What Is Karma?

Do you believe in Karma? What goes around, comes around? Cosmic justice? Listen to this short piece for another perspective.

Production Notes: The Mysterious Voice from Far Away

Radio -- and now the internet -- provides an intersection between technology and ancient traditions of "hearing voices." It invites craziness.This piece represents an experiment, both audio and visual.

[01] Audio. I produced this essay a year ago as my customary radio: crisp voice, laced with music. But after filling my head with crackling, surreal sound art productions, I wanted to play. Use my voice more. Dig deeper into pure sound. See if I could evoke a voice from some mysterious gap on the radio dial, between stations. The voiceover was already recorded, so that was my starting point. After hours of tweaking, distorting, blurring, re-sampling, I wound up being most comfortable with a resonance filter that "transisterized" the voice. This was version 01.

The sound was not yet rich enough for me, but experimentation with my library of drones, textures, and sound effects -- distorted, flanged, reverbed and/or chorused -- only led to hours of frustration. How could I get that great between-the-stations chatter?!

Idea: I connected the mic jack of my recorder to the earphone jack of my AM radio and roamed between the stations for distant music, voices, and baseball games. In my Soundforge audio editor, I did a little Copy and Paste Special... Mix to patch over the gaps between frequencies. Voila. My background track for version 02. (It's subtle, more pronounced if you're wearing headphones.)

[02] Why video? Popular sites like Facebook and YouTube accept video, not audio. One solution is to use a still picture placeholder (like an album cover) or plain black video (the purists' choice). But I couldn't resist playing with visuals that might represent a disembodied voice from far away. In After Effects, I experimented with converting the voiceover to audio waveforms, which I always find captivating. But it still wound up being a little too distracting.

In complete frustration, I stripped back all my elaborate video sound waves for one small red circle. I got it to light up and pulsate with the frequency of the voiceover track. Oh. That's it. I like the ambiguity: is it the signal coming from a radio in the dark? Or from a distant star? Or from that aneurysm that's about to blow... oh, too eerie.

5.29.09 (rev. 5.31.09)

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Passion And Peril