Anjan Sundaram

Anjan Sundaram

Author, Journalist, TV Presenter, 2020-2021 Berggruen Fellow


Anjan Sundaram is an award-winning author, journalist and TV presenter. Anjan is the host of the critically-acclaimed TV series, “Coded World”, about how Artificial Intelligence is changing humanity. He also presented “Deciphering India”, about the rise of nationalism in India. He appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart for his book about Congo, “Stringer”. His TED talk is titled “Why I risked my life to expose a government massacre”. He is also the author of “Bad News”, an Amazon Best Book of 2016 and finalist for PEN/America’s nonfiction prize. His writing has appeared in The New York Times and The Guardian. He has received Reuters Environment and Frontline Club prizes for his reporting and has served as an artist-in-residence at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center. He is also a TED Fellow and a Skoll World Fellow. Anjan graduated from Yale University with a Master of Science in mathematics and holds a Ph.D. in postcolonial journalism. At the Berggruen Institute, Anjan will be developing a literature concerned with transforming humans’ relationship with each other, technology and nature.

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.