Alden Young

Alden Young

Professor, 2021-2022 Berggruen Fellow


Alden Young is an historian and development studies scholar focused on the societies of northeast Africa and the Red Sea region. He is the author of Transforming Sudan: Decolonization, Economic Development and State-Formation (Cambridge University Press). He is currently an assistant professor of African American Studies and a member of the International Institute at UCLA, where he teaches in the program in International Development Studies. At the Berggruen Institute, Alden will work on efforts to organize the Red Sea region, one of the world’s most socioeconomically unequal, into a political, economic and cultural unit. His work takes up this challenge both historically looking at the work of Sudanese intellectuals and their ambitions for connections across the Red Sea and in the contemporary moment by looking at the work climate change awareness, mitigation and adaptation in litorrial countries of the Red Sea.

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.