t h e   s o u n d   o f   s o f t w a r e   t r a n q u i l l i t y

This exposition is an investigation into software tranquillity through sound.


We will be unveiling the contrast between the still static graphical interface and the activity at the heart of the computer.


Software tranquillity is to be seen as a speculative term, a semantic beacon to be guided by, rather than a fixed end-point for our investigation. By combining these two words, we ask ourselves questions about the nature of software: Can software be wild or calm? If so, what would calm software be like? Imagining that the software could experience its own existence, is the nature of its tranquillity or activity apparent to it? Can we as humans experience the tranquillity of software, if it indeed exists, and can we experience it as tranquil?


To come closer to an answer to these questions we have ventured as deep into the software existence of a personal computer as we could go, to the metaphorical heart of its software ecosystem, the kernel. The kernel is the core of the operating system, the part on which all other parts rely. Through its thousands of tiny units, it guides the interaction between the hardware components, solid physical metal and silicon, and the, usually graphical, software through which we experience the computer.

Developing the kernel is a difficult task because of the immense complexity and speed involved in its functioning. For this reason, kernel developers have implemented tools to analyse in real time what the kernel is doing. We have appropriated one of these tools, ftrace, to listen to the kernel’s inner workings in an effort to experience it.


Throughout the exposition there are fragments of one single second of real software (in)activity, captured at the end of a busy working day on the laptop of an IT worker, sonified at great magnification. The sonification is discussed in slowing down ~ zooming in ~ listening.

an artistic investigation by

Erik Natanael Gustafsson


Benoit Baudry

t a b l e   o f   c o n t e n t s

excerpt from a 47 hours 13 minutes and 30 seconds long sonification of 1 second of software (in)activity

27:28:24 - 27:48:04            581 788 μs - 588 729 μs

KTH Royal Institute of Technology

May 2020