Timelapses may be standard fare for nature documentarians and student filmmakers with a predilection for Koyaanisqatsi. But instead of capturing a sequence of images, PhonoLapse, a new PC/Mac freeware by sound designer Andrew Spitz, makes timelapses of recorded sound.
It's a bit strange because in a sense, all digitally recorded sounds are timelapses. Because of its nature (and because our ears generally can't tell the difference) digital sound is "sampled," meaning that unlike analogue, which leaves a physical imprint on a recordable medium like vinyl, it is recorded in tiny, microsecond-long slices that piece together to form a cohesive whole. The amount of time in between those slices is determined by the sampling rate, and sounds recorded at a higher rate will result in better quality, at the expense of larger file sizes.
What PhonoLapse does is gives you direct control over the parameters of that sampling, allowing you to capture chunks of varying size over a period of time. By adjusting the settings for the length and frequency of your recorded samples, you can turn what would otherwise be a dull and recognizable ambient recording into a stuttering, rhythmic collage of displaced audio artifacts. You can even manually sample mid-recording if you want to add some improvisation into the mix.
Here's a 10 minute recording of 5th Avenue from The Verge's 10th floor office window, compressed into about 30 seconds: