Monday, May 7, 2012

POS: Backmasking and Reverse Speech in Music

Backward messaging in music (commonly known as backmasking) has been a controversy ever since the late 1960s, when messages were found backwards on some Beatles' albums, hinting that Paul McCartney had died. Some of these subliminal messages have been identified as purposeful while some are apparently inadvertent. Some believe that many of these backward messages were in fact examples of "Reverse Speech" in music. Speech reversals occur naturally in all forms of speech, sung or spoken. Explore some of the links and sites regarding this subject and offer your opinion on at least 10 specific examples. Do you buy into the theory of Reverse Speech or is it all a bunch of hogwash?



THE THEORY OF REVERSE SPEECH AND SPEECH COMPLEMENTARITY:

(1) Human speech has two distinctive yet complementary functions and modes. The Overt mode is spoken forwards and is primarily under conscious control. The Covert mode is spoken backward and is not under conscious control. The backward mode of speech occurs simultaneously with the forward mode and is a reversal of the forward speech sounds.

(2) These two modes of speech, forward and backward, are dependent upon each other and form an integral part of human communication. One mode cannot be fully understood without the other mode. In the dynamics of interpersonal communication, both modes of speech combined communicate the total psyche of the person, conscious as well as unconscious.

(3) Covert speech develops before overt speech. Children speak backwards before they do forwards. Then, as forward speech commences, the two modes of speech gradually combine into one, forming an overall bi-level communication process.

List of Backmasked/Reverse Speech Songs

Jeff Milner's Site

Reverse Speech Site

Click here to hear a well known sample of backmasking from Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven". This audio file will play both forward (original context) and backward (backmasking revealed).

Post a reflection that a) discusses your opinion of backmasking and reverse speech, b) assesses the validity of the examples you experienced. I expect direct, specific references to songs, artists and lyrics. Be sure to demonstrate the level of your investigation by being precise and thorough. (3-5 paragraphs)

12 comments:

Cody said...

My opinion on backmasking is not only strange, but it expresses itself in a hidden code. Backmasking is when messages are found when playing a song backwards. Since many people don't usually listen to songs backwards, backmasking is rare in most songs. Examples of backmasking can be found in songs from the Beatles. Many people believe that backmasking messages avoid the conscious brain and motivate an individual to take specific actions. Reverse speech sounds odd to people and being the person who made that specific song might be warning society. I believe, personally, that reverse speech in songs may not be necessary to people in which the fact that it is tough to find and unusual.
A song that I know which contains backmasking is from a fantasy song that is remixed from a video game. The song is called “My Sanctuary” which is based upon love and recognition. You’re probably confused, but the song explains that two characters, Sora and Roxas are separated within each other. Roxas is what makes up Sora’s other half or his soul. All of this has to do with backmasking because there is a short and repeated phrase in the song played backwards. The phrase most likely says, “I need more affection than you know” but it is hard to comprehend what it is saying.
In conclusion, “My Sanctuary” is a complicated song, the lyrics are hard to follow and you would most likely have to play the video game (Kingdom Hearts) to fully understand the true meaning of this song. The instrumental and mood of this song is sort of sad, lonely or even give someone an empty feeling inside. That being said, “My Sanctuary” is catchy, interesting, and puts you deep into the song.

Cody said...

My opinion on backmasking is not only strange, but it expresses itself in a hidden code. Backmasking is when messages are found when playing a song backwards. Since many people don't usually listen to songs backwards, backmasking is rare in most songs. Examples of backmasking can be found in songs from the Beatles. Many people believe that backmasking messages avoid the conscious brain and motivate an individual to take specific actions. Reverse speech sounds odd to people and being the person who made that specific song might be warning society. I believe, personally, that reverse speech in songs may not be necessary to people in which the fact that it is tough to find and unusual.
A song that I know which contains backmasking is from a fantasy song that is remixed from a video game. The song is called “My Sanctuary” which is based upon love and recognition. You’re probably confused, but the song explains that two characters, Sora and Roxas are separated within each other. Roxas is what makes up Sora’s other half or his soul. All of this has to do with backmasking because there is a short and repeated phrase in the song played backwards. The phrase most likely says, “I need more affection than you know” but it is hard to comprehend what it is saying.
In conclusion, “My Sanctuary” is a complicated song, the lyrics are hard to follow and you would most likely have to play the video game (Kingdom Hearts) to fully understand the true meaning of this song. The instrumental and mood of this song is sort of sad, lonely or even give someone an empty feeling inside. That being said, “My Sanctuary” is catchy, interesting, and puts you deep into the song.

Bekah Sargent said...

1) Stairway to Heaven: I can clearly hear the reversed lyrics, I don’t believe that that could happen as an accident because all of the backward words make sense with each other and fit into a common satanic theme.
2) Imagine: I can hear the backwards message, but I do not think it was an intentional subliminal message because it is so short and the backwards words are choppy and hard to understand.
3) I’m so Tired: This was definitely and intentional backwards message because forwards it doesn’t make any sense, yet backwards there are clear and audible words.
4) This example of back masking was probably intentional because the backwards message fits into the same theme as the forward message. The words are audible and make sense, as well as having a pattern of words.
5) Empty Spaces: This is definitely an intentional backwards message. Pink Floyd even references that the backwards words are a “secret message” Also the inaudible jumble of sounds forwards become words when played backwards so it would be easy to hide a message in that way.
6) Baby One more Time: Not only because of the clear audibility of the words, but also the artist and her risky history of music making make me believe that the subliminal message is intentional and clearly there.
7) Nature Trail to Hell: I could hear the words “satan eats cheese whiz” on both the forwards and backwards tape so I believe it was intentional to have it said forwards and maybe a coincidence that it said it backwards too.
8) Another One bites the dust: This one doesn’t sound as intentional. The words are choppy and hard to make out. I wasn’t sure what it said until I put the lyrics up. I heard the words “start smoking marijuana” but it was difficult to make out and very fuzzy.
9) Hotel of California: I can barely make out the back masked message so I do not believe that it was intentional, or that it is even clear enough to know that it is there.
10) Number Nine: I couldn’t hear the message until I saw the lyrics and then I could kind of hear what they were saying. Because of their other songs that have back masking I believe that it was intentional because they know how to achieve it.

Anonymous said...

Chris Robinson
PoS G

Back masking in speech can be deliberate or, as in most cases, not on purpose. A song as such is “Evil Eye” by Ash. They said that they did purposely hide a secret message. Another artist that purposely back masked was The B-52’s in their song “Detour Thru Your Mind”. The song specifically sounded like it said “Oh no, you’re playing your record backwards. Watch out, you might ruin your needle,” specifically poking fun at psychidelia, or the back masking controversy. Although there are certain specific songs from artists that are back masked with purpose, not all are done so.

I personally don’t believe that back masking is purposely placed in songs unless a band/artist specifically puts in out of their own will. The reason why is because most of the words one can hardly make out as actual words, when a song is reversed. The supposed messages aren’t intentional unless they’re put into a song willingly. Bands/artists can’t be held accountable for the back masking in their songs because of this. Back masking is just something to get people riled up just like UFO’s and war.

acm2012 said...

Amelia Maloney
A.
I thought that backmasking was interesting to listen to. This is an intentional technique and it is cool to listen to the hidden messages. I never thought something like this could be discovered in songs that I am familiar with. Backmasking is also interesting because somebody took the time to figure out if there was a hidden message in songs. The songs that I listened to clearly have a hidden message within them, but the message is obviously only noticed when listened to backwards.
Reverse speech was more confusing than backmasking in my opinion. You didn’t have the option to listen to the speech or song in regular tone and then reverse tone. That made it more confusing because you weren’t really sure of what the reverse speech was saying. I didn’t like it that much because there weren’t good examples to understand what was going on. Reverse speech was interesting to learn about, it was just harder to understand than backmasking.

B. The songs that I listened to are worthy of having hidden messages in them. The songs that I listened to were only really for backmasking and not so much reverse speech because it was more confusing. In Beat It by Michael Jackson, the original lyrics are “tell you it's fair, so beat it.” The lyrics that are a hidden message are “'I believe it was Satan in me.” Another example is the song Another one bites the dust by Queen includes the lyrics “Another one bites the dust. Another one bites the dust. Another one bites the dust. Another one bites the dust.” The reverse lyrics are “It's fun to smoke marijuana. It's fun to smoke marijuana. It's fun to smoke marijuana. It's fun to smoke marijuana.” Both of these songs have odd messages within them, but that’s what makes the subject interesting.

Amanda Paulhus said...

In my opinion, backmasking and speech reverse are two completely controversial ideas. Backmasking is simply playing a message backwards that is meant to be played forward. Backmasking does not require any knowledge or purpose because if you play anything backwards it is backmasking.This idea is good and all but the hidden message is never intentional in his context, unlike reverse speech.

The idea of reverse speech is the same type of idea that; subconsciously, humans speak in a forward manner but the language is bi-level and contains a second message when reversed. Reverse speech implies that humans have a greater understanding of theses words and how they sound in reverse in order to portray some hidden idea or concept. This is brought up in many conspiracies and debates about such things. This concept is harder to follow or understand than backmasking because there is so much more to it.
There are many accusations of backmasking and reverse speech in songs that allude to satin. This includes “break on through” by The Doors that originally says “ treasure’s there” which in reverse says “I am Satan”. This is interesting because the original song has nothing to do with satan and that is why one could ponder that it is a secret hidden message. I can hear the reverse clearly which doesn't completely sway my opinion but one could think it is more so than others that you can hardly make out what is supposedly being said such as in Lady Gaga’s song “Paparazzi” which I can hardly tell what is being said but it is supposed to say (reversed) “Evil save us! These stars above, above... we model it on the arts of Lucifer.” I do not agree that this is backmasking because the words are not coherent enough to tell. An example i really appreciated was Hotel California because I personally know this song well and the eagles supposedly had the hidden message of “ Satan he hears this. He had me believe in him.” which seems so peculiar to me. This reverse along with the one for “Paparzzi” were hard to figure out.

Amanda Paulhus said...

In my opinion, backmasking and speech reverse are two completely controversial ideas. Backmasking is simply playing a message backwards that is meant to be played forward. Backmasking does not require any knowledge or purpose because if you play anything backwards it is backmasking.This idea is good and all but the hidden message is never intentional in his context, unlike reverse speech.

The idea of reverse speech is the same type of idea that; subconsciously, humans speak in a forward manner but the language is bi-level and contains a second message when reversed. Reverse speech implies that humans have a greater understanding of theses words and how they sound in reverse in order to portray some hidden idea or concept. This is brought up in many conspiracies and debates about such things. This concept is harder to follow or understand than backmasking because there is so much more to it.
There are many accusations of backmasking and reverse speech in songs that allude to satin. This includes “break on through” by The Doors that originally says “ treasure’s there” which in reverse says “I am Satan”. This is interesting because the original song has nothing to do with satan and that is why one could ponder that it is a secret hidden message. I can hear the reverse clearly which doesn't completely sway my opinion but one could think it is more so than others that you can hardly make out what is supposedly being said such as in Lady Gaga’s song “Paparazzi” which I can hardly tell what is being said but it is supposed to say (reversed) “Evil save us! These stars above, above... we model it on the arts of Lucifer.” I do not agree that this is backmasking because the words are not coherent enough to tell. An example i really appreciated was Hotel California because I personally know this song well and the eagles supposedly had the hidden message of “ Satan he hears this. He had me believe in him.” which seems so peculiar to me. This reverse along with the one for “Paparzzi” were hard to figure out.

Cassie H. said...

a. Personally, until i read what it was supposed to be saying, I thought the majority of the reversed songs were simply gibberish. I think that backmasking and reverse speech, unless done with the intent of mockery, is generally unintentional. Words backwards are still naturally occurring words. Some have meaning and some have none. It is simply chance that "live" backwards is "evil" and "dog" is "god". It isn't of any real significance and it isn't done with intent. I really believe that people hear what they want to hear.
b. Though there is a correlation between Lennon's intended message in "Imagine" and what is supposedly integrated through backmasking, it seems sheer coincidence that "imagine all" when enunciated in the reverse sounds similar to "beside me". Really, it doesn't sound very similar at all. Only when given the assumed phrase "the people war beside me" can you even begin to make out the faint resemblance. Likewise, the claimed backmasking in “Break on Through” by the doors sounds suspiciously more like “I have seizure” than “I am Satan.” The reversed lyric “in the middle of the night, just to hear them say” from “Hotel California” doesn’t even vaguely sound like the projected “Satan, he hears this. He had me believe in him.”
Unlike songs like “Beat It” with imagined satanic messages backmasking into the song, I accept that there are some songs with true messages integrated in the reverse. However, most all of these songs are done in jest or mockery of the controversy. Weird Al’s “Nature Trail to Hell” has a clear satirical message stating “Satan eats Cheez Whiz.” The majority of songs with intentional messages in the reverse simply have gibberish or indistinguishable lyrics when played forward, like in Pink Floyd’s “Empty Spaces”. This makes the idea of having intentional messages played from the reverse of real lyrics seem even more far-fetched.

Emily Anderson said...

In my opinion back masking is very strange. Only sometimes is it done on purpose. When a song is played backwards and you can barely make out any of the words, I think it is just your mind making the random noises sound like words. If you are told what the back masking of a song sounds like, you will force yourself to hear exactly that. Your brain can pretty much make any random noise sound like any word or phrase that you want it to. If you listen to a back masking example before you read what the lyrics are you can almost never tell what is being said. Once you read what it is supposed to be, you think you can hear it. I think that it is just messing with your head.

Some songs have certain parts in them where nothing can be understood when the song is playing forward, but can be understood when played backwards. This is probably the only way that I will believe in back masking. An example of this is in Pink Floyd’s “Empty Spaces.” When played forward you cannot understand what is going on. When it is played backwards, you hear a message congratulating you on discovering “the secret message.” ELO’s “Fire on High” is similar. Part of the song is indistinguishable until it is played backwards when you can here, “the music is reversible but time is not... turn back... turn back... turn back... turn back” very clearly. There are many more songs that have purposeful back masking in them as well. Unless an artist intends to create a message that can be heard when played backwards, I do not buy into the idea of back masking or reverse speech.

Anonymous said...

Emily B.

Backmasking and the theory of reverse speech are very strange to understand. The theory of reverse speech states that backwards speech is out of conscious control and I do agree with that. I believe that some things can be spoken backward and have a meaning, and those phrases can be accidental or purposeful. However, I do not quite understand the part of the theory that states that children first speak in reverse speech. Backmasking in song has been a very popular topic for avid music listeners. The debate whether pieces are valid or invalid backmasking is hotly debated among some. In my opinion backmasking does exist in song, however, there are often cases in which backmasking doesn’t exist and is falsely labeled.
Perhaps the band most popular, as far as backmasking goes, are the Beatles. In many instances in songs such as “Rain” and “Free as a Bird” the Beatles have incorporated this technique at the ends of their songs, and when asked, have acknowledged that they did put one of the “backwards recordings on the end.” Other artists such as Bohse Onkelz have acknowledged the backmasking directly through their songs. In one such instance, the listeners can hear the lyrics “Congratulations. Must have been a lot of work playing this song backwards” when listening backwards thereby proving the backmasking was intentional. There are also many instances where backmasking was not intentional, but it happened subconsciously. The song “Evil Eye”, when listened backwards, has an appearance of backmasking saying “she’s giving me the evil eye.” While the band commented that this was not intentional, it is a valid piece of backmasking because it makes sense in the context of the song. The song “My Name is” by Eminem is definitely an intentional piece of backmasking. Not only are the backwards lyrics coherent, but they say his name leading one to believe he produced it like that for effect. Perhaps the most obvious piece of backmasking is “Fire on High” by ELO. The song played forward is total gibberish. However, the backwards lyrics are clear and state “the music is reversible” directly pinpoints the idea of backmasking. The remainder of the lyrics “but time is not, turn back. . .” complete the song making “Fire on High” better to listen to backwards thus proving the song was intentionally written backwards, and the gibberish are the lyrics forward.
Although there is proof that backmasking is intentional, in many cases, backmasking is not meant to be there. Many times, backmasking found is the product of avid music listeners searching for backmasking and “finding” evidence in order to confirm their superstitious beliefs. In the case of “Pokemon Rap” the backmasking does not exist in a coherent form and was only found by fans hoping to discover something. “Baby one more time” by Britney Spears played backwards is also indistinguishable and therefore not backmasking. In the case of “Another one Bites the Dust” by Queen, the lyrics supposedly backmasked are distinguishable. However, the words “its fun to smoke marijuana” have no relevance to the song. This leads one to believe that the backmasking might be coincidental, and was not derived from the unconscious or conscious. It simply exists because the syllables produce coherent words when backwards.

Meghan B said...

Meghan Burgess
Backmasking in songs seems like an outrageous idea although it does occur. In some songs that are believed to be backmasked, the words are choppy and inaudible. This makes me believe that these words were unintentionally put in the song backwards, and someone crossed over them whilst looking for backmasking in song. In other cases, listening to the song forward makes it sound like gibberish, but backwards it actually sounds like it is trying to say something. These are examples of intentional back masking in music.
In some cases, the songwriters decide to create the lyrics so that is does contain a message when listened to backwards. In the song “Fire on High,” by ELO, there is a portion of the song that is indistinguishable, but backwards it says “the music is reversible but time is not… turn back… turn back… turn back… turn back.” This is an example of intentional backmasking because the backwards version states that the music is reversible. In booth Beatles songs “Rain” and “Free as a Bird,” backmasking is intentional. Beatles member Paul McCartney stated that they put “backwards recordings on the end.” In Eminem’s song “My Name Is,” the forwards version is asking what his name is, but backwards he is saying that his name is Eminem. This it intentional backmasking because he did it to answer his own question. The forwards statement in Pink Floyd’s song “Empty Spaces” is indistinguishable, but when listened to backwards, it clearly congratulates the listener on finding the secret message. Because this portion of the song was meant to be listened to backwards, not forwards, it is considered intentional backmasking. Bohse Onkelz, a rap artist, has lyrics, when translated then put in reverse, state “Congratulations. Must’ve been a lot of work playing this song backwards.” This is clearly intentional due to the fact that he congratulates the listener for listening to the song backwards.
In other cases, what seem to be backwards statements in music is just a coincidence. In the song “Another One Bites the Dust,” by Queen, a portion of the song repeats the phrase “another one bites the dust” four times. When put into reverse, it states “its fun to smoke marijuana.” Although it can be slightly heard, it is not intentional due to the fact that they were just repeating the name of the song. Michael Jackson’s song “Beat It” is believed to have backmasking during the line “tell you it’s fair, so beat it.” When put in reverse it is believed to say “I believe it was Satan in me.” This is clearly unintentional backmasking due to the fact that the reverse of the song is extremely inaudible and choppy. The Pokémon Rap forwards says “gotta catch ‘em all,” although backwards it is believed to say “I love Satan.” This is unintentional because it is inaudible, leading me to believe that it was just Pokémon fanatics looking for something cool in the song.

Anna S said...

In my opinion, backmasking and reverse speech seem to not be believable. In some songs, like Stairway To Heaven, you can hear the words. But, I don’t understand why anyone would want to do that. Or, why they would go through the trouble of making sure there are real lyrics backwards. In other songs, though, I cannot hear the words. I suppose if you listen to a song enough backwards you can make out lyrics, but I don’t hear it. Also if one person says they hear something, you will think that too just because it sort of sounds like it. I found it weird that all of the lyrics were mainly about Satan and death and drugs. Thinking that most backmasking and reverse speech are completely random and aren’t true.