Low-frequency sine waves yield a record that evidences spiral artifacts, changes based on playback conditions.

Digital or analog, it doesn’t matter: any sound you hear is heard in the real world. The playback device, the environment, all impact the sound.

For evidence, try playing a record with a single frequency and nothing else. That’s the case with WOW. Perhaps the best recorded equivalent of John Cage’s legendary four-plus minutes of scored silence, the record WOW is in physical form as minimal as could be. It’s contains a single, ultra-low-frequency pitch (hear it on YouTube below, provided you have some speakers or headphones with enough low-end response). WOW is, then, about where it’s played as much as what it is.

The mechanical components of your record player, the resonating environment around you, all will cause the reality of listening to WOW to change. The creator even suggests playing multiple records at once, so that the “air around you will start pulsating,” and has an installation version that does just that. (The installation and release had its premiere last night in Berlin.)

We began this week with a look at resonance used in architecture. Here, you can play with it wherever you happen to have a turntable handy.

Berlin-born and Kreuzberg-based artist Carl Schilde has released WOW as a “heavylistening experience.” It’s an extremely-limited edition, starting at 33.33 €. There are 33 ⅓ Hz and 45 Hz renditions, accompanying the equivalent rotational speeds – at the low end of what you can hear, making the listening experience as physical as it is what you would normally consider auditory. Schilde also suggests that you can “play” the result like an instrument, by adjusting pitch.

Oh, and it looks realy cool, too:

WOW’s unique sonics also yield a very special visual appearance. The surface of the record reveals a characteristic spiral, resulting from the relationship of the constant bass frequency to the record’s gradually decreasing diameter towards its center.

Hold your WOW record up to the light and you will notice it breaking into all the colours of the spectrum.

Whoa, dude. If HEAVYLISTENING rings a bell, it’s because it was behind the sub-bass “concert for tuned cars” TIEFDRUCKGEBIET and Twitter sonification #tweetscapes.

Beautiful stuff. Listen – or feel – on good speakers/headphones to the YouTube demo, for a rough sense of what this is about:


For more on the thinking behind the project, Electronic Beats has an excellent interview with the artist and HEAVYLISTENING partner Anselm Nehls:
“Like selling a piece of art in an Apple computer kind of way”: Carl Schilde Interviewed [Electronic Beats]

Highlight, on why it matters that this is a record, and not a wave from another source:

You could reproduce the same effect on a synthesizer by playing two sinusoidal tones, but that’s not the original idea. “WOW” is about pitch shifting, or “playing your turntable”—rather than playing the record yourself. That’s where the name origins from: “wow” and “flutter” determine irregularities in the playback speed of analog recordings. Every analog device has a unique variation, and the individual characteristics of the record player become a part of the composition. Just playing a .WAV isn’t really thrilling in the context of vinyl, music and art culture.

(PS, yes, it’s unfortunate that this shares a name with a new Mouse on Mars album. Great minds think alike? Zeitgeist? Oh, well…)

  • kent williams

    This reminds me of the amazing Riyoji Ikeda installations I saw at the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum in Berlin. And an experimental set by friends of mine where the set up several turntables with the needle resting on an unspinning record, and then played the mechanical feedback with a mixing console. The room, where you’re standing, who is between you and the speaker (or between you and a wall reflecting sound) changes the listening experience.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Foster/1410024062 Brian Foster


  • danielclay

    I could be mistaken, but I believe Robert Henke has a little cameo appearance in the video, no?

    • http://www.facebook.com/venezian Anselm Venezian Nehls

      that’s correct, he’s a long time fan 😉

  • vanceg

    Well then – Sure does help me tell where the bass buildup and null points in my studio are….

  • mh

    this is a very good idea. i would buy the album if it were reasonably priced. (altho i think it will sell out) as a side note its funny you describe the artist as “Berlin-born and Kreuzberg-based”

  • ldoubleyou

    I received a flier for this event after it had taken place.The guy acted like it was THE event of the year, and as if my friend and I were crazy for enjoying a cocktail somewhere else…it was a bit rude. Or perhaps it was simply a language barrier, I’ll give him that.

  • Random Chance

    Sine waves, hu? Does this record come with a mathematical model of a turntable so that you can calculate the effect of playing the record at a certan speed using an idealised turntable? That would be cool. Everyone who does pure sine waves should also do mathematics/physics, otherwise it feels a little self-indulgent … a bit like this comment. 😉

  • salamanderanagram

    sorry, but 33 euros for a sine wave?
    give me a break, that is just lame.

    • foljs

      That’s like saying “3,000 dollars for chemicals on paper?” for a painting.

      It’s about the IDEA, not the record itself. Enjoy the concept, twist it, do something else with it. Or not.

      Not to mention that you are not forced to buy it in any way.

    • salamanderanagram

      i’ve seen a lot of great art in my day. some paintings take years to finish.
      imprinting a sine wave onto a record is not in anyway comparable. that said, i would not ever pay $30,000 for a painting, either.

  • Blob

    That Ikeda installation mentioned by commenter Kent sounds extremely interesting, wish I could
    have seen it. It would be amusing to reproduce that sort of experiment at home with something like the “WoW” record, trying to experience how a simple sound or frequency affects and is affected by the environment and the stereo you use.

    I think Carl Schilling’s work is perfectly valid and am fairly curious about the sonic results.

    And I just simply would not, EVER, pay 33 quid for a copy of this record.

    “Like selling a piece of art in an Apple computer kind of way” – if by this, Schilling means taking an idea for a product / work of art / experiment and charging a ridiculous price that bears little relation to the effort put into creating it… then yes, he’s on to something.
    I’ll wait for a WoW record installation at the nearest media art / design museum and pay my ticket to get in, thank you very much.

    Apart from that, all good.

  • http://www.jhhl.net/ Henry Lowengard

    I suppose most of CdM readers have some kind of synthesizer also capable of a low frequency sine wave. Set a few speakers up and experience the standing waves which naturally appear. Air temperature and other physical parameters will move that dead spot around. You are looking for harmonics of the natural room frequencies.

  • Ian Copeland

    Hasn’t this already been done? Thomas Koner immediately springs to mind.

  • ladies man

    me and my girl fuck to this every night