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Facing the Noise & Music: Grey Barriers and Green Frontiers of Sound, Society and Environment


1The Preface

Facing the Noise & Music - Grey Barriers and Green Frontiers of Sound, Society and Environment

Facing the Noise and Music is SoundEagle’s multidisciplinary research to explore the grey barriers and green frontiers of sound, society and environment, showing the trends and interactions among art, science, philosophy and Nature. Regarding the barriers, the research highlights the radical changes in values, lifestyles and communities that present obstacles to a better world, affecting musical taste and aural experience as much as physical security and spiritual wellbeing. As for the frontiers, the research traverses the boundaries of noise and music, and forges holistic and life-enhancing views towards the environment. It (re)evaluates sound and music in the light of contemporary art, pioneering science and philosophy as well as ecological and spiritual movements.

As the world enters the new millennium with ever more uncertainties and changes, the research raises moral contemplation and debate on critical issues about sound, society and environment, by connecting the contemporary with the historical, the global with the local, the communal with the individual, the human with the nonhuman, and the noisy with the musical. The research opens for wide-ranging examination the questions of cultural and biological influences on humanity. It investigates how biological factors, socio-cultural forces and scientific views have shaped human perceptions, beliefs and practices, which in turn influence the production and consumption of sound and music. The investigation is aided by analyses of constructive and destructive socio-cultural resources; and supported by scientific studies on the effects of noise on individual humans, animals and their communities. The research also seeks to unfold the symbolic meanings engendered from the interactions and exploitations of human and natural worlds.

2The Issues

In a world full of noise and music . . .
What important issues and relationships exist in contemporary sound, society and environment (thumbnail)What important issues and relationships exist in contemporary sound, society and environment? What do noise and music reveal about human and nonhuman communities and the state of the environment? Is music both cultural and biological?
How do humans, animals and plants organise themselves and communicate with each other (thumbnail)How do humans, animals and plants organise themselves and communicate with each other, both in art and life? What are soundscape, Biomusic, situation music, circumstance music, environmental music, soundwalk, animal music and plant music?
What aspects of sound, society and environment should be treasured, reclaimed and protected (thumbnail)What aspects of sound, society and environment should be treasured, reclaimed and protected from the adverse impacts of human civilisation, environmental degradation and acoustic disturbance?
What can individuals learn and do about noise and music in their society and environment (thumbnail)What can individuals learn and do about noise and music in their society and environment to promote holistic thinking and sustainable ways of life? Are they having affairs with Nature through Instrumental, Pro-Animal/Plant, Pro-Environment or Spiritual means?

The abovementioned issues require a series of investigations into sound, society and environment. They necessitate a broadening of the scope of what noise and music are and can be, as well as a research approach that can furnish a comprehensive classification of methods, genres and activities that are multilateral and participatory, artistic and musical, or environmentally oriented and non-anthropocentric.

Some of these methods, genres and activities evolve novel ways of creating or interacting with sound-producing instruments or situations. Others provide opportunities, rituals, contexts, techniques or algorithms to incorporate animals, plants, bodily functions, natural phenomena, biofeedback, motion-sensing or extra-sensory perceptions. Many of them not only borrow elements from music, poetry and literature, but also incorporate components from the visual and performance arts, from architecture and landscape design, and from electronics, engineering, electro-acoustics and artificial intelligence. A number of methods, genres and activities specialize in the crossovers between creative arts and the fields of biology, microbiology, physiology, genetics, cognitive science and biomusicology. There are categories that appeal to people who seek musical connections forged in the ethical, spiritual, therapeutic and/or ecological domains.

The originality of this research lies in its furnishing diverse links across contemporary science, traditional wisdom, aural dimensions and musical platforms. It introduces a new model to resolve the vast spectrum of human-Nature relationships across the Instrumental, Spiritual, Pro-Environment and Pro-Animal/Plant perspectives. Multidisciplinary in its composition, the research caters for both general and academic readers across the domains of art, science and philosophy that address both humanity and Nature. Parts of this research also reflect the rich organisation in natural history and biodiversity, with a view to creating for the readers a fertile environment for topical discussion, artistic creation, philosophical interpretation, spiritual growth and cultural negotiation.

3The Model

The following preliminary discussion offers a multidisciplinary model to deal with those issues via four perspectives:

The ISEA model comprises blue, red, green and yellow quadrants corresponding to the Instrumental, Spiritual, Pro-Environment and Pro-Animal/Plant perspectives

The ISEA model comprises blue, red, green and yellow quadrants corresponding to the Instrumental, Spiritual, Pro-Environment and Pro-Animal/Plant perspectives, and being overlayed with the horizontal axis (Instrumental↔Spiritual) and vertical axis (Pro-Environment↔Pro-Animal/Plant). Each perspective or quadrant contains a set of three major attributes. The four yellow double-arrows (Atomistic, Individualistic, Holistic and Integrative) connote overlapping features between adjacent perspectives.

A few efforts have been made to categorise these attitudes by some environmental philosophers, sociologists, green groups and so on. These are usually limited to textual categories and analyses. This discussion introduces a model that enables a visually oriented approach to categorising and comparing attitudes to Nature. It gains simplicity by operating at a high level of generality. Simplicity makes it flexible and adaptable. One of the benefits of visual approach is that it allows relationships to be more easily seen and mapped.

In this approach, conceptual ‘maps’ are devised from a composite approach named the ISEA model, a schematic tool assisting the description, classification and analysis of the ways in which people relate to and regard Nature, particularly in the contexts of environmental concerns and approaches to sound and music. As shown in the image above, the model identifies four generic orientations towards Nature, labelled the Instrumental, Spiritual, Pro-Environment and Pro-Animal/Plant perspectives, hence the acronym ISEA. As will be succinctly elucidated later in this discussion, these broad perspectives engender their own sets of issues and implications in the acoustic, social, psychological and environmental domains.

Each of the perspectives in the ISEA model is defined by a set of three descriptive attributes. The four perspectives are also polarized into contrasting qualities along the horizontal axis (Instrumental↔Spiritual) and vertical axis (Pro-Environment↔Pro-Animal/Plant). The degree of polarity is also visually conveyed by the colour gradients of the blue, red, green and yellow quadrants, whose symmetrical geometry outlines the boundaries of the perspectives. The resulting structural demarcation into the two axes and four coloured quadrants containing unique attributes provides a conceptual field for locating contrasting aspects of human-Nature relationships. In other words, the two bipolar and colour-coordinated dimensions aid the organisation of contrasting attributes within the ISEA model such that broadly identifiable paradigms and standpoints can be reviewed both on their own and in relation to one another.

The perspectives polarized along both axes represent opposite ends of ideological or philosophical spectrums concerning human-Nature relationships. Briefly stated, the Instrumental↔Spiritual axis distinguishes the perspective that values the natural world in means-end rationales and anthropocentric terms (the Instrumental perspective) on the one hand; and the perspective that attaches importance to deep empathy and identification with Nature (the Spiritual perspective) on the other. The Pro-Environment↔Pro-Animal/Plant axis distinguishes the perspective whose concerns about Nature take the form of an organismic or biocentric emphasis on the rights and welfare of nonhumans (the Pro-Animal/Plant Perspective) on the one hand; and the perspective whose concerns are informed by a more systemic or ecocentric understanding of an ecosphere/ecosystem and its internal interrelations (the Pro-Environment perspective).

The ISEA Model Identifying Human-Nature Relationships with respect to Sound, Music and Noise

The ISEA Model Identifying Human-Nature Relationships with respect to Sound, Music and Noise.

As the image indicates, the ISEA model serves to map attributes of the four perspectives onto a two-dimensional field that functions as an axiological chart — a heuristic cartography for investigating human-Nature relationships through the identification and visualisation of fundamental differentiations within and between the four perspectives. Relatedness is conveyed via spatial relations such that differences among attributes are reflected by where they are located with respect to each other in the ISEA model. Contrasting attributes radiate in opposite directions from the centre. If a specific human-Nature relationship associates strongly with one attribute (such as anthropocentric utility), its associations with other attributes tend to be progressively weaker as one moves around the field in either direction towards the diametrically opposing attribute (such as transcendental empathy).

The attributes shown in the image above characterise the ISEA perspectives on a very general level, such that each perspective acts as a basic template that could be applied to a variety of more specific socio-historical contexts. In any given time and culture, certain perspectives may predominate or play unique social roles, and each perspective will be associated with a particular set of practices, conventions, philosophies and belief systems, if not also with specific concepts, institutions, organisations and individuals.

As a cartographic field for the investigation of human-Nature relationships, the ISEA model can act as the nexus, juncture or superstructure for traversing, organising, aggregating or collating a variety of issues. These functions may be achieved in several ways by varying the mixture of images and texts as follows:

The ISEA Model Examining Human-Nature Relationships with respect to Sound, Music and Noise

The ISEA model Examining Human-Nature Relationships with respect to Sound, Music and Noise.

This is a semiotically rich, pictorially laced version of the ISEA model adapted to addressing the human-Nature relationships in and through sound-related or sound-producing phenomena, events and activities.

In the Instrumental perspective, the often troubled soundscape is considered an environmental issue only insofar as it is framed in rights, privileges, access, consumption and quality of life with respect to amenity and recreational opportunity. Major examples of sound-producing activities commonly include music, entertainments, communications, tourism, transportation, natural resource extraction, industrial development and warfare.

In contrast, the Spiritual perspective encourages outlooks that seek to identify and empathise with Nature through and in the world of environmental sound and music. Spiritually oriented sound making and listening are firmly and enchantingly grounded in the holistic experience and acoustic connection with fauna, flora and biosphere, opening and maintaining communicative channels essential for preserving identity, intimacy and integrity of a sentient world and its inhabitants.

The Pro-Animal/Plant perspective concerns nonhuman lives, explores the aural interfaces and interactions within and between species, and examines how they are affected by anthropogenic sound. There is little or no attention paid to broader ecological or environmental contexts.

On a more macroscopic footing, the Pro-Environment perspective concentrates on complex issues about the integrity and biodiversity of an environment, ecosystem or bioregion. There are clear recognition and monitoring of anthropogenic sound intrusion as an environmental disturbance on a par with other forms of pollution or degradation.

Sound, Society and Environment

Sound, Society and Environment

Apart from using images (graphics) and texts (concepts), the more complex, layered visualizations and renditions of the ISEA model through adding concentric domains, grafting new media, topics or subject matters, or superimposing a different model, theory or typology onto the model ― along with their methodological and theoretical considerations ― are well beyond the scope of this discussion.

The Poll
Submitted as a response to Weekly Writing Challenge: Image vs Text.

32 comments on “Facing the Noise & Music: Grey Barriers and Green Frontiers of Sound, Society and Environment

  1. This is heavy duty deep, my man. I would like to publish for Wednesday guest post 1. snowflakes tell me…and poem 2. wolf pic moon and poem -if my name were moon light 3. 2 pics Chinese new year. Please send as jpegs with gravatar and 4-6 sentence bio as jpeg too. ASAP. Regards.

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  2. Great. Please keep a copy of this package in case need for resend. I have been quite a bother to my guests as I have been losing their things in my storage folder and they have to resend.

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  3. [...] Facing the Noise & Music: Grey Barriers and Green Frontiers of Sound, Society and Environment | … [...]

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  4. This is a very rich, engaging project. I would like to offer you more incisive and detailed comments but, I admit, I have to reflect on many of the different questions you are raising as well as the complexity of your research model. I am very interested in the conclusions you will be drawing from your findings and am intrigued by the very nature of the project itself.

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    • Thank you for your comments, Jeremy. One of the reasons or necessities for the complexity of the research and research models (ISEA being just one of many) in Facing the Noise and Music lies in the fact that history, philosophy and science are not immune to the pitfalls of following the default framework, the prevailing theoretical perspective, the dominant paradigm, and the latest trend or pop ideology. On the one hand, historians and philosophers should be empirically informed by the science(s) most relevant to their work. On the other hand, scientists should have at least some historical awareness and philosophical training before assuming narrow(er) interpretations of the data that they are gathering. In short, historians, philosophers and scientists alike need to collaborate to draw accurate and responsible interpretations and conclusions. Hence, SoundEagle has always preferred to adopt a multidisciplinary approach, however difficult and challenging that approach may be(come) for any researcher working alone or collaborating with others.

      In addition, the many problems and impacts of science could have been considerably reduced, if not eliminated, if more scientists are much better informed by the philosophy of science, the history of science, and the sociology of science.

      By the way, the muse advised SoundEagle to include audience/reader participation at the end of the post, and so another feature is added for fun and statistics. :)

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  5. Wow, I shall have to read this again a couple of times there is so much in it! Great post!

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  6. Insightful and truly multidisciplinary.. :)))

    I predict that your very rich (flexible in its simplicity) and multi-layered ISEA model will be used by many a researcher/thinker to consider sound, society and environment.

    As a technical diagram, its detail and clarity, the wisdom of the interrelations conveyed by multiple layers, colour shading and gradation… all are superb. Its possible use as a template (with the option of adding collages) is inspired. That is why I think that it may even become a model for thinking across disciplines, regardless of subject matters/disciplines being studied.

    Thank you so much for informing me that you published this work. I look forward to reading more on this topic…

    Congratulations SoundEagle!

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  7. [...] Facing the Noise & Music: Grey Barriers and Green Frontiers of Sound, Society and Environment | … [...]

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  8. This looks much like some sort of business model. It is too diverse for me to offer any sort of useful opinion to you. Just a thought–I would simplify and narrow the thesis of the research for more effective results. I don’t know if you will be offering this as an automated database or using this for a Ph.D. degree. Good luck.

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    • Thank you, swabby429 for your comment. It is unusual that you have associated the ISEA model with “some sort of business model”. Should this association or typecasting be valid, then SoundEagle would hope that the model could be effective and persuasive enough to impress or edify whomever it may concern in the world of commerce. In any case, models and modelling tools are used in diverse fields and for various purposes.

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    • @swabby429: Hello (I thought that I’d repost this here to ensure that you would receive a notification)..

      As mentioned, a model like ISEA can increase insights across disciplines, and even help us to find common ground when discussing metadata. So I’ll use it to comment on your comment.

      Your advice to SoundEagle on limiting the scope of the thesis of his research would fall into the Instrumental perspective in my view.

      Instrumental perspective of research:
      The underlying premise is that “research should lead to academic and professional success” and therefore in order for a researcher to succeed in this aim, it would be more expedient/effective for him/her to limit the scope of the research. Why? Because the risk of “failure” would be too great, and the referential criteria for “failure” from this perspective and in this context include the values: “failure to complete a PhD”, hence “failure to gain professional recognition for one’s work”, then “failure to secure material success,” and so on. (Quite a scary risk indeed…)

      What if a researcher’s perspective lay primarily in one or more of the other three quadrants, and what if from those perspectives, his/her goal might not align with the Instrumental perspective at all?

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  9. @swabby429: Hello.
    As mentioned a model like ISEA can increase insights across disciplines, and even help us to find common ground when discussing metadata. So I’ll use it to comment on your comment.

    Your advice to SoundEagle on limiting the scope of the thesis of his research would fall into the Instrumental perspective in my view.

    Instrumental perspective of research:
    The underlying premise is that “research should lead to academic and professional success” and therefore in order for a researcher to succeed in this aim, it would be more expedient/effective for him/her to limit the scope of the research. Why? Because the risk of “failure” would be too great, and the referential criteria for “failure” from this perspective and in this context includes the values: “failure to complete a PhD”, hence “failure to gain professional recognition for one’s work”, then “failure to secure material success,” and so on. (Quite a scary risk indeed…)

    What if a researcher’s perspective lay primarily in one or more of the other three quadrants, and what if from those perspectives, his/her goal might not align with the Instrumental perspective at all?

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    • Hello SeaTurtle! Your reply to swabby429 is well reasoned, honourable and admirable, and have done a great service in explaining and defending the need for and the benefits of multidisciplinary research. It is highly notable that you have done so through a clever adoption of the ISEA model, from which you are the first to draw lessons and to benefit here!

      Sadly, as you described, that is frequently, if not invariably, the state of affair in various researches, even when they are largely academic and not sponsored commercially.

      SeaTurtle, SoundEagle would strongly recommend that you click the “Reply” button next to swabby429’s comments, then copy and paste your amended comments (upon eliminating the typo) so that swabby429 would automatically receive a copy of your reply, and then he might respond to you if he so wished. Otherwise, he will not know at all that you have replied to him.

      Again, SoundEagle would like to commend you on using the ISEA model as a template to form a solid reply!

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      • Thank you SoundEagle, it’s very good to know from your feedback that I have started off with a basic understanding of the ISEA model.

        You chose to keep humans (and anthropogenic sounds) outside of the Plant/animal
        realm (top quadrant). May I ask why?

        [If humans were included there, could we gain fresh perspectives on the interrelations between all living things and the sounds that they make (and would these perspectives be interesting, useful or insightful?)]

        PS: Hope that you enjoy your weekend!

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      • On the contrary, SoundEagle has included anthropogenic sounds within the Pro-Animal/Plant perspective of the ISEA model. Please look closely at the final illustration of the model, where you can see the deadly Low Frequency Active Sonar (LFAS) system from a submarine blasting away at the whale, as well as a loud speaker pointing and making noise at the squirrel, rabbit and toad. Please also read the textual description for the Pro-Animal/Plant perspective in the same illustration. Thank you.

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  10. Excuse my typo: ‘the referential criteria for “failure” from this perspective and in this context include the values..’
    (well, you get my point…)

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  11. Quoting SoundEagle: “On the contrary, SoundEagle has included anthropogenic sounds within the Pro-Environment perspective of the ISEA model. Please look closely at the final illustration of the model, where you can see the deadly Low Frequency Active Sonar (LFAS) system from a submarine blasting away at the whale, as well as a loud speaker pointing and making noise at the squirrel, rabbit and toad. Please also read the textual description for the Pro-Environment perspective in the same illustration. Thank you.”

    SeaTurtle: Thanks for your explanation SoundEagle, but let me rephrase my query:
    I was thinking about including humans in the top quadrant (as they are living beings), since they are also affected by sound/noise emitted by other plants, animals, other humans and the environment. Would you find that appropriate/useful, and why or why not?

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    • Hello again, SeaTurtle! The captions indicate clearly that the ISEA model deals with Human-Nature Relationships and not Human-Human Relationships, with respect to Sound, Music and Noise. The keywords there are anthropogenic sounds, which are getting more prevalent, ubiquitous and overpowering due to expanding human activities and technologies, in comparison with whatever non-anthropogenic sounds produced by animals, plants and Nature since time immemorial.

      The research “Facing the Noise & Music: Grey Barriers and Green Frontiers of Sound, Society and Environment” in its entirety does deals with the latter in certain parts of its chapters and discussions. In any case, references to and comparisons with Human-Human Relationships with respect to Sound, Music and Noise are definitely admissible and illuminating when and where they are appropriate, necessary or valid.

      Thank you for your inquiries and enthusiasms, SeaTurtle.

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  12. I can see how the diversity/unity axis works and it makes sense. The problem I have is understanding the pro-life/pro-environment axis. Since there is nowhere on this planet where there is no life, the sounds of nature are always made up of the intermingling of the living and the unliving.

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    • Thank you, Phil, for your comment. Of course it is a given that “the sounds of nature are always made up of the intermingling of the living and the unliving.” The ISEA model deals with certain polarities that can be identified within individual attitudes, social morays, cultural beliefs, philosophical discourses as well as paradigms and perspectives. The Pro-Environment↔Pro-Animal/Plant axis distinguishes the perspective whose concerns about Nature take the form of an organismic or biocentric emphasis on the rights and welfare of nonhumans (the Pro-Animal/Plant Perspective) on the one hand; and the perspective whose concerns are informed by a more systemic or ecocentric understanding of an ecosphere/ecosystem and its internal interrelations (the Pro-Environment perspective). In other words, the former is more or predominantly concerned about individual animals and/or plants, and the latter, about the environment, ecosystem and biodiversity.

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      • Thanks for taking the time to explain your concepts.

        It’s interesting because I’ve been focussing on that very distinction with the local zoo. I’ve been saying that we shouldn’t spend all of our time focussing on single animal species. Rather we should be focussing on the ecological system that the animal is a part. So I can appreciate your idea.

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  13. Interesting 30% 30% 30% 0%. An interesting anecdote for you – Yesterday a world famous percusionist came to town to give a demonstration for/with the local one of the local Samba groups. The sound ordinance says no loud noise after 7pm, even though she sun is still high here are 7pm. So the police made them evacuate the warehouse they were meeting in and they came over to play in our backyard with an “Okay” from all the neighbors and no police antagonization. It sounded wonderful, I felt lucky to hear such a thing in my backyard.

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  14. […] Facing the Noise & Music: Grey Barriers and Green Frontiers of Sound, Society and Environment […]

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  15. Interesting – I think I’d need to read it again to get the full value from it. I did vote in the poll, though. ;-)

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    • Hi Alison, the various comments here from other readers and SoundEagle are also useful in clarifying and continuing the discussions in this post.

      In the post at http://soundeagle.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/soundeagle-in-debating-animal-artistry-and-musicality/, SoundEagle attempts to be simultaneously witty and serious about a number of outstanding issues. Given your interest, expertise, outlook and passion, SoundEagle firmly believes that you could shed some light on some of these issues, and hence would be very grateful if you could kindly review the writing, which is also quite dramatically different to others of mine, as far as can be ascertained. As usual, there are some striking and extended comments after the main body of the post, where you are very welcome to participate in the discussions.

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  16. Interesting. Sorry, I don’t fit on your poll, guess I’m a mis-fit. Oh well. Thank you for the link to here. :-) — Bear

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    • Hi bearspawprint, that was a very prompt visit. Thank you for your feedback.

      The poll presents non-mutually exclusive checkboxes, meaning that more than one of the ISEA perspectives can be selected.

      The ISEA model is, and can be, more flexible, complex and multidimensional than a diagnostic model such as the autism-Asperger spectrum, given that any person (including you, as human-Nature relationships are pervasive and inescapable) invariably inhabits different areas in the ISEA model and exhibits the corresponding “traits” or attributes of the ISEA perspectives at varying degrees (both qualitatively and quantitatively) throughout much of their life.

      Two other related articles are Facing the Noise & Music: Playgrounds for Biophobic Citizens and SoundEagle in Debating Animal Artistry and Musicality.

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