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A Sound Education

Fantasound

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Mickey Mouse: Mr. Stokowski. Mr. Stokowski! Ha! My congratulations, sir.
Leopold Stokowski: Congratulations to you, Mickey.
Mickey Mouse: Gee, thanks. Well, so long. I'll be seein' ya!
Leopold Stokowski: Goodbye.


In 1940, before the world would be plunged into a half decade of devastating conflict, a larger-than-life cartoon creator teamed up with a wild-haired orchestra conductor and unleashed a fantastical film that would forever change the way we experience movies. The morning after the gala event at the Broadway Theater in New York City, The New York Times critic Bosley Crowther said, "The music comes not simply from the screen, but from everywhere; it is as if a hearer were in the midst of the music." Even with all the wondrous characters, vivid animation, and whimsical storytelling of this new film, it was the sound that stole the show.

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Now Ear This

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"There is no reason that function should not be beautiful. In fact beauty usually makes it more effective."

Spock

Function and beauty can coexist, especially in headphone design.

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Ear Training

train-NBK

"I hear the train a comin', it's rolling round the bend
And I ain't seen the sunshine since I don't know when."

Johnny Cash
"Folsom Prison Blues"


A train horn can be musical, loud and annoying, or even whimsical. But above all it's a communications device.

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For the Love of...

painter

"If our condition were truly happy, we would not seek diversion from it in order to make ourselves happy."

Blaise Pascal
French mathematician, physicist, inventor, philosopher, writer and Catholic theologian
(1623-1662)


Are you working in a job that you love? Are you doing a skill that comes naturally to you? Can you imagine doing anything else? If you answered Yes, Yes, and...Yes, then you must be insanely happy. It could be healthy to daydream of doing something else, or even partake in different kinds of productive activities that are wildly different from your career. Studies of scientists have shown that the more varied their hobbies, activities, and other professional pursuits are, the more important and numerous their breakthroughs may be. Performing the same task over and over again becomes drudgery, no matter if you're a widget stamper in a factory or a recombinant DNA engineer in a lab. Our minds need diversion in order to focus when it's important.

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Chocolate Milk

chocolate milk

"All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt."
Charles M. Schulz

Chocolate MilkThere's a phrase we use in the audio industry to explain to someone that doesn't understand that when something's been mixed down, like a song, it can't be unmixed. In other words, once all the elements have been married together, we can't easily pluck out the vocals and replace them. The phrase goes something like, "Here's a glass of milk, and here's chocolate powder. Mix the chocolate into the milk and you have chocolate milk. You can't take the chocolate out and just have milk."

Well, we are all eating a big ol' crow sandwich with chocolate sprinkles on top right about now.

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Big Mac

big mac

"Music's always been at the heart of Apple. It's deep in our DNA. We've sold Macs to musicians since the beginning of Macs."

Tim Cook



Twenty years ago this month, Apple officially launched OS X. Apple finally had a legitimate PC killer that would kick the Mac vs. Windows debate into overdrive. In 2001, many studios and video editing companies were already using Macs as the foundation for their digital production systems when OS X dropped, but it literally changed the game.

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♪ ♫ Hot Pockets ♪ ♫ ™

Piano

"Simplicity makes me happy."

Alicia Keys


Comedian Jim Gaffigan has a classic gut-busting routine about Hot Pockets. After expounding on the unsophistication of eating them, he envisions the meeting with the jingle writer:

Do love that jangle.
Do you think they worked hard on that song?
"What do you got so far, Bill?"
"Uh... uh... (sings) hot pocket?"
"Thats good, thats very good.
The jingle is almost as good as your "By Mennen"


Our daily life has us ingesting "jangles" and other ear worms that have become part of our subconscious. Maybe you've heard these simple sounds over and over again:

"Liberty, Liberty, Li-berty, Liberty"
"Nationwide is on your side"
"Double-A, TOOT-TOOT, M C O"


These sounds are almost as familiar as a logo like the Facebook F, the Micheline Tire man, or the Disney mouse ears. These are all trademarked logos and visual advertising devices. Sounds can also be trademarked as well.

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The President's Speech

TR

"Well-timed silence hath more eloquence than speech."

Martin Farquhar Tupper


For the first century of our nation's existence, a very select few ever heard their president speak. 130 years ago, technology changed that.

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Crank Up the Old Gramo-Grapho-iPhone-a-Graph

His_Master's_Voice

"It is easily overlooked that what is now called vintage was once brand new."

Tony Visconti


Which name will stick to a new technology? It's usually not the one given to it by the inventor.

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It's For the Birds

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“In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.”
Robert Lynd


Though we may seem as different as night and day, avians and humans may be more connected to each other than you think.

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Recycling Audio Cycles

Pizza-Turntable

"I think reincarnation is possible. Hopefully, we all get recycled."

Christina Ricci



We all should recycle. A look at repurposing old audio gear into funky new uses. Plus find out the latest news from Dynamix Productions.

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Messages From the Deeps

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- Lt. Werner: What's going on? Why are we diving?
- 2nd Lieutenant: Hydrophone check. At sea, even in a storm you can hear more down here than you can see up there.”

Das Boot



In the near future, submarines might be using sound waves to communicate through ocean waves.

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I Like That Old Time Rock 'n' Scroll

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"Call me a relic, call me what you will
Say I'm old-fashioned, say I'm over the hill
Today' music ain't got the same soul
I like that old time rock 'n' roll."

Bob Seger


Digital media is doomed to disappear at some point. Records may outlast hard drives, CDs, tapes, and other formats we haven't dreamt up yet. But what about stone tablets? I take a look at some of the oldest surviving forms of written music. You might be surprised what some of them contain.

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Finch's FAX

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"I got a chain letter by fax. It's very simple. You just fax a dollar bill to everybody on the list."

Steven Wright


William G.H. Finch had a crazy idea. He liked efficiency, and he liked news. He imagined a future that would merge those together for the average American. Americans like Joe and Jane. When they woke up in the morning, this crazy idea goes, a box in their parlor had just printed out the latest news onto paper with stories and pictures, ready to be poured over while eating their breakfast. Wait – that kinda sounds like the here and now. What's crazy is that this brainchild was born in 1933.

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Free Music!

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"Well, folks, now we've got free baseball!"

Baseball announcer Skip Caray whenever a game went into extra innings

We're so used to living in a litigious society that when someone says "free," But now there are two exciting web sites for music lovers to explore that are...wait for it...free!

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The Sound of a Lockdown

1950s-radio-dj

"In radio, you have two tools. Sound and silence."

Ira Glass


As the world holes up in their houses during this coronavirus, as we absorb media like never before, as we listen to the news coming out of our television and radio speakers, we see and hear just how serious most of us are taking this. Journalists are broadcasting from their backyards, their sources are interviewed over Skype or Zoom, and the news now looks and sounds less-than-polished. It's like Sunday afternoons on FaceTime with the family three states away. These are the choices we are having to make these days: quality of content over quality of sound and video. But we don't know how good we got it.

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Piracy on the Hi-Res

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“There comes a time in a man's life when he hears the call of the sea. If the man has a brain in his head, he will hang up the phone immediately.”
Dave Barry


Something people have been overpaying for since forever are music knockoffs. In the 1800s hucksters would blatantly rip-off sheet music; early records were either re-recorded or re-pressed from originals; and illegally replicated compact discs filled up warehouses for decades. Savvy consumers usually know fake from fact, but in this digital only world, it's getting harder to tell. But help is on the way.

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The Documentary Sound Quandary

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In feature films the director is God; in documentary films God is the director.
Alfred Hitchcock

Should documentary sound be real? Manipulated? Fake? We dig into the controversy.

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The Soundtrack of the Prohibition

WC Fields

"Once, during Prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water."
W. C. Fields


100 years ago, a restrictive law popularized a new American art form. PLUS, find out what's been going on in the studios of Dynamix Productions.

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Animal In-Sync

Dancing Cat

"I got rhythm, I got music, I got my man
who could ask for anything more?"

George and Ira Gershwin



Researchers have been wondering for a long time if animals understand music. Specifically – can animals follow a beat? We dive into the beasts that rock a beat.

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