the sound of the sun, synaethesia, and semantic web

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(( sound ))

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “S” and the number “2”

This past Monday we held our second official “sameAs” at the Old Crown in Bloomsbury. The event is the brainchild of my dear friend Matt and I, aiming to bring together the fascinating folks from our adventures (both work related and personal) and have stimulating conversation. Add to that a pub atmosphere, a flexible format and brilliant minds, wind up and let it go. The results and response have been absolutely incredible thus far.

For this event, we decided to take a bit of a gamble and toss a non-traditional theme into the mix:  sound. A day of flipping through our mental rolodexes and we had our speakers – each coming from wildly different backgrounds, industries, trainings, but all stitched together by a fascination with sound and how we can manipulate, capture, transform and analyse it. Personally, this event really echoed our initial aim with wanting to start this event series — bringing together folks who otherwise would not likely be under the same roof, drawing in those from outside the usual science and technology circles and involving artists, game developers, sound engineers, digital media gurus, etc. For me, this is *exactly* why we started this project.

A quick recap of the night, touching on some of the main points (videos to come, which I do hope you take the time to check out):

We had Nick Ryan and Paul Bennun kick off the night – Nick engaging the audience in a few exercises to test their knowledge of what “sound” is, this all encompassing concept that surrounds us and provides the daily soundtrack to our lives. Nick is a composer / sound designer friend and a synaesthete, realizing this a number of years back when he felt the texture of a garment and automatically transfered that into sound and color. He provided a  background on some of his experiences with his synaethesia, some of his work based off of that (which was absolutely stunning), and even explained things to the newbies in the room (//raises hand) what Head Related Transfer Function was. He then handed over the floor to friend and colleague Paul Bennun of Somethin’ Else, whom he’s been working with to create a 3-D audio experience in a videogame medium.

Paul heads up Somethin’ Else, and has been pouring his efforts (and those of his team, including Nick and the lovely Tassos Stevens, who also joined us for the night) into a labor of love project called “Papa Sangre“. It’s a game with no video – based solely on auditory response, utilizing the 3-D audio concept mentioned above. For a better idea of what I’m going on about, dust off those headphones, and watch this sneak peek. It’ll blow your mind.

From the world of sound design and gaming, we moved to big data and structural analysis. We were delighted to have Dave de Roure join us from Oxford, where he heads the e-Research Centre. Dave’s latest fascination is with a project he’s involved with (with perhaps the best acronym ever) – SALAMI (Structural Analysis of Large Music Information). It’s computational musicology at it’s finest, and even included mentions of Ted Nelson and the Linked Data movement  / Semantic Web. How I love SPARQL mentions 🙂 (happy inner geek, w00t). Bonus points to Dave for tying his presentation so nicely to the first sameAs on the Web, as well.

We concluded the night with the lovely Honor Harger, director of Lighthouse and co-founder of Radioqualia. I first saw Honor this past summer at an event dedicated to the power of the sun, held at the BFI to celebrate the birthday of the Royal Society. She showcased some of her team’s experiments in “radio astronomy” – taking the electromagenetic frequencies of the solar system and transforming them into a form able to be broadcast via a radio station.

She also showed a video by Semiconductor called “Black Rain” – an artistic interpretation based on the raw data collected from satellites. An absolutely riveting and stunning piece of film to watch, that leaves me completely awestruck every time. Here’s a snippet:

Many thanks again to all of you who made it out. I hope you found the night as engaging as we did. 🙂 Videos to come in the next few days, and do stay tuned for more on upcoming sameAs events. For December, we will be taking a break for our usual speaker formats, and heading the The Book Club in Shoreditch for a specially created sameAs sci/tech pub quiz. Trust me, you won’t want to miss this.

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