Monday, 30 November 2009

Noises in the Night, Part II

The saga continues.

4:32 a.m.

The noise has dramatically increased in intensity and changed in character. It’s indescribably, chillingly awful, even from a distance away and through the ancient two-foot-thick stone walls. I must record it...I have no choice now.

The technique shown below is similar to one that Allan taught me, which is useful for dumptrucks and bulldozers, but this noise is at a greater distance, and of a groaning, thrumming, and grinding nature. This is where the full-length shotgun mic comes in handy. The eerie glow at the top right of the photo is emanating from factory x. The foggy smoke billowing around the compound does not appear, to me, to be caused by a yogurt-related procedure, but I am admittedly not a food-scientist, and I have very little knowledge of industrial yogurt manufacturing.

Even having admitted that, it is difficult for me to give factory x the benefit of the doubt in this case, because the aforementioned noises are, even as I type this, becoming more and more human/reptilian and downright goosebump-inducing.

5:27 a.m.

Much bizarreness committed to hard disk for future use. I think in retrospect that it could in fact be a dairy products manufacturing operation after all. The noises that are still rumbling and groaning through the trees are the sort of sounds that will turn the blood in your veins to cottage cheese.


Noises in the Night

11:22 p.m.

I sit quietly, at an undisclosed location. The low, deep thrum of great machines resonates below and around. The last two nights, flashing amber lights and strange noises have surrounded what I shall call “factory x”. Supposedly they make yogurt, but certain events might lead one to believe otherwise.

11:30 p.m.

The noises have intensified slightly. I can identify a powerful motor fluctuating wildly in speed, and a deep grinding sound.

12:35 a.m.

I decide I have no choice but to investigate. I collect my Maglite and camera, put on my rainbow yak wool earflap hat—for camouflage—and venture out into the dark. The rain falls in a lazy half-drizzle-half-mist. I can hear the sounds more clearly now. They drift on the wind, but there—phasing in and out—is the very same grinding and droning I could hear from inside. Now it is much more distinct, and I can make out even more detail as I get closer.

12:41 a.m.

I catch a glimpse of factory x through the trees. There is no sign of activity at all, but the droning and grinding is louder than ever now. It seems to be coming from inside, or behind, or under the central building, just to the right of the smokestack. I steady my camera on a wet fence post and snap a few long exposure photos.

12:44 a.m.

I notice there’s a CCTV camera by the main gates, and I make out the silhouette of another one further ahead against the sodium lights. I quickly palm my own camera, covering the LCD as I switch it off, and put my hands in my pockets. A security van sits quietly in the parking lot. Tinted windows. Makes me nervous. I keep walking.

12:46 a.m.

Standing on the bridge now, on the other side of factory x. Still no outward sign of activity, but the I think I know what is happening. The sound must be of tunnelling, excavating...but why? And why in the dead of night? A bunker for long-term yogurt storage? I think that perhaps it is nearing time to go.

12:47 a.m.

I decide I can’t see anything conclusive from here, and “No Trespassing” signs and razor wire have been sprinkled liberally about the perimeter, so I turn back. It’s cold, and I’m wet, and I have a weird feeling about this place. It’s making me very uneasy. My return is uneventful, but the machines continue their graunching and thrumming. They seem more distant now, but I can still feel them vibrating through the ground.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

One Man’s Ceiling is Another Man’s Floor

A few days ago, I posted an excerpt from a piece of writing documenting some ideas that one Luigi Russolo had 100 years ago, speculating on the evolution of docile, gutless musical instruments into vibrant, clanging, ecstatic noise-sounds. 

Since then, I tracked down some audio samples of his work.

I’m rather fascinated to report, after extensive comparisons and testing, that some passages are nearly identical to the noise floor in Allan’s apartment—if it were recorded onto a wax cylinder. 

How perceptions change! Perhaps 100 years in the future, what is a very long delay today will seem almost instantaneous.

Adding some plausibility to that prediction is one of the only constants in the universe: no matter how much extra you think you have, you will always need more RAM.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Excerpt from 'The Art of Noises' by Luigi Russolo

The following is an excerpt taken from ‘The Art of Noises’, a Futurist manifesto contained in a 1913 letter by Luigi Russolo. You can read it in its entirety on this website

Ancient life was all silence. In the nineteenth century, with the invention of the machine, Noise was born. Today, Noise triumphs and reigns supreme over the sensibility of men. For many centuries life went by in silence, or at most in muted tones. The strongest noises which interrupted this silence were not intense or prolonged or varied. If we overlook such exceptional movements as earthquakes, hurricanes, storms, avalanches and waterfalls, nature is silent.

Amidst this dearth of noises, the first sounds that man drew from a pierced reed or stretched string were regarded with amazement as new and marvelous things. Primitive races attributed sound to the gods; it was considered sacred and reserved for priests, who used it to enrich the mystery of their rites.

And so was born the concept of sound as a thing in itself, distinct and independent of life, and the result was music, a fantastic world superimposed on the real one, an inviolatable and sacred world. It is easy to understand how such a concept of music resulted inevitable in the hindering of its progress by comparison with the other arts. The Greeks themselves, with their musical theories calculated mathematically by Pythagoras and according to which only a few consonant intervals could be used, limited the field of music considerably, rendering harmony, of which they were unaware, impossible.

The Middle Ages, with the development and modification of the Greek tetrachordal system, with the Gregorian chant and popular songs, enriched the art of music, but continued to consider sound in its development in time, a restricted notion, but one which lasted many centuries, and which still can be found in the Flemish contrapuntalists’ most complicated polyphonies.

The chord did not exist, the development of the various parts was not subornated to the chord that these parts put together could produce; the conception of the parts was horizontal not vertical. The desire, search, and taste for a simultaneous union of different sounds, that is for the chord (complex sound), were gradually made manifest, passing from the consonant perfect chord with a few passing dissonances, to the complicated and persistent dissonances that characterize contemporary music.

At first the art of music sought purity, limpidity and sweetness of sound. Then different sounds were amalgamated, care being taken, however, to caress the ear with gentle harmonies. Today music, as it becomes continually more complicated, strives to amalgamate the most dissonant, strange and harsh sounds. In this way we come ever closer to noise-sound.

This musical evolution is paralleled by the multipication of machines, which collaborate with man on every front. Not only in the roaring atmosphere of major cities, but in the country too, which until yesterday was totally silent, the machine today has created such a variety and rivalry of noises that pure sound, in its exiguity and monotony, no longer arouses any feeling.

To excite and exalt our sensibilities, music developed towards the most complex polyphony and the maximum variety, seeking the most complicated successions of dissonant chords and vaguely preparing the creation of musical noise. This evolution towards “noise sound” was not possible before now. The ear of an eighteenth-century man could never have endured the discordant intensity of certain chords produced by our orchestras (whose members have trebled in number since then). To our ears, on the other hand, they sound pleasant, since our hearing has already been educated by modern life, so teeming with variegated noises. But our ears are not satisfied merely with this, and demand an abundance of acoustic emotions.

On the other hand, musical sound is too limited in its qualitative variety of tones. The most complex orchestras boil down to four or five types of instrument, varying in timber: instruments played by bow or plucking, by blowing into metal or wood, and by percussion. And so modern music goes round in this small circle, struggling in vain to create new ranges of tones.

This limited circle of pure sounds must be broken, and the infinite variety of “noise-sound” conquered.

Besides, everyone will acknowledge that all musical sound carries with it a development of sensations that are already familiar and exhausted, and which predispose the listener to boredom in spite of the efforts of all the innovatory musicians. We Futurists have deeply loved and enjoyed the harmonies of the great masters. For many years Beethoven and Wagner shook our nerves and hearts. Now we are satiated and we find far more enjoyment in the combination of the noises of trams, backfiring motors, carriages and bawling crowds than in rehearsing, for example, the “Eroica” or the “Pastoral”.

We cannot see that enormous apparatus of force that the modern orchestra represents without feeling the most profound and total disillusion at the paltry acoustic results. Do you know of any sight more ridiculous than that of twenty men furiously bent on the redoubling the mewing of a violin? All this will naturally make the music-lovers scream, and will perhaps enliven the sleepy atmosphere of concert halls. Let us now, as Futurists, enter one of these hospitals for anaemic sounds. There: the first bar brings the boredom of familiarity to your ear and anticipates the boredom of the bar to follow. Let us relish, from bar to bar, two or three varieties of genuine boredom, waiting all the while for the extraordinary sensation that never comes.

Meanwhile a repugnant mixture is concocted from monotonous sensations and the idiotic religious emotion of listeners buddhistically drunk with repeating for the nth time their more or less snobbish or second-hand ecstasy.

Away! Let us break out since we cannot much longer restrain our desire to create finally a new musical reality, with a generous distribution of resonant slaps in the face, discarding violins, pianos, double-basses and plainitive organs. Let us break out!

It’s no good objecting that noises are exclusively loud and disagreeable to the ear.

It seems pointless to enumerate all the graceful and delicate noises that afford pleasant sensations.

To convince ourselves of the amazing variety of noises, it is enough to think of the rumble of thunder, the whistle of the wind, the roar of a waterfall, the gurgling of a brook, the rustling of leaves, the clatter of a trotting horse as it draws into the distance, the lurching jolts of a cart on pavings, and of the generous, solemn, white breathing of a nocturnal city; of all the noises made by wild and domestic animals, and of all those that can be made by the mouth of man without resorting to speaking or singing.

Let us cross a great modern capital with our ears more alert than our eyes, and we will get enjoyment from distinguishing the eddying of water, air and gas in metal pipes, the grumbling of noises that breathe and pulse with indisputable animality, the palpitation of valves, the coming and going of pistons, the howl of mechanical saws, the jolting of a tram on its rails, the cracking of whips, the flapping of curtains and flags. We enjoy creating mental orchestrations of the crashing down of metal shop blinds, slamming doors, the hubbub and shuffling of crowds, the variety of din, from stations, railways, iron foundries, spinning wheels, printing works, electric power stations and underground railways.

Nor should the newest noises of modern war be forgotten. Recently, the poet Marinetti, in a letter from the trenches of Adrianopolis, described to me with marvelous free words the orchestra of a great battle:

‘every 5 seconds siege cannons gutting space with a chord ZANG-TUMB-TUUMB mutiny of 500 echos smashing scattering it to infinity. In the center of this hateful ZANG-TUMB-TUUMB area 50square kilometers leaping bursts lacerations fists rapid fire batteries. Violence ferocity regularity this deep bass scanning the strange shrill frantic crowds of the battle Fury breathless ears eyes nostrils open! load! fire! what a joy to hear to smell completely taratatata of the machine guns screaming a breathless under the stings slaps traak-traak whips pic-pac-pum-tumb weirdness leaps 200 meters range Far far in back of the orchestra pools muddying huffing goaded oxen wagons pluff-plaff horse action flic flac zing zing shaaack laughing whinnies the tiiinkling jiiingling tramping 3 Bulgarian battalions marching croooc-craaac [slowly] Shumi Maritza or Karvavena ZANG-TUMB-TUUUMB toc-toc-toc-toc [fast] crooc-craac [slowly] crys of officers slamming about like brass plates pan here paak there BUUUM ching chaak [very fast] cha-cha-cha-cha-chaak down there up around high up look out your head beautiful! Flashing flashing flashing flashing flashing flashing footlights of the forts down there behind that smoke Shukri Pasha communicates by phone with 27 forts in Turkish in German Allo! Ibrahim! Rudolf! allo! allo! actors parts echos of prompters scenery of smoke forests applause odor of hay mud dung I no longer feel my frozen feet odor of gunsmoke odor of rot Tympani flutes clarinets everywhere low high birds chirping blessed shadows cheep-cheep-cheep green breezes flocks don-dan-don-din-baaah Orchestra madmen pommel the performers they terribly beaten playing Great din not erasing clearing up cutting off slighter noises very small scraps of echos in the theater area 300 square kilometers Rivers Maritza Tungia stretched out Rodolpi Mountains rearing heights loges boxes 2000 shrapnels waving arms exploding very white handkerchiefs full of gold srrrr-TUMB-TUMB 2000 raised grenades tearing out bursts of very black hair ZANG-srrrr-TUMB-ZANG-TUMB-TUUMB the orchestra of the noises of war swelling under a held note of silence in the high sky round golden balloon that observes the firing...’

We want to attune and regulate this tremendous variety of noises harmonically and rhythmically.

To attune noises does not mean to detract from all their irregular movements and vibrations in time and intensity, but rather to give gradation and tone to the most strongly predominant of these vibrations.

Noise in fact can be differentiated from sound only in so far as the vibrations which produce it are confused and irregular, both in time and intensity.

Every noise has a tone, and sometimes also a harmony that predominates over the body of its irregular vibrations.

Now, it is from this dominating characteristic tone that a practical possibility can be derived for attuning it, that is to give a certain noise not merely one tone, but a variety of tones, without losing its characteristic tone, by which I mean the one which distinguishes it. In this way any noise obtained by a rotating movement can offer an entire ascending or descending chromatic scale, if the speed of the movement is increased or decreased.

Every manifestation of our life is accompanied by noise. The noise, therefore, is familiar to our ear, and has the power to conjure up life itself. Sound, alien to our life, always musical and a thing unto itself, an occasional but unnecessary element, has become to our ears what an overfamiliar face is to our eyes. Noise, however, reaching us in a confused and irregular way from the irregular confusion of our life, never entirely reveals itself to us, and keeps innumerable surprises in reserve. We are therefore certain that by selecting, coordinating and dominating all noises we will enrich men with a new and unexpected sensual pleasure.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


con•cep•tu•al art (also concept art) noun
A vague—and often incomprehensible—idea, which may or may not be executed, badly, by someone fairly unskilled, using a completely inappropriate medium.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Never underestimate the stupidity...

microwave banana
In a rush? No longer must you go without breakfast! Witness a technological miracle: the microwavable banana! Ready to eat, fresh from your microwave, in mere minutes. On sale now in a hallucinatory supermarket near you.

instant toast
Are you lazy? Are you tired of the hassle and hardship of putting pre-sliced bread in the toaster and pushing the little handle down? Those days are over. Find brand new quick-and-easy instant toast (Now with rich, homestyle imitation-butter!) in the ziggurat of cinnamon, right next to the marmalade. (Marmalade. You like marmalade.)

instant coffee
We’ve taken perfectly good coffee beans and processed them using a patented top-secret formula. The resulting product can be reconstituted into a nauseating brownish liquid—and it’s an entire four seconds faster than brewing a pot of real coffee. The result is caffeine-free, is completely undrinkable to those with functioning tongues, and costs more than unadulterated coffee beans. A true triumph of marketing. Look for it in the coffee aisle, where it is often miscategorised.

“Bullshit! It’s the best thing since sliced bread! Try some today.”

Saturday, 21 November 2009


About me:

- I have never been to Australia.

- I'm process-driven.

-I'm "radio-friendly". Off-air is a different matter.

- I'm an animal lover.


- I would have popped these before discarding them.

Friday, 20 November 2009

A screwed-up ending

In this photo:

  • A small screwdriver.
  • A brass wire paperclip.

Are these items interesting? Not at first glance. The paperclip is utterly boring. I found it at the bottom of my desk drawer under a dried up glue stick and a sheet of floppy disk labels.

The little screwdriver, however, has a little story to go with it. 

Many have heard of Joe Meek, a short-lived electronics tinkerer who produced “Telstar” and a few other cuts of varying levels of obscurity before going out in a dramatic murder/suicide at age 37 (Joe, as it turns out, was a very disturbed individual). [ Wikipedia article ]

But, here’s a part of the story that you will not find in Wikipedia: 

Joe Meek’s parents had to dispose of his belongings after his death, and they came up with a great solution (a great solution for them anyway). Joe’s parents were acquainted with another couple, a couple who happened to have a son who was fascinated by electronics. A son who initially became very excited when he was offered ‘all of Joe Meek’s stuff’—very excited until he actually saw the pack-rat den. There were four rooms stacked to the ceiling with totally worthless junk, which Joe had promised to repair for people and just thrown in there in heaps—mostly broken radios and televisions—which had to be hauled away, smashed up, and burned. Some windfall. It was more of a total pain, actually.

This screwdriver was the only useful item in the lot.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Bomb Detail

Musician: The green wire. It's the green wire.

Engineer: Are you sure?

Musician: Yeah, I'm really sure. It's definitely the green one.

Engineer: OK...

Musician: NO!!!! WAIT!!! NO!!! STOP!!!! It's the blue wire! THE BLUE WIRE!!!

Engineer: The blue wire. Are you sure this time? Absolutely sure? The blue one?

Musician: Yeah. Totally. Really sure it's the blue one.

Voice of Reason: What if, just for the sake of neatness, you pulled the patch cables out when you're done with them so you won't get so confused? Wouldn't that make life easier?

Engineer: Nah. I like it that way. Job security, you know.

Musician: (barely audible, off-mic) The what? Key of C? But...but...I'm a guitarist. Can we do it in E? Pleeeeease? Oh, come on! I'll have to re-tune! That does my head in.

Engineer: Did you say the red wire?

Friday, 13 November 2009


I can't pronounce that, but if I could, I'm sure it would be very frightening.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009


The good drummers need no further instruction. Charts? Phooey.

The good bass players play Rickenbackers and read French comix.

'Nuff said.