT&T’s patented “Touch Tone” technology changed the telecommunications industry forever. The Dual Tone Multi Frequency signals used by these push button phones could make phone calls, control voicemail machines, and even insert local TV ads into national broadcasts. This episode features interviews with author Annabel Dodd and telephone aficionado Jim Hebbeln of the Telecommunications History Group.
Movie trailers have undergone a huge evolution. They’ve gone from those cheesy voice-of-God narrators in the ‘80s and ‘90s, to solemn but somehow even cheesier trailers that utilize the same few epic sound effects, over and over. Professor James Deaville delivers the history of trailers, and Youtuber Craven Moorhaus offers a hilarious takedown of the sounds and dialogue that are common in the modern trailer style. After you hear this episode, you’ll never be able to watch a blockbuster trailer the same way again.
Have you noticed how loud it gets in restaurants these days? Have you found yourselves shouting just to keep a conversation going? Architecture critic Kate Wagner explains how changing design trends have led to dining experiences that aren’t just antisocial, but are negatively impacting our health as well.
Alarm sounds have been around almost as long as humans themselves. But as our world has transformed, so have they. Today’s alarms are having an unexpected effect on our minds and bodies, and can even be putting our lives at risk when we’re at our most vulnerable. Dr Judy Edworthy and Yoko Sen talk to us about our alarming sound environment, and how it can be improved.
For decades, NFL strategy slowly evolved from each team running a dozen different plays, to rigid schemes with coaches sending in orders through codewords and secret signals. Then, one piece of audio technology revolutionized the game. Beginning in the early 1990's, the NFL allowed coaches to speak directly to their quarterbacks through radios in their helmets. What followed was an instant increase in excitement for the nation's most popular sport, spawning a high-scoring era of fast paced offenses. Featuring former Super Bowl winning coach, Dick Vermeil, current LA Rams Head Coach Sean McVay, Bose Senior Project Manager Matt Ruwe, and Bose Distinguished Engineer Dan Gauger.
Our world is filled with sound. It exists in even the quietest corners of the planet. But what happens when all that sound is taken away? What is silence? There are very few places on Earth where silence actually exists, but in this episode, Dallas experiences it for himself thanks to a special room called an anechoic chamber. How do our brains process the complete nothingness of silence? Find out as Dallas locks himself alone inside the chamber. Featuring David Alvord and Nick Breen from the Georgia Tech Research Institute.
What happens when we leave Earth's thin blanket of atmosphere, and what do other planets sound like? In this special episode, we have completely remixed one of our favorite shows! It's been re-written, re-edited, re-narrated, has new music, and even some new additional content. If you've heard the original, you'll definitely want to check out this remixed and remastered version. Featuring Dr. Lori Glaze, Dr. Keith Noll, Dr. Scott Guzewich from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
Beatboxing began as an imitation of a drum machine, over the decades it has evolved as a means to emulate any number of percussive sounds. Now beatboxing is being studied by scientists who are fascinated by the vocal dexterity of artists. By examining beatboxing scientists are hoping to unlock mysteries behind language formation, brain function, and the capacity of humans to recreate sound. Featuring Hip Hop Artist and Beat Boxer, Baba Israel and USC Engineering Professor, Shri Narayanan.
Hollywood films are huge internationally. But how are these films adapted for foreign languages? We delve into the not so talked about process of dubbing. Featuring the world's most popular voice actors, directors, and producers.
The Xbox startup sound is an audio logo that’s become synonymous with the game console. But its origins are rooted in solving a logistical problem; how to entertain gamers while they wait for their machines to finish booting up. Featuring Sound Designer and Composer Brian Schmidt and Sound Designer, Composer and Berklee Professor, Michael Sweet.
The "golden age of radio drama" may have been a stellar period for storytelling -- but the stories weren't all golden bright. Sci-fi and horror radio dramas explored deep anxieties people felt from the Depression through the Cold War, and set the stage for later stories that couldn't be told yet without SFX. Dallas Taylor of the podcast Twenty Thousand Hertz co-hosts this episode as we hear from historians like Neil Verma and Richard J. Hand, and radio drama veterans like Dirk Maggs and Richard Toscan. Plus Emory Braswell recalls the day he thought Martians invaded New Jersey.
If you've ever watched an old sci-fi or horror film, you've also probably heard the hair-tingling, alien sounds of the Theremin. It's a spooky, strange instrument that's played without being touched, and has become a staple for classic horror movies. This is the story of the Theremin's mysterious journey. Featuring legendary musician and Thereminist Rob Schwimmer, Michelle Moog-Koussa, daughter of Bob Moog and Executive Director of the Bob Moog Foundation, and Albert Glinsky, courtesy of Moog Music.
Cartoon sound effects are some of the most iconic sounds ever made. Even modern cartoons continue to use the same sound effects from decades ago. How were these legendary sounds made and how have they stood the test of time? Featuring Oscar-winning sound designer Mark Mangini of the Formosa Group, and Advantage Audio’s Heather Olsen.
50 episodes! When we launched this podcast two years ago, we never imagined our passion project would come this far. To mark the occasion, we’re taking a peek behind the scenes of the show. Join the Defacto Sound team as they take you into the inspiration, creation, and people behind Twenty Thousand Hertz.
Odds are if we asked you sing your favorite advertising jingle from when you were a kid, you’d be able to recall every single lyric. Yet we don’t hear many advertising jingles these days. Why is that? This is the story of the rise, fall, and brain science of the jingle. In this episode we talk to UCLA’s Timothy D. Taylor, author of The Sounds of Capitalism, and Durham University’s Kelly Jakubowski.
We are constantly exposed to sonic branding in television, radio, and web commercials. We deconstruct some of the most impactful audio logos in history and explain how the brain interprets them. Featuring Scott Simonelli, CEO of Veritonic and Walter Werzowa, founder of Musikvergnuegen.
Invisible actors create worlds of sound in everything you watch - from Jaws to The Wire. With special guests, Carl Gottlieb, screenwriter and author of "The Jaws Log"; Dann Fink, loop group director and co-owner of Loopers Unlimited; Stuart Stanley, Sound Supervisor; loop group members Eboni Booth, Dennis Carnegie, Axel Avin, Jr., Shannon Burkett, Daphne Gaines, and Rashad Edwards; and Will Ralston, supervising sound editor for The Wire, The Deuce, and Treme.
What do you hear when you walk into a Casino? It can feel like chaos, but each sound is carefully curated to draw you in and make you stay. One collection of sounds are scientifically and artistically designed to keep the gambler, gambling. Slot machines. This episode features interviews with Willie Wilcox, Chief Sound Designer at Scientific Games in Las Vegas, Laura Taylor, composer and sound designer for a number of slot machines across the US, and Karen Collins, who has led extensive research into the sound and music behind these games. Is it addiction or entertainment? Maybe it's both. Pull the lever and listen for yourself.
The way our brains process sound affects the way we respond to sound. This episode is about why that happens in those who suffer from misophonia, the hatred of certain sounds. Featuring researcher Dr. Phillip Gander, psychologist Dr. Ali Mattu, and misophonics Meredith Rosol and Josh Furnas.
Whether you're 6 years old, or 96 years old, one of the most memorable parts of going to the movies for the last three decades has been the THX "Deep Note" trailer. Unfortunately, they lost the original sound file. What happened? Also, what do sound designers & musicians think about it? Featuring Andy Moorer, creator of “The Deep Note” and global director of marketing for THX, Rob Cowles. The episode also features Musician, Producer and Professor Thomas Dolby, and Scott Simonelli, the founder of Veritonic.
Since 1983 one of the most memorable parts of going to the movies has been the THX certification played during the previews. The accompanying sound logo called “The Deep Note” has fascinated, terrified, and mystified audiences for over three decades. What is THX really? How was “The Deep Note” created? And why does it elicit such a reaction from those who hear it? Featuring Andy Moorer, creator of “The Deep Note” and global director of marketing for THX, Rob Cowles.
There’s a sample of music that’s been heard around the world in over 2,000 songs. Odds are you’ve heard it many times and didn’t even realize you were listening to the same breakbeat. The amen break might be the most sampled piece of music in history. Where did it come from? This episode features interviews with artist Nate Harrison and Grammy-winner Richard Louis Spencer.
Did you know your phone is a really good listener? Apps on your phone might be sending and receiving data over ultrasound. Ultrasonic communication is used for everything from tracking your daily habits to enabling light shows at music festivals. We hear from Yale Privacy Lab's Sean O’Brien and Michael Kwet, and privacy and technology counsel Katie McInnis. We also discuss the more positive uses of data over sound with LISNR CEO and co-founder Rodney Williams.
Do certain sounds give you the head tingles? If yes, this episode is full of ear candy for you! In this episode, we learn all about the phenomenon called autonomous sensory meridian response—or ASMR for short. This soothing episode features researchers Giulia Poerio (University of Sheffield), Craig Richard (ASMRuniversity.com), and ASMR artists Gentle Whispering, Jellybean Green, and Somni Rosae - as well as the team at Defacto Sound!
Amazing concerts, Broadway musicals, Cirque du Soliel performances, and other live shows live and die on their sound design. This is the story of how sound design for live performances went from zero to speakers in the seats and where the industry might go next. This episode features interviews with sound design legends Abe Jacobs and Jonathan Deans.
The way you speak has rhythm, timbre, and pitch. It’s more like music than you might think. We chat with The Allusionist host Helen Zaltzman, Martin Zaltz Austwick from Song by Song, Music Psychologist Dr. Ani Patel of Tufts University, and Drum Composer David Dockery on how musical our speech really is.
Brant Guichard has heard "The Music" for as long as he can remember. Brant has a particular type of epilepsy where he hears what are called "musical auras" whenever he has a seizure. Brian Foo, aka the Data Driven DJ, introduces a different musical element to Brant's experience of seizure.
Broadway’s award-winning, record-breaking, smash hit, Hamilton, is a musical unlike any other. Get the story from people in the room where it happens of how sound helps tell the musical’s story eight times a week. We talk to Nevin Steinberg, Hamilton’s Tony-nominated sound designer, Benny Reiner, Grammy-winning Hamilton percussionist, Anna-Lee Craig, Hamilton on Broadway A2, and Broadway sound design legend Abe Jacob.
When people in Hawaii were falsely alerted of a Ballistic Missile threat, the first thing they heard was the sound of an emergency alert. For decades, this tone has alerted us to local weather emergencies and other important events, but it has never been used for its original purpose. In this episode, we explore the history of the Emergency Alert System and its predecessors. Featuring Kelly Williams, from the National Association of Broadcasters, Frank Lucia former EAS advisor for the FCC, and Wade Witmer from FEMA.
“Elevator music” was once the sound of restaurants, offices, and elevators in mid-20th century America. But ironically these bland, string-driven instrumental tracks are never heard in elevators anymore. In this episode, we speak with Joseph Lanza, the author of “Elevator Music,” and Julian Treasure, chairman of The Sound Agency, about the sound of Muzak -- the company that changed the way we think public spaces should sound.
Ever wonder how the music on your favorite news stations is created? Dive in with news music appreciator + journalist Victor Vlam; Composer Matthew Kajcienski, Composer Irad Eshel, Composer Adarsh Thottetodi, Composer David Lowe, Musicologist James Deaville, Film and TV studies Professor Deborah Jaramillo to find out.
A mysterious Tweet from one of the most famous people on Earth: A single phone number, zero context. What does it mean? Why was it posted? Would you call it to find out? For commercial director Duncan Wolfe, this hypothetical became a very real social experiment when his cell phone number was accidentally posted on a very public Twitter account—Former First Lady Michelle Obama!
When was the last time you heard a dial-up modem? A dot matrix printer? A CD dropping into its plastic tray? Did you know it would be the last time? We talk to Rick Adams, a British reporter, about the impact of Big Ben being silenced for repairs next year and Madeline Ashby, a futurist, who has some pretty wild ideas of what sounds we’re about to lose... and have already lost but haven’t realized it yet.
There's this place right at the border between Detroit, MI, and Windsor, ON where there's this hum… It rattles dishes, makes people sick, it's even making people move away. And the government does not want you to know what's making it. Explore the mystery of the Windsor Hum with the man who is working to get to the bottom of this strange government secret. Featuring documentarian Adam Makarenko.
Primitive, yet iconic, 8-bit audio defined a generation through video game sounds and music. Discover the history and innovation behind those audio marvels that still fascinate today. Featuring Microsoft Sound Designer, Zachary Quarles, and David Murray, The 8-Bit Guy.
NBC’s three little chimes didn’t just define a television network, they defined a generation. Where did they come from and what is the surprising impact they have had on current and future media? Featuring the last person to play the NBC chimes on the NBC radio network, broadcaster Rick Greenhut, and radio historian, John Schneider.
When Siri launched in 2011, she permanently changed the way people interacted with their technology. What was it like to be the voice behind that voice? And how did they make that voice come to life? Featuring the original voice of Siri, voice actor Susan Bennett, and Director of Speech to Text Technology for Nuance, Dr. Andrew Breen.