February 17, 2013

Blog: Sound Uncovered app will perk up your ears

Jessica Lane, Staff Writer,
The Express-Star

— Got a sound fetish? Ever scratch your fingernail across the textured surface of a glass vase for the tinkling sound it makes and think Man, someone ought to record that.

If so, you might enjoy the free Sound Uncovered Exploratorium app.

As you may have figured out from the title, this app goes under the surface to explore sound, just as some of you may have crawled under a table as a child and scratched the bottom of it with a yardstick for the distinctly hollow scratchy sound it makes on lonely rainy afternoons in your otherwise childless neighborhood.

If that image doesn't make you long for the faded, echoing days of your youth, check out the "How old are your ears" part of the app. By sliding a bar, you can determine the how many hertz you can hear versus the typical hearing age. The truth hertz (couldn't resist). My ears are about five years older than me with my iPad turned all the way up in a quiet room. Thanks, headphones. You were worth it.

Sound can also be a source of conflict, from fighting over radio stations to determining what is a pleasurable sound or an annoying sound. The "Sounds Like?" segment of the app explores this phenomena. Listen to clips of different people describing a sound and guess what sound they are talking about. From a sneeze to a train passing by, the emotions associated with a sound vary widely.

There is a lot more to explore on this app: an explanation of misophonia--intolerance of certain sounds, beat waves--that warbling sound you hear from two notes--such as when tuning guitar strings and palindromes--which are spelled the same forwards and backwards but sound quite different when heard backwards or forwards.

More of a visual person? Listen no more! Exploratorium also offers a free Color Uncovered app. See for yourself in the app store or just wait for the review next Sunday.