banner pin-drop image

CC by Daniel

Track 12 Revisited

Particularly in his early short stories, the scientifically-trained Ballard delighted in injecting scientific tropes into his stories and Track 12 is a brief and lightweight example which nevertheless contains some interesting ideas.

At the heart of this tale of revenge is the made-up science of 'microsonics' -- the study of the quietest sounds recordable. There is a splash of technological colour in the invented sound units 'microsens' and mention of the most sensitive 'audio-probes'. However, the beauty of the story is in Ballard's descriptions of the amplified sound recordings of things like a pin falling:

"The sound was a rapid metallic rustling, like iron filings splashing through a funnel. It ran for ten seconds, repeated itself a dozen times, then ended abruptly in a string of blips."

...and a kiss:

"Being fed into the patio was a curiously muffled spongy noise, like elastic waves lapping in a latex sea. The rhythms were huge and ungainly, overlaid by the deep leaden wheezing of a gigantic bellows. Barely audible at first, the sounds rose until they filled the patio and shut out the few traffic noises along the highway."

There are in fact ultra sensitive microphones that can pick up the footfall of an ant or the heartbeat of a snail. As prefigured in the story, scientists have even been able to record sound vibrations in individual cells.

I've used a different approach to try to replicate the sounds the mad scientist Sheringham plays to his hapless guest. Using the extreme soundstretch tool made by Paul Nasca, I was able to expand the sound of a pin dropping and the sound of a couple kissing between eight and eighty times to create an aural landscape similar to those described in the story.

So, Sound 1 is the edited sound of a pin dropping onto a surface (not actually falling through the air as in the story) - Original pin drop sound

While Sound 2 is the sound of a couple kissing - Original kissing sound

Original sounds from SoundDogs

Mike Bonsall - December 2014 - m dot bonsall at gmail dot com