The Wireless Organ

Wireless OrganThe Music of Radio is a history series showcasing the relationships between radio and electronic music. This episode tunes in to sounds created by the sparks of a “wireless organ” designed by the Canadian amateur, early broadcaster and reverend Georges Désilets.

Georges was born to farming parents in 1866 in Nicolet, Quebec. As a young adult he joined the seminary. By the age of 27 in July of 1893 he was ordained into the ministry. As part of the work of his spiritual vocation he began to teach astronomy, chemistry and physics at the seminary. Later he focused his instructional efforts on music and natural history. Around this time it was very common for those in the clergy to be involved in scientific and technological pursuits as hobbyists. Supported by a church or parish these men were often set up in well appointed homes, had access to books, and the prime resource of any hobbyist: free time to tinker.

Somewhere around the year 1908 he became the Bishop of Nicolet. At this time Georges became active in working with a library, as well as monitoring installations of electrical apparatus and photography works. During this time period his keen and active mind turned to the field of radio-telegraphy. His amateur radio laboratory was assembled in the turret of the Bishopric. What ham wouldn’t like to have a shack in a turret with an antenna on top?

From the turret he created the 9-AB broadcast radio station that transmitted an hour long orchestral and religious music program performed by musicians from the seminary once a week. Désilets was in need of an organ to accompany the choir and he began experimenting with the use of electronic sparks to create musical tones. This experimenting led to his invention of the Wireless Organ, and later a number of other patents in the field of radio communications. In doing so he joined the ranks of other reverends who had made contributions to science and the humanities including Rev. Edmund Cartwright, inventor of the power loom; Rev. George Garrett creator of the submarine; and Rev. John Michell who helped to discover the planet Uranus, among many others.

After the outbreak of WWI all non-government stations were closed down in Canada and his organ and station fell into the dread state of radio silence. Yet he continued to be active in the radio community, penning articles, and now doubt working in his radio lab. In the September 1916 issue of Wireless Age he wrote of his instrument:

“Those who have heard it agree that it is real music. Chords are produced by pressing two or three keys, and if the feeding transformer can supply the necessary power we have surprising results and pleasant effects. … Unhappily my station was closed last year on account of the war, and my organ is now silent. I hope to resume my experiments later on; meanwhile, I wish I could, for a time, live on the free soil of the United States, paradise of the wireless amateur.”

His set up used the standard pre-tube method of a spark-gap alternator and a number of studded ‘spark-gap’ disks attached to a rotating cone drum. The ratio interval between studs caused waveforms to be created in a series of prefixed pitches and was only able to be heard over wireless transmission, as there were still no instruments of amplification yet available. The first version only had a range of 1 1/2 octaves. After the war he lost no time in getting back on the air and continued his work, attaching a keyboard from an organ and a larger spark-drum that gave him a four octave range. He got the idea to use a rheostat attached to a footswitch for controlling volume and expression. In his improved device he also fitted a home-brewed oscillation transformer capable of delivering “10,000 volts at an imprest potential of 110 volts, 30 cycles A.C.”
Georges story shows how curiosity, coupled with need, determination, the will to tinker and a bit of free time can unleash creative potentials. While the spurious emissions caused by spark-gaps may be frowned upon for the 21st century amateur it need not stop us from sitting at the workbench, the mixing board of a music studio, or at the controls of a transceiver where imaginative sparks are allowed to fly and signals of inspiration can be received.

[This article was originally published in the July issue of the Q-Fiver, the newsletter of the OH-KY-IN Amateur Radio Society.]


Wireless Age, September 1916

Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, 2012, Random House

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Sounds of the Arc

[This article orignally appeared in the June issue of the Q-Fiver, the newsletter of the Oh-Ky-In Amateur Radio Society]

The Music of Radio is a history series showcasing the relationships between radio and electronic music. This installment focuses on sounds created by arcs in the days before incandescent lighting cast its long and overshadowing glow.

lampeArc The first source of electrical lighting was the arc lamp. It was also used as a means for producing an electrical form of singing. Invented by Humphry Davy in the first decade of the 19th century the arc lamp created light from the electricity passing between two carbon electrodes in free air. To ignite a carbon lamp the rods were touched together allowing a low voltage to strike the arc. They were then drawn apart to allow the electric current to flow between the gap. This first means of electrical lighting also became the first commercial use for electricity beginning around 1850 but it didn’t really take off until the 1870’s when regular supplies of power became available.

Three major advances in the technology occurred during the 1880’s that helped to spread the adoption of the arc lamp. The first was a mechanism to automatically adjust the electrodes. The second was the placement of the arcs in an enclosure to cause the carbon to burn at a slower rate. Last salts and tiny amounts of metals were added to the carbon to create flames of greater intensity and different colors. At this time a number of companies became involved with the manufacturing of these lamps and they began to be used for lighting on streets and other public places. Yet there was one feature about the light source that many folks found disagreeable. These were audible power-frequency harmonics caused by the arcs negative resistance. Nikola Tesla was one of the guys who set to work on this problem of noise. In 1891 he received a patent for an alternator that ran at 10,000 cycle per second that was to be used to suppress the undesirable sounds of humming, hissing and howling emitted by the lamp.

Tesla’s invention must have been impractical or just never caught on because over in London in 1899 the Victorian electrical engineer William Duddell had been appointed to tackle the problem of the lamps dissonant electrical noise. Duddell was an illuminated man and he took a different angle than Nikola. Instead of suppressing the sounds he transformed them into music. In the course of his experimentation Duddell found that by varying the voltage supplied to the lamps he could control the audible frequencies by connecting a tuned circuit that consisted of an inductor and capacitor across the arc. The negative resistance of the arc was excited by the audio frequency oscillations from the tuned circuit at its resonant frequency. This could be heard as a musical tone. Duddell used another one of his inventions, the oscillograph, to analyze the particular conditions necessary for producing the oscillations. He demonstrated his invention before the London Institution of Electrical Engineers by wiring up a keyboard to make different tones from the arc. Being a patriotic fellow he played a rendition of God Save the Queen.  His device came to be known as “Singing Arc” and was one of the first electronic oscillators. It was noted that arc lamps on the same circuit in other buildings could also be made to sing. The engineers speculated that music could be delivered over the lighting network, but this never became a reality. Duddell toured his instrument around Britain for a time but his invention was never capitalized on and so remained only a novelty.

Duddell’s Singing Arc had been very close to becoming a radio. Marconi’s spark-gap transmitter had already been demonstrated in 1895, yet Duddell thought it was impossible to leverage his Singing Arc to produce radio frequencies instead of audio frequencies. The AC current in the condenser was smaller than the supplied DC current so the arc never extinguished during an output cycle, making it impractical to use as an RF transmitter. With this set up it was not possible to reach the high frequencies required for transmission of Radio-telegraphy. If he had managed to increase the frequency range and attached  an antenna his invention could have become a CW transmitter.

Enter Danish physicist Valdemar Poulsen. In 1900 at the Paris World Fair this man demonstrated his inventive flair with the world’s first magnetic recording device, the Telegraphone. Working with another Dane, P.O. Pederson, he used his skills to improve upon Duddell’s Singing Arc. They were able to raise the efficiency of the device up to 200 kilohertz. His method of oscillation made use of an AC current from the condenser that was large enough to extinguish the arc but not so great that it caused the arc to restart in the opposite direction. (A third method of oscillation was used in spark gap transmitters where the arc is extinguished but might reignite when the condenser reversed.)

In 1903 they patented the Poulsen arc wireless transmitter that was the first generate to continuous waves, and one of the first pieces of technology to transmit through amplitude modulation. Poulsen’s version was used for radio work around the world up into the 1920’s when it became replaced by vacuum tube transmitters.

The method of operating a Poulsen arc transmitter required frequency shift keying. Straight on-off keying could not be used because of the time it took for the arc to strike and re-stabilize. With the arc staying on throughout operation the keying frequency needed to be adjusted anywhere from one to five percent. The signal at the unwanted frequency was deemed a compensation wave. Two keys were used, a “mark” or closed key, and a “space” or open key. This mode took up quite a chunk of bandwidth, as it also transmitted on the harmonics of the frequencies. Since around 1921 the use of the compensation wave method for CW has been prohibited. One way amateurs worked around this was to use a dummy antenna, or back shunt, tuned to the same frequency as the transmitter to absorb the load from the arc while keeping it running.

It as common to use audio frequency shift keying in telephony. Most early Bell modems used FSK at around 1200 baud. FSK is still used for some digital ham modes such as AMTOR, PACTOR, and GTOR.

P.S. For those interested in creating a high-voltage Plasma Arc Speaker based on Duddell’s Singing Arc an  article on how to do just that was written for Make Magazine by John Iovine.  The core of his project is a 555 timer and an insulated gate bi-polar transistor. Schematics, instructions and a video of it in operation are available at:


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The Telharmonium

[Note: This article originally appeared in the May issue of the Q-Fiver, the newsletter of the Oh-Ky-In Amateur Radio Society.]

Today those of us with access to cell phones and data plans tend to take things like streaming music, news, on -demand videos and face time for granted. Yet the impulse to do more than just talk over the wires has been part of the spirit of telephony since its earliest days. In the 1890’s the telephonic playground was still in its infancy and commercial applications for the technology could have gone in many different directions. During this time entrepreneurial types were coming up with creative experiments for using telephones as a news delivery system or for musical entertainment.

Two years after Elisha Gray’s playing of the musical telegraph in 1874, other folks decided it would be a swell idea to transmit music concerts along the commercial telegraph lines. This was done initially for the entertainment of the operators. In 1881 the first “stereo” concert was given via telephone. Clément Ader used dual lines to pass music from a local theater to two separate phone receivers. At the time this was dubbed “binauriclar auduition” a name that for some reason didn’t stick. Later in 1890 AT&T was at work on a service to provide music for mealtimes. Though there were some issues with sound quality they stated that “When we have overcome this difficulty we shall be prepared to furnish music on tap.” AT&T also had other development plans for the phone lines. Used for business during the day they hoped to “stream” music, lectures, and various oral entertainments to all the cities of the East coast at night.Stateside most of these types of efforts didn’t take hold but a few in Europe did.

The first permanent service was an outgrowth of Clement Ader’s work, known as the Paris Theatrophone. This was a subscription based service launched in the 1890’s. The “Theatraphonic network” provided Parisians with “programs dramatic and lyrical” and held its own until 1932. In Hungary the concept of a telephone newspaper caught on, with the Budapest Telefon Hirmondo, which began service in February of 1893. It included news reports, original fiction, and other entertainments. Still going strong in 1925 it added a radio station while still offering a telephone relay to customers all the way up to 1944.

It was within this milieu that Thaddeus Cahill obsessed over and created what must be considered the ultimate behemoth of a musical synthesizer, the Telharmonium, a type of electrical organ. It was specifically intended to be played over the phone lines. Amplifiers hadn’t been invented yet and the phone receiver was still the only available technology that could make an electronic sound audible. The Telharmonium implemented sinuosoidal additive synthesis via mechanical means using tonewheels and alternators rather than an oscillating circuit. The discs on a tonewheel have specific numbers of bumps on the edge. These generate a specific frequency through induction as the bumps move past an electromagnetic coil. Frequency and waveform are determined by the shape of the wheel, the number of bumps on it and how often they pass the tip of the magnet. Using multiple tonewheels a single fundamental frequency can thus be combined with one or more harmonics to produce complex sounds. Later the tonewheel was used in radio work during the pre-vacuum tube era as a BFO for CW.

telharmonium-wiringCahill is credited with coining the phrase “synthesizer” for describing his instrument. It was patented in 1897. Five years later he founded the New England Electric Music Company with two partners. The Telharmonium or Dynamaphone as it was also called was first demonstrated in 1906. The instrument was a true boat anchor. The Mark I version weighed in at a hefty 7 tons and could be considered light compared to the Mark II and III which weighed around 200 tons, and took up thirty train box cars when shipped to New York for assembly in what Cahill called his “Music Plant”. The instrument looked like a power generator and took up an entire floor on 39th street and Broadway in New York city. Indeed the machine itself put out 670-kilowatts of power. Each generator rotor produced a pitch and a 60-foot chassis held 145 rotors.

One floor up was Telharmonic Hall, a concert space where the instrument was controlled and played. Two to four musicians could sit at the controls to play the Telharmonium from the listening hall. It was a unique arrangement of four keyboard banks each with 84 keys. Before the minimalist composers La Monte Young and Terry Riley brought just intonation back into the fold of Western music, it was possible to play the Telharmonium using just intonation. Just intonation differs from equal temperament in that it occurs naturally as a series of overtones where all the notes in a scale are related by rational numbers. In just intonation the tuning depends on the scale you are using. Equal temperament was developed for keyboard instruments so that they could be played in any scale or key. The Telharmonium through additive synthesis, and the ability to control timbre, harmonics, and volume was an extremely flexible instrument.

Though there was no channel separation the Telharmonic hall was fitted with eight telephone receivers augmented with paper horns. These were arrayed behind ferns, columns and furniture. An electrician at the company suggested splicing the current from the Telharmonium into the arc lamps hanging from the ceiling which then resonated at the same frequency as that being played to create “singing arc.” The Telharmonium could also be piped to any number connected to the AT&T phone system.

Thomas Commerford Martin wrote of the new sounds of the Telharmonium as an alliance of electricity with music. Cahill “has devised a mechanism which throws on the circuits, manipulated by the performer at the central keyboard, the electrical current waves that, received by the telephone diaphragm at any one of ten thousand subscribers’ stations, produce musical sounds of unprecedented clearness, sweetness, and purity.” Cahill had ambitious plans for his “Telharmony”. He advocated that a form of “electric sleep-music” could be tapped at any time for the cure of modern nervous disorders. The electric drones could also be used to relieve boredom in the workplace. But his plans were not to bear fruit in the manner he thought. His instrument sometimes caused interference or crosstalk on the phone lines, electronic music interrupting business and domestic conversation. It also required vast amounts of power. When vacuum tubes started to appear and in the 1920’s other less expensive electronic instruments, that did not require the infrastructure provided by Ma Bell, started being built. Finally with the advent of broadcast radio many of these types of ventures ceased to be profitable. No known recordings of the Telharmonium exist.

In the 1930’s Hammond patented the electrically amplified organ which was essentially a smaller and more economical version of the Telharmonium. This was much to the chagrin of Cahill’s family as the patent on his instrument had not yet run out. Synth pioneer Robert Moog later recognized the genius of Cahill’s work and his seminal place in the history of electronic music. In William Peck Banning’s 1946 book, Commercial Broadcasting Pioneer: The WEAF Experiment 1922-1926, he wrote that “historians of the future may conclude that if there was any ‘father’ of broadcasting, perhaps it was the telephone itself”.


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The Music of Morse

Anyone who has heard morse code can agree that the dits and the dahs have an inherent musicality. It should come as no surprise then that various artists have incorporated the use of morse code into their song writing.

Since the World War II Bheetoven’s Fifth Symphony has also been called the Victory symphony, due to the roman numeral V for 5. In morse code the letter V is dit-dit-dit-dah. During WW II the BBC begin its broadcasts aimed towards Europe with those four notes played on drums. Since the Fifth Symphony was written several decades before the development of morse code the opening bars of his symphony corresponding to V is a happy coincidence.

In 1967 the Oklahoma band Five Americans released their smash hit “Western Union” which reached #5 in the charts. Besides being a song about a telegram the group sings dits and dahs as part of the lyrics. The lead guitarist Mike Rabon was messing around on his instrument one day when he came up with a sound that reminded him of telegraphy. From that inspiration they decided to write the song.

The same year a decidedly less square group in Britain released their first album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn. In the intro to the opener, Astronomy Domine, morse code can be heard alongside voices talking about the space race.

Also from the counterculture in 1967 was the premiere album from Pearls Before Swine, One Nation Underground, released on the eclectic ESP-disk label (who also put out albums by the likes of Albert Ayler, Sun Ra and The Fugs). The chorus to their song “(oh Dear) Miss Morse”, :

Dit Dit Dah Dit
Dit Dit Dah
Dah Dit Dah Dit
Dah Dit Dah

was a clever way to get F-U-C-K played on radio stations without overtly breaking any laws.

Moving onwards to 1975 Kraftwerk put out the album Radio-activity. The original recording features a killer Minimoog bass line and chords played on the etheric sounding Vako Orchestron. Morse code signals spell out “R-A-D-I-O-A-C-T-I-V-I-T-Y” near the beginning of the track and again near the end. The second time it is followed by a reprise of the lyric “I-S I-N T-H-E A-I-R F-O-R Y-O-U A-N-D M-E” in morse.

In 1978 and emerging from the British punk scene we come to song “Enough Time” by The Stranglers off of their album Black and White. The morse code in this riveting song also drops an F-bomb in the phrase “Mother Earth we are fucked”.

Scottish poet and BBC radio regular Ivo Cutler penned the cute little humdinger “Little Black Buzzer”. This could be theme song for Amateur radio mountain toppers who like to climb mountains and transmit from the summit. This piece features a lovely bit of harmonium, Cutler’s preffered instrument.

Mike Oldfield put a secret message in morse code in his 1990 album Amarok. At the time he had been feeling salty with Virgin Records. The album had been intended to be one long piece, and for commercial stations that made it decidely unfriendly for airplay on popular radio. The album was seen to be almost unmarketable, and Virgin did little to promote it themselves. Mike attempted to generate a bit of buzz for the album himself by offering a £1000 prize of his own money to the first person who could find the “secret message”. The competition received hardly any coverage at all, and made the impact on sales pretty much non-existent. At the 48 minute mark of the piece is a bit of morse code spelling out “FUCK OFF RB”. The RB in this case would be Virgin Record’s Richard Branson the man who had first signed him.

Rush used the identifer for the Toronto Airport, YY Zed, in their song, YYZ, which contains the morse for those letters, most notably in the drums at the very beginning.

There are plenty of other songs featuring morse code within them. If you know of any I missed or should have put in this incomplete list please drop a note in the comments.

73 & 93, KE8COY, out.

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The Music of Radio – Musical Telegraphy

The history of electronic music is intimately tied up with the history of radio and telecommunications. Many of the same breakthroughs and devices invented by electrical engineers for communicating in morse code, telephone and radio were adapted for use by musicians. Electricity opened up new worlds of sound beginning in the 19th century.

Elisha GrayElisha Gray, co-founder of the Western Electric Company, is perhaps most well known as a developer of a prototype telephone. Some scholars consider Gray the true inventor of the telephone. Both Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray used liquid transmitters in their experiments with voice transmission over wire. The telephone seems to be one of those ideas that was floating around in the ether at the time, and it is my view that each inventor developed the work independently. In fact Gray arrived at the patent office to file his apparatus “for transmitting vocal sounds telegraphically” just two hours after Bell. After a number of years in the courts, it was Bell’s patent that the lawyers held up in a number of decisions.

gray_patent_01Though Gray may only be considered a kind of begrudged step-father in terms of telephony, it is clear that the electric synthesizer is the fruit of his seed. In 1874 after Gray had retired from Western Electric to focus on independent research he came up with one of the seventy patents attributed to him. In this case, the Electro-harmonic Telegraph. It was a chance by product of his work on the telephone.

In the course of his work Gray learned he could control sound from a self-vibrating electromagnetic circuit. This led to him inventing a basic oscillator made of steel rods whose vibrations were created and transmitted over a telephone line. The instrument consisted of a number of single-tone oscillators that could play over a range of two octaves. Each tone was controlled with a separate telegraph key.

After giving several private demonstrations of the instrument he gave a public performance at the Presbyterian Church of Highland, Illinois on December 29, 1874. A newspaper announcement stated that it transmitted “familiar melodies through telegraph wire”. In later models of the instrument he added a simple diaphragm speaker that amplified the tones to a louder volume.




To be fair Bell came at the telephone also through his work as a teacher of the deaf and adjacent studies of music, hearing, sound, and human anatomy. While working for Western Union Telegraph he had been obsessed with solving the problem of creating a “multiple telegraph” -or a way to transmit a number of messages over the same wire. It was this work on the harmonic telegraph that spurred him on to eventually invent the telephone.


Exploding the Phone: The Untold Story of the Teenagers and Outlaws who Hacked Ma Bell by Phil Lapsley, Grove Press, New York 2013.


Post edited, March 5th.

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KE8COY, Listening

heathkit microphoneLast November I got my ticket to the world of Amateur Radio in the form of my Technician’s class license and call sign KE8COY. It’s been an absorbing few months since I started studying in Septemeber and making my first forays onto the local VHF and UHF airwaves, December and getting my first DX contact on a digital station during OH-KY-IN‘s Winter Field Day.

When I canceled “On the Way to the Peak of Normal” back at the beginning of 2014 I didn’t realize how much I’d miss the world of radio. And I’d always had it in the back of my mind, since around 2002, to go and get my Amateur Radio license. Yet it was one of those things that remained in the back of my mind for quite awhile. I had done little towards achieving the vision of becoming a ham, besides taking a one-day class at Hive 13. I didn’t pass the multiple choice test at the end of the day.

Like many projects it remained on the back burner and perhaps would have done so indefinitely if fate hadn’t arranged a chance meeting with Brent, KK4HMR at the lunch counter at Shanghai Mamma’s in mid-to-late August.

I knew KK4HMR as a member of the Hive and someone I talked to on the metro when we ran into each other, but that was about it. I also knew he had his ticket to the airwaves, and so Amateur Radio had often been a topic of discussion for us on the commute home. He told me about Oh-Ky-In which he had joined, and also about some classes they offered to get people licensed. I looked them up, went to some meetings, the classes, took my exam, got my call sign and license and am now back on the air, though in quite a different capacity than  when I was doing broadcast community radio. Radio has not left my life path, rather it is just changing octaves, moving to a different frequency.

There are many hobbies within the hobby of Amateur Radio and I’m not quite sure exactly which of those I’ll be exploring. I know I’d like to do some tinkering and homebrewing. I’m taking some tenative steps towards getting my General class license, and hope to dig in deeper in March. Yet one thing that has really struck me has been how much I have learned about magic by studying radio theory.

As a technology radio is pretty magical. The fact that they can receive and distinguish signals by grabbing them out of the air with an antenna is in itself amazing. People in the hobby talk a lot about “the magic of radio” -when under difficult conditions and with pieced together rigs someone in Ohio could communicate with someone in Australia, on the International Space Station, or bounce signals off the moon.

Ham radio is a contact sport -and so is magic. The whole point in radio is to make “contacts” to transmit and receive.

Tuning & Frequency: In magic we spend a lot of time tuning ourselves and the place we live/do magic. Through stillness meditation, music, incense, and other methods the magician or mystic changes their baseline frequency and filters out the “noise” of daily life. Once the basic tuning is done a magician can then work on establishing new patterns, or modulating the basic carrier wave. Modulation is adding any sort of information to a radio wave -either in the form of voice, data, or on broadcast stations, music. In magic the frequency is modulated through contacts, sigils, utterance, ritual patterns, etc.

Filters: In radio filters are used to either accept or reject certain signals. In magic we use filters when dressing an altar with a deity image, a card from the LXXXI deck, or putting a tool in a certain place. This seems to act as a limiter for the non-desired signal or contact, and open the space up to the desired influence.

Resonance: Resonance allows inner knowledge and ability to pass from one person, being or place to another person being or place. (Or object.) From wiki: “In physics, resonance occurs when a system is able to store and easily transfer energy between two or more different storage modes. However, there are some losses from cycle to cycle, called damping. When damping is small, the resonant frequency is approximately equal to the natural frequency of the system, which is a frequency of unforced vibrations. Some systems have multiple, distinct, resonant frequencies.” Resonance allows magic to pass from inner to outer, from being to being, place to person.

Harmonics and Octaves: Those of us studying Quareia have read over and over again that magic works in octaves. This principle is important in radio work as well. For a definition: A harmonic is a frequency that is a whole number multiple (2, 3, 4 etc) of some fundamental frequency, and an octave is double the fundamental.Radios naturally put out harmonics of the frequency they are operating on. This can cause intereference in some cases or can be beneficial in others.

Consider a magical working, say the pentagram ritual. When fully contacted it not only enacts the pentagram harmonic pattern, but brings in other frequencies from the inner worlds. The magician lets go (transmits) and receives. Then in life the magician continues to “radiate” the influences mediated to him and though him in various octaves.

Working with the weather: Another exciting aspect of radio for me is that it is giving me the motivation to learn more about the weather. I think this will carry over to my magical work as well. I would like to attend a “weather spotter” SKYWARN training at some point to learn how to identify certain types of storms etc. to be able to report to the national weather service, if needed. Besides that there is the way certain weather patterns effect the propagation of radio signals, in ways desirable and undersired.

Hams pay a lot of attention to space weather as well: solar cycles and sunspot activity. As well as effecting communication these have harmonics in magic as well.

There is also something called “gray line propagation” and this is where a signal can receive greater strength and distance during twilight times (dawn and dusk) and also at the equinoxes. Just as a magician might time a working to the natural phases and seasons, these timings have a bearing on radio work as well.

Then there is the whole science of waves in radio and nature. Radio just seems to be a rabbit hole I can jump down forever -as is the study and practice of magic. The study of both seems to be complimentary for me.

73 & 93,


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Underground Rivers

Underground RiversThis cycle of poems emerged in parallel to a series of dreams and visionary journeys into the underworld. The words were recovered, like aspects of soul which had gone missing, from the sewers beneath the streets of Cincinnati’s seven ancient hills. Once these missing parts had been restored to the body that had been torn apart, deeper sources of pure mineral water were sought in the hollow places deep in the earths interior, where Underground Rivers are known to flow.

Harry Smith emerged from an Andy Warhol screen test to give a transmission on Weird Old America. Navigating the sea is often better done when the captain works Blind At the Till. The Spider weaves Blazes In the Bone, setting down Taps into the Roots Canal near Oktoberfest, Ohio in Fort Loramie. Lafcadio Hearn appears as a Dreamer of the Dark crying at the biergarten after watching another episode of Mill Creek Blues. In the Courtship of Ma’at we all Learning to Swim, until we go Fly Fishing with Sun Ra, and make our way to an Underworld Garage Sale, where a used copy of the old mystery novel C is for Murder is found, with Cain Marks on its spine. Gasahol is drunk and After the After Party the reader dives into a Sketch of the Hellscape from which emerges a new method for How to Become a Conspiracy Theorist, because after all the City is a Dream. Bioluminescent Luciferins make for a Psychoacoustic Medicine. What Magic Is, is a chance to dance the Electric Snake Boogy at a Funeral for a Punk Rock Jacket, where the River Styx is Revisited. Time to clean out the Goose Shit Radiator and have a glass of Dionysian Wine before the Hand Returns to Its Work and goes on its course down Underground Rivers.

Copies of this book, along with Platonic One’s High Gravity will be available at the Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle on September 26th and 27th at the EBC table.

Available here on Amazon.

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Outside the Akademy

akademie-xPhaidon continue to publish beautiful books. Akademie X : Lessons in Art + Life is one of them. It is a practical guide to the creative process and offers the processes behind the creative practice of 36 working artists and writers. Each “tutor” is featured in turn with c/v page followed by instructional/theoretical essays on working as an artist. Each artist in turn offers an assigned reading, viewing and listening list of various lengths. The format of the book is quite enjoyable and I took it as an opportunity to mimic the format as below.

Tutor: Justin Patrick Moore
Born/Lives: 1979 Cincinnati, Ohio
Training: Antioch College drop-out.
Public Library: As a self-taught autodidact the library has not only been the provider of my financial survival, but is a work place where I continue to pursue an ongoing edumacation.
Active apprentice in a school of the Western Mystery Tradition with a few affiliations to other lodges & groups.
Founder: Sothis Medias & Oneiric Imprint
Selected Writings:
Underground Rivers, poems 2015
The Dyslexicon issues 1-8, editor and contributor. 
Water in the Dry Land 2012
The Library Angel & It’s Oracle, in issue 4 of Abraxas
Music from Sirius: The Dreams of Karlheinz Stockhausen
Many Chapbooks from Aurore Press.
Radio Work:  Founder, The Psychedelicatessin 1998-2000 on the pirate radio station Anti-Watt in Yellow Springs. Programmer on Art Damage on WAIF 88.3 FM from around 2001-2003/4. Programmer on On the Way to the Peak of Normal (also on WAIF) from 2005-2014… taking over responsibility for the show in 2012.
Bands: The Astral Surf Gypsies (1996-2005), WildCraft (1998-), Neato Torpedo (I joined up with these guys in 2002). The Hollow Crown (2013 -)

As a kid I took a bunch of crayons and heated them up with a blow dryer and worked with melting them onto a piece of paper. This is when I first knew I was an artist. I knew I was a writer when I started mimicking the trashy fantasy novels and Dungeons & Dragons tie-in material I read. Later, in high-school, when I realized I sucked at playing the guitar and dissolved the first punk band I was in, I fell in love with the tape deck and the ability to edit a collaged sequence of sounds and speech. This was before I’d ever run across Burrough’s cut-up experiments or Genesis’ splinter-test theory on sampling as a type of holographic magic. My primary motivation in making my first tapes was to create something which would trigger a sense of deja vu in the listener. And/or cause them to question the very nature of reality itself.

Later I became involved in “The Art”, the quintessence from which all of the other arts flow: Magic (at the time usually spelled with a K).  I embraced Thelema and Crowley’s system. Though I now view it as flawed, it triggered a number of solar flares that set me on a path of continued creativity, yet also forced me to meet up with the unraveller on several occasions.

I hadn’t yet learned to appreciate the beauty of discipline, of work habits as regular as bowel movements. I still struggle with maintaining the practice because my mind is as changeable and whimsical as the wind. The only work habit I really have maintained is my work at the library, and too much reading.

After a year and a half of college I realized I would be better off dropping out. I had wanted a degree in religious studies and psychology, but realized the study of occultism, and the ideas of Wilhelm Reich and Carl Jung wouldn’t get me a day job. Perhaps I was just too immature and pessimisitic to see how I could marry my true vocation with a means for making a living in the world. All those Crass albums I’d listened to as a teenager had really sunk deep into me. It seemed safer to leave behind the trustafarians of the campus -though I will always have a love for Antioch and Yellow Springs- to focus on having a day job, and later a girlfriend who became my wife and a family. Along the way I have still managed to write and get published & self-publish, do readings, make music, play shows and have albums put out out and put albums out, and make the occasional visual piece. I continue to work in my training as an apprentice Western Mystery Tradition magician.

In this respect it is worth contemplating what it means to be a local artist/writer. Someone who is dedicated to not just the arts and cultural life of a given town or city, but someone who embraces the deeper dynamics of the bioregion. As resources around the world dwindle, “being an artist” on the world stage may end up being more about setting up a stage in your back yard for community theater, a noise show, or a poetry reading. It may be more about turning the spare room in your house, and using your spare time, to set up the business of running a small and independent multimedia firm. It may mean creating a home where using Less Energy Stuff and Stimulation becomes a way of life.

The book Akademie X is thus a helpful guide for aspiring artists who would rather bypass the clotted arteries of the educational system, skip out on the exorbitant debt, and do it themselves.

Workshop 1: Get yourself a cheap spiral notebook. If it was trash picked, all the better. Begin the practice of keeping a dream journal. This is a place where you can let your mind and soul ferment. Every dream is a potential poem, story, painting, or at least a lesson telling you how you need to drink less alcohol and quit smoking cigarettes. To sleep better take cat naps and draw or write the hypnagogic imagery. These journals will become treasure troves to dumpster dive when the dreaded block has overtaken you. This practice is a basic way of opening yourself up to influences from beyond, and beginning to let them percolate in your work.

Warm Up Exercises:
-20 minute meditation
-tarot readings on the work in progress, using the cards to help decide direction of a chosen project
-freestyle chanting to loosen up

Elders: It’s always good to continue to have mentors to to for advice concerning the Great Work. Mine have tended to be more informal, so in keeping with born again pagan tradition, I consider them more as elders. Hang out with the older artists in your area and do some chores for them. You will learn so much.

Assigned Reading. As a library worker this list is extremely incomplete. 
-Delany, Samuel R. The Neveryona novels: Tales from Neveryon, Neveryona, Flight from Neveryon, & The Bridge of Lost Desire. These works are semiotic masterpieces. If you have time read all of his novels to learn how to properly construct a sentence. Dhalgren, Triton, Nova, Babel-17 and Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand are my other top Delany picks.

-Ballard, J.G. Highrise This book is an in depth look at the psychology of the XVIth tarot trump, the Tower.

-Robinson, Kim Stanley: Three Californias trilogy sets out three possible futures for Orange County. His novels Shaman, set in the earth previous ice age and 2312 set approx 300 years from now, are a great resource for anyone interested in landscape art.

-Lopez, Barry: Crow and Weasel. To learn about storytelling.

-Moss, Robert: Conscious Dreaming & Dreamgates. The basic texts from Moss to help you get started exploring the dreamworld.

– Ayers, Nigel: The Bodmin Moor Zodiac. An account of Mr. Ayers ritual walks and psychogeographical workings in Cornwall.

-Legard, Phil: Psychogeographia Ruralis. An essay on music composition, magic and psychogeography.

-Silverman, Kenneth: Begin Again, A Biography of John Cage
This fascinating biography gives many techniques to plunder from.

-Ende, Michael: The Neverending Story. Many keys to the mysteries are contained in this work.

-Dick, Phillip K.: The VALIS trilogy for basic gnostic reality rewiring.

-Holmgren, David: Permaculture, Principles and Practices Beyond Sustainability

Snyder, Gary: The Real Work

Assigned Album Listening:
-The Incredible String Band: Wee Tam/The Big Huge
-Shirley Collins: False True Lovers, Power of the True Love Knot, Love Death & The Lady.
– Current 93: Thunder Perfect Mind, Of Ruine or Some Blazing Star, All the Pretty Horses
-Karlheinz Stockhausen: Hymnen, Tierkreis, Licht opera cycle, Trans, & Sternklang to get started
-John Cage: Complete Sonatas & Interludes for prepared piano, Anarchic Harmonies, Thirteen Harmonies, any and all.
– Nurse With Wound: Second Pirate Session, Soliloquy for Lilith, Funeral Music for Perez Prado, An Awkward Pause, etc.
– Coil: Musick to Play in the Dark vol. 1 & 2, Love’s Secret Domain, Remote Viewer, The New Backwards, Ape of Naples, ElPh vs. Coil and the rest of their discography.
-Joe Meek: I Hear a New World, It’s Hard to Believe It compilation
– Sun Ra: Other Planes of There, Atlantis, The Solar Myth Approach
-Crass: Feeding of the 5,000, Christ-the album
-Chumbawumba: Jesus H. Christ
-Negativland: Escape from Noise, Helter Stupid, Dyspepsia
-Legendary Pink Dots: Nemesis Online, Asylum, A Perfect Mystery, The Maria Dimension, Ancient Daze…
-Nocturnal Emission: Blasphemous Rumors, Invocation of the Beast Gods, Nightscapes, Stoneface Spiritflesh, Mouth of Babes
-Terry Riley: In C, Atlantis Nath, Shri Camel, Aleph, Chanting the Light of Foresight, Harp of New Albion, Assassin Reverie, Book of Abbeyzoud

Assigned Film Viewing:
-Mullholland Drive (2001)
– Last Year at Marienbad (1961)
– Gummo (1997)
– El Topo (1970)
-Innauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954)
-Suburbia (1983)
-Blood Sucking Freaks (1976)


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The Merry Month of May

THINKING: I was an outsider in a recent conversation regarding smart phones. A question was raised at the table I was sitting at about smart phones and shopping. I was the only one without a smart phone. Whereas everyone else at the table thought the smart phone enhanced their shopping experience, I was the only one who thought it detracted from experience in general. My life is enhanced, through the power of  Via Negativawithout this device. So many people are attached to their phones, as if with an umbilical cord. If they are without this little bit of tech, they freak out, wondering how the fuck they will survive. I think in the near future it will be a safe bet to see a bumper crop of Twelve Step groups whose purpose is to help those who are powerless over constant cell phone use.

I’m not the only one who has been thinking about these things. Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm has recently given up her smart phone, while Chris Martenson and John Michael Greer rapped about the God of Technological Progress in a conversation back in April. Chris pointed out that any time he brings up the fact that the U.S. is unraveling, that we are running out of fossil fuels, people stop and wave their smart phones at him, as if waving it is proof that we are still on an ever upward and onward march to the stars.

While it can sometimes feel like I am alone in not having a portable device that distracts from interacting with the people I am actually with and the places I am actually at, it is nice to know some folks are opting out.

FEELING: The silence and stillness necessary for the discipline of magic are difficult for me. Sometimes I feel like anything I create will just be adding to the noise of the world, and wonder if I should refrain from posting a blog such as this, refrain from writing or making music, and if that would help me cultivate stillness and silence. An extended living performance of 4’33”. Monastics do the world a service through the cultivation of silence, holding a place of stillness that spreads outwards into the community. In America at least those types of spiritual communities are few and far between. It is unglorified work, as is so much of work that is done in a true spirit of unconditional service. I struggle with surrendering my wants and desires to what is needed of me. I find there can be a balance, but maintaining that balance is difficult, and requires constant calibration.

Josephine has written that it is important to know when not to do magic. I think the same could be said for making art as well.

DOING: I mixed up my third batch of kraut this past Monday night. It’s something I really enjoy -eating and making. It’s so much easier than I originally thought it would be. This third crock is made in the style of kimchi -though it ain’t kimchi. It’s got three heads of cabbage -two green, one red- a bunch of radishes, carrots, ginger, garlic, shallot, and serano peppers. This batch smells really fresh, as far as fermented vegetables go. The last batch which was just cabbage with dill, caraway and mustard seeds had a more earthy scent as the lactobacili did their thing.

SunshineCrustBakingFactory-140x200READING: Book designer Stacy Wakefield‘s debut novel, The Sunshine Crust Baking Factory, published by Akashic Books had me mesmerized. The story is told in first person from the point of view of Sid, a girl around the age of nineteen or twenty, who arrives in New York City with a mind to join up with some anarcho-punk squatters. Only problem is most of the punk squats are already full and getting into one requires intrepid navigation of the politics of those scenes. She thinks she is lucky to be hanging out with a Mexican hardcore kid named Lorenzo who played bass in the band Disguerro, and who toured with some of her favorite bands.  She is smitten with him. When they leave Manhattan behind to find a squat of their own in Brooklyn, they end up joining up with a groupd of folks living in an old bakery that had been abandoned after a fire. While Sid does the heavy lifting in getting the first floor ready for her and Lorenzo, he disappears to play in bands, hang out with skinny chicks, and basically avoid doing any of the work that would make the place into a home. After a fight she starts hanging out with the founder of the squat, a rugged outdoor survivalist type by the name of Mitch who looked more like an athletic jock than a cool punker. The story goes on to relate an adventure Mitch  and Sid have together rescuing the belongings of another squat before the Mayor has it demoed. It highlights the tensions around being a tough female in an otherwise all male house, the shouldering of responsibilities, and how things aren’t always how they seem at first. The reader of this lively tale gets to have their eyes opened along with Sid’s. This tale of lovelorn youth, squatting, survival on the streets, punk music and personal space made for a compelling read. Sometimes it’s not enough to go and be a part of a scene somewhere, instead you have to find and make your own home and be comfortable where you live (while also still sticking it to the man).  Stacy Wakefield shows that she is not only a great designer of books, but a superb storyteller. I’ll definitely be looking out for her next novel.      

LISTENING: I’m in a state of high anticipation for Elizabeth Hand’s forthcoming novel Wylding Hall which is about “the mysterious death of their lead singer, the young members of a now-legendary British acid folk band hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient English country house with its own dark secrets. There they record Wylding Hall, the album that makes their reputation– but at a terrifying cost, when Julian Blake, their new lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen again. Now, years later, each of the surviving musicians, their friends and lovers, meets with a young documentary filmmaker to tell their own version of what happened during that summer. But whose story is the true one? And what really happened to Julian Blake? ” As a lead in to getting a copy of the book in my hands this July (its already out on Audible) I decided to read Jeanette Leech’s book Seasons They Change: The Story of Acid and Psychedelic FolkI’ve had the book since it came out in 2011, but for whatever reason, never read it straight through. I’m glad I’m doing so now, because it has me listening to a lot of different albums. Yet the one that is on repeat the most for me has been Vashti Bunyan’s Another Diamond Day. I’d listened to the album a couple of times about five years ago or so, but I guess it didn’t move me the same way it is moving me now. The standout song to me is Rainbow River.

Besides Vashti the groups and people who’ve been on my playlist have been: John Renbourn (loved the Nine Maidens album), Pentangle, Davy Graham, Shirley Collins, The Holy Modal Rounders, Pearls Before Swine, Nurse With Wound (digging The Surveillance Lounge and Requital for Lady Day). Also Steeleye Span, Comus, and John Coltrane’s version of My Favorite Things.

DREAMING: I dreamed I got off the bus on Winton Road. I walked across the street next to the wall of Spring Grove Cemetery. I knew a way to sneak into the cemetery through a hedge. Once I got inside I marveled at how beautiful the cemetery was, and started whistling the tune My Favorite Things. 


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