Disquiet Junto Project 0537: Penitent Honk

Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group, a new compositional challenge is set before the group’s members, who then have just over four days to upload a track in response to the assignment. Membership in the Junto is open: just join and participate. (A SoundCloud account is helpful but not required.) There’s no pressure to do every project. It’s weekly so that you know it’s there, every Thursday through Monday, when you have the time.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is the end of the day Monday, April 18, 2022, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, April 14, 2022.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):

Disquiet Junto Project 0537: Penitent Honk
The Assignment: Do sound design for “a missing gesture” of vehicular life.

Step 1: Consider the sounds drivers make using their car horns. A firm, accusatory blast. A short, sharp alert. A held tone of vein-popping exasperation. What the horn isn’t easily capable of, however, is apologizing. If you make a mistake, and you want to signal your chagrin, there’s no button for that. The writer Rob Walker files such a concept under the heading of “a missing gesture.” Think about that for a moment.

Step 2: For more context, read the issue of Rob Walker’s The Art of Noticing newsletter in which a subscriber suggests the following: “We have so many rude gestures, many of which we use while driving. But we don’t have a good gesture to say ‘I’m Sorry!’ If we accidentally cut someone off, we should be able to indicate it wasn’t intentional.”


Step 3: Think about what a car horn would sound like if it were apologizing for the driver’s actions.

Step 4: Record the sound you thought of in Step 3.

Eight Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0537” (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 “disquiet0537” (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 track in the following discussion thread at llllllll.co:

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co: https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0537-penitent-honk/

Step 5: Annotate your track 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.

Step 8: Also join in the discussion on the Disquiet Junto Slack. Send your email address to marc@disquiet.com for Slack inclusion.

Note: Please post one track for this weekly Junto project. If you choose to post more than one, and do so on SoundCloud, please let me know which you’d like added to the playlist. Thanks.

Additional Details:

Deadline: This project’s deadline is the end of the day Monday, April 18, 2022, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, April 14, 2022.

Length: The length is up to you. Don’t hog the road.

Title/Tag: When posting your tracks, please include “disquiet0537” 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:

This project was proposed by Rob Walker.

More on this 537th weekly Disquiet Junto project – Penitent Honk (The Assignment: Do sound design for “a missing gesture” of vehicular life) – at: https://disquiet.com/0537/

More on the Disquiet Junto at: https://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here: https://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co: https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0537-penitent-honk/

1 Like

My idea is that one might give a cheers-like gesture to toast a fellow road user, as a way of apologising for something.

I’ve created this simple melody using wine glasses and repeated it, so it might be heard over the sound of traffic.


The project is live, and @bassling even got a track up between when the tweet and disquiet.com/0537 announcements went out after midnight (California time) and when I woke up (which happened about 10 minutes ago). The email will go out when I’m a little more awake. :slight_smile:


I don’t have any fresh sounds to add, but just wanted to say thanks for sparking some fond memories of my old 1972 Volkswagen Westfalia camper. We sold it a couple of years ago, but there were many good times driving around in that bus. The horn couldn’t honk in anger, even if you wanted it to. More likely two quick beeps to say ‘hey, good to see you, how’s it going?’


First, I wrote a little melody. Then I dragged a car honking into a sampler on one track. For my ‘penitent honk’, I took one of those “whoop whoop” sounds that police cars make when they’re about to take off after someone and reversed it. So, it kind of went down, instead of up. I dragged that into a sampler on the other track.



Hello. Here’s my contribution.

The first few and last few goes on the car horn (playing F# and A#) are the “final” version, with note variations in between.

I wanted to make it sound as if the car was saying “sorry”, sort of.

At first I tried little melodies that might say something like “sorry”. Funny riffs, a regular car horn two note chord but with trills, “off” chords, and so on. But using the car horn made them sound like they were either being sarcastic (sorry, not really, lolz) or even more aggressive (sorry this, pal!) rather than apologetic.

But adding a little pitch wobble seemed to do the trick. Same horrible car horn noise, but kind of embarrassed.

I made the car horn sound patch in VCV Rack (image attached), using Valhalla DSP VintageVerb for the final ambience.

Was fun to do! Thanks.


The playlist is rolling:

1 Like


Once when I was trying to drive through a traffic node in Toulouse intersecting 6 or 7 different streets, I stopped in the middle, confused as to which lane/road I should enter. The driver opposite watched me in frustration as I was blocking his progress forward. Then a cacophony of horns erupted as I jammed the intersection. After a brief chorus, the driver opposite started to give me the slow clap. I guess it was quite a performance. Nonetheless, in this piece - Fanfare for the common van- I have tried to capture a fanfare of horns and squealing brakes in traffic edging along at a slow pace. Soft woodwinds and horns from SA. It’s a little longer than necessary, but I guess traffic is like that. Composition in C major.


Apologetically Horny by Modern Crochet

A short sound poem illustrating one sad sorry car horn surrounded by an uncaring and angry world.

Recorded, assembled, mixed and mastered 14-16 Apr 2022 by Jim Lemanowicz at Blissville Electro-Magnetic Laboratories of Massapequa.

©2022 Jim Lemanowicz

This original version of “Apologetically Horny” was submitted as part of Disquiet Junto Project 0537: Penitent Honk. Do sound design for “a missing gesture” of vehicular life.

Process notes -
Instruments & materials - Arturia V2, Neutron semi-modular, small modular rack, Ableton Live 11, a handful of car samples downloaded twenty+ years ago, attribution unfortunately unknown.


I bought this little pink plastic horn (see track image) at a flea market a few years ago, thinking it might one day be of musical value. And I should be right. For three days now I have tried to create an apologetic sound with the horn, and out of 10387546 samples I have chosen this one as the most convincing. Because it’s a gesture, it’s short.

It is slowed down to 0.25%, and for purely scientific reasons and consideration of future noisologists, I have added the original sound at the end. I added some decent tape wow and flutter to add more remorse. The reverb and the background noise is the ambience of my home office/studio, and I think the Mac decided to start it’s backup while this very recording. Anyway, I find the sound of the horn sufficiently remorseful and repentant.


Hey All, Was just setting up new mac mini and got Ableton Live 11 on did this one.

Hope all are well. Peace, Hugh


After letting the concept brew a little, I found I’d probably like a combination of a deeply Japanese way of saying sorry with a medieval choir singing about penitence. Added some horns, of course. Ok, and a tiny bit of piano, let’s assume cars could play samples if need be.


This project was a phantastic inspiration!

From the beginning I had the idea to not only create the horn sound, but to present it as part of a complete track. On freesound I found a great field-recording of a side street with occasional cars passing. I built a melodic apologetic sequence with different instruments and tried to let it play in sync with three cars passing in the recording. After the last instance I added some variations of the horn theme presented wide and unconnected to cars.

Then I added musical atmosphere to the whole track. I used different methods: The piano was improvised on the keyboard, the Glockenspiel and single synth sounds are played by my preferred sequencer Transition (bots in a matrix with different degrees of randomness), and the longer synth sounds were drawn in the Midi-editor.

Perhaps the horn theme is not so obvious anymore among the other elements…


A second horn could easily add to more confusion on the road and contribute to more noise pollution. Instead of honking over each other, maybe these cars could improve their listening skills.