Having only recently becoming aware of the existence of Shortwave Numbers Stations, I became interested with listening to online recordings and the use of them as samples. This is not an original concept, there are many tracks using some of the same stations on SoundCloud, but I wanted to try with underlying themes around the people involved. Who were they? Were all of the communications one way? Did they know each other?
The sender in some stark remote radio station, the receiver in a hotel room across the world with wooden floors, dialing in a frequency in the middle of the night, scratching numbers on a piece of paper. . .
A ‘Hotel Themed’ EP released in 2019. The original concept was to create eight to ten very short soundscapes each related to an aspect of either a physical hotel building or hotel atmosphere, and not to use any external voice samples. This morphed into a 4 track EP with likely the most intensive use of media samples of any previous project. There may be additional tracks added over time to this album if the concept evolves further.
Symodika #2 – Lake Agassiz
This is the second ‘Virtual Symphony’ project. As with Symodika #1, it is not intended to recreate physical instrument character. The goal is to create atmosphere with virtual instruments. In this project the main inspiration was the body of water Lake Agassiz, which, no longer exists. I live in an area once covered by it, and consider the lakes that remain in its basin as part of my home. The music tried to capture the ambiance of being near, on and above the water of such a massive impermanent lake.
Learning a bit from Symodika # 1 – for each movement, the same DAW template was used (although not all the same instruments) which gives it a more consistent feel.
Cloktacs & Cloktacs II
The Cloktac projects had tracks added over time during 2018. There are no global themes, the focus was to work with new virtual instruments to gain a better understating of sound design, automation and workflows. During Cloktacs , a transition was made from editing loops for drum and percussion tracks, to programming these sections using virtual drum machines and sampling instruments, starting with the three QSB tracks.
The track Tamarack and Pine is unique as it utilizes samples taken from a concert recording from the mid 1970’s. About half of the audio on the track is from that recording, some without any additional layers and minimal processing. More information is available on the track description on SoundCloud. Starting with obtaining permission to use the recording, the track took over 2 years to complete.
The three ‘QSB’ tracks (Valves A-C) are related. The structure of each track is almost identical…. an ambient soundscape evolves into a very simple chord progression and then is accompanied by a drum / percussion track. They all feature samples from 1940’s radio programming.
Phone Book Angels -This track contains samples from an electronic music project recorded in 1984. (The opening strings, alarm sounds @ 5:20, strings @ 6:35, synth loop @ 13:30, and the closing synth solo) The original project was recorded on 4 track cassette tape, so some TDK SA90 hiss remains…. The intent of Phone Book Angels was to create the images and atmosphere that was attempted 35 years ago, close that page, and discard any remaining magnetic tape.
A Telegram from Ronette Pulaski uses a sample of the song “Mairzy Doats” and was originally titled “Leland Palmer” in reference to a character from Twin Peaks. Over time the track changed to the point of view of a character that interacted with Leland, the unfortunate Ms. Pulaski.
The last track created within these projects is Radio Cloktac (Music in Wires). The track came together very quickly in December 2018. Some of the audio samples used were again created from online text to speech synths to have some fun with the Northfield Lenox website tagline and Cloktac ‘branding’.
The word ‘Cloktac’ is random… inspired by Kraftwerk’s ‘Kling Klang’.
The tracks on “The Insulators” were uploaded en masse as a complete album in October 2017. The album’s themes relate to how people insulate themselves from the cycle of life, with innocence, distraction by faith in technology and religion, or acceptance that life is ‘as it is’.
- The tracks took approximately 6 months to complete.
- As with many Northfield Lenox tracks, sound and audio samples are used in lieu of lyrics or singing, but the album does contain some limited voice recordings.
- The spoken voices in the track ‘White Noise Black Water’ were generated with an online ‘text to speech’ tool, not sampled from an exsisting source.
- The tracks Insulators I and II use original field recordings as sound and sample sources.
Additional information is included in the album description section on SoundCloud including a listing of samples and loops used.
Symodika #1 – Capacitance
This album was an attempt to create a symphony in four movements using all virtual instruments with no loops, stabs, or preset patterns. All of the ‘musical terms’ (Symodika, Sonika, Emonik, Synthet & Syntanik) are very loosely based on the structure of a classical symphony.
A series of tracks from 2016-2017. Each one started with a drum track created by cutting, processing and layering existing loops that were downloaded from various share sites.
Currently, the track “Relay” is the most played Northfield Lenox track on SoundCloud.
The last track “The Red Cage” is a rework of the track ‘”The Red House” which is on the “Depot” project.
Dominion & Assembly
Not so much “what would happen if”, but “what would it be like if it did?”
The track “Riverton” provided the idea to start to the Symodika project and is incorporated with different instruments and arrangement in the second movement – Emonik.
Three tracks from these EPs, “Sonia Betovna”, “Carrier Frequency” and “Wheatstone Bridge” have accompanying videos on the Northfield Lenox YouTube channel. The videos used images from the source material that the majority of the voice samples were taken from to construct the music tracks. Check out the Video section of the website for a few more details.
“Vocks” was the first track uploaded after moving from a free DAW platform to a commercial product.
Depot will continue to be a place to upload any tracks that have no other home.
The first three tracks were created in 2015 using the free DAW application “LMMS” with just a laptop and the included instruments. (Not even a MIDI keyboard…)
“Pop Cans” was a proof of concept, to see if I even understood what a DAW was, and whether the environment could do what I hoped it could. This was a first attempt at music production in well over 25 years.
The remix of the Deadmau5 track Snowcone was made using audio stems obtained legally…
The live track included here is only live in the sense that it was recorded in one take using some live keyboarding but mostly loops and samples that were loaded into the DAW. There was no audience!