m y s t e r y . L a b

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This is the introduction from the fabled, illuminated, small-print-ridden MYSTERY TAPES ETC. catalog (censored text is reproduced from the original):

"The known world is a noisey ball"

Press the button for reproduction - all known Xperience is potentially confounded by MYSTERY TAPES, little boxes of sonifericity specifically formulated for the curious listener. Available in your choice of aural flavors: subliminal, blasted, excerpted, repeatpeateatattttttedly, these cinemaphonically-concocted aggregates of trés different but exquisitely manifest, unprecedentedly varied festerings of audio quality fine magnetic cassette tapes are the best of whatever you've been listening for.

Histrionic Exegesis:
Founded in the early XXXX as a manufacturing and distribution arm for the seminal and severe... Mystery Laboratory, in various guises to enhance widespread public confusion, quickly expanded its research and influence with a further series of carefully crafted forays...

Other Bubbles:
But it was with the advent of the MYSTERY (X) TAPE concept that things got really confusing. This world-encompassing armada of crafty compilations necessarily by definition bears only slight explanation. The concept: to ferret and fashion; to appropriate against (dices error) all odds, to place in cahoots, a cornucopia of essential and vivacious sounds from everywhere and whenever; to map them into vortextual sequences and overlaps, symphonies and cacophonies, cartoons and realisions, typically byzantine in format. Pop stars deform and implode, the Classics get what's coming to 'em, the future of music explored by amnesiac reversal; compositionalists and theatricians expound and breethd, utterances glow (the proof in slow motion) sounds emerge; sound of short circuit might be simulated by dripping water on red hot metal; if smell is related to time, then sound is some current in space (navy blue with swiss cheese dots), undefinable music vaults... wonderful sounds for wondering ears.

-And here's an excerpt from the final MYSTERY TAPES ETC. newsletter (late '94):

Research & production for the Mystery (or X) Tape line took place mostly in the 2 decades from the early '70s to the release of the plunderphonic CD in late '89. Since then most of our production focus has been on CDs, which have all been released by 3rd parties. But part of the tenet for the Mystery Tapes has been that, like computer software, they would be revised as improvements were developed.
At present the latest versions of the X-tapes are:
GX v.4 \ X map v.0
LX v.2 \ X5 v.3.1
X2 v.3 \ X1 v.3
MX v.2 \ X3 v.1.3
The backside of SAMPLER was last replaced in mid '86. Both sides were revised twice 5 years later in the process of transferring the tapes to a digital mastering format. GUITARS was revised in '87 (dropping its old title "Mah Jongg Hell" & adding 2 new tracks. DRUMS (previously entitled "L---- D---- ") received a major revision related to the plunderphonic project in '89. Some of the X map versions sent out were beta test revisions. A revised X-map tape was initiated but its completion has been temporarily interrupted by the latest plunderphonics.

Now, although this process is not yet finished, we have decided to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Mystery Tapes International! (dating from the reversible reel copies of BurrOughs) mail order distribution service in an unusual way by making it even more difficult to get these tapes. In the past it has been our policy to insure that the information about the tapes was obscure, while the process of ordering & obtaining tapes was to be easy & pleasant. No more. For the forthcoming period (of undisclosed duration) we will not tell you how to get MysteryTapes.

Terri Firm
director of international mail order services

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O.M.N.I.V.E.R.S.E.: (Orbital Microphonic Navigational Imaging Via Ecotonic Radial Stereo Eccentricity)

-liner notes form Gordon Monahan's CD, THIS PIANO THING

The aural image of, for instance, the human voice can be intimately achieved with a microphone placed within touching distance of the lips. Other instruments require a backing off to hear the entire picture. The large acoustic footprint of the piano normally necessitates a microphonic positioning of a distance of several feet, at a point where the whole machine can be seen, or, alternatively, the closer they are placed, the more microphones that are needed. The more distant perspective is cohesive and usually inclusive of a lot of room reverberation. Intimacy is lost by the time the recorded sound reaches the listener, at least two rooms away. A multiple spread of close microphones will decrease the distance, but increase the complexity of finding a tonal balance. Particular pitch regions emphasized by one microphone will be reduced or cancelled by another microphone. If the music is various and tonally active, no fixed, close perspective is ideal.

The O.M.N.I.V.E.R.S.E. perspective incorporates a physically and virtually moving microphone within a grid of several fixed, mid-distant stereo microphones. The fixed microphones captured the gestalt resonance of the instrument from several points including the pianist's perspective (which is perhaps the ideal position for tonal balance and clarity). Relative to this cubist array, a 4-point sound field microphone capable of electronic zooms and the active, continuous alteration of the shape of its hearing on any axis, was placed on a hand-held boom so it could track to any close-up position within the piano. Great care was taken to always angle and track towards a sound, often while decreasing the stereo spread of the moving microphone, in a way which would avoid panning across the stereo field established by the fixed-position microphones. The moving microphone never stopped, and was at times tracking a quarter of an inch above a vibrating string.

(examples of the O.M.N.I.V.E.R.S.E. technique can be heard on:
-Gordon Monahan's THIS PIANO THING (CD: Swerve Editions GM 004)
-Christopher Butterfield's KURT SCHWITTERS (CD)).

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P I T C H:

Since the mid-70's John Oswald has experimented with perceptual and social conduct in imposed environments of complete darkness, initially with urban-planner/musician Marvin Green and more recently with stage-designer Emile Morin.

After some initial experiments with brief light events (for instance the perception that otherwise invisible moving bodies were frozen in the air by coordinated flash strobes) Green and Oswald abandoned light altogether. Activities and events are classified as Pitch when there exists a real absolute of darkness. There are no guide lights or exit signs or luminous watches or glimmers from under the door. Both large and small spaces have been pitch-enabled and in some cases teams have been trained to assist the movement and placement of people in these absolutely lightless situations. These voluntarily blind audiences experience an increased acuity of the other senses.

Pitch concerts, in which often a great variety of music is performed or presented from different vantage points, have been quite successful. The audience is guided into an absolutely dark concert hall and seated. They have only audible clues about the nature and size of the situation. Musicians might be stationed around or within the audience. A hovering grid of soundmaking devices (either loudspeakers or electro-mechanical gadgets) might pass over the listeners. A traditional vietnamese improvising ensemble might perform in one location, followed by a remotely controlled player piano in an opposite direction, followed by an african story teller above. The audience seating may be coupled to servo-piston subwoofers for an earthquake effect.

All of these events have occured in Pitch concerts, often in juxtaposition, but Green and Oswald have also organized events which entail, in their entirety, the guiding of a large number of people in and out of awesomely dark spaces.

In the early '90's Oswald and Emile Morin conceived and constructed Pitch/Pivot, a small building which enabled a single person to take a long but defined journey into absolute darkness. An electronic traffic system insured access for one person at a time. The pathway gradually transformed from hard and resonant to a soft, womblike terminus in which the traveller could be suspended in silence. Pitch/Pivot is pre-fab and transportable. It is currently in storage in Quebec.

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S W A R M « T I M E:

< The camera's shutter blinks and a moment of the visual world is frozen on film. Still, there is no audible equivalent to the snapshot in the time it takes to sound. Sound takes time. >

There are several ways to approximate the freezing of the natural motion of sound. Self-similar portions of the sound can be stretched (this commonly occurs in sample loops), to give the instrument the unending notes of the electronic organs samplers often resemble. Or a fragment of a sound can be briefly revealed in an isolation conducive to its sustenance in the listener's memory. Or a sound event of considerable duration can be folded in time upon itself, in a repeating asymmetric fashion, so that each moment is continuously present. This is the swarm moment effect. It is like infinite reverberation without decay or feedback.

< the threshold of instantaneous motion sense is relative to speed proportional to size and continuity where the predictable relationships of finer objects can more easily be perceived moving. stellar objects at velocities of thousands of miles per hour seen resting in the sky. motion of the clock's minute hand is just visible, its location has changed at each glance. an instant is 30 milliseconds. changes observed are a continuity of instants. random changes faster than 30 milliseconds have no definite order, are sequentially amorphous. fast continuities appear to stop, the motion becomes an object, the rotating propeller forms a disc, the movie ceases to flicker. >

Examples of swarms include Oswald's Spectre, for 1,0001 string quartets (composed for and performed by the Kronos Quartet), and the 3rd movement of Dab, with 10,000 Michael Jacksons (see the descriptive article Bad Relations).

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