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Trying To Make The Worst Sound In The World

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

For this next story, I'm going to beg for your indulgence and call upon the better angels of your nature. That's because we're going to listen to terrible, awful noise. And, no, we're not talking about politics anymore. In Seattle this week, sound designers from all over the U.S. have been competing for a unique honor - to come up with the worst sound in the world. A recording studio called See Space Labs threw this challenge out to audio engineers nationwide. Erik Hermansen is a producer there and the chairman of the contest.

ERIK HERMANSEN: Well, I guess that I might have a little bit of a sadist in me. I had fun earlier on playing bad sounds to anybody that would listen to them and judging their reactions.

(SOUNDBITE OF FORK SCRAPING ON BOWL)

MARTIN: That's one of the entries. It's a metal fork being scraped along the inside of a ceramic bowl. You can blame Chris Castiglione of Tewksbury, Mass., for that one. He says he actually likes that sound.

CHRIS CASTIGLIONE: You know, I think it goes back, in a way, to being a kid and, you know, getting a sort of primal joy out of just, you know, being loud and making a mess. You know, I think if you give a toddler a wooden spoon and a couple pans, you know, you've got a band. That's a pretty deep-seated instinct, I think.

MARTIN: Some of the submissions are a little more abstract.

(SOUNDBITE OF HIGH-PITCHED FREQUENCY)

MARTIN: That's from electrical engineer Aaron Albin of Santa Clara, Calif.

AARON ALBIN: There's a whole host of high-pitched frequencies, and it kind of keeps building and building and overflowing until you're overwhelmed with a wash of oppressive sounds.

MARTIN: And who doesn't love some oppressive sounds? Of course, we had to save the most stomach-churning for last. Ready?

(SOUNDBITE OF STIRRING CHILI)

MARTIN: OK Stop, stop. Just stop. Tim Kahn of Portland, Ore., you're horrible. Explain yourself.

TIM KAHN: I was cooking dinner one night, and I was stirring it, and it was just a really thick chili. And I was like, boy, that's just a really gross sound;. I should probably capture it.

MARTIN: Sure, sure. That's what anybody would do, right? Well, the competition is now closed, and the results will be posted next weekend. If you want to hear the winners, you'll have to look them up yourself. We think we've subjected you to enough already. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.