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New album channels the sounds of radionics

Radionics Radio uses cosmic tones for mental therapy inspired by the 20th century pseudoscience

A new electronic album taps into the esoteric field of radionics, the frequency therapies of the early and mid-20th century explored by pseudoscientists and alternative medical practitioners such as George de la Warr. On his Radionics Radio album, Daniel Wilson uses frequencies selected by users of a dedicated radionics website to build brand new radionic-inspired compositions.

You may well ask: what exactly is radionics? “It's comparable to dowsing, especially map dowsing, where the dowser would hold a pendulum over parts of a printed map to locate gold, and watching for any pendulum wobble, ” explains Wilson, who began his researches into radionics after working at Goldsmith‘s Daphne Oram collection, which contains numerous radionics related items, in the early 2010s. At Oxford’s De La Warr Laboratories in the 1950s and 60s, these methods were transposed to light and, notably, sound. Boxes of numbered dials were used to find runs of numbers or rates that supposedly correspond to bodily or emotional conditions. “They were responsible for what could be viewed as the weirdest synthesizer (of sorts) ever built,” claims Wilson, “the Multi-Oscillator.”

Radionics Radio contains a 1968 recording of the Multi-Oscillator, which the practitioners at Delawarr Laboratories used to build up chords of tones that they believed had a mental or physical resonance. The rest of the record, however, is based on new compositions using frequencies submitted to a radionics website (put together by Wilson and Jonny Stutters) which went live in 2014. As Wilson explains, users of the website were encouraged to try and forge new connections between thoughts and particular frequencies. “The app was designed for users to simply increase the frequency of an oscillator while concentrating on any thought of their choice,” he adds.

Many proponents of radionics, including De La Warr, faced accusations of fakery, and even had to go to court to defend their work. “It would be unfair to dismiss it as quackery,” remarks Wilson in their defence. “Practitioners were generally very sincere in their beliefs. It's all connected to faith healing I suppose.”

Perhaps some users of the radionics website had misplaced faith? “Most users sent in wishes: ‘Win lottery’, ‘Stephanie to love me’, ‘I am a television and movie star’, etc,” he reports. “The thought ‘mental clarity in the face of despair’ was an early one. The sound of that chord with its odd tuning is now unmistakable to me as ‘mental clarity in the face of despair’. Of course, to anyone hearing it anew, it just sounds like a low, out-of-tune drone.”

But Wilson hints that radionics might not be all smoke and mirrors. “Someone sent in a thought frequency set: ‘my cat humphrey to return home’,” he reflects. “I did my duty of loading all the frequencies into my custom software to combine them as a chord, then played it on Resonance FM. It wasn’t a very musical chord – a bit headachey, some 3kHz ear-irritant zinging in there – but a few weeks later I got an email from the lady who submitted the thought: the cat had returned safely!”

Find out more about radionics and Wilson’s project by watching this film by Toby Clarkson. Radionics Radio is out now on Sub Rosa, and you can find much more on Daniel Wilson’s projects can be found here.