‘Thwarted Histories of Electronic Music’ @ Institute for Danish Sound Archaeology salon, Copenhagen

Last week I gave a presentation titled ‘Thwarted Histories of Electronic Music’ at a special sound archaeology salon organised by the Institute for Danish Sound Archaeology as part of the Gong Tomorrow festival in Copenhagen, Denmark. There’s a long and digressive blogpost covering it on the main Miraculous Agitations blog.

My talk was about the pre-history of electronic music, but also acknowledged the ongoing dynamics that bring about thwarted histories in the historical continuum. Thwarted histories are discovered whilst scrounging across auctionhouses, second-hand bookshops, bins, and other venues at culture’s tail end – the histories I presented were excavated in this way… They included Johann Baptist Schalkenbach’s electrical music, Alfred Graham’s Victorian feedback device, the first electronic sequencer of 1925, and Delawarr Laboratories thought-to-frequency Multi-Oscillator. It has been an enduring source of surprise to me that these unknown episodes I’ve excavated have not found wider interest among publishers (I did self-publish a comb-bound edition of ‘The Magnetic Music of the Spiritual World‘ in 2015) and in the light of this I’ve come to theorise that ‘thwarted histories’ have an almost occult aspect wherein their essence of neglect can somehow persist into the present-day.  The question is: how can this thwarting force be grappled with?  Possible answers were touched upon during other talks at the salon…

Read an extended summary of the salon over at the Miraculous Agitations blog.

The Delaware Road : Ritual & Resistance trailer

The Buried Treasure label’s monumental project ‘The Delaware Road‘ returns this August, 2019. The multimedia extravaganza previously unleashed its haunted wonders within a time-capsule-like decommissioned nuclear bunker in 2017, combining folklore, science, theatre and magic (under the auspices of the shadowy ‘Corporation’) and of course there were plentiful sonic emissions! (Radionics Radio was among the Corporation’s worshipful, diffusing tones in the medical bay).

This year, the psychoacoustical-psychogeographical jamboree returns to a secret military base located just a dowsing-rod-wobble away from Stonehenge. ‘The Delaware Road: Ritual & Resistance’ will be jam-packed with thrills – tickets are now available here.  There will be an extraordinary collection of artists involved.

Buried Treasure released a teaser trailer which happens to be soundtracked by a Radionics Radio piece ‘Frequency Cluster’ (live at the Delaware Road) available on the label’s Creeping Cinquefoil compilation.

A line-up of the acts is viewable on the tickets page – surprise additions are expected! In a rare live outing, the as-was Sound and Music-sponsored Radionics Radio joins the happening with a special one-off electroacoustic microtonal diffusion (more details soon), once again bringing the Delawarr Laboratories radionic frequency-diffusion techniques to The Delaware Road…

The Wire #409 – Psyphonics – ‘Further Listening’

The latest issue of The Wire (#409) contains my article on ‘psyphonics’ – the idealistic practice of attempting to embed idea, emotion and ‘thought’ within sound. A blogpost over at the Miraculous Agitations blog gives a little background to the idea. The Wire article charts how this romantic concept survives and even flourishes within modernity’s rigours.

A newly formed Psyphonics Facebook group now exists for anyone wishing to explore the idea further and share related music/recordings.

Organised Sound – Alternative Histories of Electroacoustic Music – August 2017

My paper – ‘Failed Histories of Electronic Music‘ – appears in issue 2 (vol. 22) of Organised Sound.  It brings to light some electronic music precedents that have never received detailed attention, if at all.

The background of the ‘failed histories’ concept is given in a new blogpost over at my Miraculous Agitations blog – click here.  It raises many questions, including “why can’t I earn a living from my research?”

IKLECTIK Tuesday 13th June 2017: Extra Nights #2: Nicolas Collins + Oscillatorial Binnage

Oscillatorial Binnage will be performing at IKLECTIK tomorrow (13th June)! More details can be found on the Iklectik website: here.  There’s a Facebook event page here.  It forms the second in the series of Resonance Extra’s ‘Extra Nights’.

A posting over at the main Miraculous Agitations blog gives an idea of what to expect.

Here’s an impromptu behind-the-scenes photograph of us setting up for our rehearsal at the weekend:

Toby Clarkson, Fari Bradley and Chris Weaver

Nasca Octavian Paul’s Paulstretch

Oscillatorial Binnage play room tones

I’ve recently been editing a 2010 Oscillatorial Binnage performance of a piece titled ‘Variations for Rooms and a Tone’.  It features multiple strands of acoustic microphone feedback steered by injections of carefully pitched oscillator tones, and destabilised by various other subtle treatments.  The pitch of the feedback relates to the resonant frequency of the space(s).  Conceptually, it may not sound entirely original (it certainly owes some debt to Alvin Lucier who explored this terrain), but its originality lies principally in the choice of venue – every space having its own unique cluster of tones: a ‘sonic fingerprint’.  This particular 2010 recording was performed at a soon-to-be-demolished former bus depot in Neckinger, known as the Woodmill.  It has unusual resonant cubbyholes allowing for many shifts of resonance.

The editing has been slow owing to an obligation to ‘do justice’ to the old space.  Further complications involve the removal of countless footsteps, which would have to be removed via individual crossfades.

The most fascinating microphone/speaker feedback tones occur when the feedback has not yet stabilised, i.e. when the feedback tone is still ‘finding itself’ after the soundsystem is turned on.  Transitions between conflicted resonances are also very musical.  Yet these moments do not last long, and a way to cleanly extend these moments without affecting quality and pitch is sought.

One notable program comes to the rescue in such situations – a wonderful high-powered timestretcher by Nasca Octavian Paul.  It is called PaulStretch, and most people may have already stumbled upon its fruits in the “800% slower” music stretches on Youtube.  Those who aren’t yet acquainted with it are in for a treat – it allows for lusciously smooth timestretching (along with other treatments) and is specifically designed for long-duration stretches.  PaulStretch can extend a 15-second sound to one lasting over 475 billion years.


It has been used extensively on many unlikely sonics, such as Rick Astley and Justin Bieber hits, the late ‪Eduard Khil‬’s lyricless epic ‘Я очень рад, ведь я, наконец, возвращаюсь домой’ (aka Trololo), the Eastenders theme, and my own favourite, Jerry Goldsmith’s theme to the 1990 film Total Recall.  What initially seem like exercises in trollsome ridiculousness play out as astonishing ethereal meditations.  The beauty of Paulstretch is in its sophisticated algorithm where percussion and drum noise – which would usually become discordant metallic barking in bog-standard timestretchers – are rendered as luscious crashing waves, in keeping with a percussive nature.

It is a curious experience to play old chiptunes, MOD music and Amiga game themes through Paulstretch.  8-bit tones retain their familiarity, yet become uncharacteristically epic in proportion.   Other interesting experiences may be had by playing pure intonation music in Paulstretch.  For example, some of the more complex moments of La Monte Young’s ‘Well Tuned Piano’ – which itself is a long-duration piece of over six hours – become even more fascinating.  Some of the beat-frequency forming ‘cloud’ effects such as those heard on CD 4 of the 1992 Gramavision release benefit from Paulstretch treatment.  I won’t post any examples here, but the software is free and there seems to be a world of potential.  One commentator asks “could this be the start of a new age of music?”   It certainly offers a new viewpoint which can be at times awing to the point of unnerving.

Such clean timestretching is extremely useful for elongating hyperinteresting short sounds, such as the elusive miraculous agitations, and various bookophone flourishes.

Nasca Octavian Paul has also programmed such excellences as the ZynAddSubFX soft-synth and the HyperMammut Fourier transform tool among other things…