MachineStalk – Shortwave Transmissions – Cities and Memory

Original sound recording – #80 NIST Radio Station Broadcast Sample 1980s recorded by Myke Dodge Weiskopf

“NIST Radio Station WWVH as it sounded in the 1980s. To contrast with other recordings of the WWVH station ID, note that announcer Jane Barbe does not say (her now-famous) “Aloha!” at the end of this version.

This recording was found at WWVH in 2015 on an undated cassette labeled “JB on Old Audichron TCG” (which stands for Time Code Generator, the device which reconstructs and plays back Jane’s voice over the air). As such, the precise broadcast year is not known, but it is consistent with the voice and broadcast format of the 1980s, until the introduction of the short-lived digital voice in 1991.”

When listening to the full 23 minutes of this recording at first it seems very repetitive, a combination of tones, silence, station idents and test numbers. Where would it lead me?

As with many of my tracks there are elements of memory attached to them, often as starting points and the starting point for MachineStalk was the date – 1980. The uniformity of the recording, the repetition, somehow led me to think about technology in the eighties and especially the rise of the computer and home computing. Of course like many, it was the idea of computing that took off, not necessarily actually having one at home (something we all seem to take for granted now). There was a computer room which looked a bit like the ones in this article that I ended up reading – A brave new world: the 1980s home computer boom – HistoryExtra but on further research it was the images of the huge banks of computers, server rooms with few people, reel to reel tape machines and data that became the basis of this track. 

I took the whole of the sound recording and stripped it of silence, repeating this process several times, so that I ended up with hundreds of tiny soundfiles. I then took these tiny pieces of sound and rearranged, overlaid, overlapped and transposed them onto individual  tracks. I only used the original soundfile #80 and used just basic processing which resulted in many machines chatting away, singing, music making, thinking….

In this age of personal computers, smartphones and the increasing development of AI, do machines talk to each other at night when there’s no one there? Are they plotting? Stalking us? Too much science fiction reading and watching on my part maybe but in my piece the machines have a midnight slumber party, chatting away into the wee small hours.

You can read and listen to the Shortwave Transmissions here