Digital Lullaby (2011)


  • Mezzo-Soprano
  • Clarinet in B flat
  • Cello
  • Harp


c. 4 minutes 30 seconds

Creation Note

Digital Lullaby was written for Halcyon, for First Stones 2011.

About the work

Digital Lullaby began with the question: “what is next after the Terabyte?” Computing power gets 1000 times faster every few years. At the same time, technology users seem to be getting younger. It is becoming common to see pram-bound toddlers wielding tablet computing devices. Whether or not this is because their parents haven’t found a use for the device is not something I want to address here! Instead, the focus is on the extreme incongruity of billions of computations per second in the hands of someone who can barely count to 10. That feeling of the carpet being pulled from under our feet as we contemplate astronomical values.

To explore this I decided to use the format of a lullaby from parent to child, basing the text on the International System of Units for computational values. There is something innocent and intimate about a lullaby, and something clinical and distant about standard units of measurement.

The song also references children’s counting songs or games. The very opening of the song is as if we are counting (digital) sheep. From here onwards, there is a sense of becoming drowsy, with the lullaby weaving between bare statements of increasing computational values – “One Terabyte.” “One Petabyte.” … – and a nonsense text: “by, ki te, te lo me, …”. This text is a jumbling of all the computational values, and evokes the phase of drowsiness where we can barely hear the lullaby anymore and start to dream: a language from an island where no one’s ever been. Once we reach Yottabytes, values so large seem to belong in a dream state.


One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight Bits

One Byte.
One Kilobyte.
One Megabyte.
One Gigabyte.
One Terabyte.
One Exabyte.
One Zettabyte.
One Yottabyte.

ki te
te lo me
by lo ga gi
te ga ga ki by
pe ra ga me ki te
te lo me gi ra ta e
ze xa ta te gi ga lo by
by ki ga ga te pe xa ta yotta.

P.P. 2011