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Sounding out technology.
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tag: video-games

Listening to Yesterday: Muted Victory

The smile-inducing ditty at the end of a New York Times' online crossword puzzle

  1. a sound cue in an online game
  2. a phone call interruption

xword

The payoff is a split-second filigree from a what appears to be a jazz piano trio. It sounds like the modest backing band to a quiz show or late-night talk show. The celebratory equivalent of a rim-shot, the sound in question is the little ditty that plays at the end of “The Mini” crossword, a daily feature on the website of the New York Times. I recently started doing the Mini in the morning, usually getting it done in under a minute (:54 today), sometimes a little over two minutes. Yesterday it took over 9 minutes, closer to 10. I might have just stopped trying, but I persevered, winding my way through various unfamiliar words — most sports-derived, if memory serves. If anything is going to flummox me, it’s sports-related information. I did take a short call in the middle of the puzzle, and neglected to hit pause on the Times site, so I can let that interruption account for perhaps two minutes of my extended linguistic struggle, brain slowly coming out of its slumber-fog. In the end the disappointment wasn’t that it had taken so long, but that I’d had the computer on mute, which meant that the jazz trio’s flourish never was heard from my laptop’s speakers. Games are games, so this user-experience ditty isn’t a matter of gamification, per se — of the application of game play to other types of activity. But it is a bit like “video-gamification”: the application of video-game elements to non-video games. Not getting to hear the riff after exerting so much effort provided a classic example of adding insult to injury.

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Tangents: Data Immersion, the Tuning of the Internet, Superloops, …

Plus: the emotional key of books, physical computer drums, quantum computer sounds, steampunk modular, and more

Tangents is an occasional collection of short, lightly annotated mentions of sound-related activities.

Data Immersion: Characteristically breathtaking video of a new work by Ryoji Ikeda, perhaps the leading installation poet of data immersion. This is of his piece “supersymmetry,” which relates to his residency at CERN, the supercollider. More at supersymmetry.ycam.jp:

In an interview he talks about the dark-matter research that informed his effort:

“Supersymmetry is being considered as a possible solution of the mystery of this dark matter. During the period I’m staying at CERN, there are experiments being carried out with the aim to prove the existence of as-yet undiscovered ‘supersymmetry particles’ that form pairs with the particles that make up the so-called ‘Standard Model’ catalogue of physical substances. Data and technologies of these experiments are not directly incorporated in the work, but I’m going to discuss a variety of things with the physicists at CERN, and the results of these discussions will certainly be reflected.”

Tones of the Internet: The tonal repository of the Internet is very different from the room tone of the Internet, which we explored in a recent Disquiet Junto project. Over at wired.com, Joseph Flaherty profiles Zach Lieberman, with an emphasis on his Play the World project, which scours the Internet for sounds — the music heard on radio stations — and then allows them to be played back. “Using the set-up,” Flagerty writes, “a person can literally turn the internet into a musical instrument.” What makes that sentence more than hyperbole is that the source audio is played at the note triggered by the user, though it’s by no means “the Internet” being played, and instead a fairly well-circumscribed and specific subset of the Internet. (The effort brings to mind the title of R. Murray Schafer’s classic book of sound studies, The Tuning of the World.) It’s part of DevArt, a Google digital art endeavor that has nothing to do with Deviant Art, the longstanding web forum for (largely) visual artists, or with Devart, the database software company. “Play the World, and several other DevArt projects,” reports Flaherty, ” will make their debut at the Barbican Gallery of Art in London in July, but the code is available on Github today.” There’s something intriguing about an art premiere that is preceded by the materials’ worldwide open-source availability. Here’s audio of the note A being played for 20 minutes based on a wide array of these sound sources. It appears to be from Zieberman’s own SoundCloud account, which oddly has only 15 followers as of this writing. Well, 16, because I just joined up:

The Singing Book: At hyperallergic.com, Allison Meier writes about an effort to extract the emotional content from writing and turn it into music. It’s a project by Hannah Davis and Saif Mohammad. Below is an example based on the novel Lord of the Flies. More at Davis and Mohammad’s musicfromtext.com. A few weeks back, the Junto explored a parallel effort to listen to the rhythm inherent in particular examples of writing, and to make music based on that rhythm:

Everyday Drum: The divisions between words like “analog” and “digital,” and “electric” and “acoustic,” are far more blurred than they get credit for, as evidenced by this fine implementation of an iPad triggering not just physical beats, but whimsically innovative ones made from bottle caps, buttons, grains tacks, and other everyday objects (found via twitter.com/Chris_Randall). The project is by Italy-based Lorenzo Bravi, more from whom at lorenzobravi.com:

LED Modular: Vice Motherboard’s DJ Pangburn interviews Charles Lindsay (the SETI artist-in-residence, who invited me to give that talk last month) on his massive LED installation, which involves the chance nature of modular synthesis applied to recordings of the Costa Rica rainforest. Says Lindsay:

“I love modular synthesis, the unpredictable surprises, the textures and wackiness,” he said of his heavily-cabled Eurorack modular synthesizer. “My rig is populated by a lot of SNAZZY FX’s modules. I’m part of the company, which is essentially Dan Snazelle, a wonderful genius, inventor and musician. We share an approach that says ‘let’s build these things and see what happens.'”

Also part of the LED exhibit, titled Carbon IV, is audio sourced from the quantum artificial intelligence laboratory at NASA Ames. Here’s audio from Linday’s SoundCloud account:

Superloops: Rob Walker shifts attention from the “supercut” of related material — like the “yeahs” of Metallica’s James Hetfield — to the superloop of standalone elements. “The opposite of a supercut,” writes Walker at Yahoo! Tech, “the superloop condenses nothing. To the contrary, it takes one brief moment of sound or video and repeats it.” It was an honor to be queried, along with Ethan Hein, in Walker’s research. I pointed him to the great sounds of the Star Trek enterprise on idle. … And in somewhat related news, in Walker’s “The Workologist” column in The New York Times, in which he responds to “workplace conundrums” from readers, he has some advice for someone bothered by an office mate’s gum chewing (“Other than the clicking of keys and occasional phone calls, it’s the only sound in an otherwise quiet office”); he writes, in part:

Because you’ve ruled out music, maybe a comfortable set of noise-canceling headphones — tuned to nothing — would be enough to blunt the irritating sounds. Or you could consider any number of “white noise” generators that are available free online. Noisli.com, for example, generates forest sounds, coffee-shop noise and the like. You also could do a little research on “ambient” music and use a service like Pandora to construct a nondistracting sound stream. Such approaches may be inoffensive enough that you can simply play the sound at low volume from your computer — no earbuds required.

Steampunk Modular: By and large, I tend to keep the threshold of coverage above the level of “things that look neat,” but sometimes that neat is neat enough that I can’t resist, especially when it’s tied to a fine achievement by a talented sound practitioner. Richard Devine has posted on Instagram this shot of steampunk-style effects module, encased in an old book, that he got from the makers of the Xbox One video game Wolfenstein: The New Order:

Synesthesia Robots: And here’s one from Kid Koala of his lofi visual interface for his sampler. Koala is a talented cartoonist as well as an ace downtempo DJ. Those efforts have collided in a score he’s made for a graphic novel, and in various staged performances he’s put together, and this achieves a functional correlation in a very simple manner:

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An Arcade of Reflection

Music for a secular service, played communally on PlayStation controllers

The composer Bryant O’Hara participates in the Sunday Assembly — a kind of non-religious church, as it were — in Atlanta, Georgia, where some aspects of the secular service involve music. He wanted to think of another means to introduce music into the communal activity, and came upon the idea of a collaborative video game system that uses game controllers to collectively build a composition in real time. As he describes it in some extensive documentation of his process, which also goes into his choice of programming languages, among other details:

I started thinking about this project after attending the first two meetings of Sunday Assembly Atlanta. There were several parts of the meeting where we did karaoke, and I was wondering whether there was another form of musical interaction – perhaps even unique to the organization – that we could do as a body. That got me thinking about new ways of looking at how music could be made and how it could be experienced.

This “shared” instrument, as he calls it, involves PlayStation controllers, and he has posted the above audio recording of a nearly half-hour performance, which dates from the end of last month. The result is a kind of meditative game parlor, an arcade of reflection, the steady beat layered with an ever-changing amalgamation of colorful beeps and bloops, whirry static, and other largely percussive sonic elements.

Here’s some silent video of the interface in action:

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/bryant-ohara. More on O’Hara’s project at intimateandintricate.wordpress.com.

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Disquiet Junto Project 0122: 8bit Undead ET

Create music for a fake movie whose plot is "Poltergeist meets Wreck-It Ralph."

20140501-8bET

Each Thursday at the Disquiet Junto group on SoundCloud.com a new compositional challenge is set before the group’s members, who then have just over four days to upload a track in response to the assignment. Membership in the Junto is open: just join and participate.

This project was published in the early evening, California time, on Thursday, May 1, with 11:59pm on the following Monday, May 5, 2014, as the deadline.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto).

Disquiet Junto Project 0122: 8bit Undead ET

This week’s project is fairly open-ended. The essential thing is that your music has an “8bit flavor” — define that as strictly as you wish.

You will write the opening theme music for a movie that doesn’t really exist. The film is a horror flick. The elevator pitch of the movie’s plot is “Poltergeist meets Wreck-It Ralph.” The opening sequence involves a housing development being constructed on the site of a former city dump. The construction crew discovers the burial site of one million cartridges of the ET Atari video game. The developer decides to pour concrete over the ET cartridges and continue building. But something has been awakened. Hundreds of thousands of 8bit ETs cannot be kept down!

Your music will accompany a film montage (again, this is entirely imaginary) covering the above description, which should last between two and four minutes.

Deadline: Monday, May 5, 2014, at 11:59pm wherever you are.

Length: The length of your recording should be between two and four minutes.

Information: Please when posting your track on SoundCloud, include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto.

Title/Tag: When adding your track to the Disquiet Junto group on Soundcloud.com, please include the term “disquiet0122-8bET″ in the title of your track, and as a tag for your track.

Download: It is preferable that your track is set as downloadable, and that it allows for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution).

Linking: When posting the track, please be sure to include this information:

More on this 122nd Disquiet Junto project — “Create music for a fake movie whose plot is ‘Poltergeist meets Wreck-It Ralph'” — at:

Disquiet Junto Project 0122: 8bit Undead ET

More on the Disquiet Junto at:

The Disquiet Junto Project List (0001 – 0241 …)

Join the Disquiet Junto at:

http://soundcloud.com/groups/disquiet-junto/

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Life After Nintendo

Shiny chiming jangles made in Nanoloop

20131206-nanoloop

There are several dozen tracks thus far in the “sound diary” credited on SoundCloud to Corruption, who gives as a residence Funabashi, Japan. Many are noisy escapades, tagged simply as “sound diary,” while the one dated “2013.11.19” and given the subtitle “like a moth to a candle” bears a second tag: Nanoloop. That’s the name of a popular piece of electronic music software that originated on the Nintendo Gameboy and has been since ported to iOS and Android. What was, back in 1998, an esoteric dream of handheld music-making has become pop culture, an everyday activity. In Corruption’s hands, Nanoloop makes sequences of shiny chiming jangles that ebb and flow like a low-resolution tide. There’s a glitchy quality to it at times, lending the work a welcome complexity, a dark undercurrent to its slow pace. Corruption does not identify which edition of Nanoloop is employed.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/corrption. More on Nanoloop at nanoloop.com. The above screenshots are from the Android version.

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