Thursday, August 11, 2011

Making the Baby Jesus Cry; examining the acoustical properties

The opportunity to hold the Isabella Rossellini Film Festival came at short notice, when Evangeline van Holsteren (chief barmaid at the Old Entomologist) let us use the big sports screen one night when the televised Monkey Butler Curling championships were cancelled.* The screening ignited an interest in the cinema across the Riddled Research Laboratory. In particular, an interest in cinema soundtracks.

We thought how much a horror-movie director might pay to have scary / horrible sounds synthesised to order, and rubbed our hands. Of course it helps that some of the staff have research experience in the acoustical properties of sounds designed by evolution to be as aversive and unendurable as possible.
It turns out that anonymous visitors to Riddled are willing to elicit 'pain cries' from their infants** and e-mail us the sound file, so long as we wear the White Labcoat of Authority and carry the Clipboard of Conviction and use the Explaining Voice to tell them "The experiment requires that you continue".

Standard protocol for eliciting pain cries:
But it hasn't been all jitter index and stridulation and subharmonics here in the laboratory. We also inveigled Ms. Galah Johnston from Tasmania into the Evolvamat. With the dormant DNA within her genome reactivated, she emitted a truly disturbing reptilian scrawk before flying out an unopened window. She was only drinking Lion Red so no-one would miss her.

It would be terrible to be gazumped with our research so far advanced, so imagine our concern to come across this paper:
Also the title of a lesser-known Hawkwind live album. The sounds tested for horribleness include "baby cry", "multiple baby"(3rd equal!), "cat spitting and howling", "fingers scraping down a blackboard", and "whoopee cushion". On reading it, thank FSM, the author has not seen the cinematographic money applications of his work.

He does refer to R. Blake's [1986] theory that baby cries are aversive because they resemble the warning calls of monkeys, a theory that makes more sense when you realise that R. Blake was in fact a cotton-top tamarin.

The automatic 'Related Articles' feature at the Applied Acoustics site came up with eclectic suggestions.

* On account of frozen yarbles and an outbreak of "calling a spayed a spayed" jokes.

** Dr Jan Raes gave a presentation to the 1992 Cry Workshop, explaining his standardised rubberband snapper --
a kind of calibrated slingshot -- to remove variability from the baby pain infliction.


tigris said...

Second edition on Mayflies! You can't call that Ephemera.

Smut Clyde said...

"multiple baby"


Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

The sounds tested for horribleness include "baby cry", "multiple baby"(3rd equal!), "cat spitting and howling", "fingers scraping down a blackboard", and "whoopee cushion".

What, no "ding(1)"? Lemmy shall hear from me.

Smut Clyde said...

Nor does the list include "That hippety-hop music you kids listen to."

vacuumslayer said...

You know who I hate? That Froop Froggy Frog.

mikey said...

What's interesting is that I actually contributed to the "Intermodality" study.

And even weirder? We mentioned the infant cries research, but only when considering whether infant cries would be obfuscated by the warning whistles of the train when it ran over the test subjects.

Sadly, we were offered a large number of subjects but extremely limited funding.

But in a (tangentially) similar vein, you can make the Merriam - Webster speech synthesis engine say "Poop" over and over again. And if that doesn't make you smile, no amount of torturing infants will turn that frown upside down...

fish said...

Isabella Rossellini?

I'm in.

I don't care what it is. I'm in.

Substance McGravitas said...

Upon hearing the latest tapes I said HA HA THAT IS THE WRONG END YOU SILLY BUGGERER and then the police arrived.