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UN TUNE

CTM- FESTIVAL FOR ADVENTUROUS MUSIC & ART


16TH EDITION X BERLIN 2015

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UN TUNE

Introduction by Jan Rohlf

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UN-SOUND: SOUND, AFFECT & ALIEN AGENCY

By Chris Salter

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SOUND & ANCIENT SACRED PLACES

By Paul Devereux

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T TALK

Lorenzo Senni in conversation with Marc Schwegler

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& Remo Bitzi

AMBIVALENT SOUNDS AND SYSTEMS

Nik Nowak in conversation with Heimo Lattner

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ROUGH MUZAK- AFFECT & THE WEAPONISED

USE OF CLASSICAL MUSIC


By Marie Thompson

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THE HORIZON OF AN UNTUNED EAR

By Lawrence English

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SONIC ANOMALIES

An Interview with Eberhard Bauer

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SOUND IN MOTION: UNDERSTANDING SPACE

& Michael Schetsche

at Freiburg's Anomalies Research Institute (IGPP) by Annie Goh

Jakub Juhas in conversation with Lucio Capece

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ALWAYS HERE FOR YOU: ON ASMR,

AUTONOMOUS SENSORY MERIDIAN RESPONSE

LISTENING TO WETWARE CIRCUITRY-

SONIC EXPERIMENTATIONS AND ALGORHYTHMICS


By Shintaro Miyazaki

By Claire Tolan

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YOU DON'T KNOW ME, BUT I KNOW YOU

,VIRUSES, LIKE ART, NEED A HOST.

PREFERABLY A POPULAR ONE ...

By Annie Garlid

Virus painting by James Hoff

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A MEMOIR OF DISINTEGRATION

SONIC BEAMS- ON THE PERCEPTION OF

A project by Soundwalk Collective featuring Nan Goldin, Samuel

ULTRA-DIRECTED ACOUSTIC RADIATION

Rohrer, live visuals by Tina Frank, and excerpts from the writings

A conversation between Toby Heys

& Anke Eckardt

of David Wojnarowicz

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,,WHITE BROTHERS WITH NO SOUL .. - UNTUNING

INTERNAL: AUDINT (PHONOCCULTURAL STUDIES)

By Marc Couroux

THE HISTORIOGRAPHY OF BERLIN TECHNO


Interview with Alexander G. Weheliye by Annie Goh

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CREDITS

LISTENING TO
WETWARE CIRCUITRY
SONIC EXPERIMENTATIONS AND ALGORHYTHMICS* 1>
BY SHINTARO MIYAZAKI

Aesthetic experimentation with detected and amplified signals of moving particles, electrons, molecules, and other small objects carrying energy transformed into sound, vision, vibration, or feeling
create, under certain conditions, affective experiences of ''tuning in or out. In his essay, Shintaro
Miyazaki explores the history of tuning and un-tuning, or long-forgotten listening techniques for
understanding processes within all kinds of organic and non-organic circuitry, and excavates the
often-omitted significance of the telephone in such contexts.

In technical terms, >>tuning'' is the process of getting into a cer-

conceived by its inventors, Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail, as

tain state of resonance, and in electronics is related to so-

a visual coding system using dots and dashes, but was trans-

called >>tuned circuits." Tuning thus involves circuitry. In order

formed into an auditory practice as of the 1860s. Listening to

to get good reception, the circuitry of a radio receiver needs

the rhythm of Morse code made by a telegraph sounder was

to oscillate with the same frequency as the radio sender's car-

much more efficient than staring at marks printed on a roll of

rier frequency; the receiving circuit is tuned to the sending cir-

paper. Listening skills were soon developed and embodied by

cuit. A tuned circuit is usually only receptive to a specific kind

telegraph operators. They were the first to tune in to machinic

of signal, mostly a periodic, regularly changing oscillation at a

sound.

specific rate, determined by the circuit's elements (capacitor


and inductor). Tuning the A string of a violin means to evalu-

TUNING TO NERVE ACTIVITY AND SOLAR WINDS

ate, by ear, whether it vibrates as fast as 443 times per second

As early as 1878, physiologists were already listening to weak

or not. If the pitch of the violin does not match the pitch of the

voltage and current changes caused by nerve activity inside

tuning fork exactly but is very close, you can sometimes hear

muscles and other parts of the body. Not only were small bio-

beating frequencies.

electrical currents made audible, but listening to >>natural radio" became prevalent with the advent of the telephone and its

A.

THE TELEPHONE IS A TRANSDUCER

wired infrastructure. The sonic speculations by Thomas

While tuned circuits are only sensitive to their resonant fre-

son, the so-called assistant of Bell, are probably the first testi-

Wat-

quencies, the telephone as invented by Alexander Graham Bell

monies of an aesthetic of signal transmission. Watson may be

in 1876 is receptive to a broad range of periodic and non-pe-

the first person that listened to electromagnetic noise. Doug-

riodic signals. It is a transducer, a device that leads across in-

las Kahn, media and art historian of natural radio, writes: >>Wat-

put energy into output energy, for example acoustic waves into

son heard natural radio when the long iron telephone test line

electric current. While both are differing in kind, they are di-

acted unwittingly as a long-wave antenna. This was before an-

rectly related to each other.' 2) It is this direct, analogic linkage

yone knew what an antenna was or, for that matter, what elec-

of the signal flow, be it periodic or non-periodic, that allows a

tromagnetic radio waves were. [ ... ] The only reason that Wat-

transducer to be considered as a tuned circuit that is not only

son was the first person to accidentally hear these sounds was

sensitive to a specific frequency, but is tuned for a broad range

due to his privileged proximity to the right type of transducer:

of frequencies, rhythms, fluctuations, and all sorts of signals.

the telephone."' 3 )

SONIC EXPERIMENTATION

... AND MORE WETWARE

The process of revealing machinic as well as bodily, physio-

While the development of the triode or electronic vacuum tube

logical, affective, and somatic processes, signals, oscillations,

in the late 1900s provided the basis that transformed the tel-

and rhythms to human perception via sound - the process of

ephone and radio into mass media, new listening cultures in

sonifying the sonic - has a long history. Telegraphy was first

science, especially in neurology and electrophysiology, were

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being cultivated. In a scientific article from 1920, physiologists

cal model circuit, later called the Hodgkin-Huxley model with

at Harvard Medical School described methods using vacuum

symbolic resistors, capacitor, and voltage sources, enabled

tube amplifiers combined with >>telephone receivers in order

them to simulate the time-varying signal that comes close to

to I i sten to neu ra I activities. About ten years later, Edgar D.

the signal that other scientists were already listening to ten

Adrian, recipient of the 1932 Nobel Prize for Physiology and

years ago. In the 1930s and 1940s, the modeling of signal pro-

pioneer of neurology, describes the process of making audible

cesses with so-called equivalent circuits already had an estab-

the amplified potential changes of nerves with telephones or

lished tradition, most prominently in acoustics but also in other

loudspeaker as a way to learn something more.</ 4 ) This kind

fields of science and engineering. Electric oscillations as well

of auditory exploration is sometimes still practised as an im-

bioelectric signals and acoustic vibrations are equal in math-

mediate feedback method while probing brain tissues with in-

ematical terms, and can all be described by using equivalent-

vasive electrodes. In the late 1950s, during experiments with

circuit diagrams. Moving from acoustics to electronics was thus

the visual perception of a eat's brain, David Hubel and Torsten

merely an act of algebraic translation. Acoustic variables such

Wiesel, recipients of the 1981 Nobel Prize for Physiology or

as force, speed, displacement, mass, and elasticity were re-

Medicine, were looking at the visual stimuli the cat was watch-

placed by electric variables such as voltage, current, charge,

ing while listening to the activity of specific neurons in the eat's

self-induction, and capacity.' 6 l Signal processing in electro-

visual cortex. They found that some neurons rapidly discharge

physiology and acoustics became a matter of electronic com-

bioelectrical pulses when the eat's vision was stimulated by

munication, and thus of circuitry. Furthermore listening, tuning,

a moving screen projection of thick lines oriented at one an-

and un-tuning to electroacoustic signals became an important

gle, while other neurons responded best to other angles: Most

skill not only for acousticians but also electrophysiologists and

amazing was the contrast between the machine-gun discharge

engineers of media technologies.

when the orientation of the stimulus was just right, and the ut-

I MACHINE BODIES

ter lack of a response if we changed the orientation or simply

AFFECTS OF MACHINES

shined a bright flashlight into the eat's eyes.</ 5l Hubel and Wie-

Speech transmission in telephony was based on continuous

sel included the non-visual medium of sound in their experi-

signals, whereas the operation in order to connect two tele-

ments, but their famous 1959 paper Receptive Fields of Single

phone apparatuses was shaped by discrete impulses, switch-

Neurons in the Cat's Striate Cortex<< concealed their practice

ing, telegraphic signals, pure tones, and other electroacoustic

of listening, showing only the printable curve diagrams of the

signals. These were audible- sometimes by mistake and at oth-

recorded neuronal activities.

er times on purpose. The previously manual switching done by


female telephone or switchboard operators, who directly spoke

ELECTRIC OSCILLATIONS AS
WELL AS BIOELECTRIC SIGNALS
AND ACOUSTIC VIBRATIONS
ARE EQUAL IN MATHEMATICAL
TERMS, AND CAN ALL BE
DESCRIBED BY USING EQUIVALENT-CIRCUIT DIAGRAMS.

with their customers, was gradually replaced by machines as


of the 1940s. According to Bell System, the 1920s New York
Metropolitan area already consisted of 1.4 million telephones
and about 158 central offices, with operators serving up to ten
thousand lines from one office. Forty years later, more than 15
million telephones had access to nationwide dialing.
Digital signal processing in the 1920s, simply called signaling
and switching," came with the need to manage, control, automatize, optimize, and economize the many switching operations necessary for establishing a connection between two tele
phone users. The switch'1ng was done by relays, which not only

CIRCUIT MODELS OF WETWARE

made a deafening machinic noise of layered rhythmic rattling

Some years earlier, in the late 1940s, another duo of neurol-

sounds, but were also controlled by rhythmic signals; pulse

ogists, Alan L. Hodgkin and Andrew F. Huxley, were trying

trains emanating from the dial circuit of the telephone. Other

to make an equivalent-circuit diagram of the action potential

more tone-like signals were used in long-distance calling from

signal discharged by neurons of giant squid. This mathemati-

the 1950s on. Signaling and switching in telephony was audible

interface

~~
~terface
-\membrane

~ +---signal

Detectors by Martin Howse and Shintaro Miyazaki- prototype and final PCB.

because signa ling and speech were transmitted over the same

were caught p la ying with the phone system, some using the

wire. This was called in-band signaling. The transducer built

university's PDP-1 computer to search the lines. This machine

into the te lephone receiver acted like a microphone. It trans-

was not the first computer at MIT to make sounds. The TX-0

formed not only the human voice but also audible electroa -

is a precursor, for examp le . In an email in terview I conducted

coustic impulses, st range beeps, and other machinic sounds

with Peter Samson, who was a student at that time, he wrote:

into vol tage fluctuations. In the early 1960 s this latent vu lner-

,The TX-0 had a built-in loudspeaker, mostly to aid in debug-

abilit y was discovered by playful explorations of interested am-

ging programs. The loudspeaker was attached to one bit of

ateurs, tinkerers, and students in North America. Phil Laps-

the machine's accumulator register. Th e tones and patterns of

Exploding the Phone and historian of this often

sound it would make became familiar to the machine's users,

forgotten subcu lture of phone phreaks,'' narrates the story of

and could help determine whether a specific program was op-

ley, author of

Ralph Barclay, a young Washington State University student in

erating proper ly or not .<< Samson wrote a compi ler for the PDP-

Pullmann. In spring 1961 he made an electron ic device - lat er

1 as we ll , which simp l ified coding music with it . Notably, it was

cal led the blue box - that enabled him to communicate, con -

possible to p la y four tone s at once, which made it theoretically

trol, and tune into the telephone network's automatic switc hin g

possible to synthes ize two simu lt aneous tones that the phone

machinery. All of the required information was availab le via an

phreaks<< wou ld use for controlling the telephone network.

article published November 1960 in an issue of the

Bell System

Technical Journal, which he found in the uni ve rsity library. In the

COMPUTER MUSIC B EFORE ITS INVENTION

1960 s one cou ld pick up the telephone and make a free call to

Amplifier-loudspeaker setups connected to the circuitry of ear-

an operator (cal led the directory assistance) anywhere in the

ly computers, such as the one built into the TX-0 and prob-

US . By sending a 2600Hz tone before the operator could an-

ably the PDP-1 as well, were not unusual. Other famous com-

swer the call, one cou ld trick the machinic listening circuitry

puters w ith such circuitry were the UNIVAC-I, the CSIRAC in

built into the automatic switching system. By sending specific

Australia, and the Pilot ACE in England, as we ll as later ma-

combinations of two frequencies for each digit of the desired

chines such as the Pegasus produced by Ferranti Ltd., also in

telephone number you could dial any number in the US for free.

England. A working program had its characteristic sound depending on where the amplifier's input was connected, and the

TUNING INTO COMPUTERS

sound changed only when a fault was detected. Individual flip-

Messing around w ith the te lephone network soon became an

f lops in different registers, d iff erent data bus nodes, or oth-

intellectual playground for young engineering students. To-

er passages of data traffic could become sources for bleeps,

wards th e end of the 1970s, this microculture turned into a

pulses, noises, and other electroacoustic signals. Not on ly was

we ll -known subcu lture. More hi storica l evidence for epistemo-

passi ve listening to processes of computation very common,

logic al hacking in the early 1960 s is found in an article in the

but so was an active exploration o f the machine while listening

Mas sac husetts Institute of Techno logy (MIT)'s student ne ws -

to its rh yt hms. Ma c hine in st ructi ons and algorithms somehow

paper,

The Tech, titled ''Telephone Hacker s Active," and dated

20 November, 1963. The article de scribes how MIT students

became

algorhythms. *7)

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REPLACEMENT OF LISTENING SKILLS

ALGORHYTHMICS

While some students at MIT were playing with the PDP-1, Fer-

In order to understand how our current high-tech machinery

nando Jose Corbat6, a postdoctoral researcher at the same in-

is operating and what cultural, aesthetic, epistemological, and

stitution, was leading a team developing the compatible time-

critical aspects are involved with their dissemination, a concept

sharing system (CTSS). CTSS was a computer system that

I previously called algorhythmics might take a technologically

could monitor itself. It was an early version of what later be-

accurate and also creative position. While the term rhythm"

came known as operating systems. With the CTSS system, the

refers not only to aesthetics, sound, and living organisms, but

wetware of the chief engineer and operator responsible for the

also to sonicity, signal processing, modulation, fluctuations,

maintenance of the computing machines was replaced by soft-

and vibrations, the term >>algorithm<< refers more to computer

ware. Routine error detection and process monitoring, previ-

science, mathematics, statistics, formal languages, or logics.

ously performed by humans and human ears, was partly im-

By synthesizing algorithm with rhythm the neologism >>alga-

plemented into the functionality of computers. The computers

rhythm<< is born, oscillating between code and signal, between

could soon listen to themselves. Amplifier-loudspeaker setups

the symbolic and the physical side of computational media.

disappeared. At the end of the 1960s nobody was listening

Algorhythmics is thus a specific mental mode of tuning, a meth-

to the rhythm, noise, and melodies of data signals anymore,

od of research-creation and artistic research as practiced by

but rather reading signs and alphanumerical symbols on their

myself and others whose work is informed by the specific post-

screens. To put it provocatively: Reading, inspecting, and look-

digital interweaving of energy and information, of circuitry with

ing won over listening.

computation, and of symbolic manipulation with energetic processing. >>The algorhythmic<< is an extension of >>the sonic<< as an

UN-TUNING

overall category of signal flow, transgressing the limits of the

Operators disappeared long before the development of op-

musical and the acoustic with aspects of symbolic manipula-

erating systems in mainframe computing. Telegraph operators

tion, information, computation, and technomathematics.* 9 l

were subsequently substituted by tele-printers in the 1920s.


Since the 1950s, telephone operators were gradually replaced
by automatic switching machinery. Even the computer itself was

Shintaro Miyazaki is a researcher and lecturer at the Univer-

a replacement of mostly female mathematicians called comput-

sity of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland,

ers. Other fields touching on listening practices, media tech-

within the Academy of Art and Design, Institute of Experimen-

nology, operators, their disappearance, and their implementa-

tal Design and Media Cultures in Basel. He studied Media

tion into technology are, for example, the history of acoustic

Studies, Musicology, and Philosophy at the University of Ba-

location in aircraft detection, sound-ranging for artillery detec-

sel and completed his Ph.D. on the media archaeology of com-

tion, sonar, and radar.

putation and algorhythmics at Berlin's Humboldt-University in


2012 (under Wolfgang Ernst). Miyazaki has held fellowships

After a phase where the auralization of specific signals from

at Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart (composition), and at

the above-described Morse code, neural activity, natural ra-

the National University of Singapore, as well as lectureships at

dio, single neurons, switching machinery in telephony, or elec-

Humboldt-University Berlin, Kunsthochschule Berlin-WeiSen-

tronic computers, as well as the necessary cognitive skills of the

see, the University of Basel, and the Basel School of Design.

persons listening to these sounds, have been constituted as a

Shintaro was also a member of Laptoporchester Berlin - End-

cultural technique* 8 l, listening skills were often formalized, ab-

liche Automaten.

stracted, automated, and finally implemented and assimilated


into machinic processing. The sounds became silenced, untuned, and disappeared to become part of an inaudible op*1)

erativity.

This is an adapted and edited version of a forthcoming article in the collection Postdigital

Aesthetics: Art, Computation and Design (Palgrave Macmillian, 2015) edited by David
Berry and Michael Dieter. For references ask the author, miyazaki.shintaro@gmail.com

MORE THAN JUST LOOKING

*2) Devices that sense all forms of stimuli, such as heat, radiation, sound, vibration, pressure,
acceleration, and so on, and that can produce output signals that are electrical, pneumatic

Understanding complex communication networks, machinic


processes, biological signaling, and their ecologies by listen-

or hydraulic may be called transducers. Thus many measuring and sensing devices, as
well as loudspeakers, thermocouples, microphones, and phonograph or guitar pickups are
all transducers

ing, tuning, and un-tuning to their signals with simple trans*3) Kahn, D. (2013), Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts,

ducers such as the loudspeaker has a long history. But even


by listening, especially in the case of acoustic media technology, their inner workings and signal processing are not audible
per se. This inaudibility is often associated with invisibility and

Berkeley: University of California Press, 14


*4) Adrian, E. D. (1932), The Mechanism of Nervous Action. Electrical Studies on the

Neurone, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 6


*5) Hubel, D. H. (1988), Eye, Brain, and Vision, New York:

W H. Freeman (Scientific

American Library), 69

thus blindness. The so-called blind spot of media conceptual*6) Wittje, R. (2013), "The Electrical Imagination: Sound Analogies, Equivalent Circuits,

izes the inability to perceive the operativity of media. Corre-

and the Rise of Electroacoustics", 1863-1939, Osiris, 28/1, 43f

spondingly, the signal processing of imaging technology is not

*7) See for more details on this Miyazaki, S. (2012), "Aigorhythmics: Understanding Micro-

graspable as an image. Understanding seeing by looking closer

Temporality in Computational Cultures, Computational Cultures", A Journal of Software

is not possible. Besides waiting for the rare moments when me-

A Media Archaeology of Ubiquitous lnfospheres", Continuum, 27/4, 514-522; and as

dia processing, or operativity, becomes perceivable, it is mostly through unexpected disturbances, glitches, and failures, as
well as oscillating between looking and listening as described

Studies, No.2, online issue. And by the same author (2013), ,Urban Sounds Unheard-of
well www.algorhythmics.ixdm.ch

J. (2013), ,Afterword: Cultural Techniques and Media Studies, Theory, Culture


& Society, 30/6, 147-159

*8) Parikka,

*9) See www.algorhythmics.ixdm.ch

above that offers a fruitful approach for perception. Radar is


not seeing with radio, but closer to radio listening. Similarly in
sonar, ultrasonic pulses are transmitted and the time elapsed
is detected. This is not seeing underwater, but rather listening.

& www.detektors.org for examples of such a practice