Not mere static: The Babble Machine

Besides structured music, sound, noise, static and a scramble of voices can be just as fascinating to hear.

Aleks Kolkowski was a sound artist in residence at the Science Museum of London a couple of years ago. As fate would have it, he found old shellacked albums at the museum and decided to used them in an exhibit. The exhibit included scraps of radio interference from about 1933. He called it the Babble Machine. It’s a gooey mixture of lost conversations, a tea kettle rattling, an opera singer, and whatever else pops into your mind.

The name was taken from a device in an H.G. Wells novel. Kolkowski calls these sounds “radio traffic.” It’s eery and confusing, but no surprise if H.G. Wells is involved. It’s definitely worth it to take a step back and just listen. 

The Science Museum doesn’t have a link to this anymore, but you can hear the report at


Above: Aleks Kolkowski records Aaron Williamson, Camberwell, 2009 (image Helen Petts)



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