EXTRA CREDIT / 2 Sound Symposium Sessions / Erum Farooque

I love sound. Its what makes music and I am totally addicted to music, anyone who lives with me says so. I went to two sessions of the SOUND + SCIENCE symposium on Friday from 5 to 7. I found all the different sounds the speakers produced fascinating. The first speaker spoke about ways to manipulate sound through the process of changing various tempos and grains of sound. Its so crazy to think about how many different elements of sound there are that you can adjust such as tone, grain, tempo, etc. The speaker manipulated sounds by fastening and stretching the grains in the sound clips. When he filtered the grains, each time a different sound was produced. I remember connecting every new sound he made with a sound familiar to me that I heard before. The sounds sounded like a mouse, a monster, and an alien. The micro-sonic sounds sounded like aliens to me, which was pretty funny. So by manipulating grains of a sound, we can make it sound like anything, but what are grains exactly. He said we break sound down to all sorts of particles, which are called grains. In quantum physics, each particle or grain is defined as a burst of energy. He also talked about how Ferraris are marketed based upon their sound. The trademark engine starting and bursting to life sound of a Ferrari is really what it is sold on. A convention he went to boasted new models of Ferraris with new features, one of which was the new sound.

The most interesting topic of his had to be the cone of silence chandelier. I don’t know how it works when when one walked under this specific chandelier, it was like a cone of silence where only you could hear the sounds in there and actually feel the sound move up and down. You could not hear the outside and people outside did not hear or feel what you did. You could visualize the sound and felt as if it was 3D, just like surround sound. He never explained how this worked, but merely amazed the audience with the concept of it all.

The second session had a very interesting topic of sound illusions. The first was the illusion of different tones our right and left ears hear. Our right ear always hears the high tones while the left hears low tones, even if the speakers are reversed. Thus, that creates the illusion of the speakers only playing that specific tone, when its really our ears that are picking only upon that tone. Then she repeatedly played her saying hi then low consecutively for a while and experimented with the various words that we heard. Based on what you heard, you could infer something about that person and what is on their mind. If you heard “you die”, she advised you go seek help, that was what depressed students heard. Personally, I heard many various things: “like hi”, “blank eye”, “white guy”, “black eye”, and “lie”. I have no idea what this says about me, but it is interesting and very funny how random my thoughts, i guess, are. This was a illusion of what you heard, when in reality only “high low” was being repeated. Another random interesting fact was that left-handed people were more likely to hear something more complex than others. She also played a small sound byte that got higher each time, this illusion was that they were different sound bytes but our brains connected them into one that sounded like something climbing and then descending.

Lastly, the funniest part of the session was when she compared regular talking to singing. She played her saying a sentence and repeated the end of it over and over again and each time it sounded as if the pitch got higher and eventually it sounded like she was singing, but it was the same initial clip of her only talking not singing. everyone heard it. This made me think about how songs get stuck in people’s heads. Sometimes a phrase gets stuck in one’s head as well, this seems weird though. Why would someone just saying something get played over and over again in your mind. This repetition clip tied it together. Repeated talking of the same word or words sounds like singing. So a sentence stuck in one’s head is just like a song stuck in one’s head.

The sound symposium really brought art and science together, especially in the first session. Analyzing sound and figuring out ways to adjust it is a science but actually producing the sounds and joining them together is an art. Sound is music, which is definitely art.

~Erum Farooque

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