Years ago I discovered by accident (as many good things are) that you could open absolutely any file in Adobe Audition – audio file or not – and it would try its best to turn it into sound. I was blown away by the harsh digital grinds, swoops, tones and oddly structured noise bursts it produced and I suppose this processing sketch is an up-to-date version of that idea.
File Radio plays through all files on your computer, interpreting the data as audio. For each file it finds, it reads through it 4 bytes at a time and converts them into a float which is sent to the sound card. The result is a constant stream of pure, unadulterated glitch, i.e. bloody delicious.
The visuals are created by manipulating the pixel data (copying and multiplying blocks of colour information) of the screen. The visuals are only a few lines of code, but a surprising amount of complexity emerges from chunks of the image being copied and recopied thousands of times a frame. The effect is mesmorising, especially because the parameters for the visuals are taken from the data being currently read in, so they are in sync with the sound. I wanted to make it entirely deterministic, in that if you were to play the same folder twice the visuals would be identical, but that would mean having to hard sync the visuals with the audio, and I simply couldn’t be fucked. In its current form repeat runs of a folder will be pretty much the same, but I think its nice to have a bit of variation anyway.
My system 32 folder
My Pictures folder
My FL projects folder
And the app itself (offline only sorry): File Radio
- Press space to bring up a folder selector then select a folder for File Radio to play from.
- ‘space’ - skips the currently playing file, or does the same as ‘o’ if the directory has finished playing.
- ’o’ – opens a new directory.
- ’s’ - saves a screenshot. Images are saved to /images in the File Radio dir.
- ‘r’ - starts and stops audio recording. Recordings are saved to /recordings in the File Radio dir. Recording automatically stops after 10 mins (you can restart it) because I couldn’t figure out how to record straight to disk and raw audio data is complete memory sponge. Also, expect a pause after a long recording as it saves to disk. NOTE: I noticed it crashed after saving once but I couldn’t seem to reproduce it (something in the audio library) so let me know if you have any issues. UPDATE: Apparently the record feature is a bit fucked on macs (and realistically I probably won’t get round to fixing it) so if you want to record some sounds use Sound Flower to route the audio straight into your audio programme.
- Compressed data (jpeg, avi, zip) is usually just noise as the data is pretty randomly distributed. Instead try bitmaps, wavs (generally they don’t sound as you might expect) and fonts for example.
- If you select your drive root as the starting folder, File Radio will eventually play through all data on that disk. It could potentially play for days: 200GB = 200000000000 bytes = 50000000000 samples = 314.94 hours = 13.12 days, i.e. almost a fortnight, so if you’ve ever got 2 weeks to kill you know what not to do.
- Experiment, and let me know if you find any good ‘playlists’.