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Prosopagnosia

By orangedrink on February 22, 2020 12:18 am

Prosopagnosia is a disorder where a person cannot distinguish faces.  They can see eyes, a nose, and a mouth, but can't put all the "pieces" together to understand that it represents a particular person.  I saw a documentary that featured a man with this disorder; he could not recognize his own children.  They interviewed him on the beach and he was unable to pick them out in the crowd.  The children had learned to always approach their father and say "Hi Dad" to give him the cue that they were one of his kids.


I started working on this piece and tried to think of a story behind it.  (I usually try to come up with the scariest thing I can think of)  I came up with a question: How would it feel to wake up one day and not recognize your own reflection in the mirror?


My first thought would be instant shock - imagining that there is someone else in the bathroom.  Then confusion: who am I looking at?  Then trying to figure out the mystery: am I in someone else's body?  Then: Who's face is this?  Then, in trying to confirm that this is NOT my face, I feel like it would beg the question: What do I look like?  Which would would lead to a terrifying thought: I don't know what I look like.  I would be able to see my eyes, my nose, and my mouth, but I wouldn't be able to "see" the whole face.  I can't "see" what I'm looking at.


It was quite a bit of serendipity that I came up with this story while working on the piece, because I then realized that the piece reflected the story before I thought of it.  The piece has disparate, unrelated sonic elements that do not blend together.  You could almost imagine some of them going together, but they won't.  At best, they appear side by side, but you never see the whole "face".  There are a few layers of noise/hiss/sub/rumble that get added and removed.  One of the hopes here is that you notice them more once they are removed.  Kind of like not really paying too much attention to your reflection in your mirror - but much more so when it is not there in the way that you expect.  Rhythm and repetition are used to establish some expectations, but the timings are all adjusted to create a lot of unease and tension.  Also, an attempt was made to have a variety of timbres and frequency ranges to make it feel like “you don’t know where the next thing is coming from”. 


All the samples are from Ableton, mostly repitched - and one slowed down audio recording of me at a voice lesson (the almost howling shudder in the last third).  Finished on Friday!  Feeling better from my cold, my injury is mostly healed, and I'm ready to have maybe at least one day off!  Also, kind of found a relevant Derek Jacobi photo, so that's exciting smile  Love you all, sorry I haven't responded or listened TIME MANAGEMENT



P.S. - I couldn't find the original documentary, but found a great 2 part series from 60 Minutes.  I never knew that famous painter Chuck Close has prosopagnosia aka face blindness.  Wow.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ue4sP2_xxHA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q8cXus7SNQY

This submission is licensed by author under CC Attribution Noncommercial Share Alike (BY-NC-SA)

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February 24, 2020 12:52 am

Well this is extremely unsettling. Fantastic work!

February 24, 2020 1:29 am

Fascinating and interesting approach! Really dig the sonic textures and abruptness of the sounds that add to this overall unease. Reminds me a bit of going to the other world in Silent Hill. (Also yay for feeling better!)

February 24, 2020 8:36 am

oh man this is a terrifying premise. the piece definitely captures the mood, a mix of unease and confused anxiety. very claustrophobic. very disorienting. can envision an intense music video for this track

February 24, 2020 10:42 am

Well presented and a nicely unpleasant trip throughout your track. For each sonic element appearing I imagined a new facial part presenting itself and I was thinking to myself, I do not want to see these ferrying pieces together. Good job!

February 25, 2020 9:20 pm

I've read about that condition before.  That would be totally bizarre.  I feel like humans in general are so keyed in on faces.  We tend to spot things that look like faces in inanimate objects.  And they're definitely the key element in how we identify each other.  It seems like you can often recognize a face even if you haven't seen the person for many years.  This music is appropriately freaky.  Definitely could soundtrack a horror movie or suspense thriller.

February 26, 2020 6:49 pm


Periphery vision is also very weak at interpreting faces. Perception is so weird!


February 26, 2020 10:57 pm

Very thought provoking composition.  You've managed to convey disorientation in a way that is not really sinister or scary. It's like the experience of confusion.  The collection of sounds are so different and have nothing in common making them like random thoughts or puzzle pieces.  I'm rambling on because I've listened through 3 times, it's so engaging.

I once lost my memory for 12 hours and woke up, middle of the night, in a hospital room facing a mirror.  The room was dark and I was frozen like a deer in the headlights waiting to see what that stranger would do next.  I had been in a motorcycle accident and underwent a hard system reboot smile I could not recognize anyone's face!

February 27, 2020 9:39 am

There's a lot of despair in the song. I doubt it'd be anything that traumatic though. I rarely look at myself in the mirror, so I don't know what I look like either.

February 27, 2020 11:14 am

Cool and creepy with a great backstory!

March 1, 2020 2:50 pm

Whoa, this is hella cool. Very unsettling!

March 1, 2020 8:45 pm

Beautiful, dark ambiance !!! Really like the way you designed the piece.

March 2, 2020 10:24 am

Dark and Brooding and Lovely.

March 2, 2020 10:46 am

far out, listening to this while looking at the gifs posted by @Ipaghost and I'm good for tonight's nightmares, thanks. amazing piece!

March 5, 2020 4:18 pm

That dark string hit sounds so evil.  The moaning voice is super creepy too yikes

March 7, 2020 6:50 pm

March 8, 2020 9:50 pm

Man this is a heavy soundscape really haunting. Listened a few times and thought about that mirror thing... Hope i didn't get nightmares...
Great work!!!

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