dConstruct: Tech and the uncanny

by September 6, 2013

In her talk at dConstruct in Brighton UK 2013 Sarah Angliss shared her insights as a musician . Here's my notes from her talk Tech and the Uncanny:

  • Can you replace physical musical instruments with a laptop? Yes but for some reason we are often drawn back to real-world music-making machines.
  • The uncanny valley holds that the more human-like a doll/robot is, the more we loose our empathy for it.
  • Audiophiles are obsessed with quality -with capturing the life-like experience of music. They spend extensive amounts of money on creating high fidelity environments for playback. If all the conditions are right, a dynamic feeling/emotion can occur through music -this is what the audiophiles seek to recreate.
  • Infrasound is a sound so deep you feel it, not hear it. Its an uncanny sound -something familiar yet different.
  • The castrati were an almost post-human set of singers in the 18th century. They were young boys with good voices that were castrated early on and developed amazing vocal range. In the 18th century we couldn't extrapolate the sound from the sound-making machines (humans). The castrati were paraded around like music-making machines.
  • Music can be not only be disembodied but embodied as well. It can be taught to birds, for example which became fashionable for quite a while until the phonograph was invented.
  • The killer app for the phonograph was music. It decoupled where music was made and where it was heard. We've become immune to the fact that recorded sound is such an copy of the original.
  • Its uncanny that can hear people no longer on the earth in your ear. Yet we rarely reflect on it.
  • Sound has offloaded uncanniness from people onto machines. We need to bring some of that uncanniness onto the Web to feel what is behind experiences.