Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Strange Sounds in the Sky: High Frequency Active Aural Research

In 2011 people from all over the world started reporting that they had heard eerie noises seeming to emanate from the sky. The ‘phenomenon’ went viral and You Tube houses numerous videos of the ‘hearings’. As the videos play out over several minutes each, sounds can be heard that range from growling choral sounds to reverberating tuba. The scenes are usually views of empty, residential areas. The camera is pointed at the pixelated open sky. What unifies the footage is that the listeners seem to believe that the sounds are real and attribute them to a grand source, christening them: Strange Sounds in the Sky, Sky Roar or God’s Shofar. Responses to some of the video uploads have revealed a more mundane rational behind them. For instance, the a recording of sounds in Terrace, BC Canada 2013 was described as a melody by Kimberly Wookey:

The City of Terrace later took responsibility for the sound by posting a note on their Facebook page that they were preparing for some repaving work, and that the noise was produced by a grader blade while levelling the ground. The joy of the videos is their dual nature: if I choose to hear supernatural sounds I can but I can also hear the distorted sounds of planes, industrial tools, fans - various infrastructures vibrating, a fault in the electric grid, telephone wires, air caught in water or gas pipes. Link to a compilation of the videos:

 Many reports pinned the cause of the sounds on the research at HAARP: High Frequency Active Auroral Research facility for the study of ionospheric physics and radio science - based in a US Air Site in Gakona, Alaska established 1993 and temporarily closed. It was funded by the U.S. Air Force, Navy, University of Alaska and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Where there is military research there is often conspiracy theory and HAARP has been the target for some colourful ideas from mind control to weather control. Some online comment writers believe that the technology at HAARP will be used as part of an oppressive New World Order: ‘With the use of telepathic electronic two-way communication, HAARP wave technology can reach everyone on earth’ or it is seen as being used as a ‘second coming’ or the Apocalypse.

The aim of their research, say HAARP, was to understand the effects of the changing atmospheric conditions of the ionosphere that ‘begins approximately 35 miles above the earth's surface and extends out beyond 500 miles. In contrast to the dense atmosphere close to the earth, which is composed almost entirely, of neutral gas, the thin ionosphere can distort, reflect and absorb radio signals.’ The research is conducted by stimulating small areas of the ionosphere with a high power, high-frequency phased array radio transmitter and measuring the results of the artificial excitation. The aim is to make these systems for invisible transmissions more reliable for satellite communications: GPS and Ultra High Frequency systems and military surveillance. These systems, infrastructures in themselves, also aid in the securitising of utility and communications infrastructures.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Listening Seminar 3

Pleased to be taking part in this. More details on the Vocalities Course Blog - part of The Aural and Visual Cultures Department, Goldsmiths, London.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Cataclysm: tornado destruction from CCTV footage

There is a series of videos on YouTube of footage rescued from CCTV systems that managed to keep running during some of the worst USA tornadoes. These images are a melancholic reflection of the loss and fear endured during these cataclysmic disasters. The CCTV camera images, often attached to residencies, sometimes capture the malfunction of the camera as the tornado hits the electricity supplies. They have a still, stubborn resilience - always angled high above to oversee the scene of pool, driveway, porch or school playground, gym, car park. They are different to the footage taken by people on mobile phones that are uploaded alongside - whose reasonable reactions of panic and fascination are captured in zooms, shakes, abrupt loss of framing. These are fragile movies made by machines, at a time when no human can bear the conditions to watch.