Efficient Processes for Synthetic Funk

In March of 2013, the Strategic Tape Reserve took possession of a cache of documents entitled Efficient Processes for Synthetic Funk. The documents were discovered in the Wiesdorf section of Leverkusen, in a derelict building formerly owned by the Bayer corporation, which was being prepared for demolition. A worker employed by the demolition company found a metal box containing the documents in a walled-in former storage room, which was apparently contaminated with an assortment of chemicals including barium and mercury. In breech of company policy, the worker covertly brought the documents to his personal vehicle, as he believed the contents might be of value to the Bayer corporation. He contacted the company's archivist who expressed no interest in the documents other than to initiate a police investigation against the man. Before the demolition worker was located and arrested, he brought the documents to a flea-market held at the Cologne race track, where they were purchased by an acquaintance of the Strategic Tape Reserve who is sympathetic to our goals and correctly recognized that the documents would be of interest.

The documents, which date from 1973 to 1977, had not been well preserved. Certain sections had discolored to the point of illegibility, while others had disintegrated entirely. Though much of the text was typewritten, there was copious marginalia composed by a person with a clear belief in the value of detail, but poor, or perhaps simply foreign, penmanship. From extensive analysis of the documents and research into the events surrounding their creation, we can present the following information with a fair degree of certainty.

The Efficient Processes for Synthetic Funk project was run by an electrical-engineer (name withheld for legal reasons), a middle-aged bachelor who had, years before, done a technical apprenticeship at the studio of Karlheinz Stockhausen at WDR. EPfSF was initiated at the behest of an external client, officially a private citizen of Belgium, though we could find no trace of this individual's existence, and examining the earliest items authored by the client (enquiries into feasibility, payment terms, etc.) led us in a different direction. The paper size of this correspondence did not conform to the DIN 476 standard, which would have been been the norm met by West German paper manufacturers at the time, but instead measured a somewhat smaller 203.2mm by 266.7mm, i.e. Government Letter, an American standard paper size which, until reforms in the early 1980s, was used by children and, as the name suggests, the government. Furthermore, soil sample analysis taken from these specific documents yielded high concentrations of specific volcanic elements which match those found in the Eiffel region near Bitburg, where, at the time, a NATO air base was in operation. For these, and additional reasons which at this time we choose not to disclose, we conclude that the project was conceived by a branch of the US military or, perhaps, clandestine services, and carried out by a third party.

The aims of the project were primarily to establish a standardized process by which any willing person could create funk (according to the documents “a frivolous diversion characterized by asymmetrical rhythm patterns”) with a minimum of resources, i.e. most significantly: time, personnel and equipment. As to why the military would be interested in the potential of streamlined funk generation, the practical utilities of such production activities were not made explicit. However, one mostly-disintegrated section of the original proposal documentation contained references to “destabilization in closely-controlled societies” and “the anti-establishmentism inherent to the medium”, from which one can imagine (particularly in the aftermath of the culture-fueled Prague Spring) applications of Cold War psy-ops. A historian familiar with such programs put forward the scenario of one dissident or agent alone, with access to the type of electronic devices available at a university or factory workshop, being able foster conditions more hospitable to unrest or even open rebellion.

The documents contained a vast number of formulae, diagrams, guidelines and tables of very precise specifications to aid in this effort, as well as a surplus of addenda which, thematically, spiraled off into various esoteric (and, in places, unseemly) tangents, though did also contain various relevant historical models on which the standards, recommendations and algorithms were based. Additionally, there were comprehensive abstracts of experiments pertaining to the synthetic funk format, referred to in the documents as “trials”, some of which were performed on live animal and human test subjects. It is not made explicit in the documents if audio from the trials was recorded at the time, and no audiotapes relating to the project have been uncovered.

Despite the abundance of text, the documents do not present conclusive findings. This is because the project itself was halted abruptly by the death of the electrical-engineer at its helm. While visiting a garden furniture trade fair in Karlsruhe, he was assassinated by persons affiliated with the Red Army Faction (machine-gunned down while inspecting a telescoping patio sun-umbrella, according to newspaper reports from that time), not because of his collaboration with the US military, but rather due to a case of mistaken identity; he shared a name with a high ranking member of the BRD judiciary. While this particular project ended with the life of the engineer, it is believed that similar research was carried out at other sites in Western Europe. As rumors have it, documents relating to an equivalent project conducted near a BASF facility in Ludwigshafen are now privately held by HP Baxxter of the band Scooter.

After we had the opportunity to thoroughly examine the documents, it was decided that the Strategic Tape Reserve would attempt to continue the Efficient Processes for Synthetic Funk research and recreate the experimentation which had ended 36 years earlier (while forgoing the unethical animal and human testing). We used close modern approximations of the specified equipment and even found a genuine Dampfdehnung rotary waveform pressure-extruder, which we were granted access to by a night watchman at the Max Plank Institute in return for a cassette of a never-aired Hรถrspiel based on the memoirs of three-time Eurovision Song Contest entrant Katja Ebstein. We followed the suggested processes and guidelines as closely as we could, though, for example, the recommended audio-signal gaskets are effectively banned under EU Directive 2008/1/EC (covering industrial emissions) and it is possible that our substitutions caused deviation to occur in some of our results. Where information was unclear or unavailable due to the poor condition of the documents, we carried out our own calculations, drawing heavily on the historical models included with the cache. In keeping with our remit, we recorded audio of the experiments and have made that audio available to the general public.

As fate would have it, this incarnation of the project was cut short as well when one of our technicians developed a persistent skin rash after handling the contaminated documents. At that time, we felt the responsible thing would be to bring the tainted cache to the attention of local environmental authorities who subsequently destroyed the complete collection of materials via controlled explosion.

Strategic Tape Reserve