Soundscape app

For those of you interested in sound and technology, I wanted to share information that I just learned about the new app “Sound around you“: it has been developed by people in the United Kingdom and the idea is to share sounds that deserve your attention. I don’t know what the underlying question is, but apparently researchers at a university will analyze the data in the future.

If you decide to use it, let me know what you think. I’m curious!

Empower yourself with sounds

After long silence, here I have some sounds to share (other than my hiccups for those who know me personally).

Today I would like to bring to your awareness the wide variety of sounds that we can use to shape our mood or state. You have probably heard that some environmental sounds, like rain or a waterfall, help relax. What about the song of some birds? They can definitely improve our mood.

Some human-made sounds can be pleasant as well: many people find that baby laughter is one of the most pleasant sounds we can hear. Clapping hands is known to activate areas in our brain that are related to pleasure. Disregarding what we decide to hear, pleasant sounds can improve our mood or emotional state.

And what happens when it comes to music? There are studies that show evidence that depending on our personality which type of music we tend to prefer. For example, according to McCown et al 1997 and Rentfrow & Gosling 2003, extroverts usually prefer music with enhanced bass that is energetic and rhythmic. Nevertheless, if we listen to music that we like, it can energize us or relax us.

As an example, I would like to share one song that helps me relax and “go back to myself” under stress: “Watch the glitter” by Vokab Kompany ft. Keng Doja.

“Watch the glitter” by Vokab Kompany ft. Keng Doja

Today I invite you to pamper yourself with pleasant sounds and to share music with others!

Listening to other accents

Have you ever had the precious chance to talk to non-native speakers of your native language? Or just someone with an accent different from yours? If you did, you probably experienced some sort of difficulties understanding the other person, right? What was your reaction?

I have been surrounded by people from different nationalities for a number of years, but first now I’ve come to realize how important it is to remain open despite the difficulties when it is time to listen to others. I mean: try to understand the other person who may be putting a lot of effort to express himself/herself. I also mean: try to explain things in different ways to reach a better understanding from the other side. And I mean: trying to communicate both implies and can lead to a better knowledge of the underlying cultures, habits, personalities and personal life stories that may shape different behaviors.

Having just discovered this new layer within communication, and fascinated by the idea of remaining open and absorbing a huge diversity of cultures and personalities, I would like to thank all the people who have touched and are touching my life in such a valuable way!

Sculpting waves in wood and time

Today I would like to share some material I have found by watching one of the TED talks… It is about a combination of science and art, engineering and philosophy… Reuben Margolin crafted the pieces shown in the video below.

And the sound? Besides listening to him explain his motivations or interpretations, you can have the chance to admire those waves, which could be 4D representations of sounds. Enjoy!

Happy Meeting with Engineering

By Mario Rivera-Chavarría

While getting my undergraduate degree, my fear of math made me go into the biological sciences. My terrible first contacts with math probably led me to make that decision. If I had been aware of the fact that math is as easy as you are interested in and without math you cannot solve problems, I would have probably got started as soon as I entered the superior education. Bad for me. Time wasted.

Anyway, for a biologist, it is very good to know about taxonomy, anatomy, physiology and something that is teach that I call “anecdotic ecology”. But in the real world, that is thirsty of proves and solutions, you may ask yourself in some stage of your career: where is all this knowledge leading me to? All I know about animals is a ticket for me to step into the science train? So it is when you realize that knowing the scientific name of a fish is good but quantifying its biological characteristics and translating them to engineering is even better. This thinking level does not come suddenly: it is a process, a philosophical process catalyzed by my contact with philosophy and specially ethics -this could be confused with a sort of good living but it is not: ethics is about ethos=customs.

My long story made short: at college, my problem solving cryptic skills brought me a lot of problems with some scientists (“the real scientists”), who thought that science should not be applied. No matter what you study, it’s useless in direct relation with their science quality. I really couldn’t understand why learning thousands of species names could improve your level of thinking…

Finally I got out of that world. After a couple of jobs as a filming technician, I realized how limited it was what I knew. The film industry is made of results, same as modern science. So I just contributed with a couple of facts about natural history and then my presence was useless. In my family (some of them are scientists and MD’s, by the way) there’s nothing more unpleasant than the goods for nothing, so I volunteered carrying cables and other stuff. I wasn’t aware that I was meeting the first love of my life: Technology.

All those cameras and recorders really obsessed me. Soon I found out how they worked and how useful they could be to answer some scientific questions. Moreover, they could be even more useful if they had the capability to minimize subjectivity. Then, I got in love with acoustics.  An epiphany came to my mind (I’m not saying that I was the first who thought of this or handled the idea): The correct interpretation of waves (not limited to aural studies) could be integrated into different kinds of automatization levels that may lead to the removal of human interpretation from sampling techniques. In my opinion, this will probably happen in the next 50 years (with or without me, but I hope it’s with me).  I met engineering. I definitely liked it.

With the help of my advisers and professors (and scientists and engineers around the world) I started dealing with some skills up to now, considered (quoting a biology professor) “a proof of an unfocused character”.  These skills (programming, electronics, signal analysis) have led me to be goal-oriented and productive (at least for Latin American scale and, believe it or not, with my own equipment and resources). Proudly I can say I’m in the path of developing things. Big? Small? Developing.

Are these things that I do to be called a pioneer? No, it’s just in order to feel that I’m doing useful things, and because I find engineering captivating and its relation with biology promising for all fields of human knowledge. Thank goodness I met it! Happy for that and optimistic about the future.

Memories of a noisy city

Recently I was delighted by the visit of my family. While having a great time, they were often comparing Buenos Aires with San Diego. By doing so they would remind me how often people in Buenos Aires use their horn while driving… especially during rush hours.

Why do I bring this issue up? Locals in Buenos Aires -as probably people in other big cities- tend to live stressed. Staying traffic is not the most pleasant feeling ever. People need to communicate their anger, disappointment or just tiredness. What’s the most obvious way to communicate in traffic? Of course you honk! But there is more than just one person who wants to communicate. And then you get an awful jamming session of horns which leads to a bigger intolerance.

Now some home-made acoustics and correlations: When do people tend to be more annoyed by the weather? In summer. Buenos Aires tends to be hot an humid. Moreover, people in this city get really stressed for Christmas time (yes, there it happens to be in the summer). Coincidently, heat and humidity help spread sound waves farther. In other words, when people are more stressed, honking gets better spread and people get more upset.

This is a not so beautiful example of noise creating positive feedback which seems to end up having a negative effect. I’m wondering whether someone could test this cycle in an objective way and try to diminish the acoustic pollution in big cities.

Where music and evolution meet

Can you think of evolution in music? I don’t mean evolution of musical instruments or the evolution of humans composing music per se, but rather music reproducing itself. Music having sex? Yes, that is what I am talking about.

I guess that you have heard of Darwin and the evolution theory… right? Well, Robert MacCallum and Armand Leroi from Imperial College London came up with the idea of DarwinTunes. They suspected that musical styles evolve through Darwinian natural selection. For that, they should be copied and modified from artist to artist and generation to generation, with popular styles more likely to be copied as they get more exposure.

Listen to the following audio file on how the DarwinTunes work:


How do you think evolution comes into play when it comes to music? What do you think about the idea of “genomes of music” that predetermine which notes are used, where they’re placed, which instruments are used, tempo, etc? The genomes of two “parents” can merge in random ways to produce “daughters”, which also may develop small random mutations. This mimics the way in which most plants and animals mate and mutate. This procedure should also reproduce the way in which composers merge musical styles together, while inventing new motifs.

Also, if music evolves following natural selection rules, I am wondering whether people would tend to like music every time more…