A Year of Radio Silence

2013, 34:21 min.
Steve Bates

From November 10, 2012 to November 10, 2013, artist Steve Bates transmitted a 25 micro-Watt signal at the lower bound of the FM band from his apartment in Montreal. The content of this signal was the same all year: silence. In part an experimental injection of calm into a crowded broadcast spectrum, the project also took inspiration from the ritual-like process in which pirate radio operators first find their transmitter's frequency. As Bates puts it, "To find this broadcast signal, one scans the radio dial until the static gives way to a quiet, open space of stillness." Like other silent works, notably John Cage's 4'33", the project also inevitably became a reminder of the impossibility of pure silence -- in this case, how transmitters drift in and out of perfect alignment while other electromagnetic signals trespass into the broadcast band. To produce this recorded version of A Year of Radio Silence, Bates collected samples from an earlier iteration of the work, which the Austrian national broadcaster ORF hosted. Working with engineer Martin Leitner, Bates allowed the disruptions to silence that these recordings captured to resonate a grand piano in an ORF studio. The resulting half-hour piece, which first aired on the ORF's Kunstradio program, re-sonifies Bates's silent installation by bringing its unquiet edges to the foreground. - Described by Wave Farm Radio Artist Fellow 2021/2022, Andy Stuhl.

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