Owen Flanagan

Owen Flanagan

Philosopher, Neurobiologist; 2016-17 Berggruen Fellow at CASBS


Owen Flanagan is in the philosophy of mind, especially on the nature of consciousness, and in ethics and moral psychology. His method is to look for intersections between philosophy and work in psychology and anthropology. His is co-director of Duke’s Center for Comparative Philosophy. An aim of his recent work is to explore the diversity of moral systems across the earth for the sake of improving cross-cultural understanding as well as for learning from other traditions. Flanagan loves to learn from social scientists and fellow humanists about the contours of human nature and the unexplored possibility space for human development and moral and political improvement. His latest books are The Geography of Morals: Varieties of Moral Possibility (pub. October 2016; Oxford 2017), and How to Do Things with Emotions: The Morality of Anger and Shame Across Cultures, Princeton 2021.

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.

RAVE (IRCAM 2021) https://github.com/acids-ircam/RAVE