Transcript of an interview with subject K, Julliard Institute of Audio-Geological Study, Kenmere, UK by employee X

X Could you tell me where you first met S?

K Yes, we met in the war, he was already getting on then. He was about 40ish, but still very handsome. We were both working at the Ecolocation Research Center.

X Where was that?

K Aberdeen.

X What did you both do there?

K He did the dubs – the first hand recordings. They were looking for someone who could help discover the opposition’s communication network. In the beginning they couldn’t even find what their means of communication was. All they could hear in the transmissions was a wall of noise. But he discovered that it was this sound that was the code. That was the easy part. Back then, because of the nature of the noise, there was not a mechanical way to record the sound onto the wax cartridges. So he and his team devised a way of drawing on the spinning wax discs using specially designed metal tools and an adapted lathe.

X Did he make the tools himself?

K Yes, well he designed them. He actually went to a dental surgeon to get them made and they were cast by the local black smith.

X How did he decide on the drawing, I mean, which drawing would best create the noise? What thickness of line, the duration, etc.?

K As you can imagine it wasn’t easy, but he used skills he had learned from his experience with bird song.

X Bird song?

K Yes, he spent hours in the woods. At first we thought he was up to something, you know, a bit strange, but what he was actually doing was drawing bird song. He used watercolours. The brush enabled him to make a mark swiftly, and according to the pressure he put on the brush he’d alter the thickness of the line and change colours according to the species of bird. He then went home and transferred the lines to the specially prepared wax discs. Each night he would listen to the discs, altering them until they started to resemble the original bird song. Before that all bird song was notated on scores; he’s the first one to reproduce a genuinely ‘life like’ sound of birds.

X And once the war had started, is that when he was approached to work at Ecolocation Research Center?

K Almost immediately, he wanted to help, we all did.

X …and then he was put to work immediately recording and decoding the foreign broadcasts?

K Yes, and the problem to begin with was determining which noises were the actual broadcasts. Which noises were interference, which were fake codes, which were distorted Morse Code and which were the new noise languages, the white noise which he now suspected they used to hide their messages in. He assembled a team almost immediately and started listening to hours of static. Everyone thought he was mad. But then no one knew what was real noise and what was not. Both sides were desperately trying to hide messages in more and more complicated ways. Then one day the breakthrough happened. He noticed a visual change in certain broadcasts.

X A visual?

K He found out there were repetitions in the sine waves and it was this part of an audio wave that the messages were hidden in. You see… the sign wave itself, once rendered into a drawing, had graphic repetitions, and these were the code. He hooked up what I think was a very early electrocardiograph machine to a sonar echo location device. This created the drawing. He used a simple stencil that he cut out of the government ration cereal boxes, one of the most popular and bizarrely most plentiful foods in the institute to match the graphs he drew of the sine waves to the charts he made which related to the code. It took the enemy the rest of the war to understand how the hell we were doing it.

X Were you helping him with the Static Code?

K God no, I was a kid, just 21. I was in the Morse Code department and for a long time I couldn’t even understand Morse! I used to write it down, someone else would translate it. Dot for dot, dash for dash, it went on and on… all day, oh, it was so boring. Hours and hours drawing these endless lines which made up these thick pictures of texture. Horrible. I used to go to bed dreaming of them, thick lines or marks like hundreds of teeth on a never-ending saw. Anyway, sorry. So as you can imagine, seeing the handsome code breaker walking around, lost in his own world, was quite a distraction, and within a month we’d got engaged. We lived and worked underground surrounded by a totally destroyed landscape of melted metal and mountains of bricks, rats and feral cats, corned beef and cereals, yet I was the happiest I’ve ever been. It continued like that for the rest of the war, an underground life of sound, diagrams and cereal boxes.

X And after the war ended?

K After the war ended we moved back into the suburbs. We had a child, D, we had a house and S was a sort of secret hero. The government didn’t really have any use for him now, with the advent of sonar, analogue and later digital communication. Audio codes became an outdated idea, but still they couldn’t have him walking around doing any old job so they just kept on paying him and financed any crackpot idea he could come up with. He had a special a laboratory build in the garden where he spent day and night working on new sound machines, aural telescopes, sonic bullets, sonar scrubbers, all these strange things.

X Did some of the big navigation or RRS companies not ask him to work for them? Or even the Institute for Tactical Diagnostics Team?

K Well of course, they all asked, they were on the phone, writing letters and even coming round but eventually they gave up. He wanted to do his own thing and spend as much time with his own equipment; he lived with headphones glued to his ears… And then one day the university came round. They’d made a very strange discovery.

X The KC?

K Yes, it had been discovered after the war. One of the stray bombs had hit a hill side in Kent and exposed the mouth of a small tunnel, and after a few months of excavation they came to a beautiful limestone cave covered in white crustaceans amongst the many bones they found a very strange phenomenon. Still covered with thick crystalline deposits they discovered a bear skeleton that seemed to have mutated or grown onto a human skeleton.

X Can you describe this?

K Well, I didn’t see it of course, but I saw some pictures, and I know some of the technical details. It was a strange looking thing, not like a skeleton but almost like a porcelain sculpture or huge white popsicle. They’d never seen anything like it. But that was not the strange part, the strange part was that this ‘creature’s’ bones were not bones, but a sort of mixture of bone and rock, a fusion that appeared to have formed organically. What was on the outside of the skeleton, the crystalline deposits, was also found on the inside of the skeleton. It was definitely a species relating to Homo sapiens but some bones were extended, shrunk or had bonded together. Very odd. Anyway, they hired him to search for the rock the skeleton was made from, to create some kind of machine that could detect this mix of bone and rock. They believed – or maybe already knew – there were many more of these in caves that were hidden or impossible to access. So, he went to work, and after many different attempts he eventually developed a machine that could recognise ‘geo-organic shapes,’ as he now called them. An analysis of these rock people had revealed some very interesting repetitive shapes. The simple principal was that he would fire sound waves using accurately targeted speakers developed in the war into the rock, which would then grip onto these shapes and create an aural aura around them. Then other sounds that were hyper-dynamically designed to respond to these auras would be fired at these encapsulated rocks. The sound of that impact was then recorded and analysed. The analysis focused on minute changes of pitch, tone and repetition and used a system of algorithms combined with the geological structure of the rock and its main composites. The rock composition of the man was very specific and only S’s machine could detect this particular combination of elements in this particular arrangement. After his third discovery the university was very eager to learn of any other of these geo-organic rock-men around the country, so they made several versions of S’s machine and sent him out all over the world, at first the UK, then Europe, and then in the last few years mostly to North America. It was an incredibly exciting time for him, yet of course frustrating; it took him almost a decade of testing and development and, more importantly, he had to spend a lot of time away from his family and it was, of course, all secret. He had no one to talk to and even treated me as a stranger, he spent more and more time with his sample. He was, in a way, addicted to discovering the key to discovery.

X Fascinating, so what did this mean, I mean, what were these things? Are they still a mystery? Was discovering were they were from an important key?

K His job was to discover them, not to analyse them. As far as he told me, it was only facts that he was interested in, not conjecture, and after that he just did what he was told.

X And so were there any interesting relationships to geographical areas? What sort of places was he finding these… things in? What were the discoveries, the correlations, did he have any thoughts? Do you?

K I don’t know I really don’t. He wasn’t really interested in where, but rather how, we discovered them. He lived with them, he was given some small samples he always kept locked up in his studio the university had given to him. He had a kind of continuous aural conversation or relationship with these samples, and after a while he stopped telling me about his work – never mind what the government were discovering with his inventions. But as the years progressed and his health worsened he became more forgetful. He left some documents around: notes, academic press clippings, government communiqués and stuff.

X What did you find out, I mean, we now know they were all just a form of overlooked rock formation, but is there anything else to it?

K Well, he believed the rock was new, modern.

X What do you mean, newly created? When was it formed?

K Well, the interesting part was not when, but where. They were found in caves, but mostly in the western world. It turns out there had been discoveries before but they were so distorted they had been dismissed as ancient rock formations or basic fossils. And although I never saw the evidence, he told me he had seen a document which described the fast development of the rocks. They had a self-perpetuating structure that increased growth.

X Well, ok, and how does that relate to where they were found?

K To start with, many were discovered in Volcanic areas or under water, but as the machine got more accurate and we started to look for more recent phenomena in the last 300 years, they started to crop up everywhere. He first saw the modern signs in the North of England in the 1750s, in fact this still has the greatest proliferation of them. There they date mostly from around the Industrial Revolution – bizarre because rocks normally take millions of years to form and even cave formations, such as limestone stalagmites, thousands of years. Many were discovered in Birmingham, Manchester, Sheffield, then Frankfurt, Berlin and Moscow. Later in years London and Paris. And in different areas, now in parts of human architecture and in different sizes. In factories, in concert halls, markets and court rooms.

Then he struck on an idea, he drew up diagrams of the loudest parts of our history or in certain cases a plan of the development of of social noise, moments and places when noise had shaped society. Moments like Krakatoa’s 1883 eruption, the discovery of gunpowder in China, the Industrial Revolution, the invention of the loudspeaker, the rise and fall of public executions and now of course rock concerts…… He then cross referenced this with the location of his discoveries, found a correlation and handed all his research over to the authorities….. They seemed to believe it and of course started a massive government search for lost people paranoid that it may be related, they started scouring public documents, as you can imagine it was an enormous and fruitless task. They though that maybe these formations were people who had been consumed by sound and become part of their architecture. This was not true of course and as we now know it’s just a gathering of still matter becoming solid, an overlooked phenomenon, but ha, ha, not supernatural. And anyway, S was not particularly interested in it. For him it was all a lot of hocus-pocus; he was interested in his machines and in his codes and audio patterns, not in lost tribes of rock men and mutants. So after only a few years with the bureau he quit to spend more time at home, which actually meant more time in the shed. He retired and the bureau paid him a huge amount of money for the patent on his machine (and, of course, to keep quiet) so we bought this house and he bought a massive super-shed!

X And was this the first time you discovered he was changing?

K I suppose so. I’d noticed changes, strange changes, in his body. I mean, it was so difficult to describe, so slight and yet so obvious. At first it was slight discolouration. Gray with white speckles, but under the skin, translucent like marble, quite erotic actually. Well, you know, sort of phallic. And then this spread, but not on the outside. His biceps, for example, had become odd. Its shape, it’s curve, had sort of moved and his arms literally felt like marble. The muscle on his thumb had grown slightly on one side. His sight had become week, or even sort of fluctuated one day to the next, and he had a very pale pallor. And then one day he went to the shed and didn’t come back. He was found dead, the radio on, sprawled over his equipment. The coroner said he was fine – his complexion was a mild skin disorder, common at his age. And then they took me away, took me here. I’ve had no visitors. It’s been awful, but luxuriously awful, as you can see. He had these insurance policies… He was always a sensible person. And that’s when I called you. I needed some advice, someone who understood the law. I have this letter. I’ll just sum it up, you can read it later. It says it was an addiction – he had become addicted to the sounds or, I’m not sure it’s unclear…. an addiction to listening to these bodies. And the more he listened, the more he lost; he felt they had encouraged him knowingly, creating an addiction. It was, as far as I can see, a forced love affair, but a fatal one – and one. I know it’s all ridiculous but I think this listening created a type of cancer – a growth. He had given himself to it and sacrificed himself in the process. He saw it as an ultimate union between body and mind unified by sound. Madness. And he left. Left leaving a jungle of figures and maps, a bizarre puzzle of space and sound.

Subject K died in 1993 of natural causes.

This piece includes an original analogue sound work by Rose Kallal and James Ginzburg. Camera by Emily Hope.

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