23 August 2011

Drawn Down from the Aether

          "I know about the phones. While our dad was upstairs broadcasting something to the world, and we were listening in, trying to find his frequency for his voice, his name, his call sign across our receiver, we would give up and go out into the snow around the neighborhood with a phone rigged with alligator clips so we could listen in on others' conversations. There's something nearly sexual about this, hearing what other people are saying to their lovers, children, cousins, psychics, pastors, debtors. I would hold the phone for my brother while he listened. He'd whistle when something good was going on, or something nasty.
          The Radio Amateur, However, Is Not A Voyeur. However It Might Seem.
          ...Some stations just broadcast numbers. The key to some code. Something of national importance. They beam streams of digits into the night. No other programing. No anger. No malice. No bereavement. Curiosity. Politics. Love.
          The Radio Amateur Is Sometimes Nosy.
          We would take down messages and numbers. We would write down frequencies and tones we found on the Internet. We would go through trash out back of the Michigan Bell facility for manuals and pages of codes and notes. Diagrams. Schematics. We accumulated quite a stash of operating instructions for phone equipment. We stacked them in the shed with the rotting paper on the floor, with the words hidden below the floor in bags. We surrounded ourselves in them. They were warm when left alone, like compost. They were warm when touched or burned."

-- Ander Monson, Other Electricities

* * * * * * * * * *

Robin Rimbaud, aka Scanner, talking to The Quietus about his former artistic em-oh back in the 1990s...

"I immediately saw the potential and intrigue of being able to access these private spaces and incorporate them into these exploratory soundscapes I was producing at the time. I was especially drawn to the fact that the recordings were so intimate, so clear, yet abstract in nature. One had to imagine who these people were you over overhearing, where they were, what kinds of lives they led, although the nature of their conversations often clearly explained this. [...]

Also at this time the chill out rooms in clubs were growing in capacity and my work was being played out there. This offered a very human aspect to digital techno music by incorporating the voice into the electronic atmosphere. It was partly about humanising something that was very difficult or 'other' to listeners at the time, so to use often difficult abstraction sound experiments alongside more recognisable human voices seem to make perfect sense, and could easily seduce the listener into sonic worlds they might not otherwise have experienced."

All of which proves newly relevant, as Rimbaud is interviewed about eavesdropping and surveillance in relation to the recent phone-hacking scandal in the U.K., and about the time News of the World approached him looking to buy some of his source material from him. Quite amusing and intriguing in parts. Full interview here.

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