Sound work

Hidden messages in music

It is easy to imagine the spheres in which one can use the knowledge of how to implicitly share some kind of information brought into the artifacts of mass culture. Today, there is no any practical need in hiding messages in the music. These are only pleasant bonuses for the particularly ardent fans of bands. Interlacing of messages into the songs’ words and changing colors in the design drawings of music albums are not taken into consideration here.

Let us start with the easy ways that have nothing to do with the computer science and computer facilities. The most obvious is to impose such sounds, which will produce legible human speech, when they are reproduced in the opposite direction on a household record player or special equipment.


Thomas Edison, inventor of the phonograph, was the first one who saw the potential of this technique, but the first people who used it in the 50th years of the last century were the pioneers of electromusic. Still, we are obliged to the band Beatles for the popularization of backmasking. In particular, under the influence of marihuana Lennon was replaying tapes back to front and this sound got his interest. “Rain” was the first song with the hidden message.
For example, Frank Zappa was avoiding censorship in such a way, as his sound-recording label did not omit some lines.

Better look around before you say you don't care.
Shut your f…ing mouth 'bout the length of my hair.
How would you survive, if you were alive, shitty little person?

The technique of human speech imposing in the accelerated or slow tempo is a less known one. Jimi Hendrix used it in the song “Third Stone from the Sun”. If you accelerate the track version in “The Jimi Hendrix Experience edition: 1966–1967” twice (or play the record at 33 ⅓ rpm at the speed of 45) you can hear the clear dialogue of space aliens acted by Jimi and his manager.

Hendrix: Star fleet to scout ship, please give your position. Over.
Chandler: I am in orbit around the third planet of star known as Sun. Over.
Hendrix: May this be Earth? Over.
Chandler: Positive. It is known to have some form of intelligent species. Over.
Hendrix: I think we should take a look. (Jimi pronounces sounds of spacecraft)

The fall of the interest to the hiding of the messages in the reverse direction or in the playing with the increased tempo is connected, first of all, with the transition to the digital media, record players that do not always have a function of playback reversion or its speeding. There is no need to conceal the appearing of the laws against the hidden messages in the music in the late 80's in California and some other states: fanaticism of “Easter Egg” search helped to locate “Antichrist messages” almost everywhere. Backmasking started the rumors about Paul McCartney’s death.

Pictures in the spectrogram

It is easy to get the spectrogram, but is it easy to get a sound according to it? Yes, it is, but with considerable approximations that will not prevent the music creation, which is not to be listened to, as the weird tinkling will be produced, but which is to be watched. This music is, for example, the track of the B side of the single Windowlicker by the British electronic musician Aphex Twin, which is often called "Equation" or "Formula", but has a shocking title:
Skip to 5:30 in order to see Richard’s licensed smirk. This technique was not new even in 1999: for example, this is the end of the track Windowlicker:


It is not difficult to guess what will happen in the track “Look” of the glitch-album “Songs about My Cats”.

Usage of carrier peculiarities

As it sometimes happened, it’s possible to record two tracks on the vinyl disc. For example, in the original edition of The Monty Python Matching Tie and Handkerchief, 1973 the sides of the disc were not signed and the list of tracks was absent, but the main is that two parallel concentric tracks were placed on the B side. The successful installation of the needle was necessary for the listening of the hidden song on the “tripartite” disc.


Mad Magazine did the same thing with the disc “It’s a Super Spectacular Day”, but there were already eight tracks. Troubles, which could happen with you tonight, were colorfully described on each of them. Recordings with several tracks were popular in the 50's, but usually were used in the discs with the audio stories for children. This helped to get several different stories on one double-sided disc.

Data format of the compact disc, described in the Red book, allows the so-called pregap - offset from the first track. It lasts two seconds and contains silence on default. Many musicians were placing audio materials in pregap. Unfortunately, the updating in Windows 95 did not allow system access to pregap of the first track, apparently, for the format support of CD-Extra. Nevertheless, one can place figures the following way.

Vinyl, modem signal, ZX Spectrum and programs

How can we record a text file on the vinyl disc? American band “Information Society” managed to do this: track’s name 300bps N, 8, 1 (Terminal Mode or Ascii Download) of the album “Peace and Love, Inc” was clearly indicating how to read their message. Modem with 300 bauds made it possible to get a text file containing the story of the band about the pressure of the Brazilian government agencies on them.

Track’s name CLOAD «Q» of the album “Information Retrieved Pt. B” – is a command of file Q downloading in the Basic TRS-80 of the PC in early 80th. As we see, Indie band Pinback for some reason placed the game for played-out computer in the album.


In early years of the personal computer technique distribution, the sound for the recording of the audio tapes ZX Spectrum was broadcasted even on television. There were also tracks that were the programs. And if this were the albums on vinyl, it was necessary to record them on the audio tapes. Most of all this technique was used by the British bands.

imageFor example, the sixth track of the British edition of the album “XL1” by Pit Shelly was containing sounds pulsation, which, when being loaded into the "Spectrum", turned out to be a rudimentary graphics or songs’ texts that were reproduced synchronously with the album playing. Hectic Electric track from the album New Anatomy of Inner City Unit was serving for the same information purposes: the program contained schedule of performances, staff and tracks description, etc.

Thompson Twins released the entire video game on vinyl. This is a typical text quest, which is unlikely to be interesting for people who never left the map of the hour-long actions in the copybook.

Chris Seavey’s single “Camouflage” also contained awful game “Flying Train” created by the musician. It was remarkable only because of the explosions. Chris also created the game “The Biz” which was the simulator of the successful musical group with a stormy career. However, this game was not included into the album.


Scottish band Urusei Yatsura produced the most ironic message for ZX Spectrum: the program was just showing a message “Glorify the Satan”. The code also contained comments: “Hello, Nick, is Robin with you?”, “Satan message number 3 from Judas Priest”, “What is more sad?: a) to find it; b) to write it”.


Anyway, the musicians of the last years made many experiments with their fans, but today it is less observed.
Disney 22 october 2012, 21:36
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