Disquiet Junto Project 0546: Code Notes

Conceptually to me this sounded close to the idea of sonification, so I first attempted to use a dataset from public medical data of the recent global thing we were all part of, but then I abandoned that partially, because it gave me what felt like a boring progression. Instead I took a theme from an older video game and let an ML set up on Google Colabs generate an accompaniment, in which I hid the original theme. I did bring back some of the original sonification stuff near the end. And, I added a dash of 80s vibe.

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IDEA
The words code and message reminded me of a recent news story that scientists came up with a new message to send into space (meant for aliens out there), telling all about humanity. That got me thinking about the original Arecibo message; an interstellar radio message carrying basic information about humanity and Earth, sent into space in 1974. And about the data (like sounds and images) we receive from the planet Mars and satellites so far away.

COMPO
I started with an E minor pentanonic scale. Once more I played with a generative tool and took a big chunck of that. The percussive/drum part felt very ‘krautrock’ or Michael Rother to me, so I went with that sound direction. I incorporated sound clips from NASA, such as the seismic activity on Mars, the passing of Jupiter’s moon Ganymede and the Cassini satellite. And thinking of hidden messages in a song, I remembered about so called binaural beats, sounds that would alter the state of your brain. So there’s a relaxing (“alpha state”) drone in there too. Lastly I added parts of the actual Arecibo message in audio form. It took two days, even less than I normally spend on these projects, so I guess it’s not up to my normal standards, but I hope everyone still appreciates the effort.

GEAR
DAW: Samplitude X3
VST: Arturia DX7, NI Kontakt instument, stock plugins
image: stock

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Father Yog-Astley by Smile Puppy

In the fall of 2001, I started creating pieces using Fruity Loops, like many people were doing. When I was working on this Junto in Ableton Live, using mostly the FM synth Operator, it kind of reminded me of those first few experiments and I decided to use a moniker I had given to these early experiments - Smile Puppy.

Recorded, mixed & mastered 18/19/20 Jun 2022 by Jim Lemanowicz at Blissville Electro-Magnetic Laboratories of Massapequa.

©2022 Jim Lemanowicz

Process notes
I decided to encode the names of cult leader “Father Yod” and YouTube legend “Rick Astley” via numerological nonsense via Letters To Numbers (online tool) | Boxentriq. Of course, I misspelled “Yod” as “Yog,” so now that’s part of the code too. Let’s call that “Jimcryption.” This was a working title as well.

25 15 7 1 19 20 12 5 25

Happy accidents
The title is accidentally a nod towards the decay of the analog/physical world and how the decay of the digital world equals data corruption, or something like that. Much of the work was done on Father’s Day, so that was kind of a happy accident. Also, “Yog-Astley” includes the word “ghastly,” so another nice accident.

Then divided by 7 and kept both the quotient and the remainder

quotients  - 3 2 1 0 2 2 1 0 3 
remainders - 4 1 0 1 5 6 5 5 4

Then used a purported East Asian notation, Jianpu. Zeros = rests. I wasn’t altogether too careful here but I liked the results, so perhaps more Jimcryption/Jimcorruption.

Solfège:  do  ré  mi  fa  sol la  si
Notation: 1   2   3   4   5   6   7

I am gonna go with F# for this

F♯ G♯ A♯ B C♯ D♯ E♯
1  2  3  4 5  6  7

So my tone rows are

A♯ G♯ F♯ R  G♯ G♯ F♯ R  A♯
B  F♯ R  F♯ A♯ D♯ A♯ A♯ B

Noting here that I could/should have written E♯ as just plain old F (7th scale degree) but it wasn’t part of my rows and hence I missed it.

I have 9 sets of two, so I went with 9/8, BPM of 86 with a “bridge” of half-time 43. Ended up varying the tempo throughout the piece.

Bottom row (by 3s)

  • accented the first beat of each dotted crochet 123 456 789.
  • used a lower octave
  • tonal with a percussive quality - FM marimba (Ableton Operator, “Metallic Noise Pluck” preset variation)
  • 8th notes, no swing
  • automated a few parameters in Operator

Top row (by 4s)

  • accented the first beat of each of these divisions 1234 5671 2345 6712 3456 7123 4567 1234 etc.
  • used a higher octave
  • tonal, FM pluck sounds (Ableton Operator, “Plastic Marimba” preset variation)
  • 8th notes, no swing
  • automated a few parameters in Operator

“Bridge”
Touched on some “reverse-steganography.” Processed 1 photo of Rick and 2 of Yod and 13 wives and ran them through CoagulaLight1666. This produced three short grainy sound samples that were then stretched to varying degrees using Live’s Tones or Texture modes. I then sliced each raw Coag track to MIDI and superimposed the marimba MIDI into each, leaving them roughly in time with the marimba part. After that I added a Nectar plug-in to each and pitch corrected to F# maj. Finally, the entire Coag group was passed through an Ableton Delay preset, “Full Range Spatial.”

Decided to grab some 9/8 drum ideas from a book I have - “3,5,7,9 Rock!” by Don Reid - and add these in to create sections. Used Live’s “Jazz Kit” drum rack, tweaked a bit. I tried to accent similar to the marimba pattern and lower the probability of playing the hits off-accent (23 56 89).

Continuing with previous experiments with iZotope’s mixing and mastering tools, I used Neutron Equalizer, Neutron Sculptor & Neutron Visual mixer during mixing and used Ozone 9 for mastering. I mastered it twice and chose the first attempt for this Junto.

Artwork: Penn Station, NYC 17 Dec 2010, by Jim Lemanowicz

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I chose three rather trivial sentences one could find in a love-letter.

For encoding I used the german keyboard-layout and counted the keys (only the keys with letters) from top left to right bottom. Then I “transliterated” the letters to the appropriate key-numbers. The numbers represent half-tone steps.
The secret messages are now played by two instruments:

The first instrument is the ARP-synthesizer playing 8th notes. These notes are played in the appropriate order of the message, the note 0 is inserted as every second note or with some other repetition - depending on the sentence. In two sentences words are repeated to fill the pattern.

The second instrument is the lead-synth. Here I subtracted 12 from every number larger than 19 to avoid a too large spread over the keyboard. I chose a rhythmic layout of the notes without respect of the words.

Thus the secret messages are played in two variants, but only one message at a time.

This project was inspiring, the created melody lead the way for the track to attain the form it finally got.

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It’s been a frighteningly long time since I last contributed to the Junto. But with a project like this, I just couldn’t resist!

Full details are on the Soundcloud page itself. In brief, every letter becomes a pair of notes/chords, e.g. the letter A is encoded as G followed by C. The end result can easily pass as the uninspired work of a beginning student of music. This brief piece spells out TALKING ABOUT MUSIC IS LIKE DANCING ABOUT ARCHITECTURE…

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Backmasking is a technique where a message is deliberately recorded backwards. Examples by popular artists include Electric Light Orchestra’s Down Home Town and The Beatles’ Rain. Some unintentional phonetic reversals may occur in certain songs, with some of the most notable examples being “Here’s to my sweet Satan” on Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven and “Paul is dead” on The Beatles’ Revolution 9.

To create my own backmasked text, I took this week’s prompt, namely “The Assignment: Make music that includes a secret message” and corrupted it through the website Text Obfuscator, resulting in the text “Warning code” (Read: Secret Word). After recording the text with my own voice and reversing it through Logic, I transcribed the reversed message to the best of my ability to run it through text-to-speech software, which replaced my own voice. The speech-to-text vocals were then layered over arpeggiated synth tracks and programmed wolf howls.

For fun, I also recorded some AI backing vocals, hence why you will hear two AI voices singing “bop shoo wop” midway through the composition.

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