Friday 6 June 2008

36363600, the hexadecimal value of the Beast

Some stuff that happened in the recent past.
I was working on my computer a while ago and noticed that there was 6.66 GB remaining on my hard drive. I took a screengrab, filed it and forgot about it for a while. Recently I was thinking about numbers and the idea of 666 as a value started intriguing me. I drew a connection to the seminal metal track 'The Number of the Beast' by Iron maiden and considered how a computer would interpret this.

So I took the lyrics from 'The Number of the Beast', converted them to Binary code and tried to get the computer to recite the numbers, using text-to-speech technology. Unfortunately, due to the limitations of the software, the (massive) stream of numbers caused the application I was running to crash. This got me thinking that maybe a string of ones and zeroes perhaps wasn't the best approach and hexadecimal values would be more interesting sound-wise and on a conceptual level (when determining a colour value in HTML) hexadecimal values appear in a sequence of six.

The software liked this a little better (but still had some trouble in spots, which I solved by chunking the data down into verses) and I eventually got to a result I was happy with. I recorded the computers voice, and layered the resulting new "data lyrics" over a .mid file of the original track, time shifting some a little bit so they would fit in with the timing of the lyrics in Iron Maiden's version. I added an intro (using a different voice) and then cooked it around into a mix I liked. Here:

36363600, the hexadecimal value of the Beast [7.0 mp3 file]

I like the fact that the characters being read by the computer cease to be numbers and letters in most cases and become an abstract garble of information-noise. Also, I've played around with .mid files on and off for a while now, and their soulless and empty interpretations of real instruments can turn a known piece of music into something new that is kind of interesting in it's hollow cheesiness.

666 in the biblical sense of the number is prescribing a numerical value to a religious concept, where a computer prescribes a numeric value to all of it's concepts. I was interested in exploring this as well as a computer's interpretation of human data, in this case lyrics based around the idea of an historic numeric value which is then converted to an actual numeric value and then returned to the context of a song. Among other things.

UPDATE - new mix added for extra clarity.