Louder Whisper

Abhishek Hazra The SprachPlug Perambulations

Abhishek’s sound diptych attempts to analyse the acoustical characteristics of mastication sounds produced by placing a wedge of Recursive Meat Pie inside the oral cavity of Sprach Plug, a well-known human agent model.

The Poor Man’s Zeta Beach
Eligibility: The applicant has to be below forty years of age to qualify for the Zeta Beach Visa Selection Test. The day he turned forty, Blurmouli Khashnobish resigned himself to the fact, that he would never get a glimpse of Zeta Beach – that stunning mathematical landscape he so desperately wanted to visit ever since he first heard of it from his gemmologist uncle. Yes, Blurmouli was fully aware that his own mathematical gifts were fairly limited, yet he secretly hoped that if he studied hard enough, he could somehow crack the stringent Zeta Beach Visa Selection Test. Although he knew the Zeta Beach Visa rules were inflexible, he couldn’t stop dreaming about Zeta Beach. So, what if he couldn’t visit the real one? No peer review committee could prevent him from making up his own! But where would he get the sand from? Should he visit the local granite quarry? Eventually he turned to Pi to get started on some rough prototypes. And he decided to use his own noisy, neighbourhood as the template for the topographic distribution. Everyday after breakfast, armed with a stop watch, a motley bunch of bicycle bells and a stack of index cards on which he had written out the value of Pi to 200 decimal places, he started taking long walks in his neighbourhood. He imagined his walk as a line that started off with the decimal expansion of Pi, with each digit signalling a discrete duration in time. He acknowledged the presence of each digit with a ring of his bicycle bell and kept silent for as long as the digit instructed him to. For example, the first four decimal digits of Pi are as follows: 1415 Accordingly, Blurmouli‘s ‘walking-ringing-script’ would run something like this:
  • 01. Start walking. Start clock
  • 02. Remain silent for 1 second. Continue walking.
  • 03. After 1 second, strike the bell once
  • 04. Remain silent for 4 seconds. Continue walking.
  • 05. After 4 seconds, strike the bell once.
  • 06. Remain silent for 1 second. Continue walking.
  • 07. After 1 second, strike the bell once.
  • 08. Remain silent for 5 seconds. Continue walking.
  • 05. After 5 seconds, strike the bell once.
Was Blurmouli successful in moving beyond his protyping exercises? Did he build his own version of his cherished Zeta Beach? I am sorry to say that we have very little information on this. However, a local field-recording enthusiast was sufficiently intrigued by Blurmouli’s walking ritual, to make a scratch recording. And that is what you are going to hear now. Perhaps it might trigger you to conjure your version of the Zeta Beach?
Pareto’s Vespers at the Temple for Producing the Next Ramanujan
After having made the proverbial million in the Valley as a highly sought after cryptography consultant, Pareto Eeshan came back to Bangalore to raise a family. Utterly horrified that his daughter’s high school maths teacher still recommended S.L. Loney’s Trigonometry, he decided to come out of his early retirement and funnel his considerable wealth to produce the next Ramanujan. He soon found a growing band of supporters among other valley returned entrepreneurs. All of them unanimously agreed that since it was the mystic voice of Goddess Namagiri that was ultimately responsible for Ramanujan’s genius, it was necessary to resuscitate forgotten Tamil temple hymns sung in praise of the venerable Goddess. Within a year, the ground floor of the Temple for Producing the Next Ramanujan was ready for occupancy. The temple was located near a prominent high school in a posh south Bangalore neighbourhood and quickly acquired a steady stream of student visitors. However when Pareto Eeshan started playing these hymns for the daily service, he was compelled to update some of them so that they resonated with the present generation whose ears were more attuned to the fractured sonic landscape of samplings and remixes. For example, for the Vespers, Pareto randomly sampled 9 slices from an eighteenth century composition that he had discovered some months back. The time duration of each slice corresponded to each of the ten different numerals (the digits 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) that comprise the decimal number system. Since, its physically impossible to have a sample of zero seconds, he approximated it with 200 milliseconds. From his earlier research on Infinite Series he had already calculated the frequency of each digit in the 1000 decimal expansion of Pi. For example, he knew that the 5 that appeared as the 31st digit was the fourth occurrence of 5. Or that the 9 that appeared as the 45th digit was the eighth occurrence of 9. Now, it is already well known that the first 20 decimal digits of Pi are: 14159 26535 89793 23846 So, if we take S0, S1, S2, S3, S4, S5, S6, S7, S8, S9 and S10 as Pareto’s audio samples, then the score for the first 100 seconds of his Vespers would appear as follows:
  • 01. Play S1 once
  • 02. Play S4 once
  • 03. Play S1 twice
  • 04. Play S5 once
  • 05. Play S9 once
  • 06. Play S2 once
  • 07. Play S6 once
  • 08. Play S5 twice
  • 09. Play S3 once
  • 10. Play S5 thrice
  • 11. Play S8 once
  • 12. Play S9 twice
  • 13. Play S7 once
  • 14. Play S9 thrice
  • 15. Play S3 twice
  • 16. Play S2 twice
  • 17. Play S3 thrice
  • 18. Play S8 twice
  • 19. Play S4 twice
  • 20. Play S6 twice
Pareto’s Vespers were indeed quite successful in increasing the Temple’s student membership. We are therefore happy to present here an extract from the Vespers corresponding to the first 50 decimal digits of the Pi.
The SprachPlug Perambulations
Image: Pareto-Zeta Lumber Linen by Abhishek Hazra