------------------- 20-year Retrospective, 2017 -----------
Out in my morning walk a few days ago in Poznan, I had a thought or sequence of thoughts. With my friend, the poet and musician -- Christopher Funkhouser -- in mind, regarding the idea, implied maybe in his statement about sound editing, "If can still hear the words, some noise is okay..." and these thoughts were about sounds and shortwave radio, sound, and how words are sometimes only sounds (when we know the sounds (form) a word, we think it's a word of language, a sign in that kind of system) but when we don't (know or understand) the word, it's just sound (obviously, I'm talking about speech, not about writing) but somehow, even when spoken, part of the word is (just) sound and this sound also has an relationship to itself as pure sound (phoneme) which has only convention in common with the words (signifiers). Words as such are therefore like signals which we associate in this ratio of signal to noise. Some noise is okay. As long as the signal is clear.
As long as the signal is clear. But this is where, I saw (envisioned, heard), all of a sudden, my great departure, when I was living in Florence, Italy in 1994 and I began the Radio Wide World recordings.
It began rather by accident. I had switched on the radio option instead of the cassette deck, with the dial between stations, then turned back to reading, only to be distracted by the late night drift of two radio stations merging sounds together. When I touched the antennae, another voice entered the mix. I found a blank cassette, plugged it i, pressed record and found myself repeating this action until the wee hours, illuminated by candle-light, Chianti, hand-rolled cigarettes & aliens in the ether. At the end of a week I had filled 12 cassettes with this aleatoric dream-scape and lost track of studies.
Shortwave radio was a new force in my life and it was while living in Europe I experienced the heightening of the consciousness that reality is woven of various languages, some of which do not even know that they are there, mutually present to one another. People speaking their many languages in the train station in Bologna became the first correlate. The realities, the stories of all those people, shared out in strings of sentences I hear myself only in fragments. This sense of the woven texture of reality trailing of into the invisible or inaudible was heightened, taken to another level again, when I stumbled into these late night shortwave transmissions from around the world. Languages were mingling and scrambling around one another. Static, heterodynes, carrier signals, side-bands, LFO's and satellite bleep codes, numbers stations, universal atomic clock, solar flares, magnetic resonance, morse code... there seemed to be an ether filled no longer with mere noises but with a million or more undecoded signals. Later I would learn about ionic bounce and grayline propagation but even that didn't dissolve the mystery. Some signals were hiding other signals, deliberately, and accidentally. Signals were emerging from different times (I heard what seemed to be a re-broadcast of a Futurist radio programme or a simulation thereof -- songs from the 30's and 40's played in the same dream-zone of the present). I started to feel like there was/is only one great burgeoning language, only an infinite vocabulary, and signals within signals, and within what we called noise, there must be, I thought, information, signals, signals of otherness. Ever since this moment of moments, I have been a listener, searching for a sense beyond sense and non-sense, a searcher for sense within non-sense. More to the point, I am a seer of sense in non-sense and I am a hearer of words not spoken only by humans but by all the others around us, within us. This became the thread in the labyrinth I have followed ever since in my life. It led me back to music, to dance, to drawing, painting & sculpture, field recording, to the music I call my own, my own kind of Post-Cagean music. I want to close this writing for now, because, well, I must stop it, only for now, because something I am saying may be hiding something else I am saying and that I want to understand this and that I want you to understand or feel something on your own. Which is why I felt I had to make these recordings in the first place.
The original remixes of the cassettes recorded in Italy in 1992-1994, 1996, 2001. At the Soundcloud page there is an older written description, accurate enough, which I will leave unchanged.
The Radius (Jeff Kolar) running mix (he makes the above into one long string of sounds, published 2011). https://soundcloud.com/theradius/episode11
Radio Wide World has been aired in Chicago, NYC area (WFMU), Kunstradio, Vienna and aired as an installation in Zaragosa (ES), Marseilles (FR), Atlanta, Georgia (USA), and on October 3rd, 2017, as part of Beacon at the Museum of Art and Design in NY.
Many thanks to all the supporters over the years such as Jeff Kolar, Meredith Kooi David Goren and many others whose names escaped after the myspace hack and my many relocations.
Please find my continued Shortwave Radio recordings made while traveling and experimenting with new gear on my bandcamp page. Special remixes and global listening interface experiment, ambient and noise, all at once, for the curious, the searcher, the figure of the outward.
Among the most recent, new composed tracks:
Post-Script, Feb. 18, 2018
Over the years I have reflected on the role of shortwave radio in the music of Stockhausen and in the hands of Keith Rowe spiking many concerts and recordings of AMM. And as time goes on, I watched the internet slowly take over waves of human consciousness and to a great degree replace the nook in culture where once the cathode tube radio shined like a beacon. Shortwave radio is nowhere near as diverse as it used to be and the transmissions certainly have decreased even as the fascination with numbers stations, the Conet project, and other aspects of Radio Art began to catch fire. But the initial inspiration for me has always stuck with me as being linked to the turn of the century occult fascination with the ether and the voices of the ghosts, the ancestors, the archetypal entities or the aliens similarly sending messages out into endless space (and maybe only hearing their own messages bounced back to them). There is a song on American Music Club's album California called "Somewhere" and since I would frequently hear AMC perform when I lived in San Francisco in the 1980's, I've wondered if I had been influenced by the idea of searching for signals of the so-called "living" in this radiophonic Elsewhere. Mark Eitzel's lyric comes to mind again and again as a reminder that obsession springs often from obscure suggestion. Not only does it make sense in terms the search back then, but also for the present moment, as the search for the living, or the meaning of being alive, continues.
And sits down next to a very nice lady
Who just got out of the hospital
She had a major operation
The doctor left a knife in her throat
And now it picks up radio waves
You can turn the dial 'til it comes off in your hand
Maybe you'll pick up a populated land
Somewhere, I'm sure somewhere,
There's people living"