Radio Silence

Zach Poff

Poff writes:"Radio Silence explores the silent moments of talk-radio, using the cadences of different live radio personalities to compose an ongoing collaborative “performance” built entirely of negative space. It builds on the foundations of previous broadcast-analysis projects like Appropriate Response (2008 with N.B.Aldrich), Video Silence (2009) and Parallel Rhetoric (2004-2008).

In Radio Silence, eight radio tuners feed their signals into custom software that detects each silent moment and replaces it with a unique “note”. (The original radio program is never heard by the listener.) The radios are tuned to a variety of local talk stations (public radio, religious broadcasting, weather reports, conservative talk, shortwave and amateur radio, etc). Each note is based on the recent timbre of its source, so the current qualities of each speaking voice are always reflected in the sound of the piece. The ensemble of smeared semi-words is broadcast into the exhibition space by eight loudspeakers arranged around a computer display. The display shows a continuous “waterfall” of lines recording the timing of each note. The intersections between lines form a map of the dense polyrhythmic structure of the sound.

Radio Silence is my latest in a series of inquiries into reconfiguring mass media (linguistically, technically, culturally). Historically it is situated along a trajectory of work that takes broadcasting as its muse, like Wolf Vostell's theories of dé-collage, Nam June Paik's magnetic TV manipulations, and Radio Net by Max Neuhaus. By removing the words from the radio broadcast I invite the unconscious pauses to become new parasitic “performers” with their own formal language. Despite the political and geographical diversity of its sources, careful listening to Radio Silence reveals some consistent musical patterns that stem from the common structure of grammar."