Interesting phenomenon at the show I worked Saturday. A lot of the acts (or, more precisely, their DJs) used painful, very low-frequency tones on their tracks. It went beyond that familiar feeling you get in your chest near a loud bass amp or kick drum; this was severe. I asked the front-of-house guy, Tony, where he estimated that frequency was and he told me it was around 25 or 30 cycles. The volume itself was agonizing: our Line Producer said OSHA measured the dB level above 125 and demanded it be brought under 114 dB. (I don't imagine that ever happened.)
At such volume, the vibration from those low tones was punishing. Where I was positioned on stage right, it didn’t just thump my chest, it made my windpipe quake. There were times I had to close my mouth because the force of the air pulsing and pushing into my sinus cavity made my face seem about to tear open. Staffers and posse members covered their ears and their chests. The stage manager and I were getting dizzy, because the force of those rumbling notes vibrated our skulls enough to make our eyesight blur. Veteran touring and sound folks I spoke to about this said they’d never felt anything like it.
These effects combined to make me feel nauseated. Every internal pipeline throbbed: trachea, spinal cord, arteries. Colon.
I started thinking about things I’ve read and documentaries I’ve seen describing how low frequencies are sometimes used in torture, or as a system of non-lethal weaponry. They will cause all the internal organs to shudder, painfully. A prisoner will share what he knows; an enemy will turn heel and retreat to escape such sound.
I remembered some of the disgusting details and, some time around the middle of either Busta’s set or Young Jeezy’s, I became convinced that even though every one of us was suffering through this… that I was sure to be the guy who shits himself.
I can’t say for sure if anyone did soil their armor but, happily, I didn’t.
I found this in a piece called "The Acoustics of War" on Cabinet Magazine:
Ultra-low frequencies will nauseate and disorient most people under the right conditions (that is, if the sound can easily couple with their bodies, which it does under water or in a high-pressure chamber).
There are notable cases of people encountering low-frequency sounds under such conditions. In one case, Walt Disney and his team of cartoonists slowed down the 60-cycle tone of a soldering iron in a short cartoon. At a low-frequency 12 cycles, they became sick for days afterwards. The inventor Nikola Tesla experimented with low-frequency vibrating platforms that he motored using simple "eccentric" wheels. He found that standing on the platform for a minute created a pleasant buzz through the body. Remaining on the platform for any longer than a minute aggravated his subjects' hearts and dangerously raised their blood pressure. His friend Mark Twain [Samuel Clemens] once got on the platform and refused to descend. As the author Gerry Vassilatos writes, "Tesla's concern was drowned out by both the vibrating machine and Clemens' jubilant exaltations and praises. Several more seconds and Clemens nearly soiled his white suit."
* * * *
Later that night, back at the hotel bar, I had quite a killer fan-boy time, feasting on the tour stories of Tony and our lighting designer, Simon. Between them, they’ve toured with some greats, like Iggy (1979), Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, Stones, etc. Great stories to tell.
Funny moment earlier on, after Simon had been telling me about Iggy’s pre-show and pre-encore cocaine usage and how he’d (Iggy) fuck girls on the bus in the first row directly behind the curmudgeonly driver: I asked who else he’s toured with and he said, “Oh, some obscure British bands.”
I said, well, try me.
“A band called Magazine… Wire… the Undertones… Stiff Little Fingers….”
Poor bastard had no idea he was in for a couple hours more of telling me stories. You can imagine how wide-eyed I got as I said, "Fuck! Are you kidding me? I love those bands! I listen to Wire every day every day every day!"
Good guys, those two; they humored me and talked.
[posted with ecto]