[H.H] Recreating WWVH


The heart of the universe has two chambers – radio WWV in Colorado and radio WWVH Hawaii. They beat as one – the Great Timepiece that Orders All Things. The role once fell to Greenwich Observatory and may one day be with Beijing but for now the artificial voices that sing Coordinated Universal Time are American.

The man is called Lee. The woman is Jane.

WWV is the oldest continuously broadcasting radio station in the United States, starting with Friday night concerts in the beginning of 1920, months before the first commercial station went to air. You can read the history on NIST’s own web site, although one event that strikes me is (according to the official guide) 440Hz being provided by the station in August 1936 ‘at the request of several musical organisations’ prior to officially becoming A in 1939. Musical tuning continues to be offered by WWV.

I’ve studied the official specification put out by NIST for some time, but as you’d expect the obsessives over at WikiPedia have an even more detailed explanation that you can read. The most important elements are the tick, a data signal at 100Hz, tones that alternate between 500Hz and 600Hz every minute; a conversation between WWV and WWVH. At the start of the hour they both provide 440Hz for any orchestras that might happen to be tuning up at that moment. And the voices. Each of these things has a very definite order – a musical score. For WWVH:

  • Every second (except the first) + 25ms play the 100Hz tone.
  • Every second except the 29th and 59th play the click.
  • Every minute play the 1200Hz minute tone.
  • Every minute + 45s play the time announcement.
  • In minute 1 play add the 440Hz tone.
  • In minutes 2, 4, 6, 12, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, 32, 34, 36, 38, 40, 46, 52, 54, 56, 58 add the 600Hz tone.
  • In minutes 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 21, 23, 25, 27, 31, 33, 35, 37, 39, 41, 53, 55, 57 add the 500Hz tone.
  • In minutes 29 and 59 add the station ID
  • In 43-45 add GPS reports
  • In 45 add Geo alerts
  • In 48-51 add Storm alerts

Although I made a simulation back in 2007, it’s time to do it properly. [H.H] has at the start a grand chamber in which many noise making machines can be enjoyed, and the grandest of these is to be the Coordinated Universal Time Machine. It will follow through the whole programme of WWVH – which is the one nearest to me and stronger in my fable. But it’s a struggle:

  • You could: record a whole day and play it through. Horribly large audio file, not likely to download.
  • You could: program it. If minute = 13 then play 500Hz for 965ms. Maybe, but I don’t trust it. You’d have to hope that the code didn’t get delayed and start drifting. Every couple of seconds you’d have to check the clock and try some maths to drift it back again. Not my cup of tea.
  • You could: read the blog over at Unity which points out that the FMOD audio library reads MODs. As in, old Amiga tracker MODs. I never bothered to make MODs because life is too short for hexidecimal, and here it is 2012 and I’m staring at something that looked cool on WorkBench 3.0.

Time to party like it’s 1990. The good thing is that I’m just firing off samples every second, so 60 BPM and a division of 24 Amiga ticks places samples one to a cell. Design the tones to meet the microseconds and trim the block of cells to 60. Each minute then gets its own pattern and 60 patterns make an hour. It’s not thrilling work but I can hear how it will go before it hits the authoring software. It also becomes the basis of a possible performance as part of REDACTED. I said possible.

The real WWVH has announcements about storms and sun spots and things that affect shipping in the Pacific. My machine makes announcements that provide clues about the game – who is where, why we are here and so on. The clues are tricky as they refer to clues given somewhere else that are similar to clues in a third story. To be honest the story in [H.H] is writing itself – an element appears, it connects with something else, forces a design decision. There is actually a character in game lore that forces itself into other games, a kind of cuckoo’s egg. I let it into this one and it immediately started to connecting things without telling me why. The player will need to find out where it’s hiding.

I can with all sincerity say that I have no idea why rabbits.

Ralph Balson – paint musician.

When I was working on The Shape Of A Note I was assisted by the Penrith Regional Gallery in trying to find works that could be described as musical. Obviously it’s easiest to do that in the era when painters themselves used music as a guide – Kandinsky and Mondrian are the obvious references but the students around the Penrith region weren’t going to see these in person. But, said the Gallery, perhaps you could use Ralph Balson?

Ralph Balson? Damn! Here was a painter that (and OK painting isn’t my big thing) I knew nothing about and yet it was immediately obvious that this was exactly the mind I was seeking. It’s a bridge over to the theosophists and their colour music, the video synthesists of the late 20th Century, maybe even The New Aesthetic if I’m really lucky.

Here’s someone that lived in the same place as I did and overlapped with the people I learned from. He died 2 years after I was born otherwise I’d be around to his place with a case of VB and a lot of questions.

Socially, Balson was shy and reticent. Between 1949 and 1959 he taught part time at East Sydney Technical College. Students respected this near-sighted, suburban painter, with his tradesman’s clothes, who made no display of ego. – Aus Dict. of Biography

(East Sydney Tech College is now the National Art School, it’s where I did the Barbara Island show, which I hope Balson would have liked.) I’m not sure what I’d ask him. Probably, “Oh adopted Wise Master can you see what’s burning a hole in my head trying to figure out what this MUSIC thing is?” “Oh ascendant house painter, why am I concerned with shit that was last important in 1915?” The answer would vary on the amount of VB.

Maybe you’re looking at this stuff and thinking you saw a rug at the local shopping centre that looks a bit like this. It’s true that Balson and his crew inspired more design than fine arts. That’s OK, film is still an artform despite BATTLESHIP. Also it must be said that he moved on to other more complicated work that I am still coming to terms with, and I may be a clifford. For reasons of research I am tweaked on this constructed art at the moment and probably the little things are overly big in my mind. Still, it’s a part of the painterly arts that needs connection to those that are trending at the moment.

I am glad to hear he had a friend. I don’t know why I am less religiously transformed by Grace Crowley’s work – I like it but for some reason Balson is doing some trick with my brain. Perhaps she is less ‘musical’.

At home with Ralph and Grace

She certainly deserved more respect. “It was not until the 1950s, when Crowley was in her sixties, that a public gallery exhibited her abstract works.” And you complain.

Roy de Maistre is worth a mention, but then he never really dedicated himself to the ideal the way this pair did. In quickly and out the door fast. I’ll stick with Ralph.

Hate Mail

My last post has caused deep offence to the people that most deserve it. The rubbery jaws of toy poodles descend upon me from academes in Sydney to Toronto with much growling and slathering – I am obviously a fool to not have caught the genius of this pre-ordained movement to be. I dared to call it rubbish, because I am obviously pig ignorant – that same ‘dumb fuck muso’ as once described.

Try actually reading …

James Bridle has said many times that he thinks that “New Aesthetic” is a problematic coinage, that it’s “rubbish.” … The true problem with the New Aesthetic is that it truly is a new aesthetic. It has to become one, even if it doesn’t much want to be one. – Wired

Problem is, that the person who originated this whole thing also describes what is happening as ‘rubbish’. Everybody gets so excited about how clever they are with their extrapolations they forget that there was an original pure idea that they are ruining. These are same fools that turned the funny wordplay of Deleuze into 6 unit theory subjects. They’re the ones that turned music studios into anechoic chambers. They pin dead butterflies to boards in museums and they think a pipe is more than a pipe. All archaeology, no ideas.

I am not cowed by you at all. I laugh at you, because you can’t see without the vision of a peer-reviewed article blocking your view. You can’t bugger other philosophers without a powerpoint that tells you how. You can’t even shake your arse. You are frightened of music and want to make it ‘sound art’ because that drains it of sex. Your future is the 1970s reheated and you probably think this blog is about you, don’t you? Don’t You?

I’ll give you a film reference because you understand those and I’ll even make it German. Sometimes the best response to the adult world is to bang a drum, scream and never grow up.

If such falsehoods are to be denounced I will continue to present myself as a ‘dumb fuck musician’ with great pride. Being a musician means more to me than any academic rank, any sophistry, journal or whatever parasite that might try to take advantage of music. And if that tweaks the noses of some East Coast American University well too fucking bad.

And stop reading my blog.

An Essay on ye Olde Aesthetik


I just went off for a quick toilet break and by the time I got back some nong had announced a ‘New Aesthetic’. Actually the first inkling was some whining from the Hauntology crew that somebody had dared to be excited about something other than 1970’s English shopping centres and Thunderbirds. Which of course is NOT ABOUT MY CHILDHOOD OH DEAR NO it’s a legitimate philosophical stance with Derrida shoved into the middle of it like a spoon in a tub of yoghurt. They’ve identified the ‘New Aesthetic’ as a 80’s obsession because they see everything measured in decades. But it’s not, it’s something far less.


All this howling of English dorks led me to a tragically bad essay by Bruce Sterling which is yet another low point for Wired Magazine, proof that minus infinity can be breached. In a sloppy porridge of words the phrase ‘the New Aesthetic’ repeats in dreary multiples. It’s one paragraph time stretched so I jumped to the blog cited which didn’t seem that more interesting than the usual wacky picture compilation – yet another jump got me to the original brain fart. As a purveyor of such farts myself I’m pretty sure we’ve got a rockin’ case of intellectual comb over.

It goes like this: think of the modernist viewpoint that existed in the ‘space age’. It led to ‘a way of seeing’, a zeitgeist, inspiration, an aesthetic. But modernity was shallow and collapsed under the critique of the post modern, which has in turn been parasitic, ineffectual and implausible. Now there exists a new aesthetic that is built upon a new positive viewpoint, the computer eye, the web, the online society and so on. This positive is needed at this time and should be followed.

Like any good story, it requires that you ignore elements that don’t fit the flow; ignorance or ‘operational definitions’ depending on who’s talking. And it’s NOT ABOUT MY CHILDHOOD OH DEAR NO. Get to the heart: if you think animated GIFs are the genesis of a new way of seeing then step right up…

…there’s a website that you should see called You’re The Man Now Dog. It’s just deluged in The New Aesthetic. But if you’re too smart to fall for that trap let’s have a look at what’s really going on here.

…we need to see the technologies we actually have with a new wonder is a fine idea. It renounces cynicism and that’s good. Just today I was carting groceries home and tried to see the familiar streets as if I was a tourist. But that principle works for anything, and very quickly the instruction became we need to see the technologies we actually have as if they posses some artistic worth beyond the everyday. By the time Wired got its dentures into it; you should repair your ignorance about something that looks more or less like a weltanschauung.

What do they mean by ‘see’? The actual physical evidence presented is the current version of a Front 242 record cover; with the pixels, the colours, the timecode in the corner, the gun/camera sight. This kind of thing was really cool in 1988. Now it’s really cool in 2012. New Media is back, having had a bottle of milk and a midday nap, ready to smear brightly coloured pixels on walls. I already denounced this in 2008.

Never tired of CyberPaint

This is just a style. So let’s have the real stories that go with this style, not the unicorn horn that Wired wants to manufacture.


Jack Tramiel died recently; Jack that ran Commodore and then Atari. The style begins with the limits of the machines that Jack built. The look is entwined with the tools; we saw a new wonder in the technology we actually had. With every new version of Deluxe Paint the community would push it as hard as they could to reach the limits of their imaginations. What the New Aesthetic proposes was there, and still there when the tools are transparent.

I’ve revisited the tools I used around the time that New Media was being born. I’ve used 3D Studio since 1994 and the software always seems a vast landscape that I will never be able to encompass. I went back and installed the oldest copy of 3D Studio I could find:

What at the time seemed impossibly complex and futuristic now seems clunky and limited. The 256 colour renders look hand carved from soap and the interface feels like I’m snow blind. It was a shock to hit the limits of this tool in a couple of hours. Compare to the 3D Studio Max I use now:

which will seem just as clunky and toy like in 2030.

But each is equal in its own time, part siren and part antagonist in a drama of creativity. You are granted a vision, you move towards it, you never reach it. That’s what I mean by the tools being transparent – the intention and the vision is the same and the limitations are the LEAST INTERESTING thing about the art. Not worth the name ‘aesthetic’.

To fetishise pixels and bright colours and animated GIFs and all that misses the artistic vision that was being followed, one that these tools could not / may not ever satisfy. Those are the exact things that we did NOT SEE, and only through a retrospective viewing do they become a kind of arty version of  ‘Magnets, How Do They Work?’

I can vaguely recall what I saw in my head when I was looking at

and I sure wasn’t thinking about the modern aesthetics of 64 colour dithering. I was trying to make as best a picture as I could.

Actually, the hauntology guys are closer to the truth. These old tools recall ghosts of people and places that flesh out my own personal history. It’s about they way my hand reached up and typed F10 to make the picture full screen without my concious recall. It’s ALL ABOUT MY CHILDHOOD.

{If you too want a seance with your motor memory: I found all of these oldies online without too much trouble, but if you want help and directions just ask.}

P.S. Stephen M Jones wants me to post this

spiderman, spiderman, does whatever a spider can

which I think just puts the cherry on top.

[H.H] More paintings of demented rabbits

There’s plenty of places where you can find Internet pictures of demented rabbits. But how about paintings based on Internet pictures of demented rabbits?


Easter was odd this year. I am sad to admit I did not paint these with brushes, it’s all done by computer. But I have quite a gallery for the game underway.

PS: sevcom.com has had the same bookmark thumbnail for 15 years. I do try to warn you…

The Future of the Future

Time’s Harry McCracken does a worthy compilation of Futuristic prediction videos. He goes beyond the usual tittering by including both Future Past and Future Current and calling out the overall pointlessness of the exercise. As he says, imagining is not imagineering in the Disney sense and these dreams are rhetorical to the progress of engineering as a whole. The admen aren’t really aware of  the back end; they’re just another noisy user group. With a budget.

Oddly he includes the British Post Office in ‘Corporate America’. I smell a subeditor.

He’s shy to analyse the latest videos in the collection – the dreams of the late 2000’s are ‘too soon to predict’. Hell, I’ll predict them – that’s my job. I’m mainly looking at Microsoft’s 2009 opus Productivity Future Vision:

PIPES: all these videos are obsessed with pipes (or what Brazil called ducts). Whether it’s railroads, highways or datastreams, the visionaries can’t get over moving stuff from place to place, which is just a sublimation of their childish vroom vroom. This goes with centrally controlled data, the cloud and all that push to have everything locked up in a safe to which you can hire access. Local storage is smelly right now. It’ll take a few oops events to change that view back to having a library at home. Like your own garden (which is currently fashionable).

CLEANLINESS AND ORDER: Even the goddamn coffee cup has an allocated space on the virtual office desk of the future. Walls are clean of fingerprints. All the children have clean hand inspection every 30 minutes and jam sandwiches are verboten. No chair has a coat thrown over it. Every future office looks like an ad agency (e.g. Google circa 2009). The future is always off-white with tasteful splashes of colour – a world that looks like a magazine layout.

Everywhere I have worked has been a chaos of shit everywhere and where the hell is my pen. I am a mess and yet I am in the main efficient. My data is all over the place despite every attempt to corral it, and heaven help any algorithm that thinks it’s going to ‘smart folder’ anything.

Part of ‘the future’ is hiding unpleasant things. Amazon delivers neat clean little packages to your door so you don’t have to see the wait staff or have any sympathy for their situation. An interface is a way to hide unwanted information. Like other people’s bodies.

WEALTH: Good for those Indian kids in the video, the ones teaching American children how to write funny. They are obviously not the 58% under 5 years old who are stunted by malnutrition. Here’s a nice infographic that could be really cool to put up on the virtual classroom wall. The wealthy American and Indian kids can discuss it by drawing animated poor people chasing food scraps.

I like the house that the American guy owns, maybe it’ll become unoccupied by foreclosure – it would make a good squat. But really the point is that shovelling graphical information around in circles is not the same as actually making things which is what I thought was ‘productivity’. No one seems to make anything in utopia; they just graph what the Morlocks are doing in some remote part of China and wonder at their increasing irrelevance. Twit all you like, it’s not actually creating a damn thing and you are going down the toilet.

AGE: People are getting older, and they can’t work out the bar at the top of Microsoft Office let alone all the cyberpunk that the ad people are hurling onto every surface. My direct experience with trying to help the aged in using technology was a humbling one, and I expect that humbling to be the dominant feature of the coming years. Only when the people making the ads are themselves arthritic will they stop with all this pinching and flicking and diddling all over bits of glass. The elderly will not be using tablets, and you are going to be elderly.

LOGISTICS: Did you like the bit where the Chinese guy catches a plane and there’s no queue? (I mean there’s no one in the damn airport at all, which is back to the whole paleofuture fetish about hiding other human bodies which are utterly distasteful). There’s no one on the plane? So how the hell does Boeing manage to keep flying when no one is on their damn plane and fuel prices just keep rising and rising? Maybe we could push some graphs around a piece of glass and work that out.

(Oh yeah I should mention the teacher at the beginning flying first class and working out her curriculum on the plane. Can I have that job please? Sure would be sweet to just arrange stuff and make it happen without being on the ground to physically make sure that it’s going right.)

ACTUAL REAL WORLD TESTING: We recently had an upgrade at our main teaching hall. To operate the lights and sound you use an iPad fitted into the lectern. So to turn down the lights you push the button on the pad, swipe to open the application, touch the interface to start it, touch the tab to switch to lights and then touch one of about 5 lighting levels to set the mood. That sure beats turning a knob. I mean if you had a knob that would mean you could instantly set the lighting level to a near infinite number of levels. With the iPad, you get to see the logo of the university each time, and that my friends is the future.

My executive take on this is that to create our optimal future as shown in this genre of video we should immediately tear down anything old and start genocide of the poor, elderly, and children that have dirty hands. You might find that sentence distasteful, but why didn’t you find the video version of it distasteful?