Disquiet Junto Project 0453: Dial Up

Disquiet Junto Project 0453: Dial Up
The Assignment: Imagine the technologically mediated First Contact through sound.

Step 1: The SETI Institute posts an artistic challenge this month. This month’s was issued by the organization’s co-founder, Dr. Jill Tarter. (portrayed as Dr. Ellie Arroway in Contact). Watch the brief video introduction here:

Step 2: In brief, the idea is to consider that First Contact between humans and extraterrestrials will likely be technologically mediated. “We use technology as a proxy for intelligence, and then we go looking with various types of telescopes and detectors to see if we can find evidence that somewhere else someone or something else has used technology to modify their environment in ways that we can sense over vast differences.”

Step 3: Consider what First Contact might be like elsewhere in the universe in light of Dr. Tarter’s challenge.

Step 4: Produce a piece in music/sound that responds to the challenge.

Optional Step: There is a Facebook group for the SETI Art Imaginarium, and you might post your work for this week’s project there:


Seven More Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0453” (no spaces or quotation marks) in the name of your tracks.

Step 2: If your audio-hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to also include the project tag “disquiet0453” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation of a project playlist.

Step 3: Upload your tracks. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your tracks.

Step 4: Post your tracks in the following discussion thread at llllllll.co:


Step 5: Annotate your tracks with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 6: If posting on social media, please consider using the hashtag #disquietjunto so fellow participants are more likely to locate your communication.

Step 7: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Additional Details:

Deadline: This project’s deadline is Monday, September 7, 2020, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, September 3, 2020.

Length: The length is up to you. Positive introductions tend to be concise.

Title/Tag: When posting your tracks, please include “disquiet0453” in the title of the tracks, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, be sure to include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Download: It is always best to set your track as downloadable and allowing for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution, allowing for derivatives).

For context, when posting the track online, please be sure to include this following information:

More on this 453rd weekly Disquiet Junto project, Dial Up (The Assignment: Imagine the technologically mediated First Contact through sound), at:


More on the Disquiet Junto at:


Subscribe to project announcements here:


Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co:


There’s also a Disquiet Junto Slack. Send your email address to twitter.com/disquiet for Slack inclusion.

Images associated with this project drawn from Flickr.com and used thanks to a Creative Commons license allowing for non-commercial adaptation:

Lars Hammar

Marc West

Tom Coates



Babak Fakhamzadeh

Tom Blackwell

Simon Bierwald

Chris Maytag






The project is now live.

It has been a while since I had a good idea for any of these prompts, but this one came to me pretty easily.

In this project, I imagine a ‘first contact’ scenario where a distant species uses technology to communicate their existence to us. There are 100 instances of a chord here. Most are just the basic 5th but the top end of the chord is played to mark the prime numbers. This seems a good way to communicate intelligence through sound, and the sound source is a relatively simple sine wave that would be the most utilitarian thing to use.

The chord is somber though because in the scenario I imagine, the human species is long extinct before the signal reaches earth. There is no intelligent species left capable of recognizing prime numbers.

I also added a large spacey reverb because it sounds nice and fits the theme.



I want to believe…
Morse should work. And repetitive music with some glitches and little noises with some string epic stuff on it…


despite virtually talking over the aliens and constantly increasing the complexity of the message without repetition the aliens manage to match the signal indicating their willingness to communicate.
unfortunately the humans get no less annoying and end up getting destroyed out of irritation.

tones done in iris2 with arpeggiator
i used some mods in podfarm for the aliens and randomization on the midi which gradually fade out to converge with the humans


The playlist is now rolling:


Field recordings of this world’s technology processed electronically imagining an other world’s technology.




First prompt that I’ve had time to work on in a while. Big consulting job = good… Big consulting job = bad.
Just fired up the shared system and patched away. Maybe this is more about the voyage that the actual contact.


An imaginary first contact message from aliens to Earth. The science fiction cliche is that they would send us the prime numbers. So I set up a MIDI clip of synths playing notes in bursts of the first eight primes. Then I thought, how would aliens help draw attention to it as something significant we should be paying attention to? Well, they’d be monitoring our TV and radio signals, and they would know about music, and we use it to organize and focus our attention. So they’d want a drum pattern underneath, something with enough symmetry to be clearly ordered and enough asymmetry to keep us paying attention. Afrodiasporic dance beats fit the bill perfectly. Since they have access to all of our pop culture, I figured they would want to quote some of it back at us to signal their awareness of it: a key bit of dialog from Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and “I Know You Got Soul” by Bobby Byrd, to let us know that they too have got soul, and it’s the most important trait that we all share.


harmonic fundamental frequencies are sent, a sparse piano melody comes in and suddenly…there is contact


The small piece was inspired by the acts of reaching out and listening. Somehow, as I perceive it, that is the essence of SETI. And, actually, something we all do.

It is a simple 4 note theme - played on top of a heavily manipulated sample of water. To me, oceans and water are like a local expanse of space - and similar, in many ways, to the vastness, mystery and, sometimes, hostility of space.

The sample of water is taken from the local beach - and stretched and slowed down, then run through vocoders and delays, giving it a choir-like sound. To me, it was suddenly as I’d found a fragment of the voice of the ocean….

If these sounds was picked up by SETI - I’d know we’d be OK in the end…


In an imagined future, old technology gets an update and the new improved regenerative radio receiver captures it’s first message from extra terrestrial intelligence.

Featuring my diy valve radio oscillating at 1 min 41secs to represent the communication.
Plus Pulsar 23 and sounds performed with Roli block.


Started off retro with a musical saw and ended up with this droning tremolo sound. Added some revelatory choir and whirring machine noises. Pretty much thinking of the scene where Dr. Arroway goes zooming through the wormhole – what a great flic! In truth, I think contact has probably already occurred… but I will happily put music to just about any story you might want to tell!


I read Carl Sagan’s book Contact the year it came out. Without going back and looking at it, I remembered that the transmission by the aliens contained the prime numbers. So I knew right away that my “rhythm track” would be based on the prime numbers. I generated the basic rhythm track with a program I wrote in ChucK. This track contains a drum kit, Moog synthesizer, and bass. The kick drum plays on every beat. The Moog and bass play only on the prime number beats.

If you count the beats, you can hear which are prime numbers. It’s at a very slow temp (BPM=40) and it only gets up to 43 or 47 before I fade it out. I started re-reading Contact today and read that the protagonist hears a radio news broadcast about Sputnik, so I added that. Also, a Conet numbers transmission (in Russian) was a natural thing to add. Finally, to add a bit more musical interest, I added the theme to a Bach Polonaise in a disjointed way.

Being a math major in college and having read the book, this was a very fun project to do.



I like your piece. It does have a '50s sci-fi retro sound. I’m curious as to why (and how) you think contact has already occurred.


Thanks! I’d say between Project Bluebook and the Nimitz, etc, there’s been plenty of contact. My dad reports similar from his days in the Air Force. The Pentagon is basically admitting this now, aren’t they? I’ve not been following the latest developments… so did someone shoot the shit with ET on the beach like in the movie? Maybe not, but it wouldn’t surprise me!


First contact–ETI (right channel) picks up noise from Earth (left channel), gradually learns to translate noise into something meaningful (musical tones), then teaches Earth this new language. They carry on a lively conversation.

Stochastic impulse shocks into filters into stereo delays.

Performed in ChucK using this code:


I immediately thought about Alvin Lucier’s 1981 work, Sferics, which uses radio antennae to pick up the sferics of the atmosphere. I thought I’d make a kind of impressionistic homage to the work with my scaled down modular rack. I thought I’d generate some clicks, pops, crackles and fizzles in a very gestural, haptic sense; a bit like vocalisation or a similar form of communication. I began with no idea what I might do; I’m simply making it up as I go along and responding/developing in turn. I thought it would be appropriate to document this with a video.

The modular rack itself not exactly finished, but it’s nice and portable, so I played in our living room with the audio output going to a portable speaker. It’s part improvised performance, part field recording since the front door was open to the quietude of our neighborhood in Adelaide. A key element of the performance is the Mutables Ears, which is basically a contact mic with a pre amp. There’s other CV/EG features to it, but I’m using it simply as a mic and the gestural part of the piece, with the input turned to the max so it picks up everything: taps, scrapes, cable noise, even feedback and ambient sound from the room and outside.


I like the idea that any intelligence we do detect won’t be interested in us and just pass us by (see Arthur C. Clarke (don’t want to spoiler the specific book), ʻOumuamua) so I imagined this piece as a sparse collection of different contacts across the vastness of space passing us by from a distance

I used contact mic, coil pickup and other field recordings with added reverb, delay and bit crushing along with sounds from 0-Coast and Jogging House’s sample pack.