Listen to Your Gut – October 14, 2020

Duke University Science and Society sponsors a number of programs to foster the interdisciplinary exchange of ideas. One of these programs, SciComm Lunch and Learn, will be the host for Listen to Your Gut, a presentation on baby Lemurs, gut microbiomes and the sonification of data. Dr. Erin McKenney will present her research on changes in the gut microbiomes of baby Lemurs from birth to wean. (Dr. McKenney’s research was done at the Duke Lemur Center!) I will present the Baby Lemur Gut Microbiome Song, which is a sonification of those changes, and talk about how to “listen” to the data.

The program, originally scheduled on campus last March, will happen over Zoom on October 14, 2020. This means that you can all come!!! Here is the link to RSVP- this is necessary in order to get the Zoom link:

https://scienceandsociety.duke.edu/events/scicomm-lunch-learn-listen-to-your-gut-engaging-the-public-with-science-sound-with-dr-erin-mckenney-and-jude-casseday/

 In addition, we will share about the Sourdough Project, which Dr. McKenney and I worked on through the Rob Dunn Lab at NC State. I hope to have a section of The Song of the Sourdough ready to present on October 14th. These two studies/sonifications illustrate different approaches to sounding out data. I am grateful to Dr. McKenney for sharing her research and being game for explorations in sound! Another big gratitude goes out to Dr. Ariana Eily and The Art of the Scientist for taking an interest in the idea of sounding data!

Where the Path Takes Me

Our Waking Lives sometimes flow and sometimes glitch with the main point being “don’t mind whatever happens”. My personal practice is to turn the “oh,no!” into a “aha, what’s this now?” Easy to do sometimes, other times not so much. Immersed in feelings of failure, I sometimes need a few weeks to make that turn-around.

And so it goes in the world of Jude’s Soundlings. Everything is in transition, some stuff is shiny and new, other is old and (semi)reliable! New like the Behringer Neutron with the Make Noise O-Control as sequencer modulator routed through good ole Ableton as harmonics flinger. I am learning so much: I made a filter sweep and some kind of Heinz 57/Swiss Army Knife rack I put together. Got both the FX racks midi mapped to my Novation Launch Control. This is soooo cool! The harmonics shatter, shimmer, echo, melt, propogate and obscure each other.

Sometimes the harmonics from source audio get caught within the Effects Channels. The source stops, but the soundscape lingers on. I was taken aback at first when this happened. Stopping the Source audio track did not stop the sound!? Sonic material continued pulsating in the active FX tracks, so I rerouted other FX Channels to pick up audio from the channel that was pulsating. This sound went on for one to two minutes, while I passed it around through different AAC tracks. Several times I couldn’t figure out how to stop it and had to turn it all down and close the project. I enjoy this mystery and remain curious: recently read something about midi feedback loops! Perhaps that was where we were caught! And they can definitely be played!!

After 8 years of creating electronic soundscapes in Ableton Live using electronic instruments, I have learned a lot about sculpting sound! I enjoy the process of creating the movement of sounds around and through space. Ableton is a wonderful mixing environment. Their plugins are maleable enough without getting into writing program. Now is the time for an expansion! I am hearing a lush carpet of sound in highly structured harmonic streams.

Currently the final analysis of the data for the Sourdough Project is poised to happen. Up to now, my approach to data sonification has involved pitch class to designate the presence of something and amplitude to demonstrate the magnitude of that something. Pretty basic, but it worked for the Baby Lemur Biome Song. (https://wp.me/p5yJTY-tD) The Sourdough data is more demanding, and may involve conceptual frameworks based on the data in contrast to using numerical data to specify the sound. Here is the link to work I did with some of the Sourdough Project data using my pitch/amplitude method. (https://wp.me/p5yJTY-yN) In this example, the yeast growth can be heard as a sequence of steps illustrating rapid or gradual growth during each 12 hour period. These two sonifications have captured presence, magnitude and growth within time frames. As I study the Sourdough data, these three methods for sonic capture need to be brought together as interactions that change/modulate/meld over time to create Sourdough ecology, which begins with water and flour and ends in smell/taste/feel of the bread itself.

Feeling a bit stuck here at the moment. Must be time to play!!