PYRAMIDS.

Monument to Charles Taze Russell, Pittsburgh.

What is it about the Great Pyramid that attracts cranks?

Of course there are two remarkable facts about the Great Pyramid that, taken together, would be enough to attract your average crank: it is old, and it is big. It is both of those things to an extraordinary degree. The Great Pyramid was finished about 4600 years ago. A longer time separates the Pyramid from Christ than separates Christ from us. It was one of the seven wonders in the ancient world—writers disagree about the exact list, but everyone agrees that the Great Pyramid was on it. And it is the only one of those wonders left standing today, even though it was ancient when the rest of those wonders were built. As for the size, for most of its life it was the tallest building in the world. It was finally surpassed by the spire of Lincoln Cathedral in 1311, but that collapsed 238 years later—hardly enough time for the Great Pyramid to get in a good yawn.

Age and size would attract the average crank. But we quickly discover that it is not the average crank who is most attracted to the Great Pyramid. It attracts specifically cranks with calculating machines. Today they have computers, but cranks have attacked it with pocket calculators, adding machines, slide rules, and pencil and paper—whatever it took to make numbers dance in their heads.

John Greaves, an Oxford professor of astronomy, seems to have quite unknowingly laid the shaky foundation of pyramidology. In the 1630s he visited the Great Pyramid, yardstick in hand, and in 1646 he published his Pyramidographia, or a Description of the Pyramids in Ægypt. This book was a mine of numbers which could be appropriated by crankier writers.

Athanasius Kircher, the famous “polymath” (Greek for “man misinformed about everything”) who deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphics in the same way our beloved Barry Fell deciphered random scrapings on American rocks, was one of the first to suggest a mystical significance to these measurements. The archcrank Isaac Newton also dipped his oars in that stream. But it was left to the Victorians to bring out the full crank potential latent in the measurements of the Great Pyramid.

Many of these cranks were British, but local patriotism will not let us forbear mentioning that perhaps the most influential of them all was a Pittsburgher. This was Charles Taze Russell, the founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose scripture studies promoted the idea that the Great Pyramid was scripture in stone, prophesying the complete course of world history.

Viewed from whatever standpoint we please, the Great Pyramid is certainly the most remarkable building in the world; but in the light of an investigation which has been in progress for the past thirty-two years, it acquires new interest to every Christian advanced in the study of God's Word; for it seems in a remarkable manner to teach, in harmony with all the prophets, an outline of the plan of God, past, present and future.

Why, then, you might ask, does the Bible not mention the Great Pyramid?

If it was built under God's direction, to be one of his witnesses to men, we might reasonably expect some allusion to it in the written Word of God. And yet, since it was evidently a part of God’s purpose to keep secret, until the Time of the End, features of the plan of which it gives testimony, we should expert that any reference to it in the Scriptures would be, as it is, somewhat under cover—to be recognized only when due to be understood.

In other words, it was a secret until Pastor Russell came along and drew the veil aside.

Pastor Russell quite literally took his obsession with the Great Pyramid to the grave with him, as you can learn at Father Pitt’s Pittsburgh Cemeteries.

As you have come to expect when we have a long historical overview like this, it serves to introduce a new section in our Eclectic Library. The page of Wrong History now has a subsection on the Pyramids, which we intend to expand as we gather more crankery.

WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS.

No. 1: Music.

The face of not having nice things in music, by Egon Schiele.

A quick tour of Wikipedia articles on music that began at Schoenberg’s opera Moses und Aron:

Moses and Aron is based entirely on a single tone row, itself constructed from cells…

Okay, what’s a tone row?

In music, a tone row or note row (German: Reihe or Tonreihe), also series or set, is a non-repetitive ordering of a set of pitch-classes, typically of the twelve notes in musical set theory of the chromatic scale, though both larger and smaller sets are sometimes found.

Okay, what’s musical set theory?

Musical set theory provides concepts for categorizing musical objects and describing their relationships.

Right at the beginning of that article is a helpful illustration with this caption:

Example of Z-relation on two pitch sets analyzable as or derivable from Z17, with intervals between pitch classes labeled for ease of comparison between the two sets and their common interval vector, 212320

The reason we can’t have nice things in music is that only people who find this stuff absolutely fascinating are allowed to write serious music.

ASK DR. BOLI.

Dear Dr. Boli: I was telling one of my friends that I was thinking of trading in my husband for a more recent model, and she said that she and her husband had an “open marriage.” So I smiled politely and changed the subject, because I didn’t want to admit that I had no idea what she was talking about. But now it’s bugging me. What does it mean when people say they have an “open marriage”? —Sincerely, Mrs. James K. Polk Brenneman (for now).

Dear Madam: It means anyone can walk into their house and do the laundry, mend the porch rail, take out the trash, wash dishes, and do the other things married people have to do every day. It may sound dreary to you, but some people enjoy that sort of thing.

THERE IS MUSIC OUT OF COPYRIGHT.

For the first time in American history, there are sound recordings that are unambiguously out of copyright. The Hatch-Goodlatte Music Modernization Act puts all recordings from 1922 and before into the public domain, and in the future recordings will pass into the public domain after 100 years. This is an absurdly long time, but until now recordings before 1972 were not covered by federal law at all, meaning that they might or might not be copyrighted according to the whims of your state or township, which—given the grasping nature and unlimited legal budget of the music conglomerates—meant that they were effectively copyrighted forever. Now we have an unambiguous rule.

And it happens that there is a great deal of good music to be heard from before 1923. The great misfortune is that all of it was recorded acoustically, which means that the sound was collected by a big horn and the vibrations transmitted mechanically to the cutting needle. The full range of frequencies could not be preserved. The world would have to wait for the electrical process to have sound recordings that were hard to distinguish from the original performance, and the first electrical recordings were released in 1925. They will not be out of copyright for a few more years.

But—and you may have been wondering why Dr. Boli brought up this subject—we have been making some experiments with those old acoustical recordings. It turns out that much of the sound that seems to be missing is actually recorded, faintly though it may be. If a record is in good shape, it is possible to bring back some of that sound by a process Dr. Boli calls “artificial electrification.” That is a fancy showoffy name for a relatively simple algorithm that involves boosting some frequencies and lowering others, so that the bass notes are not quite so much overwhelmed by the midrange. A good mechanical phonograph naturally does that, which is why acoustical recordings often sound more lifelike on a mechanical phonograph. But the same effect can be achieved electronically.

And here is a demonstration. In 1918, Joseph C. Smith’s Orchestra made a lively recording of “Hindustan,” a song in the “oriental” mode by Oliver G. Wallace and Harold Weeks. Here is the original recording, unaltered, as it is preserved at the Library of Congress. Listen to a few seconds, and you will have a good idea of what a well-preserved acoustical recording sounds like:

Now here is the same recording after it has been put through Boli’s Patent Artificial Electrification Process:

You notice right away that the music sounds more alive, more like the real performance. You may also notice that whole instruments have come out that were next to inaudible in the unaltered recording. For example, we can hear that the bass line is provided by a bass clarinet—a very unusual choice, but one that works well with the pseudo-oriental style of the music.

Some obsessive types would also try to eliminate all the surface noise, but invariably the noise carries some of the music with it when it goes. Dr. Boli prefers a moderate approach that leaves some of the surface noise in exchange for keeping more of the original sound.

So we have sound recordings that are in the public domain, and we have a means of resurrecting much of the sound of the original performance. What shall we do with those things?

Readers who have been around for a while may remember that, ten years ago, we abandoned a site called “The Lateral Cut,” which was becoming progressively harder to maintain as file-sharing sites dropped out of the Internet or became more suspicious. We have now revived that site at the same address (the site itself, in fact, had never disappeared). The Internet Archive is as reliable a file-sharing site as anyone could hope for; as we donate recordings to the archive, they will be featured at The Lateral Cut.

By the way, the name “Boli’s Patent Artificial Electrification Process” was Dr. Boli’s idea of a joke. No patent is involved. The process uses open-source software (the remarkably capable audio editor Audacity), and we are happy to share the details with any interested persons.