The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

September 15, 2007


Two crystal radios (crs) in parallel through the same antenna/ground

The larger, older one is in the box and can fine-tune through a vario-
coupler, loose coupler, and now an air condenser. The output is drawn from
the larger.

The system is increasingly frustrating and baroque, more and more stations
are picked up, the tuning peaks are sharper, the sensitivity and amplitude
much greater. Everything is passive and metal, except for the diodes - two
in parallel for the older cr, one for the newer.

It's frustrating. The output is always similar, content-dependent, and I'm
not interested in content, or rather the content of the wave-envelopes -
interference, noise, static, and spherics included.

But the frustration - the content dominates, so I've now thrown filter
after filter at it, reducing everything to nonsense, nothing but spew.

Why listen? Because it's a symptom of frustration.

The cr itself is of interest - every inductor has resistance and capaci-
tance, every capacitor has inductance and resistance, every resistor has
inductance and capacitance. But there are no resistors, only a small rf
choke. I arrange and rearrange components, trying for the highest q-
factor (filter sharpness), the loudest output. Sometimes a clip loosens
and everything changes for the better or worse. Sometimes my hand brushes
a coil and things change again. Reverse the clips, antenna/ground or the
diodes, and things change yet again. Nothing's predictable, but the q and
amplitude tends towards the same old thing. If I look for a signal in the
noise beneath the signals, it's canceled out even in the noise. Or some-
times not; you can hear straight-forward voices in the middle of crs.mp3,
even with all the manipulation.

Again, it's metal come to life, arrangements of metal, nothing else, even
the earphones are coils and magnets and thin metal diaphragms. There's
none of the interiority of electronics, vacuum tubes, solid state, except
for the diodes of course. Use a razor-blade diode, and even the solid-
state's eliminated.

And manipulation of the output? Reverberation, hiss filters, hard limit-
ing, normalizing, equalizing. To no point at all except to eliminate my
own nausea. This might have been a search for aesthetic pleasure; instead
it's grounded in an impossible novelty - what with the tuning coils and
capacitor, cr sound is narrowly defined, almost traditional. I need a
violin. I need something.

crs1 and crs2 are images of the interior of the older cr, which has now
been placed in a box. There's a cat around. cr3 is the second cr on top of
the closed box. The fourth file is the mp3.

(I wonder in terms of the poetics and phenomenology of the 'thing' here -
they lie in arrangements, in channels - stations and noise, etc. are par-
asitic, the whole a swirl, entanglement. Listen through the cross-sec-
tions. There's also the semiotics of the flesh, the relationship and
placements of antennas and grounds, the body, flustered, moving all those
coils and dials. The oldest radio sets have a variety of tuning mechanisms
- everything balances on everything. I'd say the pleasure quickens fast in
all of this, but then, like plate cameras, a kind of exactitude emerges
and delight when something after all comes clear. I'm thinking of modeling
all of this as a _knot_ in the mathematical sense.)

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