Junto Project 0383: Interstellar Ambience [repost]

Someone suggested that Suss Müsik repost our contributions to the weekly Disquiet Junto projects, because they enjoy reading the explanations of the tracks. While you’re reading the original post, make sure you check out the other contributors’ works as well.

In his classic book The Design of Future Things, Donald A. Norman described how engineers once programmed what they called “comfort noise” into telephones.

In the old days, the phone’s clicks and buzzes were necessary to process long-distance calls. As technology improved and circuitry became quieter, people were concerned that they no longer had implicit auditory clues to signify progress. (“I don’t hear anything, it must not be working.”) Hence the introduction of fake sounds designed solely for the purpose of giving phone customers the impression that something was actually happening.

Sound is important for providing informative feedback, and we live in a noisy world. Still, the lack of sound can also be a distraction. We hear the slight buzz of a refrigerator, the gentle hum of an air conditioning system, the purr of an automobile engine. While much effort has gone into developing quieter devices for our environments, there is something unnerving about the abyss of absolute silence. It might be mere “comfort noise” to an engineer, but naturalistic sounds tell us that the products we use are working efficiently.

For this piece, Suss Müsik examined both the utilitarian and utopian characteristics of ambient sound. A living environment was imagined in which the polyphony of auditory spaces was something that could be “tuned” according to mood, texture or biometric response. The pulsating waves of synthetic fields create a privatized envelope of mechanically reproduced life systems.

The piece is titled Sensorium. The end abruptly cuts off in order to join at the beginning as a perfect loop. The image is an audio speaker from a hotel lobby in Washington DC, whence a lot of non-comfort noise seems to originate.

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