• How to connect a landline phone to a car
      Hello and welcome back to Spoken Word with Electronics. This week we discuss technology that should be in every garage: a mobile phone! I don't mean a cell phone. Put down that slab of glass. I mean a real cabled phone. Not long ago, such an idea was unobtainable, requiring gobs of money and a car trunk radio connection. But with a little unintended misuse of a commercial product, today's humans can now make any landline phone work in their car. This episode of SWWE, we discuss how to do this. You'll probably want to keep your own landline phone because of it. It can save millions of phones from landfills. It's only $30. And you can put it in your car!

    • I mean ANY landline phone. Even a rotary dial phone.
    • A big REAL telephone right up in your face. Any phone you want.
    • But in your car.
    • And it works.
    • It rings!
    • It makes calls and accepts them. It dials!
    • It's a phone!
    • Even better: You can even take that same landline phone to the park. You can call someone on a picnic. It's even a landline phone that works on water. I mean it can go on a boat. You can take this phone anywhere. No radio required! Instructions below. Here's this week's audio:

      So how is this done?

      The technology you'll be using to make your car phone is a product with a slightly "AS SEEN ON TV" vibe to it. But I've been working with it for about a month and now consider it one of the most well thought out devices I've encountered in over a decade. It's called Cell2Jack.

    1. Cell2Jack, at its most basic, makes any landline phone into a Bluetooth headset. But there's tons more you can do with it. It DOES require a cell phone service to operate. But the trick: It fully provides the necessary power to operate a landline phone. (See below for "Telephone Line Simulators" to see how expensive simply powering a phone without a utility connection used to cost) – This costs $30. Here's what it looks like:

      This small peripheral (about 3 by 2 inches in size) allows for 5V to run off a USB-C jack. Connecting that USB 5V in to a portable USB power supply makes this portable. You plug your landline phone through the RJ11 connector marked PHONE. The 5V out is a nice feature, but does not need to be used in setting it up for use. This, along with a Bluetooth enabled cell phone will make any landline phone portable for car use.

    2. INSTRUCTIONS: This device is designed for senior citizens to understand, so it couldn't be easier to set up. You connect power to the 5V USB-C port, and then connect your landline's phone cable to the Cell2Jack box. A red light will glow, along with a blue light when set-up is complete. Pick up the phone and the phone will speak loudly stating it is not yet connected. You then use the phone's dial (either touchpad or rotary) to enter in a three digit code. This makes the phone findable as a Bluetooth device. You then pair with your phone. From that point on, the landline phone will ring for your cell phone. You can use your landline to dial for your cell phone. And, with a portable power device like a USB power brick, you can take your landline anywhere.

      Here, I powered it through my car's USB port for a trip to the mountains:

      Free your line and your mind will follow

    3. One disclaimer for car use: Operate at your own risk! This is intended as a novelty idea and any large objects in a car should be viewed as a hazard, etc. A police officer might stop you if you are talking on a phone, too. But look how nice this looks bolted to the dashboard!
    4. I found my Cell2Jack (or C2J) on Amazon and see them on Ebay and elsewhere. About $30-40 depending on where you find one. I've seen them offered used, too. I'll link the Amazon listing here as it provides a great list of user-provided resources and answers. Contrary to Magic Jack or VOIP, there are NO ADDITIONAL FEES beyond buying the device.
    5. That NO FEE thing is really worth praising. My personal journey with Cell2Jack began looking for just a way to power my landline phone. I wanted to hear a Dial Tone whenever I picked up the handset. I first looked at VOIP to do this; it would have been about $5/month plus equipment rental with our ISP to provide a phone connection, adding up to over a $100 a year. Magic Jack currently boasts a $43 a year charge. For both that means service can be suspended if the company stops existing. And while on the toll, it can cost countless dollars over a few decades, nor are you locked into a rate. Cell2Jack has no fees beyond the equipment itself. Think about that. It's merciful.
    6. Benefit to the planet:

    7. To my best guess, Cell2Jack has been around since 2018 (at least that's when "CELL2JACK" was granted a trademark by the UPSTO) In that time, we have thrown out an estimated 600 million cell phones.
    8. That's easily 1 billion phones thrown out since the iPhone was introduced in 2007. This statistic does not even include the many millions of landline phones chunked away to the garbage, as well.
    9. The impact on our environment to manufacture new cell phones is literally murdering our planet, yet we keep making and introducing new cell phones. And we keep throwing out our old cell phones.
    10. We even mock people for having an older iPhone that runs the same software and provide the same functions. Try holding up an iPhone 7 in a party and see if you don't any side-eyes or snickers.
    11. This "Phone Exceptionalism" shaming didn't exist with landline phones because, very often, the newer landline phones sucked worse than the classic ones. Landline phones of the 1990s, if they weren't cordless, were lighter and cheaper in construction. If you went to a home with a well preserved 1960s phone, it was often praise for the solid heavy well designed item.
    12. The components crisis of the last few years should have been a halt to making any new phones, but instead we still introduce phones. People are buying phones purely for aesthetics now, as we've long exceeded the Moore's Law of what we need out of a phone to do. Now it is only what we would LIKE a phone to do. Oh, now it folds! The next innovation will be that it's back to being flat.
    13. If you haven't been fooled into throwing them out, many homes have many nice old phones (ornate, heavy, funny, or sentimental phones) and news that you can repurpose them into your cell network is likely exciting for some people reading this. I haven't yet tried this, but Cell2Jack claims you can use them together to make a network of phones off one cell phone. Talk about innovative tech!
    14. While Apple has been forced to provide right to repair, it really should never have released more than one case for the iPhone. I mean the case you bought fifteen years ago should STILL be your phone. Apple should have made everything else modular, swap out a camera, swap out a PCB. The glass screen could slide out and a replacement could slide back in. If they wanted to upsell you it could be in tinted glass or colored glass, but not an entire new phone just to have a different bevel. Stuff like that. It's not tough to do. It was a decision to make the entire phone disposable. At the very least we can repurpose our landlines.
    15. Praising Good Design

    1. Something like this is liberating. It can train you to use your cell phone less. instantly make your cell phone into a "dumb phone" as it will just function as a bridge for receiving or making calls. In emergencies, you can still use your normal phone to text. In dire emergencies, you can use it for web browsing, and in even direr emergencies, you can still use the phone for social media.
    2. the only negative is unpairing it to use your phone can take some finessing. It will ring INSTEAD of your cell phone ringing. I had to configure my phone a bit to not default to the landline, through unpairing it when I didn't want it to be in use. But maybe this default pairing is preferred.
    3. To any product designers reading this: This device requires NO APP. Please consider how nice this is. A smart device with no freakin app to be dependent upon. No software updates to a phone to make it not work. All that is required is a Bluetooth connection. Conceivably, Bluetooth might change over time, but this is far more predictable than an Apple or Android upgrade bricking your software.
    4. An app should be the LAST THING a product designer considers necessary to add to a product and too often it's sold as a feature. Instead, Cell2Jack uses the phone's keyboard (or rotary dial) to enter in commands. It's simple and it's brilliant. The inclusion of rotary for data entry is too freakin considerate. It reminds me of how much arrogance you find in software design.
    5. If you maintain that you still need to implement an app for your product, I recommend instead that you add a RCA video jack (just the yellow one) to your device. This could pair with a TV and a user could use the television to customize settings. I have a Denon amp bought years ago that did this. That older amp still works, while a later one I bought needs an APP for customizing. That app is an unsupported 32-bit app that hasn't been updated and will now not work on my phone. About 90% of most devices today could use a TV set to configure their settings but we still cheap out by enslaving them to an app.
    6. One BRILLIANT idea about Cell2Jack: It solves a problem of erratic cell phone coverage in your home. Particularly since the pandemic where many people are home using cell service, many people have lost consistent signals inside their residences. Just plug the cell phone into the wall where the signal is strong, and use your iPad or whatever other gadget for internet and zombie-ing out on social media. Cell2Jack suggests placing your cell phone where there is service and then using the landline anywhere in your home as the equivalent of a cell phone repeater. Blank spots undone!
    7. Additionally: How many cell phones have you thrown out because using them for phone conversations ruined the phone? I'm in Texas where it is constantly hot and everyone sweats onto their phones. Sweat from your face is a consistent example of something that shorts out home buttons, jams on and off switches, or even clouds the screen.
    8. You might claim recent phones are water resistant, but I claim B.S. on that. As long as there is any exposed port on the phone, salt and water will find a way. If you were talking into a phone headset INSTEAD, your phone would last longer. A phone headset from 1965 still works as designed. I have also sweat onto a landline headset. It expects you to sweat. I can replace a headset without throwing out the entire landline phone, too. But enough about all that. Let's look at some other cool uses of this cheap device.


    9. Most impressively, at least to my needs, Cell2Jack can be used to simply restore a landline back to life, with a working dial tone. I can hear a dial tone whenever I want to hear one by picking up the headset. Pick up the phone and there is that tone. You have no idea how much you might have missed this until you restore a dial tone to your home.

      DIAL TONE!

    10. Did you know the dial tone is actually two tones? The dial tone itself, and its curious blend of hertz, is the subject of this week's show. We deconstruct the U.S. dial tone into its two frequencies (350Hz and 440Hz) and also provide the dial tone in triangle and square wave formats. Most dial tones are in SINE. If you've never heard a dial tone in SQUARE you're really in for something. Listen to this week's show for more on the Dial Tone itself, including as a SQUARE WAVE.

      SOUND TOOL: There's also an audio application for bandpass filtering

      An impressive low-fidelity recording technique can be found by using Cell2Jack to send audio through a vintage phone. Record with a Direct Connect Telephone Record Device kind of adapter. Shown above is the adapter connected to the phone via the phone cable. Plug the adapter's TS output jack into a recorder. The Cell2Jack is powered via USB. Here, it is plugged from a USB-C cable into a USB power adapter. The Cell2Jack powers the phone. The whole thing is connected to a cheap extension cord. It's exciting to think about sending audio through the aging components of the phone. The more feedback and RF distortion the better. This is a great vocal filter for narration or distorted singing. Try it out.

      Older tech that did something similar: Telephone Line Simulators

    • Prior to finding Cell2Jack, with my goal to just bring life back to a phone with a working dial tone, I first fell in love with the idea of Telephone Line Simulators. You can find Telephone Line Simulators in use for causing a phone to ring in theater production, too. They are basically a power source connected to a landline phone with some communication pieces built into them. A lot of people like the Skutch Stuff. (That gives me an opportunity to write "Skutch Stuff") – For a long time, I was looking to get a RING-IT! which allows two phones to work together offline. I came very close to a RING-IT! but opted to not get one. And if you want to go top of the line, you can also look into the CELTONE stuff. Those are great boxes:

      The CELTONE series is considered the top of the line in 1990s-2000s. If you needed one for a trade show, you could "Rent it for $150/month". Shown above is a TLS3 I picked up used/broken. Haven't looked into fixing it, but really like the ON/RING switch.

    • I should mention here that the history for how Telephone Line Simulators exist is pretty interesting: TRADE SHOWS! Have you ever been to a trade show in a convention center? How many landline connections do you think they have in that giant room? Maybe five? And how many of those can be used by booth renters? Probably none! So: Can you imagine having a convention for phone products or Telemarketing gear? Telephone Line Simulators is how those salespersons powered their telephony equipment. This allowed a room of 500 phone based products to be shown in a trade show without any of them needing a working phone line. They'd each just need a telephone line simulator. Neat when you think about it.
    • So I was first really enamored in getting a Telephone Line Simulator. Cost becomes an issue when you're just wanting to use one to have a dial tone. All of the Telephone Line Simulators were above the $100 mark in terms of cost. High end ones cost $1500. I love a dial tone but couldn't consider anything above $50 to be justifiable. Listeners of this show might recall my dip into Phonal Tonal as an app. But none of them rang my bell so to speak (sorry for the pun). I wanted a Dial Tone on a landline phone. That was until I finally found the Cell2Jack.
    • In future episodes I plan to work more with Cell2Jack as a recording hub, too, as my old 1960's telephone has some really nicely unstable aged components and bandpass filtering, complete with artifacts and buzz. I'm still figuring out the best approach for this and will report back later with good apps that work well/filter nicely with this approach to sound design. Regards to Cell2Jack for such a smart ecologically intelligent product.

      One final thing: In Memory to Rob Hordijk

    • As indicated in the parenthesis of our show title, this week's show is dedicated to Rob Hordijk. Mr Hordijk, who very sadly passed away this month at age 64 is/was widely regarded in the synthesizer community as a paragon of good ideas. An introduction can be found in the Rob Hordijk wiki, along with this incredible wealth of documentation he constructed over decades. Modular users would often travel to the Netherlands to pick up their own Hordijk systems. Be sure to look up the Benjolin, Rungler, and the Blippoo Box. We grieve his passing and thank him for all the wonderful sound and unpredictability! (Hordijk is perhaps best known outside of modular for his contributions to Nord) – A short film by Franz Schuier via Synthtopia:

    • SWWE #75: "Dial Tone Music" (Dedicated to Rob Hordijk)

      Ethan Persoff is a sound designer based in Austin Texas. He likes lists. You can subscribe to Spoken Word with Electronics via 1) Bandcamp and 2) most podcast services.

  • The Role of Analog Shift Registers in Electronic Music
      Hello and welcome back to Spoken Word with Electronics. This week we discuss a 1970's-era utility module that replicates a core concept in computing since the 1940's: Shift Registers.

      "SWWE #74: Tribute to the Analog Shift Register"

      So what is a Shift Register?

    1. There's a chance the term Shift Register might be more familiar to an engineer reading this this than a musician. While Shift Registers have found a use in sequencing music, Shift Registers are primarily a key component of the basics of computing or moving around data structures. From its origins in the 1940s, to how numerous calculators work, and so many other things. It's likely you might even have shift registers in most appliances in your home.
    2. For the musical ideas, let's view Shift Registers as a conveyor belt. On that conveyor belt is a box containing a sequence of notes. There are three separate synthesizers that are waiting to receive notes from this conveyor belt. A Shift Register makes it possible to deliver notes to that first synthesizer, then move (or "shift") those notes to the second synthesizer, then shift those notes down to the third synthesizer. Each time it does this it also brings in new notes to the first sequencer, developing a loop. The sound is similar to a delay or echo, as the second and third synths are playing the sequences you've already heard from the first. This is repeated perpetually.
    3. There are classical music examples of this, take for example Debussy's always beautiful Arabesque compositions. Listen to how the notes cascade and repeat upon themselves:

      If alive today, Debussy would totally be into modular synthesizers. He would also be a great barista.

    4. So, considering how a computer process might work to make an Arabesque composition, how does this group of notes get moved from one synthesizer to the next as a group? And how small could these notes be? Perhaps this set of notes could be very small, like a group of eight bits of data. Let's say, for example that a series of ones and zeros could define the shape of an 8-bit waveform?
    5. Working with your 8-bit group as an example, let's first load it to the first synthesizer, and then shift it forward to the next synthesizer. This video and tutorial from Sparkfun explains this process very well. I like in particular the use of two-sided cards to indicate binary numbers. It should cue right to the discussion on 3:11.

    6. If this peaks your interest in the data component of Shift Registers, I recommend this great in-detail series from Karen Corbeill of The Learning Circuit: How Shift Registers Work | How Flip-Flops Work (Logic Devices)

      Adaptation of Shift Registers for use in Music

    1. One glossary bit: Throughout this I shorthand Analog Shift Register as ASR and Shift Register is occasionally shortened to SR. Lingo!
    2. There are numerous examples of Shift Registers (SR) in electronic music. We'll be describing a Serge-based Analog Shift Register (ASR) circuit, and there are other modules like Ornament & Crime – which is available in eurorack, which is a digital shift register (DSR!). For analog purists, you can consider the Elby ASR, though please be mindful of Elby's 70mm depth which doesn't make it skiff friendly. Our version today is even more esoteric, an ASR in Moog-sized 5U.
    3. Though some other SR circuit designs are said to have been in production at a similar time, the Serge Analog Shift Register, which appeared in the mid-1970s is considered the first product available to musicians. Read this terrific survey of Serge Tcherepnin's time at Cal Arts in the 1970s. And don't miss this awesome image of what looks like the prototype.
    4. If the term "Serge" is new for you, then you'll be delighted to learn more about Serge Systems and its creator Serge Tcherepnin, whose creations have delighted a small community of electronic musicians from the 1970s to the current day, along with maker-modifications of its original concepts. It's a devoted following base similar to those who cherish Moog or Buchla.
    5. The main idea to understand is Shift Registers effectively distribute and move blocks of data on a signal (or a pulse). The shifting is controlled by a pulse sent into the module. Every time it receives a pulse into its clock, it moves whatever is being played in one output to the next output, and then so on. That creates the repeating patterns you hear, as one group is always playing what was just played in the previous group. It can add a sense of intentionality to a random composition, as we interpret music as something that repeats in structures.
    6. This concept of Shifting allows one group of data to infinitely move from A to B to C to elsewhere, the only limitation being the number of registers in the chain. This is the power of Shift Registers in general. In our example today we have three outputs (or stages) but you could potentially have thousands of shifts to move the data along. The concept is akin to a Bucket Brigade in human terms, which has been adopted into musical applications in early (and lovely sounding) analog echoes. The sound is transferred from one chip to the next, like a bucket holding water. Same concept here.
    7. So, what's in the bucket? Instead of a sound, the bucket in an Analog Shift Register contains control voltage. This block of voltage is know as a "Sample" – You are likely familiar with the term "Sampling" in audio, meaning to capture a piece of sound (like a drum beat or a vocal) but what if it could mean a granular moment of a waveform? Shift Registers, when used in audio, utilize an idea called Sample and Hold. This literally samples a voltage, and holds onto it. Think of the pulse from the clock as a PAUSE button. Every time the module receives a pulse it will press PAUSE on whatever input it is being fed. This PAUSED and HELD sample will be what it passed along from bucket 1, to bucket 2, to bucket 3.
    8. There are numerous non-musical applications of this idea in sound design, too. Want to make a Haunted House sound effect? Here is a tutorial on how to make the sound of a creaking floorboard with an activated left/right pan using an ASR. Cue to 7:14 if the player doesn't automatically jump there for you:

    Patch Notes

    1. Equipment used in this episode is a modern version of this 1970's Serge modular circuit by David Dixon. Dixon is featured in the I Dream of Wires documentary and is the principal designer of Intellijel. Under the name Sketchy Labs, he also makes small-batch Analog Shift Registers (and other modules), on request. This current ASR circuit design of Dixon's is the basis for this week's show.
    2. For best flexibility, you'll find ASR's either grouped as pairs in a system or sold as a merged Dual ASR. This allows for one ASR to handle a distributed GATE (which can trigger ENVELOPES) and the other to apply PITCH to the tuning of the OSCILLATORS or FILTER.
    3. The patch used in this show is one GATE from a sequencer, which is split into three outputs via a MULTIPLE. One of those GATES goes into the INPUT of the first ASR. You'll want to sync that GATE to the CLOCK of each ASR, so that a note moves into each register on each pulse. To do this, take the other two GATES from your MULTIPLE and connect them to both CLOCK inputs on the bottom of each module.
    4. Connect these GATE-side OUTPUT 1, OUTPUT 2, and OUTPUT 3 to three separate synth voices or envelope generators. You'll be using this ASR to engage the envelope for each of your synth voices.
    5. Test this GATE side out first. A few things might go wrong here. Depending on how your sequencer sends out the GATE pulse, it might sample a little late and you would get no rising curve of the SQUARE WAVE to trigger the gate. In this instance, a TRIANGLE might work better as your GATE source, as many envelopes will trigger on something as low as 2V. But the point here: Make sure you are triggering all three of your expected GATE inputs from this first side patch. If you're just connecting the OUTPUTS to the KEYBOARD or GATE input of a synth you should hear notes triggered in a series on the GATE outputs alone.
    6. Now you want to connect PITCH to the INPUT of the second ASR. There should already be the CLOCK connected there. Take the OUTPUT 1, OUTPUT 2, and OUTPUT 3 to match the same GATE OUTPUTS in the other ASR. (This will sync the PITCH signals to make the NOTES)
    7. Dial the CLOCK on your sequencer back and forth to make the GATE quicker and slower. Enjoy the odd rhythms that occur with faster and slower clocking. The analog shifting can be irregular and sometimes you'll stumble on something very peculiar and/or serendipitous!
    8. Note that you don't need the GATE side of the ASR, it's just a nice way to trigger the notes. You could easily just send ASR pitch notes into a few oscillators and it will send out notes, often in an R2D2 type noise. The GATE side would allow you to shape them with an ENVELOPE. You can make any of the pulses into a GATE by using an ENVELOPE GENERATOR, too. So, while two is nice, one ASR is plenty.
    9. There are three big extras with the Dixon ASR that improve on the original Serge design: An ATTENUATOR KNOB for the input voltage, a SHIFT/BYPASS switch for each output, and a LOAD/LOOP switch on the input. These are all awesome.
    10. ATTENUATOR KNOB: Basically this is identical to a volume knob on your TV or radio. But instead of audible volume it increases or decreases the voltage going into the module. If you think about pitch voltage as 0-10v, the highest pitch being 10v, think of how much lower you can make that same pitch if you decrease the voltage on a dial? You can make the pitch brighter and duller with this attenuation knob without ever having to change your actual outputting voltage. For the GATE purpose, this can be used to vary how loud the GATE is hit and/or opened, and for the PITCH output it can effectively TRANSPOSE or tune on a dial. Very useful!
    11. SHIFT/BYPASS Switches: You will hear these throughout the show's audio. Another very powerful and simple idea. If you have the switch set to SHIFT, the output will shift the currently sampled voltage at that stage. But click BYPASS and it will serve as an output for the inputed voltage. This is a great way to move a voice around in a mix, just SHIFT it or BYPASS it. A nice trick to listen for is setting all three outputs to BYPASS and they all play simultaneously. This is great for creating a tribal pattern. Then suddenly SHIFT all or a few of the outputs and the notes will space out in separate directions. Cool for disorientation.
    12. LOAD/LOOP Switch: Even odder is this enhancement. In LOAD the module works just like a normal ASR, but in LOOP it will loop whichever voltage is currently in the Sample/Hold bank. Tons of musical options here. Load and Loop in rhythm, or just use LOOP to have a single voltage always there, unchanging. You might need to commit that LOOP to a single untouched module, like the dial-frozen UEG in the last episode. But that's also why it might be good to have two.
    13. Finally, if these concepts seem familiar to you, let's talk about Shift Registers in computing and the terms Shift-Right and Shift-Left. This often can mean to multiply or divide a signal. With your GATE output, try taking one of the pulses out into a CLOCK DIVIDER, set to 50% and suddenly you'll have an entire set of shifted melodies at half the speed of the other two. To tie this back to computing, this is Shifting-Right. Shifting to the Left is a CLOCK MULTIPLIER, which will double the clock and make one of the outputs twice as fast as the other two. For everything, just patch things together and see where it leads you.
    14. SWWE #74: Tribute to the Analog Shift Register

      Ethan Persoff is a sound designer based in Austin Texas. He likes lists. You can subscribe to Spoken Word with Electronics via 1) Bandcamp and 2) most podcast services.

  • The Music of Stranger Things and "Universal Event Generators"

    Hello and welcome back to Spoken Word with Electronics. This week, we discuss 'The Upside Down' theme from Stranger Things, and how it was created — including a possible patch sheet & equipment list for trying the theme yourself at home. This is to highlight a beloved electronics module titled "The Universal Event Generator". Co-created about 10-15 years ago by Tony Karavidas of Encore Electronics and his colleague Dave Peck, the UEG is an unpredictable idea-rich sequencer and waveform generator that can control other synthesizers in very unique ways. More on its relationship to Stranger Things after the jump. First, here's audio for this week's episode, in which a UEG is used alongside the blazing sound of insect-screaming heat, here in Austin TX:

    SWWE #73: Oscillating Bugs and Universal Event Generators

    Show Notes

      First, to discuss the role of the UEG, enjoy this synth-packed visit with Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein. The composers of Stranger Things are also one half of the four person band SURVIVE. I doubt Stranger Things would have been a success, or even worked, without their intelligent narrative music. Mr Stein has a great room of equipment, and at 7:10 of the video, he discusses the 'Monster' theme for "The Upside Down":

      Mr Stein is pointing at a wooden cabinet of MOTM modules, directly at a pair of two installed Universal Event Generators.

      Delightfully, the camera-person for this segment zooms in when Mr Stein points to his UEG and discusses the theme for The Upside Down. Stein indicates the dial settings have not changed. The beauty of Moog-sized modules is they are without any menus. You can read their settings directly on the panel. So, if you pause at 8:36 you'll see the exact settings on the UEG. To my best approximation – I've recreated the settings here:

      Let's discuss these settings:

    1. A Universal Event Generator is a true classic of the Modular Revival era. It is both simple and complex. It is a sequencer with varying lengths of four to eight notes, none of the notes being quantized. It can also function as a gate-triggered eight stage envelope. And in its kookiest, it allows you to dial (via a knob for time and a knob for level) the shape of a looping eight-segment waveform. Also uncommon, the module allows the ability to switch back and forth from three very differently shaped gates: A square wave, a triangle, and a peculiar peaking ramp. This means the sequence can be pulsing (square), gliding (triangle), or sort of wonderfully glued to each segment in a syrupy pinched way (the ramp). Everything is immediately switchable and changeable while you work with it. It is, in its easiest description: An idea generator.

    2. A link to the manual, which pictorially describes many of its features.

      Please also refer to this thread on the ModWiggler Synthesizer forum. It contains a few videos of the UEG – but most importantly scroll to a post from Dave Peck at Nov 17, 2014 6:40 pm where he describes his roll on the module along with some other very useful tips on how to use one.

    3. Returning to the embedded video above. At 7:33, Mr Stein explains that the tuning on a UEG is extremely finicky. This is true. Since using that one UEG module to compose The Upside Down theme, Stein states he has not altered the module's settings. (Perhaps a fresh Monster Theme would be needed for a future holiday episode where Chewbacca and the Monster play a saxophone, as an example, with fresh theme needed, so don't touch that dial – but seriously, many who use a UEG can totally relate)
    4. To enforce such a restriction, a piece of "Red Dot" is now adhered onto the module. This is so that Mr Stein knows not touch the sequencer. Mr Dixon states this red-dotted frozen UEG is a source of shared sadness, as the UEG, when un-dotted and fully tunable is so lovely. Perhaps this why they now have two UEG! (One to play, one to stay) Such is the state of mind with modular patching where you can not save a preset! It's also the ephemeral beauty of modular electronics. An adjustment of dials can be fleeting. Never to be returned if changed.

      We include a free red dot for your UEG at home

    6. This is because the UEG is a microtonal sequencer. There can be hundreds of different notes in between the space of one normal semitone. So, with only a dial and no digital display, once you've created a great sequence, how do you retain it or repeat it later? Your best bet might be to get a CV recorder to retain the note voltage for that one needed sequence. The other option, as discussed in the video: You can simply never use the module again unless it is to play The Upside Down theme. And for that you place a red dot on it and voila!
    7. This also means The Upside Down theme is unique in terms of its composition. So for fun, a little audio archeology, I'm curious: So what are those frozen settings?

    1. First, the left half of the panel was likely not used at all in the theme itself. But I'll explain it: That part of the panel is TIME. Each of those dials are for the time in between each separate note. One great thing about a UEG is you can make the time between notes vary in length. You'll find this also in classic sequencers like the Moog 960, but with the UEG is it extreme: One note can be a microsecond and the following note can last up to close to a minute! (60 Hz to 50 seconds, precisely) So with that explained, think of the Upside Down theme. What do you think of these time settings?

      These are complicated times.

      If this is The Upside Down theme, it would sound erratic. The note lengths are all over the place. The first note looks like it lasts twenty seconds! with a bunch of very fast notes and then a very slow final eighth note that's close to a full droning minute. Maybe if this was a European film that would work, but this is Spielberg-ian stuff. I'm going to guess the TIME dials were not used in The Upside Down sequence and used an external GATE clock. (More on that in a minute.) However, they could also easily switch back and forth to this TIME setting by disabling the GATE input, which would allow The Upside Down theme to drift slowly around, kind of in a dreamy way. Add some reverb and each note would pop irregularly in the air. Say, Eleven had too many Eggo-blended Shirley Temples and faded away to nosebleed-ville while she dismantles a Shark in her head. If activated, this would retain the notes but play them in wildly distended time.

      Oh, one cool thing – Do you see the small row of numbers above the dials, numbered 1,2,3,4,5,6,7, and 8 ? It's clearer in the large image above of the panel. Those are LED lights. They not only illuminate when a note is active (and for how long) but they also change intensity for how much level they are sending out, from bright to a high note and low to a low note. It's a small feature but allows complete visual understanding of where the sequencer is – which is useful because this is a bit of a random generator that can easily confuse you.

      So, returning to those wacky time settings. They probably used an external clock. You'd input that into GATE:

      The four jacks: GATE (input) TCV (input) OUT (output) TRIG (output)

      The TCV setting is for users familiar with the module, but boy is it cool. You can feed fluxuating voltage into that input and it will unpredictably lengthen each stage by up to 8 seconds, or less, then more, etc. It doesn't need to be in sync, either, so it can affect different note lengths every time as the sequence runs. Let's ignore that, but wow!

    2. For making a steady pulse like The Upside Down theme, you want to control things, which means putting a pulse into the GATE input. You can bypass the TIME setting by feeding a steady voltage pulse into the GATE input. I'm fairly certain that Dixon and Stein did this, which is the jack marked GATE on the bottom (it's obscured but right next to TCV). But if you listen to the theme in the show it's a regular steady beat. They likely used a synced clock, which can just be a pulsing LFO. With enough amplification, you can even do this with sound (Korg has a pretty good free app that works often) Now the next section LEVEL, however, very plausibly are the notes (or filter twangs) used in the theme itself. Let's focus on that:

      Is this The Upside Down theme?

    3. Above shows the LEVEL settings on the UEG on Mr Stein's wall. I played this sequence into a filter and a pitch and it sounded very close. I'll explain how to do that in a moment. But first, the settings show a few switch settings. Refer to the manul linked above: ONE SHOT is selected, and the loop is set to begin on the second dial and end on the eighth. Triangle is set as the waveform. If you hum The Upside Down sequence in your head you'll see the up and down (get it?) of pitches in the settings for dials two through eight. If you wanted to use those TIME settings, a patch cable from the TRIG output will send a pulse on the eighth sequence out, which will reiniate the sequence perpetually if you input that into the GATE input, and Bob's Your Uncle. Cool!
    4. Now, the question of how to get this sequence into your synthesizers. Unlike most sequencers, the UEG does not provide a gate output for each note. So if you play this sequence into a synthesizer you need to also trigger the envelopes with a gate. Otherwise it will be a drone with pitch variation. It won't be the cool plucking sound you get from that Stranger Things scene

      Analog Steps:

    1. You'll first want to take the OUT pulse from the UEG into a multiple. You'll be sending one to an envelope generator, and then two pulses to the pitch and filter of a synth. As you'd want to preserve the microtonal settings, I'd also suggest an active attenuator on both inputs to evenly measure and level out the UEG output into the pitch and filter inputs. Vary how much you send into the pitch and filter with the attenuator while playing for add a little variety and animation while looping.
    2. You'll be using the Envelope Generator to create a Gate every time a pulse is sent from the UEG. Basically, just input one of the three MULT outputs into the Instrument Interface and amplify it with attenuation on the threshold until you see an even pulse on the Instrument Interface's GATE or TRIG output. Good! Now you can send that pulse into the keyboard input of your synth. This will trigger the envelopes of the synth every time a note is played.
    3. You will want a very snappy envelope to get the sounds of The Upside Down. If you want to stay in Moog Format, you might be great with the Frequency Central System X ADSR, which is a clone of the Roland 100m ADSR – though they claim "but snappier!" – See if this sounds like the envelope pluck of The Upside Down to you?

      It would need some work to slow down and lower the pitch, along with making the attack of the envelope even tighter (along with more of a sustain tail) but this isn't a bad start to going into the Stranger Things forest. My guess as to what synth they used on the show is the Oberheim Two Voice.

    4. The more you learn about modular synthesis you'll see these instructions are fairly simple. It's very fun to treat a patch like this as a starting off point, too, and to mangle up things. Enjoy the discovery!
    5. Regrettably, the Universal Event Generator is no longer produced on a mass scale, but they show up from time to time used or for trade. It was also manufactured in a very cool looking Eurorack format with matching features.
    6. This week we use the UEG on the show to sing along with insects in the heat:

      SWWE #73: Oscillating Bugs and Universal Event Generators

      Ethan Persoff is a sound designer based in Austin Texas. You can subscribe to Spoken Word with Electronics via Bandcamp and most podcast services.

  • The Knas Quad Massager mixes sound with a joystick
      Hello and welcome back to Spoken Word with Electronics. This week week, we highlight the work of Karl Ekdahl, who runs the small company KNAS. KNAS is best known for a spring reverb called the Ekdahl Moisturizer, a very creative effects device with the springs exposed and all manner of modular electronic concepts (like an LFO and filter) added in. KNAS also made, for a brief time, a droning synthesizer with candyland colors called the Polygamist. Their third product is less discussed but, to me, the coolest of all three: A quadraphonic mixer with automation, called the Quad Massager.

      This episode of SWWE explores possible uses of the Quad Massager throughout:

      A few notes on what the Quad Massager is and how to use it:

      The back of the unit allows for 18 input/output jacks. The more you know about modular electronics the more you can do here, but as an introduction, let's just focus on the four circled jacks.

    1. At its most basic, the Quad Massager is a joystick-based audio mixer. On the back is a robust amount of eighteen input/output jacks. Four of these are for "VCA input", indicated above in circles. Those are your four channels for incoming sound. These correspond to the front panel as regions A,B,C, and D. There is also a dial for LFO speed and X and Y coordinates. Both on those in a moment:

    2. Front panel: The map of all of this is communicated by the four LED lights on the right and the joystick. The device also has automation built in, which spins a clockwise frequency according to how you set the LFO dial. Note also the X, which is the north/south location of the axis, and Y, which is the left/right spin location.

      These four possible inputs on the back correspond to the joystick on the front which allows you to manually crossfade back and forth from each separate sound. Easy enough. You can also just input one sound (the circuit will distribute that one input to all four channels if no other inputs are present) then use the joystick to move that single sound around to four separate spaces.

    3. Automation
      The wildest part of the Quad Massager is the dials on the the front to automate the panning between the four regions. You can spin an LFO (it is fixed to clockwise but ask in comments for ways to switch this) and this relationship between four regions of sound becomes psychedelic and swirling. Magic Hands!
      There is this video which clearly demonstrates the audio mixing:
      QUITE A VIDEO. This is very fun if you connect each output to separate speakers to make a quadraphonic space, or just route a signal to four different destinations in your sound design. Additionally, each input has its own VCA for control voltage shifts. And there are multiple control voltage outputs corresponding to how the device is used, making it an adequate controller for tons of different kinds of sound design. As mentioned, the more you're familiar with control voltage concepts the more interesting this lovely metal box becomes. Take a single region's VCA out into the CV input of a filter, for example.
    4. A Hidden Etch A Sketch
      If that was all this did, I'd be happy, but then there's the other part: Sine to X and Cosine to Y. Does using two dials to move left/right and up/down seem at all familiar? You likely experienced this sort of control with a treasured toy: An Etch A Sketch. If you recall how you move the magnet around the screen with an Etch A Sketch, it is up/down and left/right on a rigid grid. The same idea is here, but it controls the axis by which the LFO rotates. So if you go high up on X and far to the left on Y, you'll spin the majority of the joystick movement around the first input with only a little bleed from the other three channels. This is brilliant! So you could use the X and Y dials to go far up into the North West region of the panel and then the LFO will rotate on that axis, giving prominence to the first sound in the audio mix. The Etch A Sketch analogy is mine, not the company's – But I think it explains it best.
    5. Use as a Panner with Dual Stereo Paths
      The best part of this mixer is its subtle qualities, particularly how it outputs each region separately. This allows for lightly dropping components of stereophonic ideas (or quadraphonic, if in an event space) directly into a mix. The device itself is very well made, with a nice rubberized base for the joystick (it is not on a spring and sticks wherever you place it). In a world of cheesy disposable gimmicks, it's a delight to know something like the Quad Massager exists. It feels as sturdy as old telephone equipment.
    6. Sound Examples
      SWWE #72: Quadraphonic Panning with the Knas Quad Massager

    7. Connect with SWWE via VCA Input and Automation on Bandcamp, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google .

  • A Beautiful Italian Robot Voice
      Hello everyone, welcome back to Spoken Word with Electronics. This week, after a short stay through customs, a wonderful box arrived from Italy: the GRP V22, an all-analog vocoder. GRP Synthesizer is a small Italian company which assembles its electronics by hand and spends years on development, imbuing their work with a European craftsmanship that is often faithful to original electronic concepts. The wall-sized A8 synthesizer and very creative R24 sequencer are two examples of their impact on the electronics community. And now they have a vocoder. An amazing vocoder built as authentic to original designs of how a vocoder works as possible. It's pretty damn exciting. But what is a vocoder? Despite vocoders' ubiquity in plug-ins and other formats, fully analog vocoders with access to the spectral analysis are exceptionally rare. This week's show we vocode thoroughly:

      SWWE #71: The GRP Vocoder Speaks for Itself (Demo and Sound Tests of the GRP V22)

      A few notes on the wonder of the vocoder and this instrument:

    1. Vocoder technology pre-dates the modern sense of a synthesizer by at least a decade. It was first used for military telecommunication in 1940, and is one of the earliest examples of encryption.
    2. The Internet has such a wealth of rare-to-find information. Be sure to read: The Carrier Nature of Speech by Homer Dudley (The Bell System Technical Journal, 1940) — While there, be sure to grok all the incredible imagery in the document!
    3. The encrypted voice of a vocoder is the voice of a user being spectrally imprinted onto a square wave or triangle (neat!) – And if you use a synthesizer to vary this soundwave you have a musical application. This is found in historic examples of Peter Frampton, Bruce Haack, Beastie Boys, Laurie Anderson, others.

      For all vocoding, note the use of the brain!
    4. Analog vocoders that provide envelope outputs of each analysis band are uncommon. There is the Bode 7702, which has been recently been reissued by Moog. The other full-size example is the Kraftwerk-famous Sennheiser VSM-201. In Eurorack there are close comparables in the Frap Tools Fumana, the Verbos Bark Filter, and a few others.
    5. For all of these you'll confront the terrible burden of analog vocoding: Price. Expect about $1,000-$5,000. Want one at 1/1000th the price? My favorite cheap example is the iphone is the Matrix Vocoder, and only $5.00 – or, for keys and straight vocoding: the $500 Behringer clone of a Roland VP330.
    6. So why pay nearly ten, a hundred, or a thousand times more for an analog vocoder with knob per function? The answer is the sounds of a vocoder provide more than just robot noises. With dedicated inputs and outputs you can imprint any one sound onto another. This is as vast a palette as mixing two separate colors. You get a robot if you imprint a voice onto a square wave, but what happens if you reverse that? Or imprint wind harmonics onto a tractor? That's the sort of discovery allowed with an analog vocoder. Particularly when you're allowed envelope outputs of each filter band. A good vocoder can provide both the voiced and unvoiced components of the signal, as well, providing what is called 'Ghost Voices' of the signal and other cool Tesla-era ideas of sounds as specters. This fellow understands!
    7. Here's a half hour from this episode where voices are vocoded, individual bands are triggered as VCAs, other explorations:

    8. SWWE #71: The GRP Vocoder Speaks for Itself (Demo and Sound Tests of the GRP V22)

      Connect with SWWE via Carrier Signal and Vocode on Bandcamp, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google .

  • Making Music with an Anti-Theft Device and a Hammer
      Howdy, welcome back to Spoken Word with Electronics. As with all episodes, we submit the following report on urban life:

    1. This week my wife showed up at home with a piece of plastic connected to a purchase. It was human error that retained the suspicious item, post-sale. We both knew it was an alarm. It was a wire connected to a plastic shell, similar to one of these buggers. The wire gets tugged, the alarm screams. She asked if I wanted to look at it (I had a plan to connect it to a voltage source and trigger on contact, that the connection could be momentary or latching, to turn it into a buzzer)
    2. In the process of removing the cable I triggered the alarm. But once triggered, even reconnecting the wire did not shut it off. The sound from these things are hilariously shrill and deafening. They can't be stomped on, either – as their design is to continue wailing out in pain in the store to identify a shoplifter. So, like a robot baby that won't shut up, I brought it outside and smashed a hammer on it – Even this required some effort to properly mute. You'll hear the birds outside attempt to sing with the shrill alarm, it even gets a grackle's attention!
    3. I've played synths outside before and not achieved such a response from nature. Perhaps this is because the Anti-Theft Alarm generates the world's most irritating waveform possible. Look at the sharp gaps and clipping/cascading spikes:

      The anti-theft alarm generates perhaps the world's most irritating oscillator

    4. The waveform is surprisingly dense and transpiercing. Using a number of filters and formant analysis we actually find some really cool tones throughout. Have a neighbor you'd like to annoy? Don't miss this one! (You're welcome to do a TikTok dance to it, as well)
    5. In a world of increasing noise and all of us screaming for attention, it seems appropriate that Anti-Theft Alarm music exist, so here is an hour of such a thing.

    6. SWWE #70: DON'T BE ALARMED (Music with an Anti-Theft Device and Hammer)

      Some postscripts worth your interest:

    • Thanks to underground researcher/author Sean Howe for this tweet. Sean has found some copies of Downtown Magazine! He also mentions the Other Scenes Archive. I've been working every Tuesday to upload new content. You'll find all of 1967 and half of 1968 available now for your enjoyment: www.ep.tc/os
    • On another counterculture note, check out this incredible May Day video! – Hour long video of raw activism, produced by an ad hoc group of 25 indy early videomakers in 1971 (Thanks to Skip Blumberg)
    • A sad note: Rest in Praise to Justin Green. Green, who spent many years as a sign painter of the highest skill, also made one of the best comics in history. Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary is still, fifty years after being created, a timeless and unique head trip of a book. If you've never read it, become someone who has read it!
    • Finally, a lovely bit of music in search of a sound from Mondo 2000 creator RU Sirius. Enjoy his DFW nodding Infinite Gesture. I rather enjoyed "We Are Duchampians of the World". Aren't we all.
    • Thanks and Be Alarmed. It's very loud!

  • Metasonix as a Higher Power in Sobriety
      Spoken Word with Electronics is an audio series of unusual stories and commentary, paired with modular electronic sounds and noises

      Welcome back to the show. This week, the discussion is on alcoholism. Not a fun discussion, but a drinking habit is like any thing else, you only get there through effort! I'm celebrating five years sober this month, and the positive effects are finally really appearing. One thing I like about recovery concepts is the idea of a Higher Power. Many people misinterpret this to mean sobriety requires religious conversion. It doesn't at all. It simply means to accept help from something unseen (or seen), and to ask for it. And for me, my higher power is vacuum-tube based electronics. Noise has kept me alive.

      I think the psychology of a higher power is pretty clear: Most people suppress emotions while drinking (it's sort of the point) and asking for a Higher Power opens up the idea of forming those pathways neurologically. It's a nice exercise.

      You can find a higher power in a TV show, in a poem, in a bag of garbage, it doesn't matter! And in the five years going sober, I've realized my higher power is electronics. Specifically, I find assistance and mental peace through the most purposefully offensive electronics maker in the world: Metasonix. Metasonix is a small operation based out of Lakeport, California. They make vacuum tube based electronics. The sounds out of their tube-based drum machines, filters, and synth voices are beguiling, extremely difficult to work with, aggressive – and, when you get it right – unbelievably beautiful. I don't especially like other people, so AA has never been an option. But the concepts are sound. My community has been electronic devices.

      Pictured: Five Metasonix RK7 VCOs. Each voice is erratic and unpredictable. They sound like Tesla coils. The drum machine is not to be unexperienced, too.

      I'm glad to say in five years, I've never f-cked up. On days when I've really needed a drink, Metasonix has been there. It is a primitive sound. A carnival noise that snake-charms into your head (I'm not kidding) and there is something completely unique to how lost one becomes interacting with their devices. You sort out your problems unconsciously while a hot thyratron pulse zips through your skull. In short, it calms like a drink calms, soars you to emotional euphoria just as similarly, and is as unpredictable, too. Despite the company's best efforts to offend, future generations will recognize Metasonix as being as significant as Moog and Buchla. (I can only think of SOMA Labs in Russia as being as creatively significant as the work Metasonix makes)

      So this week we have a tribute to Metasonix. There are numerous examples in the playlist, including Pink Clovers (a Metasonix instrumental). Drink up!

      TLDR: Ask for help and help happens.

      SWWE #69: "Five Year Sobriety Report" (Metasonix as a Higher Power)

  • My Room Is a Mess

    Spoken Word with Electronics is an audio series of unusual stories and commentary, paired with modular electronic sounds and noises

    Welcome back to the show. This week, our room is a mess. Including a tribute to Vestax DJ Mixers of the 1990s and 2000s, and a two part demo of a rarely heard Moog 984 Four Channel Matrix Mixer. Watch where you step, our room is a mess!

  • HEAR: "Headlines Like These" — 1950's Spoken Word on 'Hopeless Teenage Dope Addicts'
  • Samsung's Big Leak: "Up to 763,000 gallons of sulfuric acid" spilled into an Austin TX tributary
  • Since 2018, Certs Mints have outperformed Bitcoin as an investment, nine to one.

    Hello welcome back to Spoken Word with Electronics. This week we discuss candy mints, or Bit-Mint. Sometimes the most ordinary things in the world are pulled off shelves for their ingredients. This happened to Certs Mints in 2018. Like most drugs, the after-market pricing on Certs has erupted since being banned. A bargain pack of Certs (expired in 1996!) now can be found selling for $200. That's a high ceiling, but there are hundreds of similar listings across the Dark and Frosted Candy Web, averaging out at $25/roll sold. Certs Mints are hot. Here at SWWE we run the numbers to see how much more mint you can make on mint. Or more specifically how much was lost by not buying mint in 2018.

    • Proposal: If you'd traded your Bitcoin for Certs Mints in 2018 (when still on shelves), you'd now have nearly 10 times more money in Retsyn-based commodity than sticking with Bitcoin.
    • Bitcoin's price in 2018 was $6500.
    • Bitcoin today is $37,000.
    • Due to having partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, Certs Mints was discontinued in 2018.
    • Certs was marked down for quick sale to 50¢ a roll, or a nickle a mint.
    • Today, in collector mint circles, which can also include candy mint addicts, that same roll of Certs often sells for an average of $25/roll:
    • Takeaway: Had you taken the $6,500 in Bitcoin and purchased 13,000 rolls of Certs in 2018, your value in Certs today would be (13,000 x 25) $325,000.
    • Certs Mints outperforms Bitcoin as an investment, nearly 9 to 1.
    • This episode of SWWE, we break it all down into the Mint-Haves and the Mint-Nots. We also discusses the Ukraine crisis, Nuclear Weapons, and provides a useful tutorial on how to use a Drawmer Noise Gate, a Trapezoid Envelope Generator, and Pitch Shifting for the News.
    • SWWE #65: "At Least it Isn't Omi-Crohn's!" (and: The Price of Mints)

  • DEA releases chart of 'Dangerous Emojis' used to buy drugs

    The Drug Enforcement Administration announced this week that emojis, once thought to only entice sex through peaches and eggplant, can now also be used to buy drugs. In a chart that is printable for your wall, they have posted an "emoji drug code guide." This informs parents that their child's use of emoji is very possibly a secret screen language for purchasing drugs and communicating with drug dealers. For any child unclear on how to do this, or which emoji to use, the DEA has also provided a menu. Here's a bit of audio playing with that:

    There is a measure of good intention here with the DEA. Many pills bought off the street are currently laced with Fentanyl, which is a complete horror to consider. But no kid wants to take Fentanyl (unless they order it with a clear 'smiling face with tear', of course).

    Instead of encouraging distrust and resentment with parents and kids, the real push from the DEA should be to provide your kids with no-questions access to Fetanyl test strips – Similar to just giving your kids condoms, a simple test for them to know what they're about to ingest would likely impact the death rate on laced pills. If you're already snooping on their messages for a text code (a code that can easily change, incidentally) you might consider speaking candidly over Hallmark Channel espionage.

    The DEA has a history of this, and it's always comical in terms of effort and effect. Synonym addicts will enjoy their word-packed 2018 PDF on Slang Terms and Code Words (which introduced me to the term 'whiffle dust', thanks for that) or for fans of visual aids, there is the diagram-packed 1960s/1970s "Diagram of a Drug Abuser".

    All of this is the DEA's way of saying: "Welcome to 2022!" This new episode of Spoken Word with Electronics tackles the emoji issue.

    SWWE #64: Dangerous Emojis and Fornicating Ants

  • Hear Mariah Carey and Alien Sex Fiend sing a Xmas Duet

    Happy holidays to you from us at Spoken Word with Electronics. Primary music in track two is goth santas Alien Sex Fiend, whose Stuff the Turkey should be sung around every chimney. We also review an Electro-Voice RE20, whose flat frequency curve at 5K makes it the far better microphone for this show than any Shure product. That mic comparison (RE20 vs SM57 vs SM7B) is discussed in the introduction. Enjoy the season. Oh, Mariah!

  • "I'm Terrified & Lonely" – Read this newly unearthed 1955 interview with Marilyn Monroe

    Spoken Word with Electronics is an audio series of unusual stories and commentary, paired with modular electronic sounds and noises — and, in this episode, rare archives of underground counterculture newspapers

    Hi, everyone, welcome back to the show. A few episodes back, SWWE began to republish John Wilcock's Other Scenes. This is a huge trove of material, dating back seventy years, and it includes much of John's personal copies for material he created. One of the rarest of these items is his interview with Marilyn Monroe. This interview with Monroe was the basis for one of the first Wilcock comics, and near the end of John's life he rediscovered his own copy of the original article, from Liberty Magazine July 1955. The original interview is now scanned and available at The Other Scenes archive. It's a wonderful example of how capable John Wilcock was as an interviewer, too, as he transforms a normal promotional press piece (Marilyn was paired with John to promote Billy Wilder's Seven Year Itch). The resulting text focuses on Marilyn's ambitions for legitimacy and her depression. This was during the collapse of her marriage to Joe DiMaggio who found the famous skirt scene from Seven Year Itch to be intolerable.

    John's entire interview is available at the archive. As it's his personal copy it is attached with two 65 year old paperclips. The entire article is eight pages (with photos and other content) of highly sought after content of Monroe at both the peak of her career and the sad and tragic beginning of her unraveling.

    John's memory of the encounter survived nearly verbatim when interviewed for his biography to what is printed in the interview itself, though there are a few lines from the original piece that he'd never mentioned that would have been great to include in a comic panel. This is discussed in this episode's Other Scenes Inventory Report.

    Other material in this episode includes SOY SAUCE PRANKS and a visit to The Blue Eagle Bar in this installment of The Recovery of Charlie Pickle.

    Spoken Word with Electronics #61

    Connect with SWWE on Bandcamp, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google . Thanks and have a good week.

  • Remembering the Wife Swapping Crisis of the 1960s

    Spoken Word with Electronics is an audio series of unusual stories and commentary, paired with modular electronic sounds and noises.

    Hi, everyone, welcome back to the show. This week we discuss Wife Swapping. It's a book reviewed by John Wilcock in OTHER SCENES #2, 1967. You'll find a full PDF of the review, along with other interesting capsules of the underground era, in this recent update of a new feature on Spoken Word with Electronics: The Other Scenes Inventory Report. Wife Swapping, or sharing partners, or swinging, still exists (of course) – But there was a brief moment in the late 1960s/early 1970s where it became a bit of a small suburban fad. The book "Wife Swapping" by Thomas J.B. Wilson, PhD and Everett Meyers presents itself as a kind of Kinsey Report for the delicate act of trading your women:

    It's my perspective that partner sharing almost always never works out. Doubt and mistrust are things that can develop over time. Worse, fear or resentment can be unexpectedly created in the moment itself, even if the initial experience is fun. It's often a sign of the end of a relationship, rather than a new chapter, if swapping is introduced. Of course, it depends on who is doing whom. The friends of mine that swap partners successfully only did so through meeting each other in freely sexual locations (sex clubs, etc), so it was part of their identity as a couple. But to casually dip your toe into the endeavor (say, one person urges the other to try it) can be needlessly reckless. Still, it's terrific to see a book like this from 1967 properly catalogued in the inventory of weird things from John Wilcock's notebook.

    The Other Scenes Inventory Report is an intention to archive all the available issues of John Wilcock's Other Scenes, a 1960s counterculture newspaper. I'm providing audio commentary for each update. This issue also includes a wonderfully scathing poem from John Sinclair on a Detroit narcotics officer who busted him on a marijuana charge. The 'Poem for Warner Stringfellow' is from the 1967 issue of Other Scenes. A year later, Sinclair would co-found The White Panther Party (a supportive white organization for The Black Panthers) and a year after that, he'd famously be charged with a 10 year prison sentence for offering two joints to an undercover policewoman.

    Also in this update: Issue five of Other Scenes, April 1967. Hot dog, Maggots! This includes one of the more collected single sheets of Hunter S. Thompson's early writing career. Often referred to as "The Ultimate Freelancer", Thompson's tribute to mentor Lionel Olay is a riveting blast of good HST. Most of the Internet gets the origin of this piece to be incorrectly attributed to The Distant Drummer, which reprinted it in November 1967. But the original article ran as a letter to John Wilcock in O.S. #5. (It was also described here on Boing Boing in the John Wilcock comic) – The upload of this original page of Hunter Thompson writing should delight many of you.

    You'll find links to scans in full PDF with OCR of both issues and audio commentary in this week's episode. Also, there was a call for feedback last show and we're happy to include some lovely listener submissions in track two, Listener Feedback. To quote Outer Limits: Thank you, Listener!

    SPOKEN WORD WITH ELECTRONICS #60: Listener FEEDBACK and A Bag of Screws

    Connect with SWWE via Partner Swap and Newsprint Scanner on Bandcamp, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google . Thanks and have a good week.

  • The Realist Archive Project launches a sequel: "The Other Scenes Inventory Report"

    Spoken Word with Electronics is an audio series of unusual stories and commentary, paired with modular electronic sounds and noises — and, in this episode, rare archives of underground counterculture newspapers!

    Hi, everyone, welcome back to the show. While this show is a podcast about electronics, it is also a sort of Audio Magazine where I share other projects. I've been archiving and uploading odd material onto the web for 20 years now, the standout moments being Comics with Problems and The Realist Archive Project. To a discerning vintage audience, those links might raise a smile. (And hello if you've never visited either, too) Both projects represent early Internet efforts to scan and upload material, far before social media robbed people of their independence to do so on their own, and both projects have an interesting history regarding where uploaded content got shared. This episode of SWWE introduces the third archive project of the site, which is a direct companion of The Realist Archive: The Other Scenes Inventory Report.

    To counterculture historians and rare paper collectors, OTHER SCENES is widely considered among the best underground newspapers published in the 1960s. It was a daring and no bullshit ride into drugs, politics, race, sex, and news. It is playful and it is a lot of fun. It also has been largely forgotten by time, as competitive papers like Rolling Stone survived. (Rolling Stone not only copied Other Scenes format, incidentally, but it also copied its contributor pool, namely Hunter S Thompson, who contributed to Other Scenes, considering its editor John Wilcock a colleague). You'll get a chance to read all of this O.S. material soon.

    You might recognize John Wilcock's name from the comic that ran on Boing Boing here for about ten years. This archive is meant to be additional material for the collected print edition of those comics, but the depth of this material likely far exceeds the comic itself.

    It is called 'the inventory report' as I have a large box of material from John, which needs closer scrutiny now that the comic is complete. So each two weeks, as part of Spoken Word with Electronics, there will be four OTHER SCENES items added, including audio commentary. You can download nicely restored PDF copies at the archive. Each PDF copy is free for you to non-commercially distribute and is OCR scanned for searchable text. This first installment includes rules on how to attend a San Francisco Sex Party in 1967, along with a garden party that Wilcock attended with Alan Watts at the Aldous Huxley estate.

    The goal here is to upload the entire run (or a very close percentage) of OTHER SCENES. Much of this material has not been seen in more than fifty years. It's a ton of fun to read. As Wilcock's biographer, I'm most excited about providing audio commentary, going through all the material.

    This first posting of the Other Scenes Inventory includes Issue #1 ("Fuck Hate", 1967), Issue 3 ("The Scene", 1967), a "Diagram of a Drug Abuser" (reference material, TX Dept of Public Safety, Narcotics Service), and the original 1966 advertisement Wilcock ran in the Village Voice when leaving both The Voice and The East Village Other to strike it out on his own.

    Here's this week's commentary track:

    The remainder of the show asks you for your feedback. Feedback is on our mind this week, as the headphones in our studio had a slight leak in them. This is a fun trick to learn how to purposefully do, as your headphones can cause amplifier-rattling feedback with just the slightest tilt off your ears into a microphone when recording. And if this is something you love doing too, I'm interested in hearing YOUR feedback! Send any screeching howling tones, or drones, or walkee talkee scratches, etc, to our Soundcloud page via Direct Message, and we'll include your feedback (with credit) in the next episode. All feedback welcome!


    Connect with SWWE via Good Endeavors and Other Scenes on Bandcamp, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google . Thanks and have a good week.

    — Make your mind happy, Visit the OTHER SCENES ARCHIVE Today!

  • ELECTRIC TOOTH! Hear a Synthesizer recreate getting a Dental Crown

    Spoken Word with Electronics is an audio series of unusual stories and commentary, paired with modular electronic sounds and noises.

    Hi, everyone, welcome back to the show. This week the subject is dentistry. I've always been good about going to the dentist. Give me the chair, man! It's like getting a tattoo every six months on your teeth. But due to the pandemic I hadn't been able to get a cleaning for seventeen months, and one of my few fillings (the silver kind from the 1980s) didn't survive. So, pandemic delay accepted, I received the rough prognosis: I NEEDED A CROWN. So this week is dedicated to that very noisy drilling procedure.

    Make your own tooth: Using a blend of contrasting highly modulated voltage into filters and pitch on a few synths, we emulate the musical scraping and drilling of the experience. Eurorack and event generators provide a good amount of variety to add in sounds of water, random bits of flying pieces, suction, etc. Dental crowns are fascinating, really. Not too painful, but it turns your mouth into a lego set. The mouth is like a small workshop in your face. There's nothing it can't do, or become! Hear our electric tooth tribute in this week's introduction.

    Contrasting the discomfort and humor of the dentist, audio this week is a montage of some of the best parent protests against forcing masks on their children. Hand a microphone to a pissed off parent and there's no end to the surprises! You find that in the raw audio section of this week's episode.

    We also visit a coin fountain and travel back in time. But there's no time travel for teeth! Don't miss your cleanings. In between, be sure to floss!

    Postscript: In memory of video artist NANCY CAIN

    This week's show is in tribute to Nancy Cain, who passed away on Sunday August 22. Nancy is well known to video art activists for her work in Videofreex. (If you make ANY non-corporate video, from art to a tiktok post, you owe her a thanks for paving the way for your access to such ideas) I knew her as Paul Krassner's truest friend – his long time wife of many decades. She was 81 and an incredible human. Here's to you, Nancy. Read her book, incidentally: It's incredibly vivid and inspiring.

    (Fellow Videofreex artist Skip Blumberg confirmed this sad news of Nancy's passing)

    Connect with SWWE via Dentist Procedure and Replacement Cap on Bandcamp, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google .

    Thanks and have a good week, Ethan

  • Would you send $1000 to this 1990s Televangelist?

    Spoken Word with Electronics is an audio series delivering to you a two side recording of unusual stories paired with vintage modular electronic sounds

    Hi, everyone, welcome back to the show. This last year (or two) has been a fun dip into Hell, and it's rekindled my interest in Televangelism. I used to record a lot of them on VHS tapes in the 1990s and so this week I thought I'd share my favorite one. I originally labeled it "Reverend Hellfire" on the VHS label. It's an amazing story that is literally rags to riches, from preaching in front of trash dumpsters 45 years previous, that suddenly erupts into a constant flood of thousand dollar bills. He actually talks to God. Do you have $1000? Do you have a phone? CALL NOW!

    Side B continues the Charlie Pickle serial, with "The Daily Worry".

    SPOKEN WORD WITH ELECTRONICS #57: TWENTY DOLLAR HELL and The Lost Emotional Sound of Dating on Landline Phones

    Here's the entire episode:

    Connect with SWWE via Hellfire and Bandpass Filter on Bandcamp, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google .

    Thanks and have a good week, Ethan

  • Have you heard Abbott & Costello's 'Ten Year Old Child Bride' joke from 1941?

    Spoken Word with Electronics is an audio series delivering to you a two side recording of unusual stories paired with vintage modular electronic sounds

    Hi, everyone, welcome back to the show. This week we meander back to the more innocent times of 1941. Universal Pictures released a war film titled "Buck Privates" starring Abbott and Costello. It's mostly silly gags throughout but there's a slightly notorious joke hidden in there about a 40 year old man marrying a ten year old girl. The duo would continue the joke for some years, short-titled "You're 40, She's 10":

    To Costello's credit, though Abbott urges him to pursue his infatuation with the 10 year old, the math on their age isn't right. It sets up the comedy, based on fractions and percentages: When will she be old enough? The duo are best known for other logic problems (like Who's on First?). Here's the entire routine:

    Abbott: You're 40 years-old and you're in love with this little girl that's 10 years-old. You're four times as old as that girl and you couldn't marry her, could you?

    Costello: Not unless I come from the mountains.

    Abbott: All right. You're 40 years-old. You're four times as old as this girl, and you can't marry her, so you wait five years. By that time the little girl's 15 and you're 45. You're only three times as old as that little girl. So you wait 15 years and when the girl is 30, you're at 60. You're only twice as old as that little girl.

    Costello: She's catching up.

    Abbott: Yes, yes. Now here's the question. How long do you have to wait until you and that little girl are the same age?

    Costello: Now what kinda question is that? That's ridiculous!

    Abbott: Ridiculous or not, answer the question.

    Costello: If I wait for that girl she'll pass me up. She'll wind up older than I am.

    Abbott: What are you talking about?

    Costello: She'll have to wait for me!

    Abbott: Why should she wait for you?

    Costello: I was nice enough to wait for her!

    It's not a terrible abstract math joke but certainly might concern modern audiences. The title for the film "Buck Privates" doesn't help!

    Appropriately, this week, we also conclude with our series of mail-order psychiatry records from the 1960s, and continue our audiodrama/radio program "Charlie Pickle" with an introduction to the manager of The Clarence Coffee Cup, "Angela Simmons".

    Connect with SWWE via 1940s Rationale and Collective Reasoning on Bandcamp, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google .

    Incidentally, with the Abbott and Costello joke being written 80 years ago in 1941, this year we can celebrate the birthday of the girl, who probably just turned 90! Lou Costello died at age 52, indeed making him much younger. Thanks and have a good week, Ethan