Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Interesting, but who wants to be in group 3? Yay science.

Just by using this orbital position sonic algorithm, a simple ambient music piece began to do something weird: control how people thought they were moving in space. So we decided to ramp up the evil meter to 11 by slowly changing the modulation rate for different frequency bands. We thought a piece that used this algorithm would make people feel like they were moving but confuse them when some of the sound elements seemed to move one way and some the other. We lovingly titled this "The Vertigo Tour" and unleashed it as a track on our CD.

Despite the fact that I knew I was torturing my listeners, I begged and pleaded for feedback from anyone who got a copy. It broke down in an interesting fashion. After a few minutes of listening, about one-third of the listeners felt like they were moving when the amplitude and phase were synchronized, another third thought the music was moving through the sound field, and the final third got violently ill. Yay science. We had figured out how to induce auditory motion sickness.

Unfortunately, the chair of my department at the time, a dedicated audiophile whose sound system was worth more than my salary, fell into the third category.
Seth S. Horowitz, The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind (New York: Bloomsbury, 2012), ch. 8

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