In 1973 the BBC Enterprises of London, England released the ninth vinyl album in their series of Sound Effects, compiled and edited by Rosemary Davis. It is unclear who actually recorded these sounds or who made them, as only vague descriptions are given and no actual author is credited. However, it is stated: "Copying Sound Effects in this record for use in conjunction with amateur plays or films is permitted." Around 1981, at age 16, I acquired a record much like this from my local record shop in Moers, Germany. It was in the bargain bin. As I put it on the record player, I imagined a large systematic composition made from all of the 37 recorded sounds, strongly influenced by John Cage's "Roaratorio" (1979), which organized environmental sounds recorded in Dublin, Ireland via John's I-Ching random operations. But, as everybody knows, being a teenager really sucks, because you never get what you want, even if you try sometimes. What I ended up materializing with my UHER Royal Deluxe tape machine was different from what I had envisioned, because even if I had all the technology of 1982 at my disposal, I did not possess the algorithmic knowledge yet. Such is the hubris of youth. Luckily, as I got older, I got smarter at hiding my modest mathematical abilities under the mantle of a utopian science. Even so, it took me 33 years to finally find the secret formula that would yield "Reasons for Living in the English Countryside". This has to do with the Number 9 and my understanding of time, best described with Comstock's and Einstein's thought experiment on the relativity of simultaneity. Imagine one observer midway inside a speeding traincar and another observer standing on a platform as the train moves past. Now a light flashes midway inside the speeding traincar. The two observers will see the light in a different order, depending on the motion of the observer. There will be a delay. What events happen at the same time depends on this motion of the observers relative to each other. According to the special theory of relativity, it is impossible to say in an absolute sense that two distinct events occur at the same time (if those events are separated in space). This is usually visualized with spacetime diagrams. What would this understanding of the relativity of simultaneity do to our perception of sound events, or what kind of music would this be? The first thing to realize is that the same sound event would never happen only once (in the absolute sense) but twice, once for each observer. This was known to me as my UHER tape machine could produce a tape delay and when experimenting with this delay effect I came to the same conclusion that Steve Reich demonstrated in "It's Gonna Rain" (1965). A track in the left speaker delayed to the right speaker will result in a 3rd "phantom channel" track in the center. This was as far as I could go, as I had no means to compose the 37 sounds which were between 10 seconds and 2 minutes long. In 2010 I stumbled upon this Sound Effects No.9 record in a thrift store in LA. It was again in the bargain bin, but by then all vinyl records were. Technology had changed in the nearly 3 decades that had passed, but the 37 sounds were still the same: Stuck in the early 1970s in England. This time I digitized the record without cleaning it, including all surface noises, bumps and whatever history had left behind in the grooves. Then I re-computed the UHER tape machine delay and, 6 years later after a visit to the English countryside, finally wrote statistical operations to see what would produce the required density that I heard first in 1982. In the end, it was starting on average 3.3 events per seconds within a 42 dB dynamic range and a triangular distribution of event durations between .4 and 20 seconds. As the work is 33 minutes and 33 seconds long this results in 6660 events. Like with all formulas in the utopian sciences, I can only speculate why these algorithmic operations produce the final proper effect including its numerological side effects. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, not only in the English countryside. To ensure that the composition stayed true to its origins in early 1970s England, I calculated how long it would have taken to produce it via overdubbing on then state-of-art analog tape machines: 1110 hours or 138.75 working days of 8 hours doing nothing but copying sounds on top of each other. That is over 4 and 1/2 months, no weekends. Luckily by 2016, the 1970s were over, and it took only 3 minutes of execution time on my old Linux laptop. This perfectly sums up why today we have "Reasons for Living in the English Countryside".
|Title:||Reasons for Living in the English Countryside|
|Sound Artist:||Frank Rothkamm|
|Visual Artist:||Holger Rothkamm|
|File Under:||computer tape music|