There Is No Cat

The alternative to flowers!

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Radio cure

Back in 1995, the owner of an obscure record company in the U.K. posted a notice to that he was seeking recordings of the mysterious shortwave "numbers stations", long rumored to be broadcasting coded messages to spies around the world. By the time the project was actually released in 1997, what was originally contemplated as a single CD had expanded to a four CD set with accompanying 80 page booklet about the numbers station phenomenon known as The Conet Project. The recording was released in a limited edition, and sold out surprisingly quickly. I found my copy used at Other Music in lower Manhattan. It makes for surprisingly spellbinding listening. If you've heard the Wilco album "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot", the woman's voice repeating the album title in one of the songs is taken from a numbers station broadcast. The Conet Project CD set is legendary, much sought after, and has gone in and out of print a few times over the years.

Except on the net, of course.

While perusing The Internet Archive's list of net labels whose music they host and distribute, I noticed that one of the labels was Irdial Disc, the record company that released The Conet Project. You can download the entire four CD set in MP3 format.

You can find out a lot more about numbers stations at Chris Smolinski's Spy Numbers site. My friend David Goren also did a great radio piece for National Public Radio's All Things Considered about the phenomenon back in 2001 that you can listen to online.

Another oddball release on Irdial that came out not long after The Conet Project was a two CD set of recordings of "natural radio", electromagnetic traces of changes in the Earth's magnetic field. The sounds have names like whistlers and tweeks, and can only be heard on specialized equipment at the VLF (very low frequency) range at some remove from power lines, which tend to drown them out with their own noises. This CD set, Electric Enigma: The VLF Recordings of Stephen P. McGreevy, is a useful way to experience this phenomenon for those of us who don't have a way of getting more than a couple of miles away from the nearest powerline. You can download the two CD set from, again in MP3 format.

There's more information about natural radio on the site of the Longwave Club of America. And for those of you in the U.K., BBC Radio 4 is airing a program on May 31 called "Songs of the Sky" which explores the Aurora Borealis and includes a segment on the aurora's impact on natural radio. Since aurora are a visible manifestation of changes in the Earth's magnetic field, it makes sense that there would be some relationship between them and natural radio.

Posted at 10:28 PM


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This site is copyright © 2002-2024, Ralph Brandi.

What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio

There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

Sylvester (the Dorito Fiend), who died at Thanksgiving, 2000.


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