Listening in on the Sound Class: Discussion 1

Finishing up our first full week of course work for my sound class: I’ve included a few links to some of the samples I’ve asked students to post to their own SoundCloud accounts. This task was meant to give us a chance to explore sound as an object of listening in and of itself – which, I hope we can see is not just listening to a certain object or thing. In this latter case, we can say that we are not so much listening, as we are attempting to surveil or observe a particular object – focusing, that is, on something that has already caught our attention and accordingly been identified as noteworthy.  One might compare this mode of “listening” to the way a predator might zero in on potential prey. By contrast, for this exercise, I asked class members simply to listen closely to how sound in general might present itself within a certain environment. How, in other words, do we hear things that do not catch our attention? A surprising number of arguments and comparisons seem to emerge almost immediately: listening through some of our examples here, we can see how certain attributes play off of each other to help us interpret the sounds as they proceed. Shifts in tempo, intensity, pitch tend to be especially helpful here. Without these changes, the sound will lose much of its identifying quality pretty quickly. A monotony (monotone) of sorts will begin to seep into the space before us. Using this approach to sound, we see how strange and alien even the most mundane industrial and household objects can appear. In “bouncing ball,” the title first seems to give it away, but the slightly off rhythm makes it almost sound like a cardiac machine – albeit one attached to someone in need of a healthier heart! You can hear a slight metallic beep after each percussive thud. Samantha’s choice in sound is similarly nondescript, but the patterns and shifts in pitch make it quite intense at times. This student’s sound account has an intriguing title: Wrongful Turn, fitting, perhaps, given the fascinating narrative that emerges from these bursts of what seems to be fingers tapping. The sounds themselves instantly transform into a series of frantic dialogues – a common enough occurrence in our era of digital communications. It’s hard not to imagine each stream of ticks and taps circling in around a specific set of statements and ideas. This is sound at the speed of thought.


Students prepare to make their first soundscapes.

Beloved of Ra

via Flickr


via Flickr

GW Bridge seem from Harlem by Hudson River

Riverside parkvia Flickr

Two Future Binaries

This article chronicles the transition of the well-established online poetry journal Jacket to archival status hosted at the University of Pennsylvania and the parallel launch of a successor publication, Jacket2. The author addresses the new journal’s mission with special attention to the opportunities and challenges afforded to this digitally mediated resource.

via Two Future Binaries.

Kristen Gallagher a la Perec

Kristen Gallagher treats us to a new project inspired partly by George Perec’s early aesthetic experiments in information and consumer culture. Here she is reading off a list of very edible deli and other pret-a-manger items found at Grand Central Station. It was a bit too easy to imagine them arranged, portioned and displayed behind glass, prices affixed.

“that just goes on and on and on”


dmehta19 creates poetry through RoboPoem

Dhaman currently features a poem he has constructed using RoboPoem, an application built by artist and programmer C.P. Bryan of British Columbia. His work is available through InterAnnex Web Applications.

Dhaman’s use of the tool is documented well on his Web site. A quick look at the first couplets lets us see how a certain mood and voice can be produced by vocabulary alone.

Perhaps he did not occur spooked
to work i was as if stopped rooked
Stay in these papers he potion
Our hands troupe acclimatization
heart and the time to bonefish
In the cat reposed dice flatfish
White affair was shelling the quid
Wrecked in attentive couldest quid
Saw in the centre of work store
Got filled his back oxbow encore

Click here to read more of his comments on using text generators for poetry: dmehta19. Dhaman addresses in his posts some of the common uncertainties writers may feel using automated semantic tools to construct one’s work.  As I noted in class, it can seem rather disconcerting to consider language as something other than the expression of personal thoughts and ideas. Text generation, as both a practice and concept, invites us to understand the medium of language much as a photographer sees his or her own tools – as instruments that capture and transcribe our surrounding environment. In this paradigm, language can be seen, not so much as personal expression. but as a kind of resource to be used to to translate our thoughts and ideas for public consumption. Here, sentences, syntax, semantics, etc. can all be considered to comprise a kind of snapshot of our thoughts. Better technologies make for better, clearer communication. Hasn’t anyone ever wished for a language generator that makes our efforts to communicate seem more “high definition”?


Making Information Beautiful

crit one

Infographic Showing Class crit work as a Social Network

I appreciate both the creative and critical work we were able to accomplish last Tuesday night. Please take time to review each other’s blogs and keep up-to-date with any and all updates. This responsibility is especially important if for any reason you can’t personally attend.

To the right, I thought I’d make available the same infographic I produced out of patterns made evident via your own critical surveys of each other’s work. As we discussed in class, a very clear preference for David’s and Ben’s work emerges if we organise each 390 student’s critical focus as a kind of vector leading or pointing to two other projects.

Now I know any one of us might feel inclined to interpret this image as an assessment or even evaluation of our individual work, making it clear that we all feel David’s and Ben’s respective projects in concrete or typographic poetics may somehow be more successful. But, in my humble opinion, that’s not the best way to understand this . Rather, we should keep in mind that all this diagram shows is how the works considered en masse or collectively can be interpreted as a kind of social network. Nothing can really be said about the works as objects in themselves.

In other words, what I hope to convey here is the importance of the network as its own structure or framework – and this is a quality that should extend to each of your own individual forays into infoaesthetics. The aesthetic “work” we produce is interesting not because it provides any essential or objective insight into any real event or entity. Angel, for example, produced a challenging visual comparison of the most common criminal acts perpetrated by Americans over the last two weeks. It may be tempting to interpret his graph as a comment on how a violent, physical assault compares currently to, let’s say, a robbery or car jacking. But we should refrain from heading down this path of reasoning. What’s valuable about Angel’s work is the new relationships it makes available to the eye concerning contemporary criminal activity. Angel shows us how one activity can acquire an entirely different significance when depicted graphically in relation to another activity. We see, in other words, both a new structure and a new kind of visual representation or transcriptive practice. The structure itself might be difficult to analyze, but we spent quite a bit of time talking about how the representation he ended up producing could be improved. Please continue to check each other’s works and provide more commentary in this vein. Each project should be reviewed and analyzed in terms of its visual and aesthetic effect. Any ideas why this effect is important culturally or socially? What do you think?

Also stay tuned for any updates I can provide about the Digital Creativity Lab in Cullimore. It’s my aim to get it up and running as soon as possible.