ssim-el

Track Title Length
Alarm on 7th floor 8:26
E'scape 24:44

[mp3 .zip archive / 60MB]

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Signals and interferences captured by an AM radio receiver have enchanted me ever since. It is certainly not a discovery of mine: it is at least since the sixties that radios have been used as sound sources or even as instruments in music compositions (such as Stockhausen's Kurzwellen, for example). Very soon, beginning with my first composition inspired by radio emissions, my first string quartet in 1988, I developed a couple of personal paths, the first one being the exploration of codes for automatic radio transmissions, a direction I followed mainly in instrumental music.

A different approach is what I reserved for electronic music: just listening to this invisible world of shadows, in which the experience of distance and permeability are so different from our everyday visual habits, was already so fascinating that I felt I wanted to freeze my listening sessions into acoustic memories. What is true for any soundscape is even more true for electromagnetic soundscapes: what you detect depends on so many variables, that often is a matter of grace or luck or, if one wants, serendipity to be on the right time, in the right space and in the right "electromagnetic" conditions to capture a signal that maybe unrepeateble. That's why EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) that are testimony of a life to come, according to certain people, are nevertheless exceptional and mysterious events, at least from an existential point of view. And the same is for the so called "number stations."

So, here I am in my home studio, trying to outline the electromagnetic geography of my environment through what reaches me from outside. On one side, as a voyeur, I try to peek other worlds... for example a mysterious intercom, probably from a hotel near my home as in the "Alarm on 7th floor" track, or strange coded transmissions from maybe the other side of the earth. On the other side the electromagnetic pollution inside or around my flat masks external signals and at the same time creates a new background, a variable drone that can become part of my recordings. I allow the recorded material to suggest the necessary operations, if any, to carve out the meaningful part of the signals from what I consider uninteresting: for example, separating the noise from the "stable" part in a recording, so as to balance them again in a more suitable way. To do this I use mostly the Audiosculpt software and the Sound Hack's "spectral extractor" tool, while I use Protools for mixing and balancing. To record signals I use a Sony ICF-SW77 radio receiver with a long wire antenna and a Sony Walkman Pro tape deck.

In 2005 I decided to start the ssim-el project inside the audiovisual collective otolab, based in Milano - Italy, in order to present materials and tracks related to my radio listenings. The first result is the EM cd, that you can find on the site of the Robotopera netlabel. What I present here is a new track plus a 25-minute mix with old material in a totally new context and new tracks.

"Alarm on 7th floor," as said, is based on the detection of internal communication presumably in a hotel or an office building: a "solo" operator is asking for help to face an unknown alarm on the seventh floor. The drone frequencies are taken from television electromagnetic interferences on the radio receiver.

"E'scape" is a live mix made by eight tracks. Two of them are different recording sessions of... just traffic noise from the street! I don't know the source; it must probably be a surveillance camera with microphone or a private house-phone. It's possible to hear the track alone from the start of the mix up to 4' 24". Please note that this beginning showing a spectral saturation around 200 Hz may introduce unpleasent vibrations in little loudspeakers (but not in heaphones).

Another interesting track is made from a detection of the interior of a private house by around 28 MHz... a security intercom? a bug? Here a child is talking with her mother. It is barely possible to understand what they are saying. The first fragment of their conversation starts at 15' 58".