Oct 302014

Morse Code Choir tells the story of 20th century history – starting in 1907, when Canadian inventor Reginald A. Fessenden became the first person to send audio by means of electromagnetic waves, and finishing in 1997 when the UK ceased to use and monitor Morse code on the radio.

The story is told through the moulding of sonified Morse code, a medium in which rhythm is inherent, but pitch is not. And so, whilst Morse Code Choir is made from audible dots and dashes, it is also a poetical evocation of a historical narrative, imagined as a choral work, as voices in the ether, manifesting the hypnotic relentlessness of history and bracketed by radio, Morse and their intertwined histories.

Morse Code Choir was composed in 10-year segments, punctuated by the two World Wars. The length of each individual phrase is determined by the news headline it encapsulates, further shaping structure and length of the work. Overall it contains three voices (low, mid and high) and three pan positions (hard left, right and centre), inspired by the historical flow of time through past, present and into the future.

The work was developed in response to a call for Radio Arts’ Dreamland series which looked for 30min long broadcast proposals exploring the relationships, possibilities and potential of radio, in this case the interconnection between radio and Morse code, at a time when broadcasting is shifting into the digital domain. To be broadcast on Radio Reverb, Resonance FM, Phonic FM, BCB, Radio Papesse, WGXC (90.7-FM) and Wave Farm Radio (1620-AM).

Listen to a low res mp3:

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Drawing of a "Morse key", a switching device used to send Morse code.

Collecting historic events across the years: a snapshot

Morse code, sonified at 700 Hz, 30wpm.

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