For Youth, a Sobering Responsibility

Kent, Corita. seed persons. 1972, Corita Art Center.
Please click on the image to see a larger version

“Your generation must come to terms with the environment,” Rachel Carson cautioned the world in her final years. “You must face realities instead of taking refuge in ignorance and evasion of truth.” Her warning was unheeded, if not downright defied.

Carson’s prescient words are even more relevant today than half a century ago. In Silent Spring’s final chapter she wrote: “The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy…but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road…offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of our earth.” 

As part of its 2019 report Renewing Democracy in the Digital Age, the Berggruen Institute’s Future of Democracy program proposed the creation of a Youth Environment Service (YES) to create opportunities for young people to work together across differences to fight the climate crisis while also providing economic opportunities for a generation most impacted by COVID-19.

“Yours is a grave and sobering responsibility, but it is also a shining opportunity. You go out into a world where mankind is challenged, as it has never been challenged before, to prove its maturity and its mastery — not of nature, but of itself. Therein lies our hope and our destiny.”

Click here to find out more about the Youth Environmental Service.

composed by Arswain
machine learning consultation by Anna Tskhovrebov
commissioned by the Berggruen Institute
premiered at the Bradbury Building
downtown Los Angeles
april 22, 2022

Human perception of what sounds “beautiful” is necessarily biased and exclusive. If we are to truly expand our hearing apparatus, and thus our notion of beauty, we must not only shed preconceived sonic associations but also invite creative participation from beings non-human and non-living. We must also begin to cede creative control away from ourselves and toward such beings by encouraging them to exercise their own standards of beauty and collaborate with each other.

Movement I: Alarm Call
‘Alarm Call’ is a long-form composition and sound collage that juxtaposes, combines, and manipulates alarm calls from various human, non-human, and non-living beings. Evolutionary biologists understand the alarm call to be an altruistic behavior between species, who, by warning others of danger, place themselves by instinct in a broader system of belonging. The piece poses the question: how might we hear better to broaden and enhance our sense of belonging in the universe? Might we behave more altruistically if we better heed the calls of – and call out to – non-human beings?

Using granular synthesis, biofeedback, and algorithmic modulation, I fold the human alarm call – the siren – into non-human alarm calls, generating novel “inter-being” sonic collaborations with increasing sophistication and complexity. 

Movement II: A.I.-Truism
A synthesizer piece co-written with an AI in the style of Vangelis’s Blade Runner score, to pay homage to the space of the Bradbury Building.

Movement III: Alarmism
A machine learning model “learns” A.I.Truism and recreates Alarm Call, generating an original fusion of the two.

Movement IV: A.I. Call
A machine learning model “learns” Alarm Call and recreates A.I.Truism, generating an original fusion of the two.