Queen Mary 2 ship’s whistle test cc @sarah_angliss @curranradio


, ,

A recording made of the Queen Mary 2 ship’s whistles (they call them whistles but they sound like horns to me) at 11:59AM (ship’s time) on Friday 15 June 2018, from the observation point on deck 11.

The first four sounds are individual blasts from whistles located at various points around the ship, the final is all whistles at once. It was quite loud.

Recorded using the iPhone 5S voice memo, dead space at start and end trimmed off.

I was quite lucky to catch this, and from such a good audio vantage point, as I just happened to be up there when an announcement was made that the whistles were to be tested. I’d popped into both of the scenic elevators to leave a note (postcard) for other passengers using those lifts, to tell them that they could take these lifts to the 11th deck after dark and – if cloudless – could see lots of stars there at night as it’s the darkest point on the ship. It’s not the highest point on the ship (that’s deck 13) but that area is well-lit so too much light pollution. You need to wait a few minutes for your eyes to become dark-adapted in order to see much though.

Anyway, it’s a gorgeous ship and I’m having a lovely crossing. I’m yet to hear back from anyone on-board (I’ve put in a question) about whether or not it’s even possible to see the Milky Way from the North Atlantic (the QM2 and other Cunard ships do a variety of other cruises and it’s definitely possible to see it in Dubai).

Hopefully this post works – I’m using satellite internet and this post is being sent up to satellites 44,000 miles away so it might get stuck up there.

[Free @QMEECS talk] Do you hear what I hear? The science of everyday sounds.


, , , , , , ,

Josh Reiss is giving his inaugural (on becoming a Professor of Audio Engineering) lecture at 6.30pm on Tuesday 17th April 2018 in Arts Two at Queen Mary University of London, on Mile End Road.

It’s free. Tickets: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/do-you-hear-what-i-hear-the-science-of-everyday-sounds-tickets-43749224107

“The sounds around us shape our perception of the world. In films, games, music and virtual reality, we recreate those sounds or create unreal sounds to evoke emotions and capture the imagination. But there is a world of fascinating phenomena related to sound and perception that is not yet understood. If we can gain a deep understanding of how we perceive and respond to complex audio, we could not only interpret the produced content, but we could create new content of unprecedented quality and range.

This talk considers the possibilities opened up by such research. What are the limits of human hearing? Can we create a realistic virtual world without relying on recorded samples? If every sound in a major film or game soundtrack were computer-generated, could we reach a level of realism comparable to modern computer graphics? Could a robot replace the sound engineer? Investigating such questions leads to a deeper understanding of auditory perception, and has the potential to revolutionise sound design and music production. Research breakthroughs concerning such questions will be discussed, and cutting-edge technologies will be demonstrated.”

Mycenae House gardens – birdsong


, , , , , ,

Mycenae House gardens

The birds in the gardens of Mycenae House (the café and community centre in Blackheath [map], nearest station: Westcombe Park, nearest bus: 386) are undertaking some fairly determined chirping in the clip below, possibly they spotted me with my recording device.

In the early part of the clip you can hear someone playing piano for a class and some other background noises, but it’s mostly birdsong.

Mycenae House gardens

Odd sounds from the internet: software-defined radio receivers


, , ,

Thanks to this video I came across a collection of websites where you can listen in to audio ‘webcam’ versions of sounds coming in from various radio antenna. On some it’s conversations, on others weird and wonderful sounds. I don’t really understand what I’ve been looking at or listening to but heres a recording I made of one – it’s quite a pleasingly unearthly sound.

1.  http://www.160m.net/ – it says my browser doesn’t support downloads… but it did.

Screenshot 2017-12-09 16.38.52.png


2.  http://remoteradio.changeip.org:8073/

This one let me hear the Chiltern aviation beacon which signals the letters C, H and T (forever) in Morse code. Heard it one night on a detuned radio at home at my parents’ house a few years ago and have been a bit obsessed with tracking it ever since.

Screenshot 2017-12-09 17.06.40.png

The above recording is pretty much as it sounded at my parents. In the one below I pressed the button saying ‘CW-narrow’ and that cleaned it up quite a bit, but also I think it changed the pitch..(!)



Adding “Hello, I’m…” audio snippets from people who have a Wikipedia page, to their page


, , , , , , ,

One of the loveliest things I’ve heard was a talk by Ian Rawes (London Sound Survey) in which he let us hear examples of his vast collection of audio recordings, stretching back over a century (some originally recorded on wax cylinders) while he told us their story. It was absolutely magical to hear street callers hawking their wares, and young children from fifty or sixty years ago singing playground songs. We also heard, from 1888, a very wobbly recording of a massive 4,000-strong choir singing Handel’s Messiah in London.

Most of the people in the recordings are dead but their voices live on. I don’t have any recording of my parents speaking (beyond the ridiculous clip below of my dad sounding like a chipmunk thanks to a buffering error on Skype) and, obviously, I wish I did…



More cheerfully, my friend Andy Mabbett (pigsonthewing on Twitter) has been encouraging people who have a Wikipedia page to record a short open-licensed* clip saying who they are and what they do – this is the Wikipedia Voice Intro Project or #WikiVIP. This clip can easily be uploaded to Wikipedia and then added to their page – so anyone visiting it can click on the audio track to hear them say, in their very own voice, their name and a tiny bit about them. I think it’s a great idea.

(*”In the spirit of Wikipedia, all such recordings would be open-licensed, to allow others to use them, freely.”)

Here are a couple of examples –

Emma Freud’s Wikipedia page with a screenshot showing the audio clip.

Screenshot 2017-11-10 01.01.26.png

Similarly, Stephen Fry’s Wikipedia page has audio and a copy of his signature.

Screenshot 2017-11-10 01.06.53

There is now a database on Wikimedia Commons of notable people (people sufficiently well-known to have a Wikipedia page) who have made recordings themselves, or got someone else to record it. Here’s page one of English-speaking people. You can also hear from people speaking in their native language, here are people from the Netherlands.

Screenshot 2017-11-10 01.27.37

Example screenshot of some of the English speaking people’s recordings

Recording a short voice clip is very easy, on a computer or smartphone or any recording device that lets you export a file. If Andy asks you to make a recording, please consider it 🙂

He’s written more about the project, including extensive information about how to make and share a recording with Wikipedia.

I’m not remotely notable so no Wikipedia page for me but I had a go at making a recording using the free online Vocaroo tool.

Screenshot 2017-11-10 11.29.02


Bat chirrups recorded at Wilderness Festival 2017


, , , , ,

This year I went to the marvellous Wilderness Festival for the first time, hopefully not the last. I absolutely loved it and when my 400 plus photos have finished uploading I’ll link to them below.

One thing I did was pinch my friend Helen’s bat detector and listen intently after dusk near my campsite, which was very near a river and definitely had at least one bat flitting to and fro. In the recording below I was pointing the detector up, set at 55.7MHz, and could clearly see the small bat flying overhead. I’ve had the detector for a few months at home in London and completely failed to get a confirmed sighting and hearing (seen plenty of bats and not heard them but also heard plenty of bats and not seen them) but this worked perfectly.

Given the frequency it’s likely that this is a Soprano Pipistrelle.

Nailed it :) Perfect tinkling shingle beach sounds near Greenwich Pier at high tide


, , , ,

Happy new year! 🙂 I took the ferry to Greenwich today and walked along the pavement above the foreshore to the very convenient (and still open at ~4pm!) Waitrose. The tide was very high at that point, so much so that the walk off the ferry and up the pier was on a flat surface and it’s usually a bit of an incline. The tide was also hitting the walled walkway area en route to Waitrose with sufficient force to spray the pavement, which I’d not seen before.

There’s a strange little fenced off shingle beach area from which I’ve taken a few sound recordings in the past but I think today’s is the best one. The tide flushed up along the shingle and stones and in receding dragged back across the top all the tiny little fragments, which make the most lovely shimmering tinkly sound – one of my favourite sounds. It’s quite similar to the sound of someone playing with or turning over broken crockery. My previous recordings have never quite got the full effect and you can hear an earlier one below – the sound is there but it’s not as easy to hear against the other sounds.

Previously, in beach sound recordings…





The sound of {Music} Computing – free schools event @QMUL Wed 14 Dec 5.30pm


, , , , ,

Save the date – Wednesday 14 December 2016 – because Andrew McPherson will be giving a talk on music and computing and demonstrating his Magnetic Resonance Piano at this free festive talk at Queen Mary University of London. It’s aimed at secondary school pupils but all are welcome, it’s family-friendly and free 🙂

The sound of {Music} Computing
Wednesday 14 December – 5.30-6.30pm FREE
The People’s Palace, Queen Mary University of London
Hosted by the IET and QMUL
(doors at 5pm, talk at 5.30pm, mince pies at 6.30pm, carriages at 7.30pm)
Download an event flyer (PDF)



The design of the acoustic piano has scarcely changed in more than a century. Now, computers are being used to transform the sounds and techniques of this
familiar instrument. 

The magnetic resonator piano (MRP) is an augmented instrument which places electromagnets inside an acoustic grand piano. The electromagnets cause the strings to vibrate without being struck with the hammers, creating notes that can sustain indefinitely, grow out of silence, or change in pitch or timbre. All sound is completely acoustic, with no speakers.

The MRP is played from the piano keyboard using a combination of familiar and new techniques. The instrument uses a computer to translate key motion into signals for the electromagnets, but playing it, you wouldn’t know that a computer is involved: pressing the keys causes the strings to sound, just like on a normal piano. But unlike a normal piano, you can continuously shape the sound of each note, adding vibrato, pitch bends, harmonics and other novel effects. The result sounds like a combination of a piano, an organ and a glass harmonica.

There will be a live demo of the MRP during the presentation, and it will be available after the talk for attendees to try for themselves.

Your host

Andrew McPherson is a Reader in Digital Media at Queen Mary University of London. He is a member of the Centre for Digital Music (C4DM), a research group in the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science which explores the overlap between music and computing. Andrew completed a Master’s degree in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a PhD in music composition from the University of Pennsylvania. Before joining QMUL in 2011, he was a postdoc in the Music Entertainment Technology Laboratory at Drexel University. His research covers digital and augmented instruments, embedded computing systems, and the study of performer instrument interaction.

Within C4DM, he leads the Augmented Instruments Laboratory, a team whose projects have been featured in two successful Kickstarter campaigns, concerts in high-profile venues including the Barbican Centre and Cadogan Hall, and over two dozen media articles. More information on Andrew’s work can be found at:


Text above is taken from this event flyer (PDF)

Skype on Helium – amusing buffering error on conversation with my dad


, , ,

This recording was made a few years ago while I was in a hotel using iffy wifi to ‘phone’ my dad via Skype. I’d never heard Skype turn someone’s voice like this before and didn’t really know what to do, and couldn’t stop giggling (as is clear from the recording). Subsequent googling indicated that it had been due to some buffering error, but it always makes me laugh to hear it. My dad died yesterday so I suppose this is a bit ‘in memoriam’-y but let’s not be down in the dumps – he found it quite funny too. In the call he’s saying ‘hang up, hang up’, encouraging me to restart the conversation which we eventually did successfully.

I once tried to recover my dad’s normal speaking voice from this by running the audio through Audacity and slowing it down but it sounded just as hilarious then. Haha  🙂


Added: 17 Feb 2018
Just seen the most amazing tweet from James O’Brien (above) and there were some lovely touching responses about people ringing up the phones of people who’d died to listen to their voices on voicemail. After my dad died (5 Nov 2016) I found a recording of a voicemail message I had from him in June that year. He’d had some periods of ill health and I think making this recording was an insurance for me in case anything happened – I’d failed to think of doing the same for my mum sadly, who died in 2010.

Dad did send further voicemail messages to me in the months before he died though I deleted them. There was one on my landline after he died but I was too miserable to sort anything out in terms of recording that one and sadly with time the messsage also passed beyond the point of recovery. So I’m glad I have this. He’s telling me about the London to Penzance overnight sleeper train – there was a BBC Four programme on about it (he often rang to tell me about things he thought I’d enjoy watching on television or on the radio). I went on the train in 2015, it was lovely.

He sounds Scottish, and curiously a bit more high-pitched than his voice was in real life, he had a fairly deep voice most of the time, but it still sounds like him. He usually called me darling, though he didn’t here. I quite like that the recording sounds a bit ‘grainy’. It’s just me holding my iPhone next to the landline speaker and recording on the voice memo app. I know the m4a file won’t change but I like to think that it will gradually degrade with each listen and eventually fade away (here is a lovely event I went to, where we heard voice recordings from decades and even a century ago – Edison wax cyclinders).


Exploring the secrets of soothing spaceship sound | Atlas Obscura h/t @bowbrick


, , , ,

Via Steve Bowbrick…

Headphones on for the low spaceship rumbling sounds…

It was, as he put it, his favorite part of the show. The “ambient engine noise sound.”

via Exploring the Secrets of Soothing Spaceship Sound | Atlas Obscura

Ditto. In fact one of my favourite pieces of music from Star Trek The Next Generation is definitely missing the lovely engine sounds (and the sounds of Wesley Crusher snoozing as his nanites escape) in S301 – Evolution (below) that were present in the broadcast version (which keeps being taken down!).

Music by Ron Jones (who’s also done a lot of work on Family Guy / American Dad).