Archive for October, 2007

Catching the radio wave

October 21, 2007

I have been infatuated with radios recently. The more of them I get, the more I want. Right now I have an AM/FM/VHF radio, an AM/FM/SW/VHF1/VHF2/UHF radio, and an AM/FM/SW/SSB/LW/MW radio. Sure the AM/FM bands are redundant, It’s mostly the other stuff I’m interested in. The last one is a digital PLL synthesized circuit radio; the Realistic DX-440. From what I can tell, this is the Pentax K-1000 of DXing. What is DXing? In short, it’s distance surfing for radio waves. The act of seeking out the furthest signal you can pull in. This may sound like a pursuit that would bottom out fast, but thats only if you don’t account for the constant change in weather (solar and otherwise) that affects what you can hear. For instance at a certain time of year, and maybe only for a day, you can pull in Radio Free Mongolia (totally made up) due to the weather condistions being just so.

As you can see, I’ve been nerding out again.

Funny thing is, due to the fact that I don’t have a nicer antenna (the bigger the better as with just about everything) the Realistic (my nicest radio) doesn’t pull in quite as interesting content as my no name AM/FM/SW/VHF1/VHF2/UHF radio. Lately it’s really been the VHF bands that have been interesting. Now you any be thinking… VHF, that’s TV isn’t it? Well… yes, but it’s a lot of other things too, like CB and Walkie talkie systems. I’ve heard a lot of odd broacasts, consisting of little more than… KSSCHT… Charlie, Baker, Washinton… KSSCHT!!! What are they??? I have no idea! I guess that’s what makes them so intriguing.

Today I got a similar and interesting one that consisted of some of those words-as-letters calls, and numbers too. A whole mass of people, some coming through loud and clear, and others way back submerged in fuzz. I had no idea what I was hearing. After listening to it for about 2 hours though, It finally dawned on me… it’s control towers and pilots! I’m guessing from the local international airport. Ok, so it’s not as cool as the Lincolnshire Poacher (what is?) but it was interesting none-the-less. I thought I could use it for something, so I recorded it for about 39 minutes and edited it down (lots of dead air) to about 12 or so. Here it is:

- Air traffic

If anyone checks this out and know it to be something different than what I believe it to be… please let me know.

Look out for more shortwave audio, there are some AMAZING sound floating around out there. I’ll post more soon.

Noise Removal Music

October 8, 2007

I have found through the course of my musical explorations, that one of my favorite musical experiences is the finding of music in unusual or almost non-musical places. Given the content of this blog that may sound like an understatement, however a good bit of the content of this blog involves modifying the perception to receive noise as music, and what i am talking about today is actually bending noise into something that comes closer to resembling music in the more agreed upon sense.

One of the ways this can be done is by applying modern technology in a process which in some way strips away layers (amplitude, time, pitch) of sound to leave other sounds and patterns which could not possibly have been heard previously. many devices are adept at this form of alchemy today with varying degrees of success. Reverb for example (as most prominently evidenced by Alvin Lucier in his piece “I am sitting in a Room…”) can be applied to mold sound in such a way as to exaggerate certain resonances and bestow as sort of “smoothing” effect that can make sounds appear to have a more “musical” quality. I find that it can be possible to apply very simple repetitive processes to almost any auditory content to distill from it sounds which are wholly alien, but very musical.

One such process in which I find endless enjoyment, is the application of the “Noise Removal” feature in the computer application, Audacity. Audacity is a simple sound recording program with very basic sound editing features. I find it mostly useful for compression and normalization, but having spent some time with it, I have experimented with many effects produced by “over tweaking” it’s various sound filters.

What is great about the noise removal feature in Audacity, is it requires you to define what you consider noise. Then using an algorithm, it dutifully chews through your chosen audio and removes it. While I have never used this tool for it’s prescribed purpose, I can say that it produces very interesting effects when applied to almost any component of any sound, specifically ones with a high quality of noise.

While editing the audio for my “Cymbal Ringer” post I rediscovered the noise removal featured and thought it could be interesting to apply it that the hailstorm of noise contained in that audio. After some tweaking of the noise definition and noise removal density features, I found that it was possible to pretty much zoom in on the shifting overtones in the rush of distorted cymbals I had created. The initial result sounded like a highly sped up chamber orchestra, so next I applied a time stretching function to give the notes produced in the audio more room to breathe. I went back and forth between those two filters, until I found what I was looking for.

The resulting audio sounds like a chance composed piece for Glass Harmonica. It has an arhythmic, lurching quality, that somehow seems to work perfectly with it’s odd but beautiful harmonic structure. When I first heard it I was floored. It took no effort on my part, no bending of the perception to accept this as music. It even sounded like something I would own! It’s a fantastic idea to think that there is such interesting music that could be hiding away in any sound. Just existing as if composed my nature itself.

Enjoy!

- Noise Removal Music


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