Effect Bath — Collaging 16,000 BBC Sound Effects

Matt Miller
May 24, 2018 · 2 min read

Growing up visiting the public library my siblings and I would always head over to the CD drawers looking for anything good. They were a weird slanted wood laminate shelving system full of jewel cases.

CDs in a public library — from https://flic.kr/p/9dS6UQ

There would never be any new releases, having already been snapped up by someone else. But there were always rows and rows of sound effect CDs. Once and a while we would check one out, for the novelty of it. We would play it in the living room five disc player and marvel at a CD with 99 tracks. It was extremely boring. We would let it play alone to an empty room while we went on and did something else.

But when I saw that the BBC released 16,000 sound effects I knew I wanted to do something with them. I found that layering them and cropping them together made a kind of transportive experience. Jumping from a crowded train station one second to a humming rainforest was really compelling to me.

I created a twitter bot that does this editing, releasing a new 60 second track every few hours:

👉Twitter Bot: Effect Bath

The bot works on a corpus of 16,000 sound effects cut up into five second clips. In total there are 324,398 five second clips to collage. The bot can do two things with the clips: Try to link them together so the intensity of the sound and the end of one clip matches the start of the next one creating somewhat of a continuity. Or it will piece together all the clips that have the same average intensity. It then titles the clip using a generative text created from the names of all the clips combined.

The collaged effects combined with the fading text are fairly transfixing for me: View example on Twitter. So it reminded me of a “sound bath” a meditative practice, which I’ve never experienced, but I like the idea of taking a little 60 second sound break every now and again.

For a technical writeup on how the bot works take a look here

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade