Tag Archives: Sound

Cosmic Siren

I prefer the back with the triumphant statues

Back cover of said album.

I’ve got the ancient hard-drive-based iPod on shuffle, and it just played Space is Deep by veteran cosmic travellers Hawkwind, off their 1972 album Doremi Fasol Latido. It reminded me of my brother’s early efforts in circuit bending.

Circuit bending” is the practise of taking a piece of electronics capable of making a sound, and then messing with it so it makes a different sound. Some may say the new sound is a hideous cacophony. I say no.

The opening of the song has some spacey babbling synths over the gentle acoustic guitars. When I was a kid, I had a toy “laser gun”, which lit up and made a noise when you pulled the trigger. The noise could be changed by twisting a knob on the side, and Si noticed that you could make the noise sound quite a lot like the early synths on the record. Literally minutes of fun ensued.

OK, not really much circuit bending – but it is amazing to think that some crazy huge modular synth used by the band in 1972 could be reasonably emulated by a plastic toy less than ten years later. Almost wish I still had it. There’s probably an app.

While we’re talking about cosmic stuff and comic-book imagery, I’m going along to the io9.com meetup at San Francisco’s Borderlands¬†bookstore and cafe this evening. Should be fun. I shall report.

You Will Feel The Need To Vomit

OK, so the possibility of nuclear destruction our friend the atom, slow or fast, is bad enough, but how about the possibility of sonic destruction?

Hawkwind discussed it in their chilling classic, Sonic Attack. Well, I say ‘discussed’, I actually mean recited a tract of Moorcock apocalyptic barminess over a backing of overdriven synth noodlings and feedback. Effective in headphones, while lying on the floor in the dark, brain stewing in acid, or so I’m told…

The US military have long had an interest in so-called ‘non-lethal’ acoustic weapons. But some people believe other research looked into, shall we say, non-non-lethal applications. But they’re just nutters and crackpots surely?

Perhaps not. During that wellspring of negative creativity, The Cold War, accidental discoveries were made which brought the possibility of a functional, and truly terrifying, sonic weapon into range. French scientist Vladimir Gavreau’s experiments nearly killed him and his fellow researchers, the ‘infrasound’ of about 7Hz produced by their apparatus coming close to destroying their bodies from within.

As well as the physiological effects of unusual sound, the psychological effects should not be ignored. I used to share a house with a couple of girls when I was at college. Sound good? It wasn’t. One of them had the CD single of ‘Dreams’ by eye-hiding cod-soul warbler Gabrielle. It was the only CD she owned, and she set it to repeat. And repeat. In those weeks, I knew how Manuel Noriega felt.

And finally, what about the subconcious? What about the sentient? What about a sound, or a piece of music, that wants to live? That wants to propagate itself, through whatever channels it can, before becoming the only sound in existence? Impossible, you say. Nonsense, you sneer. Well, laugh now, because The Human League’s The Black Hit Of Space is waiting in your record collection…

“I knew I had to escape. But every time I tried to flee, the record was in front of me.”