January 13, 2014

Numbers Stations


As a child I would turn the dial of the radio all the way to the left or right, beyond all the labeled stations that the dial pointed to and in that area (on the fringes) and between the static, could be found the sounds, not so random, but patterned and there would be the voices through the static that conjured up images of lone people far away in small metal buildings surrounded by antennae, probably out in some flat lands of dirt fields. These, I found, have been named "numbers stations."  When I tuned into the numbers stations, it was for the sole reason of getting that thrill of sensing something strange and mysterious "out there."  It was a secret joy, and for free. 


I would share the experience with my brother or younger sister and we would get "freaked out," haunted by the eeriness.  It had to do with a sense of alienation.  The voices and noises had a machine-like quality and perhaps they pulled at our inner developing wisdoms that people in the adult world often times do become machine-like and distant. 


What does this have to do with this project?  Everything.  These hard to define, fringe experiences are exactly what this video is about.  We all have our secret places or at least witnessed or sensed those secret places in others or in spaces or rooms or closets.  Much of this is the point of this project.  I tap into my secret places through my character and that act will resonate, or not, with others as they watch.


My character, (not named yet - Elmo?), listens to the numbers stations for no other reason than to be beyond the mainstream.  He wants to live in the fringe.  It is in this fringe that the bigger world seems to lay itself out and expose its underbelly  - something like that.


OFF DIAL - numbers station (the video)


The video to the sound was made only because I didn't want to post the sound alone.  I went around trying to find objects and drawers cluttered with old things and anything that filled me with that sense of distance and alienation in the human technological world. 


The sound is fabricated.  I designed the noises and had a friend count to ten and say "eighty" and "forty" and in an editing software, put these numbers repeated in random order with the noises in the background.  In the spirit of "low-tech meets hi-tech," the sounds were not generated through digital sound programs.  They were recorded using flapping paper and plastic in the wind and the thin sound was created by playing back through a recording device and recording again with another inexpensive recording device. 


I had first researched numbers stations recordings that were offered on the web (there is a 5 CD set of recordings put out by the Conet Project).  I wasn't interested in seeing if I could locate the one that I heard as a child because that would take hours, (besides, we are talking about numbers stations of the 1970s), but since I remember some of the feel of what I would hear I thought I would just recreate it myself (the pleasures of DIY).







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