Hello there 🙂

Welcome to issue forty of Manufacturing Serendipity, a loosely connected, somewhat rambling collection of the unexpected things I’ve recently encountered.

This newsletter is free to receive, but if you’d like to support me in this odd little endeavour you can buy me a coffee 🙂

Speaking of coffee, grab yourself a suitable beverage my loves, let’s do this thing…

Part I: Things I’ve Encountered Online…

The Museum of Imaginary Musical Instruments

Some of the exhibits from the Museum of Imaginary Musical Instruments

I happened upon this delightful discovery via the week’s edition of Ann Friedman’s newsletter, which was guest authored by Nereya Otieno.

The Museum of Imaginary Musical Instruments is an online collection curated by Deirdre Loughridge, assistant professor of music at Northeastern University, and Thomas Patteson a member of the Musical Studies faculty at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

Here’s a quick intro to the collection:

“Since the taxonomical work of Erich Moritz von Hornbostel and Curt Sachs in the early twentieth century, organologists have classified musical instruments into four major categories, each distinguished by its primary sound-producing mechanism: idiophones (vibrating body), membranophones (vibrating membrane), chordophones (vibrating strings) and aerophones (vibrating air columns). Beyond these basic divisions, scholars have proposed such logically consistent additions as electrophones (for electronic instruments) and corpophones (for the human body as a source of sound).

We propose a seventh category: fictophones, for imaginary musical instruments. Existing as diagrams, drawings or written descriptions, these devices never produce a sound. Yet they are no less a part of musical culture for that. Indeed, fictophones represent an essential if hitherto unrecognized domain of musical thought and activity, and it is in order to catalog these conceptual artifacts that we have established the first institution of its kind: the Museum of Imaginary Musical Instruments.”

The collection contains a variety of exhibits – Auditory ExtensionsMusica ex machinaTechnological ChimerasGiganticismAbstract ResonatorsSentient SoundsAcousmatic Instruments, and Keyboard Interfaces.

Make yourself a pot of coffee (or whatever beverage takes your fancy) and spend some time browsing the collection. Here are a few of my favourites:

Sockets (from the 1984 short story Rock On, and the 1991 book, Synners by Pat Cadigan)

A mind-machine interface for making music, and music videos. This same technology allows music videos to pass directly from creators’ brains to fans, however, unhappily, it also lets viruses move between humans and machines.

A Book for the Ears (from the 1656 book L’Autre Monde: ou les États et Empires de la Lune by Cyrano de Bergerac)

Cyrano de Bergerac invents audio books.

Trigger Implants (from the 2019 book A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker)

Skin implants turn the human body into a musical instrument so touch is translated into sound. Unlike Pat Cadigan’s sockets, this technology is designed to be experienced in the meatspace, as opposed to virtually.

Moar Serendipitous finds:


Margaret Atwood’s take on the leaked Alito opinion.

What would it mean for AI to “win” at poetry? And what kind of poem would finally convince us?

As Carmine Starnino highlights, the answer perhaps depends less on what we believe a computer can do, and more on what we believe suffices as poetry.


Leslie Kendall Dye on what her mother has taught her about time:

“Ten seconds strikes me these days as a profound unit of time, because it is this length of time that my mother’s memory lasts…

If you have a conversation with my mother, you have just about ten seconds to impart the narrative thrust. Then the clock is reset, the board is wiped clean, and you must begin again.” 

Mindfulness is thought to have multiple benefits – but it can also make you less likely to feel guilty about wrongdoing

“According to a new paper, mindfulness may be especially harmful when we have wronged other people. By quelling our feelings of guilt, it seems, the common meditation technique discourages us from making amends for our mistakes.”  

Mapping Convergences

Lawrence Weschler has been documenting his “Taxonomy of Convergences” via his Substack, and here, Austin Kleon maps them:

Austin Kleon maps Lawrence Weschler’s “Taxonomy of Convergences”

What does Weschler mean by a taxonomy of convergence? He proposes a spectrum of things that resemble one another, ranging from an imagined but not real connection (“apophenia”) to a connection that is being deliberately concealed (plagiarism). It’s fascinating.

I strongly agree with this: (click the tweet to read the full thread)

You might also like:

If you work in Digital PR, I’d strongly encourage you to subscribe to The Grapevine newsletter by Iona Townsley. Each month she shares links to all the PR campaigns she’s come across (this month she included links to 188 campaigns!) – it’s an incredible resource.

Part II: Books I’m Reading Right Now

This fortnight I read The Bread the Devil Knead, by Lisa Allen-Agostini. Our protagonist here is Alethea Lopez, who is about to turn 40. Outwardly she appears successful and independent, but behind closed doors she’s covering up bruises from her abusive partner and seeking solace in an affair with her boss. As the novel progresses, Alethea unravels memories repressed since childhood and begins to understand both the person she has become, and women she wants to be.

Allen-Agonstini does an incredible job of showing the reader why, for Alethea, leaving this abusive relationship is not as simple as it sounds, and simultaneously provides a complex portrait of the attitudes of the wider Trinidadian community.

Please note, this book contains scenes of abuse which make trigger some readers.

Part III: Things I’ve Been Watching

Here are a couple of things which I’ve watched this fortnight:

  • Halston, Netflix – This biopic which charts the rise and fall of the fashion designer Halston has been criticised by his family (they dubbed the series “an inaccurate, fictionalised account”), but it is fabulous, and I’d recommend it.
  • Love Life, BBC – this anthology series about (yep, you guessed it) LOVE surprised me – I thought I’d hate it, but actually, I didn’t. The first season follows a character played by Anna Kendrick, and the second follows a character played by William Jackson Harper; both characters are complex, messy, and not always likeable; and the writers have done a pretty great job of dodging most romcom tropes which makes it remarkably satisfying to watch.
  • The Royal Tenenbaums, The Grand Budapest Hotel, & The French Dispatch, Disney+ – I’ve made good use of my free Disney+ trial with a Wes Anderson film binge.

Part IV: What I’ve been up to…

Some proper adulting! This fortnight I met with my business accountant, who assured me that I am, in fact, businessing well (even though it doesn’t always feel like it). I also met with a financial advisor who is helping me sort out my pension. I’ve been putting off the pension stuff for ages, because *reasons*, but it turns out that it’s not nearly as complicated, difficult, or scary as I thought it would be.

I went to see To Kill a Mockingbird with a couple of friends, which was excellent; caught up with Surena over drinks and pizza; and spent the weekend with my Dad which included going for teppanyaki with our friends Dale and Wendy.

What’s next?

More MozCon prep, getting to see my friends babies (YAY!), more actual work, and also I really need to properly spring clean my flat, but I probably won’t, because the weather’s been quite nice and I will probably want to go outside instead.

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