absolute value of noise
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Republic of the Southern Cross
A "double album" by Absolute Value of Noise © 2014.

This is a collection of pieces created with my ELF (extremely low frequency radiation) rig. I mix the sounds of the ambient magnetic environment with broadcasts from two ELF transmitters. Some of my fans have compared these pieces to science fiction soundtracks. The sounds aren't as clean as the feedback in "Forbidden Planet" or the Theremin in the original "Star Trek" series. I like to think of the ELF noise as the soundtrack for something more gritty - perhaps "Solaris", or Valeri Briusov's "The Republic of the Southern Cross" (written in 1907) - a story about a fictitious and doomed social democracy located at the South Pole.


You can listen to this album on Bandcamp


Track One (23:01): Resonant ELF plays with radio feedback between two large magnetic coil antennas. I built a feedback system between an ELF transmitter and the receiver. Small movements in the receiver coil create artifacts that resonate for a while and then disperse. Resonant ELF was made for Art's Birthday (January 17th) 2010.


Track Two (21:15): Café ELF plays with magnetic radiation recorded at Solder & Sons (a local cafe and bookstore). The "rhythm section" in this piece comes from a small but powerful electric heater nestled up against the bookshelves. Solder & Sons was located at Cordova and Main Street in Vancouver, from 2007 - 2013. Café ELF was made for Art's Birthday (January 17th) 2012.


Track Three (21:23): Magnetic South. Living in Canada, the word "south" is often synonymous with the Sun. South is the place where light and warmth come from. I set up the ELF receiver, pointed it at the sun at different times of the day, and made a series of short recordings of the resulting radiation patterns. The sounds are a blend of local and distant magnetic mutterings that resemble a science-fiction movie soundtrack from the 60s or 70s. This is the piece that I imagine to be the soundtrack for "The Republic of the Southern Cross". Magnetic South was made for Süden Radio - a project produced by Radio Papesse, August to September, 2013.


Track Four (20:18): Gravity Rising. There's a trick I do with the antennas, where the focus of the receiver and transmitter is pointing down to the center of the earth. What you hear is a rumble and a rising - as if a strange flying saucer is lifting up, rising out of the depths of a chasm and moving off into deep space. Recorded live May 2+3, 2014. Gravity Rising was streamed for Art's Birthday (January 17th) 2015.


ELF is electro-magnetic radiation that occurs in the audio spectrum (20 Hz to 20,000 Hz). The ears pickup sound in this frequency range, but only from physical waves in the air or other mechanical medium. We are constantly surrounded by a world of radio-waves that oscillate in this range, but we have no direct way to sense them. "Natural" ELF radiation is caused by phenomenon such as solar-flares, the aurora borealis, and lightning storms. In populated areas, this natural radiation is mixed with and often obliterated by the noise of power-lines, transformers, and fold-down from higher frequency transmitters (radios, computers, monitors, cell phones, neon signs, anything electronic).

A circular ELF receiver is directional, and in a particular performance space, the ELF fields can be mapped by the musician through the act of turning the antenna and moving it through space. The antenna becomes an odd musical instrument that pulls hidden sounds from the ether. The ELF receiver picks up the invisible byproducts of electronic technologies, letting us access the barrage / mess / spam / scattering of magnetic radiation in a direct sonic and visceral fashion. It deconstructs the utopian or idealist view of beautiful "enabling" communications technology and exposes the fact that this technology impacts the world in ways that many users never see or experience.

A magnetic field ELF transmitter is similar to the receiver. By feeding sound into the circular antenna through a simple amplifier, one can create a magnetic presence that is louder then the background radiation. The quality (or fidelity) of this type of transmitter is unusual in that the low frequencies come through in a very clean and crystal clear manner without harmonic distortion, while higher frequencies tend to mix with spurious radio signals in the air.



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