Digital Vinyl—A Sonic Weapon

Wheels & Pipes roller skating music by Sonic Arts Corporation.

This record is not about the record cover. Although it has a Robert Crumb knock-off art the cover is not what’s interesting about it.

I picked it up last summer at a swap meet. Some nerdy guy was selling a small box of about 10 of them.

CD’s nowadays have all kinds of parental scare labels on them. This one is better than that. It has a simple red photocopied insert that says “WARNING: PLAY AT YOUR ON RISK!!!” and they mean it. They go on to issue a “fair warning” that playing this record may damage your stereo system. WTF! What kind of mind bending record is this that can send my stereo to a landfill?

Play this record and it may be your last

It turns out this is a SAC-PCM DIGITAL RECORD. You know how CDs work? The zeros and ones? This is like a CD but cut in vinyl. You need some sort of digital to analog decoder to play it back. If you don’t have one it’s almost certain the solenoids in your speakers will fry like a cheap sausage. The problem is that nowhere on the back of the record do they explain what kind of equipment you need for proper reproduction or where to obtain it.

low frequency warning on a record from  Sonic Arts

The “Wheels & Pipes or the Second Coming of Rollerskate Music” was performed by Warren Lubich on the mighty Wurlitzer organ at the Redwood City, California Pizza and Pipes Place. It is number 28 in the “Laboratory Series.” The record was released by Sonic Arts Corporation of San Francisco, California with Leo de Gar Kulka, the President. It is dated 1981.

There is very little information on Sonic Arts Corporation available. The only mentions of Sonic Arts Corporation I found are in resumes of people who worked for the company in the 1970s.

In spite of its technological sophistication it appears that the heyday of Sonic Arts Corporation was during the years when the Internet was being developed as secret weapon in the fight against the Soviets. Some of the technical detail from the back cover reads like a psy-ops warfare material. Mr. Gar Kulka claim that certain sounds on this record are reproduced at 16Hz while several dip even lower into the subperceptive 5Hz. Conspiracy theorists have claimed for years that the U.S. government has experimented with low frequency sound weapons that can cause disorientation and severe discomfort. Well, why wait for the government to do it. With this record you can do it yourself.

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