“The Psychologically Ultimate Seashore” promised nothing less than to generate the “best possible self” by way of concentration and relaxation. This was no ad copy hokum, but the results of “extensive research” into how it affects “your respiration, heartbeat, and metabolism.”
In listening tests conducted prior to the release of ENVIRONMENTS ONE, it was found that this sort of sound had a direct effect on the imagination and subconscious of the listener, no matter what his age or occupation. If used while reading, comprehension and reading speed improve noticeably. If used at mealtime, appetites improve. Insomniacs fall asleep without the aid of drugs. Hypertension vanishes. Student’s marks improve. It’s [sic] effect on the esthetics of lovemaking is truly remarkable. In noisy or very quiet surroundings, improvement in working conditions is little short of miraculous. Teenagers are the record’s biggest fans; they call it everything from “the ultimate trip” to “sensual rock.”
The record in this jacket represents a totally new concept in stereo sound. Most records are purchased, played a few times, and then put on the shelf to gather dust. Not this one. Once you have acclimated to the concept involved, you will probably want to leave the record playing all the time. If you follow the suggestions below, you can easily do just that . . . If you own a record changer or automatic turntable, you will probably want to modify the mechanism so that the record will, if desired, continue to repeat itself automatically.
The Environments series (a “totally new concept in sound”) was created by Irving Solomon Teibel for Syntonics Research, Inc. in 1968. Teibel, with the help of Tony Conrad, recorded the sounds of the ocean as part of a movie soundtrack. Tiebel and Conrad soon parted ways. (Conrad was an avant-garde musician, a member of the Theater of Eternal Music, and was responsible for exposing Lou Reed and John Cale to a paperback copy of The Velvet Underground, before they adopted it as a name for their new band.)
Tiebel was not satisfied with the original reel-to-reel tape recording and soon was editing, filtering, and overdubbing with the use of an IBM 360 computer. The results, Tiebel exclaimed, were remarkable—“more real than real.” And as we know by now, in our age of cybernetic systems, algorithmic demands, and post-Baudrillardian musings, when something becomes “more real than the reality itself, reality is destroyed.” And what could be more natural than that?
As the liner notes declare, “over one hundred stereo recordings of the ocean were made at various locations ranging from Malibou, California and Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to Dover, England and the Grand Bahamas. The differences were amazing between the various locations but what was truly astounding was the result of interfacing the chosen recording with a specially programmed analog computer system.”
Here we have an extended take on nature’s repetitions—25 minutes of tuning the ear to the subtle differences from one wave washing over to the next. This is nature, incarnate on your turntable. But its psychological ultimacy stems not from the immediacy offered to the listener, but from the intermittent declarations of its mediations—from the pops and skips to the liner notes and the backstory of how the processing power of an IBM 360 mainframe computer was harnessed to make the original recording of the seashore “more real than real.”
From 1968-72, the IBM 360 connected the Command Center of the US Air Force in Thailand with thousands of sensors placed along the Go Chi Minh Trail in southern Laos. These sensors relayed information back to the command center for purposes of coordinating strategic bombings of North Vietnamese supply lines. As the historian Paul Edwards recalls, although the sensors could detect everything from engine noise and movement to body heat and the smell, the entire operation was easily subverted by Vietcong fighters who “confuse[d] American sensors with tape-recorded truck noises, bags of urine, and other decoys.”
The IMB 360 was also the computer of choice in the utopic Cybersyn. This project, initiated by the Chilean government of Salvador Allende in 1970 with the help of Stafford Beer, sought nothing less than to transform the Chilean economy into a self-organizing system.
Side 1 of the second disc in the Environments series was “Tintinnabulation.” This 30-minute selection consisted of computer-generated bell sounds that could be played at any speed—16-2/3, 33-1/3, or 78 RPM.