Saturday, March 26, 2011

Beyond the Whistle Test - Greg Egan

Short Story

Number of words : 5500
Percent of complex words : 12.4
Average syllables per word : 1.5
Average words per sentence : 17.4


Fog : 11.9
Flesch : 60.3
Flesch-Kincaid : 9.2


John Halbright

Head of Applied Neural Mapping.

Michael Underwood

Creative music consultant to The Inspiration Factory. Has identified the neural pathways involved in the processing of music.

Bach, Beethoven and Mozart



John's lover.


The Inspiration Factory

An advertising firm.


A company ANM a commercial jingle for.

Millworth and Hobbs

A rural soft drink company and the first company to have an ANM tune ad campaign.


The Old Grey Whistle Test

Certain record companies in the sixties used to decide whether or not put out a song by using the janitor—usually an old man—and making him listen to it. If the rock and roll hating cleaner could whistle the melody after hearing it once, it was worth doing.


The Old Grey Whistle Test

A British tv show.

Anarchy in the UK

Sex Pistols song, also made into a horrible muzak version.

Song of the Siren

A Song by This Mortal Coil.

ANM tune #180

One of the songs by their neural pathway method.

ANM tune #164

A new version song that sold a lot of soft drink and distracted a lot of people.

The Hall of the Mountain King or The Ride of the Valkyries

Old compositions.

ANM tune #87

Another of their tunes.


A company has developed a procedure to work out how the human nervous system processes music, using a sample of people to do so. This works really well, and a soft drink company that was in trouble and uses one of these jingles becomes flooded with orders. A consultant puts it to use in advertising campaigns.

The only problem is that people that hear this get so distracted it can be dangerous. It caused a pilot to crash a plane, killing several hundred people. It has also ruined the musical appreciation of the consultant protagonist. The sample they used was biased, so it is more likely to affect skilled technical people in a bad way. It puts Underwood in hospital, and they have to operate to remove the ability for music appreciation in the old way.

3.5 out of 5

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