Apr 17
“Acoustic cryptanalysis” by Daniel Genkin, Adi Shamir, Eran Tromer.

A group of researchers in Israel have discovered a cryptographic attack allowing them to steal encryption keys by listening to the high-frequency noise the computer makes as it’s processing. This is what that noise sounds like when you shift its frequencies into the human-audible range. Terrifyingly, being somewhere noisy is no defense — the sound the computer makes is so high that it’s easy to isolate its sound from the surrounding environment.

In a quiet room, when I lean my head in, I can just about hear the high-pitched whine my laptop makes at rest. It’s strange to think that the noise is leaking information, tiny and quiet but still so real.

Apr 16
(Reblogged from pitchforkreviewsreviews)
Apr 14

Aside from those few guys reveling in their spray-tanned fantasy “brogrammer” masculinity, very few people in programming identify with the term “brogrammer”. The brogrammer is always someone else— he is THOSE Facebook guys who yell too loudly at parties and wave bottles in the air, he is not the nice, shy guy who gets paid 30% more because of his race, gender and appeal to the boy-genius fetishes of VCs. The loud and tacky “brogrammer” is a false flag— if you are not a brogrammer, the logic goes, you must be an outcast genius who has suffered long and would never oppress a fly. The industry is full not of the former but the latter— programmers who are smart and may present as harmlessly “nerdy” but whose sense of themselves as being “the underdog” means that it is very hard to see the ways in which they participate in unconsciously but potentially harmful ways in an industry that has coded them as kings. In reality, programmers in Silicon Valley can be fully and invisibly privileged without ever touching a Grey Goose bottle-service setup or a tube of hair gel.

Meanwhile, the mainstream media’s rapid adoption and celebration of the imaginary “brogrammer”— imagining him as the updated version of a Wall Street man, rich, callous, and central to a new American story of wealth— means that this fantasy character is being rapidly heroized and glorified across popular culture. This means that shows like Silicon Valley that claim to “critique” the “brogrammer” only end up re-centering the self-centered young male as American hero, failing to see or critique the deep, coded subtleties by which power in the Valley really works.

Kate Losse (via katherinestasaph)

this whole article is *essential*

(Reblogged from likeapairofbottlerockets)
Apr 13

I listened to three and a half hours of “The Well-Tuned Piano” at work on Friday. That’s a long time, but I think it’ll take a lot longer for me to hear Young’s custom tuning with a fluent ear. Right now the volume of the overtones seems unnaturally loud, roaring, and ominous.

Kyle Gann has written an excellent introduction to just intonation for newcomers like me. He even includes an analysis and recording of the scale La Monte Young uses in “The Well-Tuned Piano”. Especially in its sparser segments, the piece is tranquil in an unusual way — all the pitches in a given chord seem to have the same synchronized pulsing beat. So it’s surprising how queasingly, rumblingly dissonant the entire scale sounds. My favorite part of Gann’s essay, though, is his description of how just intonation sounds to the initiated:

I’ve had interesting experiences playing just-intonation music for non-music-major students. Sometimes they will identify an equal-tempered chord as “happy, upbeat,” and the same chord in just intonation as “sad, gloomy.” Of course, this is the first time they’ve ever heard anything but equal temperament, and they’re far more familiar with the first sound than the second. But I think they correctly hit on the point that equal temperament chords do have a kind of active buzz to them, a level of harmonic excitement and intensity. By contrast, just-intonation chords are much calmer, more passive; you literally have to slow down to listen to them. (As Terry Riley says, Western music is fast because it’s not in tune.) It makes sense that American teenagers would identify tranquil, purely consonant harmony as moody and depressing. Listening from the other side, I’ve learned to hear equal temperament music as a kind of aural caffeine, overly busy and nervous-making. If you’re used to getting that kind of buzz from music, you feel the lack of it as a deprivation when it’s not there. But do we need it? Most cultures use music for meditation, and ours may be the only culture that doesn’t. With our tuning, we can’t.


Far beyond the mere theoretical purity, playing in just intonation for long periods sensitizes me to a myriad colors, and coming back to the equal tempered world is like seeing everything click back into black and white. It’s a disappointing readjustment. Come to think of it, maybe you shouldn’t try just intonation - you’ll become unfit to live in the West, and have to move to India or Bali.

Apr 12

This is the cover of Bee Mask’s very good 2012 album When We Were Eating Unripe Pears. Chris Madak, who’s behind the project, seems exceptionally thoughtful in both his compositions and concepts.

I first became aware of Bee Mask in maybe 2006 or 2007 through the Scottish tape label Sound Holes, which I’d often see at the noise shows that I was going to in Aberdeen. Bee Mask, at the time, was a much rougher proposition, focused on Madak’s interest in the “’60s-era idea that the destiny of painting was to move toward the total identity of the work and its surface”. (Coincidentally, Ben Lerner has a funny poem about this.) Madak’s music explored how that idea might work in a sonic context in particular by taking apart the notion of fidelity. Because the music doesn’t intend to be a representation of an existing acoustic event, “fidelity” becomes meaningless: there’s nothing for the recording to be faithful to. The results of that approach, like the Sound Holes cassette “Dark Address”, are dense and thrillingly ambiguous. Sometimes I’m unable to tell whether a sound is from one of Madak’s synths or from the inherent properties of the cassette itself.

Since then, though, Bee Mask’s main concern seems to have shifted from medium to time. When Pears was released Madak gave a very interesting interview to Bomb magazine talking about how a record captures the form of time in a physical object — and how that reification is connected to the binary of “organic” and “inorganic” sounds and the history of electronic music. The whole thing is great — dense and wide-ranging enough that summarizing it feels like a great disservice — but here’s an excerpt I found especially interesting:

This Platonic distinction between forms and objects is fundamental to electronic music—even the origin stories where we talk about the conflict between the concréte and the elektronische are in a sense parables about it.


To bring this back around to Pears, I use certain types of sounds which […] I’ve tried to approach from both sides of the form/object divide, by evoking certain of their characteristics through synthesis but also by sampling them and processing those samples in ways that take them further into the realm of abstraction and result in their sounding more “hypothetical”. One of those sonic signifiers is the bell, and not only do bells have an historical association with the marking of time, the craft of harmonic tuning of bells is also an example of imbuing “inorganic” material with “organic” qualities; another important signifier is water, which has connotations of both measurement (water clocks, or something like MONIAC in a more bonkers case) and its impossibility (Heraclitus), and which is the necessary condition of the organic as such.