Studies for Radio Transceiver

Matthew Burtner

Burtner writes: "The Studies for Radio Transceiver enter a territory crowded with signal intentionality and evade those signals. Specific messages are shunned in favor of message potentialities. The closeness of human transmissions in the FM band creates a signal crisis that generates the meaning of these pieces. The Studies evoke vast and empty spaces. They struggle to keep the means of communication open in these spaces,

Study 1.0 (feedback)

Transmit a silent signal. Receive the signal and feed the line outputs of the receiver back into the transmitter. The feedback loop allows the listener to perceive the compounded energy of silence transferred through the FM medium. The inherent systemic noise is repurposed: from the periphery of experience (a byproduct of the medium) to the core of the musical material. And from within this silent transmission, now modulated into noise, the resonance of the FM band grows -- the intoning of the medium.

Study 1.2a (net)

Several performers, each playing a different radio receiver, are spaced throughout the hall. Each performer chooses a range of the FM spectrum. Turning on the receiver, they tune to a frequency falling on an unoccupied band of the FM spectrum. Once each performer has found an empty frequency, the noise web is established. Hold the noise web.

The activity seeks to uncover the intact fragments of a fractured FM band (88-108MHz). By focusing on the unused parts of the bandwidth, a bridge is formed between these cracks. A conceptual process of human erasure is attempted. The net strives towards emptiness. And thus the viewer perceives a negation of the haphazard distribution of sonic intentionalities across the airwaves. These isolated points on a frequency spectrum become ideological bridges over which we pass into an unoccupied, peaceful world.

In remote parts of the North, scanning the FM dial reveals an absence of human signals. The net provokes a feeling of aloneness, isolation, and vast spaces. This piece uses the real-time noise net as a means of reconstructing a world of emptiness.

Study 1.2b (net)

Once the net is established, the radio transmitter transmits a silent signal, and the performer freely alters the circuitry and broadcast frequency. The frequency modulation takes over each receiver in a different way and a variety of radio sounds can be produced from this silence by altering the capacitance and antenna length of the transmitter, and by moving around the concert space. The net crackles to life, each node becoming a voice of its own, created from the same silence.

Study 1.3 (drift)

Transmit an audio signal. As the audience listens to the receiver, the transmitter is gradually moved away from the receiver. The music at first is clear but it gradually disappears into noise. On the fishing boats in Alaska, as the boat moved into a storm or down the coast, away from the transmitter, the signal would gradually vanish. I remember sitting close to the speaker, trying to catch the fading notes of a piece of music as it disintegrated into noise. Poor audio reception creates a sense of intimacy, like watching the last flames recede into embers in the fireplace."