Tag Archives: California

Silicon Valley By Rail

[play]Silicon Valley by Rail (2010)

I was home last year for my uncle’s funeral. I don’t have a car or even a drivers license any more, so I rode a lot of trains, especially around the the South Bay Area. Silicon Valley’s trains are diesel, with real bells on them. They sound like something out of time, like our rail infrastructure is from the past even as our gadgets are pushing us into the future.

I recorded the trains and bells with a Xoom recorder. Then, I analysed the spectrum of the bells and used dissonance curves to construct a tuning for FM tones modelled on the bells. I used those tones to construct a drone and then mixed in some processed versions of the train sounds. There’s also a bit of binaural beating in this piece, making it a safe, legal high.

In the process of making this piece, I released a SuperCollider Quark called TuningLib, which has in it a DissonanceCurve class, useful for computing tunings based on timbre.