Disquiet Junto Project 0546: Code Notes

This week’s project was proposed by @GlennSogge. We’ve done projects along these lines previously. The 50th Junto project, way back in December 2012, asked participants to “Encode a word or phrase in Morse Code and employ that as a track’s rhythm.” Another example, the 454th project, back in September 2020, instructed to “Encode the name of someone you love into a piece of music.” This week’s project is more broadly stated, and perhaps will benefit from the topic of messages encoded in music having been circulating of late, thanks to a Wired article that Glenn shared with me — more on which below.

These instructions first popped up at disquiet.com/0546 (scheduled to do so automatically) shortly after 12:10am Pacific Time on June 16, and then at twitter.com/disquiet a little further along (same). I was asleep at the time. The email containing those instructions went out via tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto later in the morning (after I woke up), and then I posted them here.

Each Thursday in the Disquiet Junto group, a new compositional challenge is set before the group’s members, who then have just over four days to upload a track in response to the assignment. Membership in the Junto is open: just join and participate. (A SoundCloud account is helpful but not required.) There’s no pressure to do every project. It’s weekly so that you know it’s there, every Thursday through Monday, when you have the time.

Deadline: This project’s deadline is the end of the day Monday, June 20, 2022, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, June 16, 2022.

These are the instructions that went out to the group’s email list (at tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto):

Disquiet Junto Project 0546: Code Notes
The Assignment: Make music that includes a secret message.

Step 1: This project was suggested by Glenn Sogge, informed by a widely circulated article about using music toward the end of the Cold War to encode information. Give it a read:

https://www.wired.com/story/merryl-goldberg-music-encryption-ussr-phantom-orchestra/

Step 2: Borrow, adapt, or create a means to compose music that includes coded information.

Step 3: Record a piece of music using the approach you decided upon in Step 2.

Step 4: When uploading the track, be sure to detail the approach you employed, and how you did so, and the message you encoded.

Eight Important Steps When Your Track Is Done:

Step 1: Include “disquiet0546” (no spaces or quotation marks) in the name of your tracks.

Step 2: If your audio-hosting platform allows for tags, be sure to also include the project tag “disquiet0546” (no spaces or quotation marks). If you’re posting on SoundCloud in particular, this is essential to subsequent location of tracks for the creation of a project playlist.

Step 3: Upload your tracks. It is helpful but not essential that you use SoundCloud to host your tracks.

Step 4: Post your track in the following discussion thread at llllllll.co:

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co: https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0546-code-notes/

Step 5: Annotate your track with a brief explanation of your approach and process.

Step 6: If posting on social media, please consider using the hashtag #DisquietJunto so fellow participants are more likely to locate your communication.

Step 7: Then listen to and comment on tracks uploaded by your fellow Disquiet Junto participants.

Step 8: Also join in the discussion on the Disquiet Junto Slack. Send your email address to marc@disquiet.com for Slack inclusion.

Note: Please post one track for this weekly Junto project. If you choose to post more than one, and do so on SoundCloud, please let me know which you’d like added to the playlist. Thanks.

Additional Details:

Deadline: This project’s deadline is the end of the day Monday, June 20, 2022, at 11:59pm (that is, just before midnight) wherever you are. It was posted on Thursday, June 16, 2022.

Length: The length is up to you.

Title/Tag: When posting your tracks, please include “disquiet0546” in the title of the tracks, and where applicable (on SoundCloud, for example) as a tag.

Upload: When participating in this project, be sure to include a description of your process in planning, composing, and recording it. This description is an essential element of the communicative process inherent in the Disquiet Junto. Photos, video, and lists of equipment are always appreciated.

Download: It is always best to set your track as downloadable and allowing for attributed remixing (i.e., a Creative Commons license permitting non-commercial sharing with attribution, allowing for derivatives).

For context, when posting the track online, please be sure to include this following information:

More on this 546th weekly Disquiet Junto project – Code Notes (The Assignment: Make music that includes a secret message) – at: https://disquiet.com/0546/

More on the Disquiet Junto at: https://disquiet.com/junto/

Subscribe to project announcements here: https://tinyletter.com/disquiet-junto/

Project discussion takes place on llllllll.co: https://llllllll.co/t/disquiet-junto-project-0546-code-notes/

Image by Wapcaplet, used (text, color added) thanks to a Creative Commons license:

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Enigma_rotor_set.png

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The prompt brought to mind the Solfa Cipher, which converts text to MIDI.

I’ve entered into it a few journal entries and then set those as clarinet, organ and bass.

The drums were recorded last year, but I like the butterfly shirt as a symbol of transformation in this video.

The title ‘Backstairs’ was offered by Google as a synonym for ‘clandestine’ but isn’t one with which I’m familiar.

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The project is now live. The email went out, as well.

Long time, no time for disquiet… But inspired by this weeks prompt, I constructed a small piece of music/sound as a vehicle for a very, very simple hidden message - using a combination of the “German Method”, Morse Code, cutting up with ciphers and, finally, the 70’ies “Reverse Backtrack” message.

(Inspired be the prompt, I learned more about these Steganographic methods in the excellent talk about hidden messages in music by Scott Fradkin in this video youtu.be/gLXqZVHrFa4 )

The message itself is thus encoded in the notes being played, in the beat as morse-code (BD = short, SD=long) as well as in actual my own voice, obscured and reversed. Notes are cut up using Sound Toys Tremolator - and (most of) the instruments are using presets (sorry!), where the name contains letters from the message. On the reversed voices, a Sound Toys Crystallizer preset called “BackTrack Delay” is used to complete the confusion.

And the message? Well, inspired by Schumann encoding his own name as SCHA - “Es” (E-flat), C, H (B-natural) and A - leaving out characters for which there are no notes - my message is both a “German” encoding of my own last name (Wagner) as well as a concept that is creeping up on me with worrying haste…
“a g e”.

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The first grouping of Morse Code I learned in the boy scouts as a young lad were EISH TMO and then, of course we learned SOS (Save Our Ship) the first message received by a radio operator aboard the sinking Cunard liner, the SS Slavonia on June 10th, 1909 involved in a wreck of the Azores. The Morse Code tracks were recorded using an 2004 Electrocraft Photon Box, and the backing tracks were a djembe and a 1968 Ampeg AMUB-1 fretless bass guitar

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Hey All, Cool prompt. Very good exercise for getting out regular kind of musical ideas and melodies.
I went to Morse Code Translator | Morse Code World and translated a simple message. I pitched that down to a bass tone and used midi convert into arturia modular a few times, added a beat. I also added some vocal lines that were jibberish.
I liked what happened when I changed the tempo. The original was recorded at 157 bpm but it goes down to 20 and back up to 90 at times.
Since I was a kid I have been a fan of PBS Mystery something about the animated intro I loved. I am really into the English detective shows. The set and the acting are usually very good. The murder plots are absolutely ridiculous though. I am currently enjoying the Ipcress Files which has a great retro look to it.
Hope all are well.

Peace, Hugh

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I decided against steganographic tools or an alphabet-into-scale scheme and went for a simple morse code (yes, me too… - and thanks to this text-to-morse-MIDI-tool). So at the end of the day this is mainly security by obscurity.

There are two text messages inside the music and most effort went into making it difficult to even recognize the morse codes, so they are splitted up, hidden behind scales, sounds, noises and apparent significance and there is never a moment where all needed sound information is given at a time. On the other hand there are hints to find the looping points of the multiple morse codes.

I don’t know if I would be able to extract the message now, but I’m pretty sure it’s extractable. The hidden secret is: “This contains an encrypted message.” and “Here are the secret missile codes.”. The missile PIN code for the nuclear end of the world itself is hidden in another attribute of the track, which unfortunately may be the easyiest to … measure.

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I really enjoy the energy in your code piece!

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Hi all. Fun Junto :slight_smile:
Music things radio music (suggested audio) banks are the key to unlocking the hidden 5 digit numeric code.

The accompanying melody is from Norns script Krill

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The project playlist is now rolling:

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There’s a message coded into the kick drum track. Imagine a piano roll consisting of 1/4 note divisions. If a kick falls on that beat then the cell is filled, no kick the cell remains blank. Arrange this piano roll into a 16x10 matrix and you’ll crack the code.
The kick pattern was also run into an arpeggiator and Boolean gate then routed to a Mother 32 and a Neutron to provide some backing.
After going through that I feel embarrassed to reveal the message, it’s political and impolite but sums up everything that saddens me;)

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No comments.
Okay… one comment. A MIDI-version :smile:
m0r53 c0d3 (disquiet0546).mid (10.5 KB)

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Impulsive dancing friend

The track contains the phrase “share your merits” encoded in morse.

Made with NI Maschine+

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Long time since my last post! Just finally took some time to rearrange my music area and get my gear fired up for the first time since winter, and felt inspired by this prompt.

So, my first thought when I read this prompt was to think about how to make a musical Scytale, which was an encoded strip of leather with letters branded on top of it. It would only be legible if someone had the proper wooden form to wrap it around. I had so many thoughts about how you could make an audio scytale - maybe a vinyl record that needed a particular needle to transmit a message; a tape loop that only transmitted the message if played back on a particular machine. But all that was a bit outside my creative capacity, unfortunately.

Still, I wanted to make a piece of music that only had an easily decipherable meaning on certain pieces of equipment, so I tried to do that on my Digitakt/Digitone. I “encoded” my message in the step sequencer of the track by using a 32 step sequence and treating each of the first 26 steps as one letter in the alphabet (step 1 is “A”, step 2 is “B”, etc). Each loop through the sequence, whichever step was triggered on the “cypher” track would represent the letter being encoded. I signaled that the word was complete by using the “retrigger” on step 29, which is past any possible letter position - like a “STOP” in Morse Code, kind of.

It isn’t easy to hear the “message”, but it is fairly easy to decipher if you are looking at the sequence on the Digitakt. I used trigger conditions to determine the order that the “letters” were played back in, and you can clearly see which step is played on the first, second, third, and fourth loops. You can possibly hear the message, if you pay very close attention - Starting on the first loop, the Clave (backed up by the kick) are playing on the “H” (9th step); “E” (5th Step); “L” (12th Step); and “P” (18th Step) before the message ends on the fourth loop, and starts again.

It would also be possible to put steps in without triggering any sounds, thus making the message “invisible” in the music, but hypothetically visible if someone transferred the project over to their own Digitakt - but I thought that it wouldn’t be especially fun to hide a message that it was literally impossible to hear…

Overall, pretty happy with how this came out - I’m a bit rusty on these machines as I haven’t really used them in a few months, but I’m glad just to make something!

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This is a tough one. I was quite sure I’d want to use a substitution alphabet, and also which word to cypher: “DACHSHUND”, a cypher seed in June’s premium story “Codename: Sugarplum” of the browser game “Fallen London”. (A nice coincidence that I restarted this game after years and in the same week the Junto is about the same topic as the premium story: cryptography. It is a coincidence, right? Right …?)

I had to contemplate a while which “spelling” to use. I finally decided on the German notation – since I’m a native speaker; “DACHSHUND” is a German word; and “DACHSHUND” has a lot of ‘H’ and no ‘B’. So my C major octave is spelled C-D-E-F-G-A-H-C, not …A-B-C. (Don’t ask why; it has to do with the similarity of mediaeval ‘b’ and ‘h’ letters and never quite made sense to me, especially since ‘B flat’ becomes ‘B’ in German notation, so the chromatic octave is C-bD-D-bE-E-F-bG-G-bA-A-B-H-C. “B-Dur” is “B flat major”, “H-Dur” is “B major”. It’s complicated and prone to error.)

Back to topic: So I only had to find substitutions for S, U, N. Now, the easiest solution would have been to just go up in octaves until all 26 letters have been replaced. So, if we’re starting at A3:
N=G5
S=E6
U=G6

This solution didn’t strike me as particularly elegant. First of all, I’d need two Gs in different octaves; and the second part of the motif would be in a very high pitch. So I thought about adding chromatic notes: After my A-G I added the missing A#, C#, D#, F#, G# which allowed to use only two octaves (plus 2 notes of a foudrth) to map the whole alphabet, from A3 to H5 (=B5). Now ‘Dachshund’ translates to
D4-A3-C4-H3-G5-H3-C#5-H4-D4

I tried using E-Flat (“Es”) as “S” like @PopGoblin did (nice track!), but it didn’t stick.

In the end I added a little high-hat beat, morsing my Dachshund’s name. Unfortunately, DACHSHUND as well as SUGARPLUM have 9 letters each – 8 would be much easier to implement.

I fear this explanation might be more enjoyable than the actual track, but here goes:

Enigma Cover photo: Mauro Sbicego / Unsplash

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Letters chosen by rolling a dice.
Morse code intro eg. : da-da di-da
Morse code theme: da-da -it da-da-da

track with generative elements using the Torso T-1 seq. Sounds from EMU Vintage Pro

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hello everyone,

i reused an idea from last week, using morse code to generate drum patterns, by quoting one of my favourite phrases from wallace stevens (“sad men made angels of the sun”)

then i remembered a conversation i’d had with my brother many years ago - about using telephone numbers to generate guitar riffs (each numeral in the telephone number corresponding to a fret on the guitar)

so, i used our old phone number to generate a bass line, rhythm guitars, and two glitched leads.

i put the second lead guitar (which starts at 32s) through Arturia’s Tape MELLO-FI to make it sound like it might be coming out of an old telephone…

thank you,

htnc

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like that. immense sounds all around.

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I think the playlist is up to date, but if I’ve missed your track, let me know. I usually update the playlist once a day, in the morning over coffee:

Hello Junto,

This is my very first contribution to the project, it is wonderful to have found this community.

My contribution is a track called Bombe. It is named after Alan Turing’s machine of the same name which was built to break the code of the Enigma Machines during WWII. I found a video of one of the current replicas in operation, and sampled some of its noises.

Also, as is custom I’ve used some morse code to convey my own message inside of the song. It occurred to me in the sleepy hours of last night that numbers stations would have been a perfect addition, which I opted not to use for timeliness’ sake.

It’s been wonderful listening to the way that others interpreted the prompt, and I look forward to the prompts and subsequent contributions in the future :slight_smile:

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