Hello friend. This is the weekly Loud Numbers development log - a behind-the-scenes newsletter about how we’re making the world’s first sonification podcast. You’re getting it in your inbox because you signed up for it at some point in the thing we’re all calling “2020” but more closely resembles a dropped bowl of soup. If this is all totally unfamiliar to you, then there’s an unsubscribe link at the bottom.
Otherwise, we’ve been doing a bit more scripting and starting to work on the sounds for our recessions sonification. We’re gonna tell you more about that next week. Instead today we wanted to briefly talk about…
Our Sonification Philosophy
We’re at the point now where we’ve pretty much finished the script for “Tasting Notes”, our beer sonification episode. Despite a small argument between us on whether beer is best drunk from a can or a bottle (Miriam won), it came together nicely in the end.
In the academic paper we discussed in the last issue of the newsletter, the authors take issue with situations where audiences have to “learn” a set of encodings before they can understand a sonification. The same is true in visualization, where the Tuftian school of thought sees a complex legend as an impediment to understanding.
But just as there are plenty of stunningly beautiful, supremely effective visualizations which have complex legends, we believe the same can be true in sonification. We’re not simply representing data in audio, we’re telling a story with music - and doing that well means you sometimes need to add extra encodings to represent emotion and feeling.
This is all a lengthy and rather defensive preamble to the admission that during the scripting process we discovered that each of our beer sonifications, some of which are just twenty seconds long, has ten different parameters. Several of those have multiple sound encodings, in fact.
But… BUT! How on Earth are you supposed to represent something as insanely complicated as taste with fewer? It would be like trying to describe the Mona Lisa by reporting the average length of all its brushstrokes.
It’s okay that people might not be able to figure out the exact maltiness rating of a lager, or the carbonation of a stout. That’s not the point. The point is to replicate the experience of drinking one in sound, and give people a sense of the broad taste landscape of beer.
The world is complex, and so our sonifications are complex. That’s the creative philosophy behind this project.