25 Years in Your Ears

Wave Farm celebrates our 25th Anniversary in 2022. We've looked back at our first quarter of a century and selected 25 important moments that we are delighted to share weekly July - December via instagram @wavefarmradio and archived here.

1. First Transmission (1997)

Originally founded as the microradio collective free103point9, we transmitted for the first time on March 7. I-Sound, DJ Singe, and other turntablists played to a packed crowd at Chris Coxwell's loft on Hope Street in Williamsburg near the Lorimer L train stop. For the first of many weekends to come, free103point9 founders, Greg Anderson, Violet Hopkins, and Tom Roe hoisted an antenna on the two-story building's roof, and sent the sounds to the surrounding streets.

2. On The Bridge (1997)

On May 24, free103point9 installed a transmitter at the top of the Williamsburg Bridge for Of the Bridge, a microcast that paid tribute to Sonny Rollins and his 1962 album The Bridge. Performances included sets by free103point9 co-founders Greg Anderson, Violet Hopkins, Tom Roe, I-Sound, Barry London, and other turntablists. The microcast started at midnight and continued into the night, situated at this exceptionally special place high above the East River just removed from subway and car traffic.

Sonny Rollins practiced saxophone at this spot along the footpath almost daily from mid-1959 - 1962, and eventually released The Bridge at the culmination of his almost three-year withdrawal from the recording studio. free103point9's 1997 performance and 2001 record release Of the Bridge celebrated Sonny's practice and this location, which now has a quite a different feeling. In a recent reflection on his sometimes 14-hour days on the bridge, Sonny said: "I looked up at the sky and felt that communion with some kind of spiritual element. It felt great to me – that distance thing, reaching out to something beyond the people."

3. !!!, Black Dice, Avey Tare + Panda Bear + Geologist, Animals at the free103point9 Project Space (2001)

The free103point9 Project Space and Gallery was located at 97 S. 6th St. in Brooklyn from 1997-2006. On May 9, 2001, the space was beyond max capacity for performances by !!!, Black Dice, Avey Tare + Panda Bear + Geologist (later, Animal Collective), and Animals. Animal Collective released a record with recordings from this show at free103point9, with proceeds going to two environmental justice groups.

The free103point9 Project Space was featured in Jon Fine contribution to Where the Wild Gigs Were: A Trip Through America's Legendary Underground Music Venues (ed. Tim Hinely, 2021). Fine writes, "But god, I loved it. I loved it even though, when you played there, you had to load your gear up two full flights of stairs. Ungentrified, narrow stairs, which distressingly gave a bit when you stepped on them, and variously squeaked, squealed, creaked and howled as you and your bandmates hauled your amps and speaker cabinets up to the third floor."

4. Online Radio (2003)

On August 14, 2003 free103point9 Online Radio was born. The organization's first audio stream launched nearly 20 years ago with programming including live feeds of free103 performances and events, special guest segments, and selections from the collective's archives since 1997. In celebration of the launch, special programming included recent broadcast debuts and recordings by Shawn Onsgard, Tom Roe, Matt Mikas, Melissa Dubbin, Aaron S. Davidson, and Jared Ashburn.

5. Tune(In)))s (2003-2004): Tune(In))), Tune(In))) The Kitchen, Tune(In))) Santa Fe

Over 60 performers played into six transmitters during free103point9's first Tune(In))) event at the now defunct New York Center for the Media Arts in Long Island City on March 1, 2003. There was no sound in the space. Performers performed into transmitters and attendees received a radio with headphones, to access the performances happening simultaneously on six different stages in the space and frequencies across their radio dials.

In April 2004, Tune(In))) traveled to The Kitchen as part of the city-wide festival New Sound/New York. Over 30 artists performed into five transmitters. Performances included work by Stephen Vitiello, Gregory Whitehead, Scanner, Zeena Parkins, Ikue Mori, Thurston Moore, LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs, and Carlos Giffoni. Image 3 shows the instructions given to attendees.

About Tune(In))) The Kitchen, Jon Pareles wrote in the New York Times: "It was the quietest concert of the year and perhaps the noisiest. For long stretches of the Tune(In))) the Kitchen, a four-hour electronic music gathering on Thursday night that was conceptual as its title, the only sounds in the Kitchen came from people strolling around and sporadic conversations. But the airwaves in the room were alive with abstract sounds."

The third iteration of Tune(In))) traveled to Santa Fe Art Institute in July where live local channels were complemented by a video program selected from Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI). Attendees listened to performances on radio with headphones, with only ambient sound at the Santa Fe Art Institute Courtyard.

6. 501(c)3 Status (2003)

free103point9 became a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, marking our commitment to supporting experimentation with radio and increasing access to public broadcast. This image shows the first letter we received confirming our status! In the late 90s, free103point9 was aligned with thousands of others committing civil disobedience on the nation's airwaves, protesting lack of access to the public airwaves. Eventually, through a combination of that civil disobedience, court challenges, much media coverage, and intense lobbying, the Federal Communications Commission launched the Low Power FM (LPFM) radio service in January 2000, allowing hundreds of communities around the country to have their own neighborhood radio station.

With this improvement to access to the airwaves, free103point9 turned its focus to exploring how this medium could be used in interesting and new ways, and how the conventions of radio could be subverted. With encouragement and assistance from the free103point9 community at large, and generous grants from the New York State Council for the Arts and Experimental Television Center, free103point9 shifted from artist collective to nonprofit organization, employing the term "Transmission Arts" as an umbrella for our interactions with airwaves.

7. NoRNC Coverage (2004)

During the Republican National Convention at Madison Square Garden, free103point9 contributed 24-hour internet-radio coverage of protests, called NoRNC, in collaboration with the A-Noise Collective and August Sound Coalition. Over 1800 peaceful protesters from a broad coalition were arrested and sent to Pier 57, a city bus depot converted to a makeshift detention center. Online Radio correspondents Kelly Benjamin and Tianna Kennedy were amongst those arrested, and each called in live from Pier 57 to the studio, providing on the ground coverage of their detentions.

Writing for Art Forum, Marina Rosenfeld included free103point9's NoRNC coverage in her Best of 2004 Music: "Dedicated to the gamut of 'transmission arts,' free103point9's collaborative coverage of the Republican National Convention, undertaken with other activist groups such as the August Sound Coalition, was a critical reference point for artists and other citizens during the otherwise disheartening week Bush and company descended on New York."

8. Tune(Out)))side (2005)

free103point9's inaugural event at Wave Farm in Acra, NY took place on July 4, 2005! Tune(Out)))side featured 30+ sound artists playing directly into five FM transmitters. Attendees used radios with headphones to hear the simultaneous performances on five unique frequencies. Performing artists included Bunny Brains, Valerie Allen, Anna Friz, Andy Graydon, Tianna Kennedy, and Kabir Carter.

Andy Graydon, writing about his Tune(Out))) experience both as a performer and attendee, unexpectedly discovered new moments of connection: "The first surprise was the intimacy of sound perspective that I could share with the listeners. I monitored my own playing of altered field recordings through radio headphones, and realized at the opening of my set that this was exactly what the audience was hearing – none of the usual questions about the diffusion of sound in an acoustic space, bad monitors, weird reflections, etc."

"A second revelation came in the act of listening. Taking a long solitary walk with Gill Arno’s and Tom Mulligan’s careful work in my ears. I found myself in a kind of slipstream between realities. The natural-yet-composed sounds seemed to open a new dimension that shifted and augmented my other senses and how they were attuned to the environment, creating a compound experience. The live performance was not a single focus of activity, but a strange new layer of the real that enlivened everything I encountered on the walk."

9. Canal Street Station (2007)

31 Down Radio Theater and free103point9 co-produced Canal Street Station, an interactive telephone mystery and public media art installation set in the Canal Street subway station in New York City. Participants were invited to make a toll-free call from any public pay phone in Canal Street station to 1-877-OR-WHAT-31. They were then guided on a pay-phone mystery, in which each subsequent clue was revealed from another pay phone in the station, in the shoes of Mike Sharpie, private investigator, as he searches the depths of Canal Street Station for a person that may have committed a murder, or may be a figment of Mike’s wandering imagination. Ryan Holsopple and Tajna Tanovic starred in this public pay phone who-dunnit. The production was presented as part of free103point9's Tenth Anniversary Celebration."

10. Radio Action III (2008)

Wave Farm (then known as free103point9) presented the special program Radio Action III for Radio Web @macba_barcelona, the then-recently created radio-phonic project by Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona. Radio Action III featured five-minute sounds works conceptually tied to 'radio' as instrument or theme, composed by free103point9 transmission artists working in collaborative teams.

This program was released on CD as free103point's Audio Dispatch 034. In celebration of the release and in collaboration with Radio Web MACBA, Barbara Held and Pilar Subirá, live performances took place at the @newmuseum. Performing artists included Damian Catera, Melissa Dubbin and Aaron S. Davidson, The Dust Dive & Latitude Longitude, Joshua Fried & Todd Merrell, Tianna Kennedy, LoVid with Howard Huang, Tom Roe, Scanner, and others.

11. NYSCA Regrant Partnership (2009)

Wave Farm became a regrant partner of the New York Council of the Arts Electronic Media and Film program to administer funding in support of the distribution of new works in film, video, sound, new media, and media installation. 2022 marks the 13th year of our NYSCA regrant partnership, which has expanded considerably and is now known as the Media Arts Assistance Fund (MAAF).

MAAF for Artists awards assist artists in completing new work, reaching public audiences, and advance artistic exploration and public engagement in the media arts. MAAF for Organizations awards support technical strategies for online development as well as to hire outside consultants to support organizational and professional development. Visit wavefarm.org/grants to learn more about these opportunities and upcoming deadlines.

12. WGXC 90.7-FM Barnrasing (2010)

Hundreds of people turned out to Hudson, NY to participate in the barnraising of Wave Farm's WGXC 90.7-FM, organized with Prometheus Radio Project. Radio barnraisings are weekend-long radio and movement-building events with participation from local communities, participatory media advocates, and artists from around the country. The WGXC barnraising marked Prometheus' first full-power station (3,300 watts) barnraising and was organized with a team of WGXC collaborators including Sara Kendall, Kaya Weidman, and Dharma Daily.

The weekend's events included live performances, plenaries, workshops, station building, shared meals and a big parade, seen on Columbia street in this image. The parade culminated with the release of a transmitter carried by balloons into the sky.

13. Turn Your Radio On! WGXC's 90.7-FM launch (2011)

Turn Your Radio On! Wave Farm's terrestrial radio station WGXC began broadcasting on 90.7-FM on Saturday, February 26, 2011 with a kick-off event at the Catskill Community Center. Local musicians, speakers, and WGXC programmers from Greene and Columbia counties celebrated the launch with a full-day of live on-air broadcasting.

14. Transmission Arts: Artists & Airwaves (2011)

A ground-breaking genealogy of the genre,Transmission Arts: Artists and Airwaves (PAJ Publications) brought together 150 artists and artworks from 1921 to the present, encompassing performance, video, radio theatre, sound art, media installation, networked art, and acoustic ecology. The publication was co-authored by Wave Farm's Executive Director Galen Joseph-Hunter, Penny Duff, and Maria Papadomanolaki.

Remaining a frequent keystone in media arts curricula today, the book highlights discoveries in broadcast, public works, performance composition, sound, and text, stretching the boundaries of both transmitter and receiver. At a time when public access struggles with corporate control of the airwaves, Transmission Arts: Artists and Airwaves shows how artists have combined activism and communications technologies to represent alternative worlds on the electromagnetic spectrum.

15. 120 Hours for John Cage (2012)

In conjunction with a staggering array of events celebrating John Cage's Centennial in 2012, Wave Farm and The John Cage Trust presented a special program 120 Hours for John Cage celebrating Cage's compositions with, for, and about radio. Selected from an open call, featured works (originating from twelve countries, and 38 artists) comprised broadcasts on Wave Farm's WGXC 90.7-FM and streamed online throughout September 2012. Selected artists included Jean-Philippe Antoine, Andrea-Jane Cornell, David Galbraith, Seth Kim-Cohen, Strange Attractor, Stephen Vitiello, and Gregory Whitehead, among many others.