Audio piece: Porn Whales

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From porn wails to porn whales

The idea for this piece fell out of a session playing around with audio samples taken from various pornography films, in a bid to produce something for an In the Dark listening event. After a while of manipulating and stretching out these smutty samples I was struck by how much the moans and groans came to resemble the calls of whales.

After a bit of whale sound research I worked to manipulate these sounds until they modelled the range of sounds associated with whales. From the high-pitched clicks, squeaks and squeals to the lower frequency rumbles. The sounds become slightly more unsettling when processed in this way (although out of context they didn’t originally sound that nice to begin with), removing the visual element with which these sounds were originally presented with, definitely made them more sinister. The high-pitched screams are particularly unsettling on their own, baring very little resemblance to the original sample.

However for the event this piece was to be presented at we were keen to finish with something fairly light hearted and I thought it would be much more fun to experiment and explore the concept of ‘porn whales’ than turn this into something dark and foreboding – there was plenty of that featured at the event anyway.

The sounds of the sea were added to provide a little context (recorded in Brighton on a zoom H4n) and the gentle, soothing music came from Kevin Macleod.

The piece was featured and played as part of the In the Dark ‘One Night Stand’ listening event at the Clachan Pub, London 14/05/12.

An added bonus – I thought I’d also share with you one of Isabella Rosseliini’s great Green Porno films – ‘Whale Sex’ :

In the Dark: One Night Stand

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Hardcore listening

The latest In The Dark listening event: ‘One Night Stand’ took an unusual step into the murky world of erotica, featuring pieces exploring sex across the animal kingdom; from humans, to snails, to fish and finally to whales. The night proved to be so popular that we had to put on a second sitting, suggesting that sex really does sell, even when it comes to curated listening events.

Sofia Saldanha and I mixed and compiled the audio for the night, including the production of new material to interweave and transition between pieces. Audio featured included a beautiful and emotionally charged interview from the Dialogue Project, a rather unsettling but humorous piece from Canadian radio show Audio Smut (about masterbating in public places) and and a personal favourite from Danish producer Pejk Malinovski whose piece made reference to the artist Matisse by exploring the reproductive behaviours of snails (can be heard here).

We were really keen to move past a linear playlist which simply presented the pieces rigidly, separated by silence. Instead we experimented in blending all the pieces together into a seamless mix. In many cases we produced short interludes and transitions to help take the listener smoothly from one piece to the next and to keep them immersed within the general narrative of the night.

Finishing off the event was ‘Porn Whales’ – an audio short I’d produced, manipulating the sounds of pornography to resemble the calls of whales (below).

Porn Whales

After a bit of whale sound research I worked to manipulate these sounds until they modelled the range of sounds associated with whales. From the high-pitched clicks, squeaks and squeals to the lower frequency rumbles. The sounds of the sea were added to provide a little context (recorded in Brighton on a zoom H4n) and the gentle, soothing music came from Kevin Macleod.

The Plankton Chronicles

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A creative mix of beauty and knowledge

Recently on the Ri Channel we featured a new collection of videos from the Plankton Chronicles – a gorgeous web-video project created by research biologist Christian Sardet working in collaboration with Montreal production company, Para Films. Although I tend to refrain from reposting content from the Ri Channel on this blog, I’m really captivated by the work this project is producing, it’s simply stunning – see below:

The series takes you down into the dark alien world of plankton, a category of aquatic life that encompasses an incredibly diverse collection of organisms; one which includes animals, plants, bacteria and archaea. Each episode delves into the life of a particular organism – from iridescent comb jellies to gelatinous zooplankton – all presented through a stunning mix of high definition video, abstract sound design and narration to guide you along. The project aims to illuminate the hidden world of these bizarre creatures and ‘magnifies our fascination for the wonders of underwater life’.

Easily the most attractive feature of this project is the incredible macro photography, with illuminated organisms scurrying across jet black backgrounds in exquisite detail. The sound design is also commendable, with synthetic bleeps and pulses underlining the ‘otherworldliness’ of this complex ecosystem (and is reminiscent of a particularly cherished episode from the BBC Blue Planet series). The videos have also been carefully scripted and tightly crafted for the ‘quick-fix’ web-audience, with episodes only running for around two minutes each. With this in mind it’s important to note that these videos are beautifully paced – allowing the content to breath and flow under its own rhythm, and providing a delicate balance between eye candy and information.

The videos are all presented across an interactive web-platform which pulls together additional information, imagery and extended links. The videos are also available in a choice of either French or English – opening up accessibility further.

We asked project founder Christian Sardet for a bit more detail on the project and I’ve reproduced some of his comments below:

What are the aims of the Plankton Chronicles and what are you trying to achieve with it?

The series was conceived in the context of the Villefranche sur mer Marine Station an ideal place to study plankton and the Tara Oceans expedition devoted to exploring plankton in all oceans. This scientific adventure definitely raises ecological awareness. Plankton Chronicles deal with biodiversity, but focus mainly on the visual splendor of marine organisms. The series magnifies our fascination for the wonders of underwater life.

What challenges did you face capturing your footage, and producing the videos?

Catching and maintaining species in perfect shape is tough. Luck and patience are keys to success. Filming animal behavior and movements can take hours of trial and error. Use of dark field macroscopy and microscopy help reveal the exquisite patterns of transparent and gelatinous organisms. Filming requires lots of light and  sensitive cameras. We benefited from the great new SLR cameras able to film in HD format which just appeared on the market when we started the project.

What role do you think the internet and online videos play in today’s communication of science and education?

A major role. It is possible to produce quality documents like the plankton Chronicles episodes on a shoe string budget and make them accessible to large numbers of viewers. The ability to create a site with complementary videos, texts and photos is also a great advantage provided by the internet.

What makes a great science communication video?

A creative mix of beauty and knowledge

The project is continuing to update new content on a regular basis – check out a selection of works on the Ri Channel or visit the Plankton Chronicles directly to browse the full library of videos.

TED Ed have also made a great short using footage from this project: