Who Knew You Could Play Electronic Music With a Hot Dog?

Screeching hot dogs aren't the song of the summer we want, but they’re the one we need.

Hot-dog on blue wood background
Photo: Eric Anthony Johnson/Getty Images

Stay-at-home orders have many of us picking up old hobbies while we hide from the coronavirus. Maybe you’ve been strumming your dusty Taylor. Or flipping 90's rock intros into hip-hop beats. Or maybe you’re making art noise music with hot dogs—leaving your enraged neighbors wondering when the hell the love child of Joey Chestnut and Merzbow suddenly moved in upstairs.

The contents of the below tweet are not new, but has there ever been a better time to waste time revisiting the bizarre? Apparently, thousands of people agree because this bizarre video post from an otherwise run-of-the-mill Twitter account that simply goes by “beef” has been viewed over 100,000 times, racking up 3,700 likes and 1,000 retweets in the process. In the clip, you’ll see several—four to be exact—seemingly uncooked hot dogs, along with some sliced bread, being used to make “Metal Machine”-style music that would have made Lou Reed proud if he wasn’t vegan.

To be honest, part of the video’s charm is its mystery, but I’ve done some research in an attempt to better understand what we’re watching. “beef” provided an important lead, following up with a tweet stating, “BTW I found who this is it's echo lightwave unspeakable”—and pointing to the Bandcamp page for an act from Pittsburgh. From there, a Google search brings us to a YouTube account for Jonathan Hodges, and—lo and behold—you can find another video, posted in 2018, called “Hot Dog Music.”

In the description of that video, Hodges explains that he is creating sounds by patching hot dogs into an Electronic Acupunctuscope. As if making sound with hot dogs wasn’t odd enough—as the name implies—an “acupunctuscope” isn’t even a musical device. It’s intended to be used for acupuncture—which might explain why patching a hot dog into it doesn’t recreate the symphonies of Mozart. Regardless, Hodges doesn’t appear to use that acupunctuscope in the Twitter clip. Instead, digging deeper into his catalog, a similar device to the one from the Twitter post appears to be used in a video entitled “Doomsday synths.” I’ll be honest: Despite nearly three decades playing music, I have no idea what that synth is—but if you’re interested in recreating these hot dog sounds, you’ll get a better view of the gear there. Eventually, I got in touch with Hodges, and he explained that he designed that particular piece of equipment himself.

“I make weird musical instruments and experimental music under the name Echo Lightwave Unspeakable,” he told me via email. “A year ago I was at the grocery store thinking about ambient musician Amulets when I saw some ham and thought... ‘hamulets.’ This began a long running joke about hambient artist Hamulets. I started incorporating lunch meat into my musical experiments. Then I moved onto hot dogs. The hot dogs video kinda blew up overnight. Recently, my hot dog anniversary came up on Facebook so I shared the video again, and it started spreading through the internet. In the video, the hot dogs are basically being used as switches for a synthesizer I made.”

So what have we learned here? Well, when it comes to hot dogs and music, the connection runs deeper than a mediocre Limp Bizkit song. Beyond that, I think the work speaks for itself.

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