SCATTER!

2008
Matthew Biederman

Matthew Biederman devised two performance structures—“SCATTER!” (2008) and “SPEKTR!” (2007-2008)—based on the filing of U.S. Patent# 2,292,387. Commonly referred to as the “Secret Communications System,” the original patent was granted to avant-garde composer, George Anthiel (known primarily for his “Ballet Mechanique,” which utilized automated instruments) and Hedy Keisler Markey (popularly known as Hedy Lamarr, the Austrian-born American actress) on August 11, 1942. The system they described was an early version of frequency hopping that used a piano roll to change between 88 frequencies with the original intent to make U.S. radio-guided torpedoes harder for enemies to detect or jam. Lamarr’s and Antheil's frequency hopping idea serves as a basis for spread-spectrum communication technology used in commonplace devices such as cordless telephones and WiFi internet connections.

During “SCATTER!” and “SPEKTR!” performances, Biederman utilizes 88 frequency zones to construct an audiovisual mapping of the real-time radio landscape. The frequency zones are combined with a 15-year archive of HF digital and analog signals, VHF, UHF, and microwave transmissions collected from all over the globe to create soundscapes and large eight channel video projections. The performances typically begin at dusk—as solar radio interference recedes—by scanning the night sky at different frequencies, picking up chatter from passing planes, amateur radio conversations, satellites, digital data streams, and natural radio sources.

“SPEKTR!” is the open-air version of the performance, ideally lasting from dusk until dawn, whereas “SCATTER!” is the indoor stage version of the performance, ideally running for a minimum of minimum hours.