Can you hear it?
A professor of psychoacoustics is found dead in his office. It appears to be a heart attack, until a second acoustician dies a few days later in similar circumstances.
Meanwhile, there’s an outbreak of mysterious illnesses on a council estate, and outbursts of unexplained violence in a city centre nightclub. Not to mention strange noises coming from the tunnels underneath Liverpool. Can it really be a coincidence that death metal band Total Depravity are back in the city, waging their own form of sonic warfare?
Detective Inspector Darren Swift is convinced there are connections. Still grieving his fiancé’s death and sworn to revenge, he is thrown back into action on the trail of a murderer with a terrifying and undetectable weapon.
But this case cannot be solved using conventional detective work, and D.I. Swift will need to put the rulebook aside and seek the occult expertise of Dr. Helen Hope and her unlikely sidekick, guitarist Mikko Kristensen.
Ten Crazy Facts About Sound
Sound is a crime thriller about psychoacoustics – the study of how we process sound, and how it affects us. My research for this book took me down some fascinating and bizarre wormholes. I read some beautiful books, spoke to acousticians, musicians, sound artists… and I listened. Here are just a few mind-blowing facts about sound.
- The loudest sound ever made was the Krakatoa eruption in 1883. At 10:02 a.m. on August 27, the Indonesian volcano erupted with a sound that is, to date, considered the loudest sound ever clocking in at 310 decibels. For reference, the sound from the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were 248 decibels. Experts believe anyone standing within 10 miles of the explosion would have been rendered instantly deaf. The eruption was loud enough that it was heard by residents of Perth, Australia, some 1,900 miles away, as well as residents of the island of Rodrigues which was 3,000 miles away.
- The human eardrum is remarkably sensitive. For the quietest sounds that a young adult can hear, the eardrum vibrates by less than one-tenth of the diameter of a hydrogen atom.
- ‘The Hum’ is a mysterious low-frequency sound that has been reported in several parts of the world, and which only some people can hear. One possible cause is the midshipman fish, or toadfish, whose mating call from out at sea is so loud, it can annoy people even inland.
- The title of World’s Loudest Band is currently held by Manowar, who recorded a decibel level of 139 dB. Fortunately this was during a sound check rather than the concert itself. Anyone listening without protection would have been left with permanent hearing damage.
- The quietest piece of music ever is John Cage’s composition 4’ 33”. It consists of nothing at all, other than any ambient sounds made by the audience and their surroundings.
- Several forms of synaesthesia involve music and sound. One of the most common is chromesthesia, where sounds are heard as colours. A sound experienced as a colour is called a photism. Many musicians have synaesthesia, including the popstars Tori Amos and Mary J Blige, and the composers Oliver Messiaen and Ramin Djawadi.
- The tritone, or augmented fourth interval in music, is known as the ‘devil’s frequency’. It has a dissonant, or clashing sound and since the C17th has been associated with ‘diabolus in musica’ or ‘the Devil in music’. Black Sabbath made great use of the tritone in the terrifyingly doomy riff of their eponymous track ‘Black Sabbath’.
- Sonic weapons have been used by the military for centuries. At Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, one of the torture techniques used by the US Army was ‘abusive sound’. Pop music, children’s songs and heavy metal tracks were played repeatedly and at maximum volume in order to break the will of detainees. When asked if he is offended at all by the CIA’s use of Metallica’s music to torture prisoners, frontman James Hetfield said: “Ha! We’ve tortured people with it for a long time. A lot longer than the CIA.”
- The bass singer Tim Storms holds the Guinness World Record for the Lowest Note Produced By A Human. His record is G−7, or 0.189 Hz, eight octaves below the lowest G on the piano, or just over seven octaves below the piano. Storms’ record-setting sounds are so low as to be infrasonic, incapable of being perceived by the human ear.
- Astronomers have found a black hole, 250 million light years away amid a group of galaxies called the Perseus Cluster, that emits a frequency 57 octaves below middle C. The lowest frequency a human can hear is one twentieth of a second. This black hole has a frequency of ten million years, and therefore a million, billion times lower than the lowest sound audible to the human ear.
Thank you, Catherine Fearns and Rachel’s Random Resources
About the author
Catherine Fearns is a writer from Liverpool. Her novels Reprobation (2018) and Consuming Fire (2019) are published by Crooked Cat and are both Amazon bestsellers. As a music journalist Catherine has written for Pure Grain Audio, Broken Amp and Noisey. Her short fiction and non-fiction has appeared in Toasted Cheese, Succubus, Here Comes Everyone, Offshoots and Metal Music Studies. She lives in Geneva with her husband and four children, and when she’s not writing or parenting, she plays guitar in a heavy metal band.
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