The dark side of the cell

In class today we will listen to excerpts from Anne Niemetz and Andrew Pelling’s installation “The Dark Side of the Cell.” For more information about their audio and video recordings/compositions visit the website:

Figure 1. a) An optical microscope image of a triangular AFM cantilever. At the apex of the triangle is a small tip that is barely visible and appears as a small block spot. A cartoon zoom of the side view of the cantilever shows the pyramidal shape of the tip that has an approximate radius of about 20 nanometers. In b) a schematic of the AFM cantilever is shown. The tip itself has a 35 degree half opening angle. c) A cartoon of the AFM setup. The AFM cantilever is mounted on the end of a tube piezoelectric crystal. As the crystal moves the tip over the surface, a laser monitors the tip displacement. The laser is bounced off the back of the cantilever into a position sensitive photodiode that records the cantilever motion. A computer assembles a three dimensional image based on this data.

Assignment 4

Meditation is by nature, a connection between mind and body. As the mind consciously directs its intentions towards one goal, you can begin to lose the connection, or awareness, of your body. The brain is the primary processing unit of sensory reception, aural reception included and therefore, it is logical to conclude that different sounds can evoke slightly different mental states, and in turn lead to different states of meditation. The effect of rhythmic, and resonate sound can induce states far more conducive to spiritual experiences when meditating due to altered areas on activity in the neural cortex, mantras being a practical example. Mantras, sounds considered to create transformation, are a pinpoint of many Buddhist meditation rituals and even extend into other religions such as the Om in Hinduism. There are other methods of entering altered states of consciousness that are slightly less pure, but regardless, music certainly impacts these chemically altered states in an equally intricate manner.

The superior link is awfully long, so you aren’t obligated to listen to the whole thing, however I would recommend everyone trying to meditate to it! This sound is of Buddhist and Hindu mantras recited by spiritual figures within the respective religions. The distant, steady, consistent noise exemplified through the reciting of Buddhist or Hindu text is a rhythmic sound conducive to meditation which would intensify the spiritual feelings felt during a meditative state of mind. Another aspect of these sounds that my research won’t touch upon is the meaning of the words. These are holy words being presented in a state that promotes meditation, making them very, very powerful.

Progression of Soundscapes Through Time

The theme of soundscapes is a very broad reaching topic that could really include anything in our sonic world. Despite this, the topics of my group actually fit quite well in relation to each other and collectively represent the evolution or change of soundscapes. My topic fits into this by examining a snippet of history where the soundscape would have changed dramatically in a relatively short amount of time, making it a sonically interesting time to study and ties in well through my group’s topic of changing and evolving soundscapes. Specifically, I plan to look at the change of the natural or “ecological soundscape” of the New England region in pre-Colonial times versus when European settlers came to the area. Under this topic, I have three main subtopics, which look at how land treatment practices, hunting techniques, and language changed the soundscape.

Exemplifying sounds that would occur in the soundscape I’m studying is difficult since there were no recording devices in the time period I’m examining, but I have two contrasting sound clips that offer contrasting snippets of sound the Native Americans versus the settlers would hear. The first is birdcalls: although the European settlers undoubtedly heard them too, many songbird species and specifically the passage pigeon were hunted close to extinction.

The second clip is the sound of chopping wood; a sound well known to the settlers as they clear cut much of the forested areas in the north east.


My animated picture:

Seething Soundscapes: Seattle’s Early-Nineties

My research began as a case study of the Grunge movement during the early nineties. However, the focus of my work quickly shifted to R. Murray Schafer’s idea of a soundscape. More specifically, I decided to examine how soundscapes of music change and evolve. By analyzing the stylistic aspects of Grunge compared to its predecessors in rock, I determined what aspects of Grunge helped turn it into a nationwide fad that rapidly spread across the country. I will discuss keynote tones and styles specific to Grunge in order to flesh out how the sounds of rock changed during this time period. By keying on these examples, I will isolate the true differences in sound that changed the soundscape of mainstream rock. In addition to this, I will write about the evolution/commercialization of music in general and will determine how this can change the respective soundscapes of a genre’s origin.


Coming off Soundgarden’s album Badmotorfinger, “Outshined” typifies Grunge music both through its stylistic framework and lyrical composition. The song begins with a deep, melodic guitar riff that is also clearly aggressive and charged with emotion. In addition to this, the song is sung as if Chris Cornell is under stress. He is not singing for beauty or precession, but instead as if he is trying to express a frustrating message. The lyrical content of “Outshined” is typical to Grunge due to its exposure of issues such as addiction and depression: “I’m feeling that I’m sober, Even though I’m drinking, I can’t get any lower, Still I feel I’m sinking.”


Resonance and the Om

Monks meditation on waterfall


Essential to an understanding of Buddhist and Hindu cultures, meditative practices, and religious precepts, is a comprehension of resonance. Resonance addresses how even the slightest vibrations transfer energy and subsequently cause movement to spread like ripples until the energy dissipates and the vibrations settle. Resonance also applies to sound studies because of the relationship between sound and movement. Sound waves are caused by movement and even the Brownian motion, the movement of atoms, create sound waves.

Resonance holds a place of great importance when studying these cultures because of the Om and other basic tenets found within these religions. A deep belief in the interconnectedness of the universe lies at the foundations of these two cultures. Understanding the phenomena of resonance is direly important to attaining a state of inner and outer peace is the ultimate goal. By attuning themselves to resonance through use of the Om, meditation, and learning, these peoples are also learning to control the vibrations they cause and to better receive those of others. Resonance is more than just an acoustic property to these cultures; it’s also symbolic of the ebb and flow of life and the universe, of which humans are merely specks within. By exploring resonance within these cultures I will examine these eastern cultures and the sound, mind, and body connections therein from a western intellectual perspective.





The Om is extremely important to meditative and yogic activity in both Hindu and Buddhist culture. This simple sound is intrinsically linked to the very foundations of these two religions, and is representative of the thrumming movement of the universe. This particular video captures a group of Tibetan monks chanting the Om in accompaniment with quiet bells and drums. Though the Om is not always carried out for such an extended period of time, it is often used to denote the beginning and end of different activities like praying, meditating, reciting mantras, or as a preface to a religious text.



Kiai: harmonizing mind and body

East Asian martial arts have been practiced for centuries as both a method of self defense and a meditative spiritual exercise. “Kiai,” an exclamation made during or after an attack, is an important part of the execution of martial arts techniques. The kiai is explained as an outburst of inner spiritual energy, harmonizing the practitioner’s body and mind to press the attack; the practitioner focuses all their energy solely into the strike, and their exclamation has the added effect of intimidating the opponent. Additionally, the physical act of creating the diaphragm-based yell tenses up the muscles and prevents the user from becoming winded or taken by surprise by a counterattack. In this way, the use of kiai in martial arts resonates with our group’s theme of sound connecting the mind and body.

The sample I have included is a video of practitioners of kendo, a practice developed from samurai sword exercises, training. Each individual strikes the dummy opponent and emits kiai in conjunction with the hit. In this case, the syllable on which they are basing the shout is the Japanese word for “head;” in kendo, the kiai’s importance is such that in order to win a match, one must execute kiai for each hit, calling out the part of the opponent which they are striking. In this example, kiai is both a coordinated shout that strengthens and focuses the attack and a required ritual within the cultural and official context of the martial art.

Los Angeles is Red Hot

My research examines the relationship between the music of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the cultural trends of Los Angeles from the early 1980s to present day. The intent of this investigation of connection was, initially, to uncover the impact of the city’s social and political shifts on the style and genre of the band’s productions. As my work progressed, I began to focus in on the relevance of the Los Angeles soundscape, using what I had already gathered to interpret the correspondence between sound and place. It became apparent that the auditory backdrop of the city has changed in accordance with its various sociopolitical alterations. Knowing this, I argued that changes in the Los Angeles culture—effectively, change in place—prompted change in its accompanying soundscape, which was causatively related with the evolution of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ music.

During the 1990s, when the song Under the Bridge was written and recorded, Los Angeles was heavily ridden with crime and drug abuse. The soundscape was filled with the sounds of the urban bustle of life, but also the sounds of the struggling Los Angeles Police Department. Sirens, gunshots, and screeching tires were all far from uncommon, each contributing to the auditory interpretation of melancholy. Under the Bridge mirrors such despondency, with its downbeat tempo and tortured vocals, which contain lyrics referencing the desperate condition of substance addiction.

Behind the Lyrics

Every soundscape is comprised of its own explicit set of ambient sounds. These keynote sounds have helped shape various forms of music each with their own distinct qualities and messages. Hip-hop is no exception. Since its origin, hip-hop music has been used as a form of expression around the world, serving as a microphone to the voices of the marginalized masses. From the block parties in New York, to the streets of Bolivia, hip-hop has been used as a major form of expression. Now people are no longer just hearing a good bass and catchy tune, but are also listening to the lyrical stories behind the music. Artists of all subgenres in hip-hop are coming to the forefront and telling their unique stories of the hardships and struggles that accompany their race, class, and upbringing. These stories intricately intertwined with smooth lyrics and popular instrumentals make the hip-hop soundscape truly memorable.

Tupac’s song “Changes” hones in on his struggles with everyday life. He focuses on tribulations such as poverty, drug addiction, racism, and growing up as an African American. This is a prime example of how artists have used hip-hop as a method of expressing themselves through lyrics and music. Shakur’s song embodies the hardships of his everyday life and allows listeners to relate to his situation making this one of the most memorable songs of his time.

Tupac Changes

Language & National Identity


The use of language in many countries is not merely a personal custom, but a political statement and a marker of national identity. In Turkey, the government purged the Turkish language of Arabic and Persian elements in the 1920s and 30s under the nationalistic and secular philosophy of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. In 1950 with the election of a new government party, the adhan (Turkish: ezan) reverted back to being preformed in Arabic, which signaled an increasing political connection to the Arab world and conservative Islam. Though Turkey remains a secular nation, an anti-Kemalist faction has risen in recent years in tandem with economic downturns. This question of language and identity signals the order of self-alignment with a group—whether or not a person is a first a Muslim or first a Turk. The use of the Turkish language in any form is closely tied with nationalistic sentiment, and the language of the adhan is a political marker for the political atmosphere of the country.

This topic connects to the other members of my group in the sense that we are all focused on how sounds define identity, both on a personal and national level.

Here is a link where you can listen to the adhan in Istanbul:

This adhan is performed in Arabic. (The lyrics are: God is Great/I bear witness that there is no God but Allah/I bear witness that Muhammed is his messenger/Rush to prayer/Rush to success/God is Great.) This sound can be heard five times a day in nearly every city. However, it is important to know that the relationship between religion and government is complicated in Turkey; the country is still a secular nation, and the politics are “liberal” in comparison to other “Muslim nations” (like Iran, for example). My use of quotation marks here merely indicates that these terms are frequently used in the US media but are not entirely adequate to describe these concepts. Although most of the nation subscribes to the Muslim religion, some people identify first as Turks, and some people identify first as Muslims, and there is a continuum of devotion and attitudes towards religious practices and politics, just as there is a spectrum of attitudes in the United States towards Christianity, for example.


Solidarity in EDM Sonic Communities

In my research I am exploring various aspects of electronic dance music (EDM), and how they contribute to the strong sense of solidarity and communal unity often reported the genre’s listeners. These fans often mention feeling an affinity towards complete strangers in the nightclubs, festivals, and partys where this kind of music is being played. Altered states of consciousness coming from some combination of the musical characteristics, the setting, and at times for many, the drugs, are also common within this community. Among other things, our group is focusing on the creation of unity amongst members of a group through their use of sound—Buddhist monks collectively achieve trance states through meditation and chanting; many martial arts utilize sound to coordinate fluidity, discipline, and coordination in their movements and forms; seeing the developing fetus for the first time, via technology which employs high frequency sound waves, brings families together over the shared excitement of an expecting mother and her unborn child.

Many elements present in this video are supportive of the research I’ve been finding, shown on a gigantic scale. There has been recent explosion in popularity of EDM, with massive festivals like Tomorrowland being the result. This simply further supports the idea that EDM creates a community amongst its listeners. The music is also ever-changing, morphing, and being modified, yet the basic sonic signatures that mark the style have remained quite similar throughout EDMs history. This video shows the variety of musical styles within the broader EDM catagory, the crowd energy and participation, the psychedelic nature of the experience, but most importantly from our group’s perspective, the tendency this sonic community has towards amassing enormous crowds of like-minded, freely participating, energetic individuals.