Colossus AMBI0002

Only available as a digital download from here: "How To Buy Colossus" Previews and downloads of all tracks are available on the excellent CDBaby site. I could send you wavs if you really wanted.

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          tracklistbrown GPO telephone
          roberts RT1

Colossus is an album of electronic and electro-acoustic compositions. The collection consists of eight pieces between three and ten minutes in length.

Colossus: Inspired by the film "Colossus The Forbin Project" this track evokes the power of the supercomputer of the same name, with its unfortunate double consequences of world peace at the cost of mankind's complete obedience. Colossus is relentless, its cold logic unstoppable.

Droid Alert: Not all global communications systems are dependant on satellite technology. Based on the frequency shift keyed 76Hz ELF ground wave transmissions from the decommissioned US Navy transmitter in Wisconsin, this piece transmits its teletype message in ASCII characters which forms the hypnotic drone throughout.

Synchronise: The Greenwich Mean Time signal, broadcast widely from the BBC Radio 4 longwave transmitter at Droitwich and received on a Roberts RT1 wireless is the seed for this composition. The 1kHz tones, linked at source to an atomic clock present the harsh mechanical measurement of the passage of time. Throughout each minute and increasing throughout the piece, this is distorted by sweeping tape manipulation as if altered by the flawed human perception of time. Reality intrudes each minute, seemingly earlier than might be expected.

BC3000: Every day our dependance on computing machines increases and the marketing men and programmers seek to make the man-machine interaction ever more personal and efficient. The convenience of the first successful direct brain implants will eliminate conventional interfaces. Work contracts may require the implantation, provided for free by employers as a tax-free benefit. The direct link usage may remain an invaluable communication tool with the inevitable "failsafe" mechanisms provided, but could we resist the system if they were bypassed?

Just Intonation: This is a sequence of exactly consonant, phase-locked tones, suggesting a pure and sparse positive emotional message. First octaves, then fifths, then both thirds and fifths join the octaves. The piece is mirrored around the centre and can be set to repeat indefinitely. Surround panning at appropriate rates signposts the X3 and X5 frequency relationships of the fifths and thirds.

Inseminate: A system which becomes sentient may develop ambitions to reproduce beyond the boundaries of the box which we created for it. Logic does not require foreplay.

Heterodyne Brainwash: Eight sine waves start at the international tuning standard frequency and start to oscillate in pitch at different rates while rotating around the soundstage. Sine wave 1 makes just one whole pitch oscillation through the course of the piece, with sine wave 2 making two cycles, sine wave 3, three cycles and so on.

Eight Oktas: The Shannon Volmet weather reporting machine announces skies darkening to complete coverage while the SSB receiver drifts to an uncertain finale.

Technical Interest

Ambisonic Surround-Sound

All these compositions are created in Ambisonic surround sound, and the fully mono and stereo compatible UHJ encoding system is used on this disc. This will replay with an expanded stereo image on conventional systems, in full surround audio on systems with Ambisonic decoders and will also work well on Dolby Pro-Logic® home cinema systems.

Sound creation was mostly achieved with a home constructed analogue modular synthesiser with some additional custom modules. Triple tank spring reverb and a dual cassette tape echo/flanger unit provide some softening of the all-electronic nature of the sound. An inexpensive version of the tetrahedral array ambisonic soundfield microphone was used to capture some live audio, sometimes in unusual, very close-up situations within electronic machines only possible with this particular small microphone. On Eight Oktas a ceramic contact microphone came into play for the first time. Recording for each individual track is in 4-channel B-format at 24-bit depth before mixing to a 24-bit B-format master and digital conversion to 16-bit two-channel UHJ. The 55 minute length of the CD makes it convenient for student radio DJs to just put the whole album on for an hour while leaving time for the IRN news and a couple of adverts.

All these compositions are created in Ambisonic surround sound and the fully mono and stereo compatible UHJ encoding system is used on this disc. This will replay with a slightly expanded stereo image on conventional systems, in full surround audio on systems with Ambisonic decoders and will also work well on Dolby Pro-Logic® home cinema systems.

All works ©Henry J. Walmsley 2006

For those with the correct playback equipment, B-format versions of some of the tracks are available at the Ambisonia site.

Colossus PAQs: Probably Askable Questions

Q1: Have you only put links to the good tracks and left all the rubbish ones to fill up the CD?

A1: No, I hate it when that happens. There is a mixture here of what I would describe as three "tres avanty gardy" beard-stroking electronica pieces, those being Synchronise, Just Intonation and Heterodyne brainwash. The others are all as accessible as Colossus in a more or less equally threatening way. Eight Oktas is a little like a Radiophonic Workshop theme for a 1970s BBC post-apocalyptic drama.

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