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Journal of No. 118

January 10th, 2008

Starchild & Artificial Pinnae @ 08:31 am

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Finished reading the Starchild trilogy by Pohl and Williamson. Plenty of whiz-bang style science fiction action, with some heady yet implausible science fiction ideas. Reading it right after Spin, I noticed a a strange parallel of having intelligent nano-ish things in the outer solar system. Starchild also includes some proto cyber stuff, with people having plugs in their head so that they can communicate with, and be pleasured by, the Machine.

Overall: Cockamamie and dated(*), yet many sections are quite enjoyable.

(*) It is funny, as wikipedia points out, to see Hoyle's Steady-State Theory being a foundation for the fictional universe.

On swmartin's recommendation, I started reading Jourdain's Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy. In the first chapter, he talks about the functions of the outer ear in providing directional information. In concert halls, obviously much is made of the acoustics of the room and how it bounces sound around and it gets into your ears from different directions adding a certain something to the experience. But he notes that if you use a typical recording set-up in such a hall, not only are the extra delays and echos of your outer ear missing at the mike, but playing it out of your stereo speakers will not provide your own ears with the extra echos and delays in the right way. However (and this was new to me) you can capture it by using dummy head recording. It's got ears! Is that not ridiculous and cool at the same time? For playback, if you use in-ear earbuds, then your own ears add no extra 'false' echoes, and you only hear the effect of the microphone's ears, providing you with the authentic experience of the concert hall.
I haven't gotten far into the book, and already it's provided food for my head.
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Date:January 10th, 2008 07:16 pm (UTC)
Ah, binaural recording with a dummy head! There are many hours of New Agey-yet-entertaining oldtime radio from the 1970s forward, created by the ZBS Foundation, in exactly this format. For a long time I was a big fan of the mystic-comic adventures of Jack Flanders, particularly the radio serial "Moon Over Morocco." Never was into Ruby, the Galactic Gumshoe, though I did try it. Somewhere on the web you can find photos of the ZBS guys walking around Marrakesh with a dummy head setup, recording background sound for their show...

-- Richard

Journal of No. 118