The high-pitched sounds of a bus’ brakes

An occasional feature here will be the reviews of sounds: those heard in a concert hall or club; those that came from the CD, vinyl, or MP3; or just merely those that I came upon during the day, out in the world. This first post is of the last kind and is, perhaps in some interpretations, an ode to varied sounds of brakes.

I can’t remember exactly when it was, but it was definitely last week. Taking the bus from some place in Cambridge to some other place necessitated using the MBTA buses, a notoriously annoying affair made worse by increased prices, unavailability of competition…well, you can get the sordid details by reading the linked website. Suffice it to say, oftentimes the brakes on the buses have some of the most ear-piercing, sharpest high-frequences that cause you to recoil in pain. But that night…the sounds were smoother, still high in frequency, but with a broader spectrum. Lower intensities in the upper frequencies. Perhaps the driver was not slamming on the brakes so hard this evening. Surprisingly they were almost pleasant; I was happy when my body sensed the slowing of the vehicle and I knew the almost-enjoyable brake sounds were forthcoming. Maybe it was simply the dissonance between what I remembered of these sounds and what I was experiencing then.

My vocabulary of these sorts of sounds is unfortunately not as developed as I would like, otherwise I’d try a more evocative description. Maybe three reviews down the road.

Published by nknouf

Nick Knouf is the DJ and producer of sigtronica. He's been on WMBR nearly continuously since the Fall of 2004, first on a show called somewhere never travelled, then switching in the Fall of 2005 to sigtronica. He's currently a first-year master's student at the MIT Media Lab in the Hyperinstruments Group. His work and research can be seen on

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