Backmasking for Beginners
I don’t know about you, but I certainly feel the need to have at least a rudimentary form of encryption to use in personal communications these days. A code shared in the close relationships confusedly and confusingly defined in recent ministerial decrees in Italy, with their double talk of spouses, significant others and “stable affections.” A code shared in the close relationships confusedly and confusingly defined in recent ministerial decrees in Italy, with their double talk of spouses, significant others and “stable affections.” People have a way of bonding around words. Often in a couple, a family, a group of classmates or fellow workers, it is possible to notice that certain words seem to have taken on an almost esoteric shared meaning. This undoubtedly happens spontaneously, yet at some level of the process decisions were made, preferences were felt and acted upon. It is seldom about regional usage or dialects. It happens in smaller, more insular communities. Could this complicity be extended to encrypted terminology? As the need for strategies of privacy expands, I would like to suggest day-‐to-‐day application of the technique of “backmasking,” which means the embedding of backwards speech in sonic contexts (originally musical recordings) to hide secret messages that can only be perceived if you listen to the record, tape or digital sound file backwards. Lots of silly satanism theories spread in the heyday of vinyl records, fueled by the “Paul is dead” rumors and other crucial episodes for the history of pop culture. So-‐called Pig Latin and Cockney rhyming slang are examples of shared semi-‐secret verbal codes, but they are quite widely understood and have thus lost most of their effectiveness, in spite of their exceptional poetic charm.
FOR THIS PROJECT I would like to encourage you to learn, together with your stable affections, family and friends, to speak certain words backwards in the course of everyday conversation, until the sounds begin to constitute a secret private vocabulary. In the digital era backmasking has gotten much easier (you can record with a phone or camera, and use the free sound editing software called AUDACITY). To learn to backmask in everyday speech, it will not suffice to simply write the word or words backwards and then read them out loud. Especially in English, the phonetic absurdities of the language can make the operation a bit more complicated. Let’s say two people have decided to encode a sound for use in conversations in public to mean “what a boring fool!” (handy on many occasions). If we write “LOOF GNIROB A TAHW” and read it back, it just won’t work. We won’t really be talking backwards. Here’s what happens.
2. Reversal of recording to reveal the secret message… it doesn’t really work!
So you have to:
2. reverse the recording
3. play it back
4. learn to say it
5. just to check… record your voice as you say it backwards
6. then reverse that recording and play it back
Was the phrase “what a boring fool” understandable? it have any special qualities? I think this example comes out with an interesting accent! Please choose your own words or phrases, follow the above procedure, and then practice using the backmasked version whenever it’s appropriate in everyday life. My dream is to occasionally notice people utilizing this encrypted speech, at parties or openings, in restaurants. That would be very satisfying indeed. Don’t worry too much about getting caught in the backmasking act… people are almost always reluctant to admit that they haven’t understood a word during a conversation, for fear that it was a particularly erudite and sophisticated foreign term they should be embarrassed about not knowing. Furthermore, they seldom really listen to what other people are saying anyway, because they are too busy thinking about what they will say next. Believe me, I’ve used this encryption extensively, and no one has ever seemed to notice! YOJNE!