The Radio Art Hour: Shanna Sordahl, Steve Bates (Audio)
This week's show features two radio art works that employ low-power FM frequencies to tell their stories, both introduced by Wave Farm Radio Art Fellow Andy Stuhl. First, tune in Shanna Sordahl 's "subterranean." In 2020, members of the CO-OPt gallery in Lubbock, Texas installed a hyperlocal FM station that broadcast to an area extending just into the gallery’s parking lot and the street in front of it. Sordahl, an experimental cellist, was one of several artists from whom the CO-OPt collective, via member and musician Andrew Weathers, commissioned original transmission works to air on the micro-FM station. The COVID-19 pandemic had spurred CO-OPt’s use of radio, and it also shaped the circumstances for Sordahl’s creation: facing a sudden international move and a long period of separation from much of her gear, Sordahl began immersing herself and her cello in a minimalist and feedback-heavy system. The resulting bassy drone offers up the same kind of physical wave interactions that one can experience moving through a low power FM signal, and with it the same feeling of immersion as antidote to the many forms of displacement the pandemic brought on. - Introduced by Wave Farm Radio Artist Fellow 2021/2022, Andy Stuhl. Then, tune in "A Year of Radio Silence" from 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. - Introduced by Wave Farm Radio Artist Fellow 2021/2022, Andy Stuhl.
Welcome to "The Radio Art Hour," a show where art is not just on the radio, but is the radio. "The Radio Art Hour" draws from the Wave Farm Broadcast Radio Art Archive, an online resource that aims to identify, coalesce, and celebrate historical and contemporary international radio artworks made by artists around the world, created specifically for terrestrial AM/FM broadcast, whether it be via commercial, public, community, or independent transmission. Come on a journey with us as radio artists explore broadcast radio space through poetic resuscitations and playful celebrations/subversions of the complex relationship between senders and receivers in this hour of radio about radio as an art form. "The Radio Art Hour" features introductions from Philip Grant and Tom Roe, and from Wave Farm Radio Art Fellows Karen Werner, Jess Speer, and Andy Stuhl. The Conet Project's recordings of numbers radio stations serve as interstitial sounds. Go to wavefarm.org for more information about "The Radio Art Hour" and Wave Farm's Radio Art Archive.