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On Location – The Wire Review

Featured in the February issue of The Wire Magazine:

The tagline for Radiophrenia, the temporary live radio station from Glasgow, is “the light at the end of the dial”. Since 2015, with only one year off, it’s been an annual highlight; a two week window into audio strangeness and rampant exploration, featuring sound art and radio plays from around the world. Running 24 hours a day in November, the constant stream of transmissions was especially welcome this year, a switch from the laptop glare of Zooms, beaming odd noise into our ears instead. Co-organisers Mark Vernon and Barry Burns (“not the bloke out of Mogwai, a different unsuccessful one,” says their website) graciously schedule their own works into the graveyard shifts.

In the small hours of one morning, Vernon shares tape recordings of singing, dripping rain and church bells from the Irish mountain town of Kilfinane that he’d buried for a few days in the grounds of a school (Magneto Mori – Kilfinane). On another, Burns continues his longrunning project of collecting a sample from 23 minutes into every video viewed on his laptop (23 Minutes To Go: Commence Exuding The Opaque Vapour).

There is no brief or theme for the fortnight, just an uncategorisable rummage bin of excellent documentaries and studio performances, sometimes sewn together with voices from announcers that pop up in varying accents and genders, other times run together without interruption. This year the organisers have commissioned works from around 20 acts, including Finnish winter field recordist Marja Ahti, Glasgow experimental dancer and artist Ashanti Harris, composer and Hildegard Von Bingen fan Nwando Ebizie, Morocco-inspired Japanese artist Aki Onda, and otherworldly singer and synth sorcerer Cucina Povera.

OOR Scintilla (the duo of Louisa Love and Clive McLachlan Powell) take low and murky recordings along the Union Canal in Edinburgh and blend them with forest noises, hurdy-gurdy and harmonium, while over in Hong Kong Catherine Clover tapes shrill and chirpy songbirds in the markets of Yuen Po Street bird garden as they blur with soaring radio melodies and Cantonese chatter. Ceylan Hay aka Bell Lungs teams up with Foley artist and BBC sound designer Heather Andrews to create a new live score for the 1922 silent film Häxan, with a voiceover detailing the injustice of the many Scottish convictions for witchcraft around the 17th century. Flipping the silent film format on its head, this Radiophrenia adaptation creates a crepuscular, occult based audio-only piece with no visuals.

Orkney based artist Sheena Graham-George delves into the world of cilliní – infant burial grounds in Ireland where unbaptised babies were buried due to Catholic doctrine which forbade them from being laid to rest in consecrated grounds. Her chilling work Requiescat tells the story of the mothers often buried with their babies, marginalised in death alongside those who had died by suicide, or lived with learning disabilities. (Graham-George’s piece can be found on SoundCloud, unlike many of the works showcased by Radiophrenia with no playback option, keeping that two week window extra special.)

Luke Fowler recreates a beautiful performance from 2019’s Sonica festival, where he played his homemade orchestra of acoustic gourds with accompaniment by Richard Youngs and Stevie Jones in the echoing surrounds of Hamilton Mausoleum; elsewhere (during a piece by Chris Dooks) an older Scottish woman describes her crochet knitting technique.

The reliably unreliable nature of its contents is one of Radiophrenia 2020’s comforts. Pressing a button midway through a sleepless night or late in the day to block out Brexit or Covid news, you might find you’re joining a John Cage-inspired meditative trudge through the Cheviot Hills (Martin Eccles’s Back Up The Long Wall: Four Midsummer Dances For An Imaginary Island); or you could be softly hypnotised by an ambient piece made by playing acupuncture needles (Hania Piosik, as part of Radiophrenia’s partnered broadcasts with Kapitał Gains project coordinated by Goethe Institut and Radio Kapitał in Warsaw). As I take out my recycling, I’m kept company by a religious radio broadcast from Atlanta, Georgia (Alyssa Hood’s Excommunicado Undone); then I unload the dishwasher while listening in on two young girls playing games in a reverb-heavy courtyard in Paris Montmartre (Axel Gomo’s Rear Window series). The warped and looped ice cream chimes on Gregory Kramer’s Melting Neapolitan, with their faraway familiar but mildly terrifying sound, drift in through my speakers, and I tune in more than once to catch a repeat of tandsmør, aka Tilly Alexander Hallworth’s Ever And Ever (Forever And Ever) – a fantastic blur of tone deaf, uninhibited karaoke to Whitney Houston, The Shirelles and vocoder-treated Demis Roussos, overlaid with readings from Audre Lorde essays, all in celebration of “joy and self love and their interplay”.

“Radio as an artform has an ability to create a sense of community amongst a disparate and geographically isolated set of listeners whilst generating the excitement and energy implicit in a live broadcast,” Mark Vernon once said, very sagely, on his website. 336 hours of broadcasting later, after the 2020 edition of Radiophrenia fades back into the silence for another year, I’m reminded again of exactly what he means.

Claire Sawers

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You Are There…

Sunday, 22nd November

At 11pm tonight:

Bringing our broadcasts to a close for this year’s edition of Radiophrenia, Media Petros (AKA Phoenix AZ-based multidisciplinary artist, Pete Petrisko) presents ‘You Are There: Twenty Twenty’ – a radio art program, blending sound art and storytelling, inspired by life in these pandemic times of 2020, rooted in improvisational shortwave radio frequency-sweep recordings.

Public domain-sourced material excerpts include “You Are There” (radio show, 1948); Librivox.org recordings of sci-fi short stories The Gray Plague by Lloyd Eshbach (1930) and The Street That Wasn’t There by Clifford D. Simak (1941), poems “Year That Trembled” by Walt Whitman and Sarojini Naidu’s “Past and Future”, essay Reflections on the Influenza Epidemic (1918) by Francis J. Grimké; radio news broadcasts, 1941; BLM rally (Kennebunk ME) freesound.org recording by KT Manahan. 

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On Chorus

Sunday, 22nd November

At 8am Sunday 22nd On Chorus by Christopher Steenson.

On Chorus is a public sound art project by Christopher Steenson. The project uses field recordings of the dawn chorus and broadcasts these sounds across Ireland by using Iarnród Éireann’s network of train station PA systems. Launching on Monday 16 November 2020, the sounds of birdsong will inhabit train station PA systems across Ireland, from 8:00am to 9:00am, every day, for two weeks, ending on Sunday 29 November 2020.

On Chorus aims to reflect on how we shape and effect the qualities of our sonic environments by highlighting the dramatic reduction in noise pollution experienced during the first Covid-19 lockdown. By taking these of recordings of lockdown and broadcasting them across the country, On Chorus invites us to listen to our recent past, as a way of reorienting ourselves to the present moment, questioning our entangled roles in shaping nature, as we progress beyond the ‘new normality’ of the current pandemic. For those essential workers hearing the sounds of birdsong on their early-morning commute, this project is intended as a gesture of thanks and solidarity.

At the same time that birdsong will be heard in Iarnród Éireann train stations, birdsong will also play on a website created specially for the project, called www.on-chorus.com. Birdsong will play each day on this site between 8:00am and 9:00am, for people who are still self-isolating or unable to travel. The On Chorus website also presents a series of 35mm photographs created by Christopher Steenson. Also featured on the website are a series of texts by a group of invited contributors, including Christopher Steenson, Jez riley French (sound artist), Mark Garry (visual artist) and Suzanne Walsh (writer/artist). The www.on-chorus.com website has been developed in collaboration with creative publishing platform Fallow Media, created by Ian Maleney.

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CADÁVER EXQUISITO

Saturday, 21st November

At 10pm tonight:

CADÁVER EXQUISITO by Hugo Esquinca and Russell Haswell. The Artists decided to employ the game of EXQUISITE CORPSE, using Audio rather than Image. The Artists took turns producing a 5 minute movement, but only supplied the last 30 seconds to the other.

Produced during a Virtual-Partner-Residency, GOETHE INSTITUT e.V/Music Division, October 2020.

Russell Haswell is an Artist, Curator and Record Producer.b. 1970, Coventry, UK. Lives & Works in Glasgow.

Hugo Esquinca is an instigator in Audio Electronics and Acoustic Interventions. b. 1990, Mexico City, MX. Lives & Works in Berlin.

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A Sonic Cradle

Saturday, 21st November

At 11pm tonight:

Duncan Chapman and Supriya Nagarajan with ‘Lullaby: Sonic Cradle’

In the last six years sound artist/composer Duncan Chapman and Carnatic singer Supriya Nagarajan have been developing and touring their Lullabies project. The original impetus came on a trip to India where Suprya noticed that women working in the fields were singing lullabies to their sleeping children while they worked.

“We have toured the project internationally for the last 5 years and it has included a wide variety of collaborating musicians and artists. Many of the performances have been at twilight or late night and audiences have frequently fallen asleep (the intention of the lullaby after all!) during the performance.” 

Duncan Chapman : Electronics & Field Recordings
Supriya Nagarajan : Voice 

This piece is complied from several performances and features some of their collaborators: Ingebjørg Lognvik Reinhold, Joana Margarida Machado Araújo, Rafael Karlen, Jack McNeil and Neil Valentine 

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Strange Strangers

Saturday, 21st November

At 2pm today, sound artist, Pablo Sanz presents his Phonurgia Nova Award winning soundscape work, ‘Strange Strangers’.

Based on environmental recordings along the territories of Amanã and Mamirauá, in central Amazônia, strange strangers focuses on unusual listening perspectives (above, underwater, and ultrasound), inviting us to listen to (within) a singular world of vitality and non-human otherness. Listening cultivates profound encounters with other beings (life-forms, abiotic terrestrial matters, sounds…), and with our being as an other. 

Commissioned by Czech Radio (Český rozhlas) for R{A}DIO{CUSTICA}, ČRo Vltava. Curator: Ladislav Zelený.

Pablo Sanz is an artist, composer and researcher currently based in Spain and Northern Ireland. His practice is an open-ended investigation of listening, more-than-human agencies and aural vitality, with a focus on the limits of perception and attention, encouraging sensory ecological awareness. His works —site-determined and public art projects, immersive multichannel installations and concerts in the dark, exhibitions, broadcasts and releases — have been experienced internationally in different contexts. 

 pablosanz.info

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Mary Farfisa’s Outer Space Radio Theater

Saturday, 20th November

At 10am today:

Childrens’ sci-fi radio-drama, Mary Farfisa returns to Radiophrenia.

In this episode:

OVERDUE! – Briscoe’s overdue library book unleashes the wrath of the Krone Brezheen – five fearsome knights who ride robot sharks, and punish those who abuse their library privileges! A children’s radio series written and produced by Jim Cheff. 

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Requiescat

Saturday, 21st November

At 9am today:

Orkney based artist Sheena Graham George presents ‘Requiescat for the Mothers in the Cillín.’

Requiescat goes in search of traces of the almost forgotten mothers who died in childbirth and were buried alongside other adults such as suicides, strangers, shipwrecked sailors, murderers and their unfortunate victims, criminals, famine victims andthose with learning disabilities in the cillíní, the un-baptised children’s burial grounds found throughout Ireland.      

This intimate sound-work weaves together voices from the local community in Dingle & Iveragh, County Kerry, field-recordings, the artists own memories and specially composed music by Anne Wood to explore memory, motherhood, birth, death and the cillín.    

 

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Days of Future Past

Friday, 20th November

At 9:30pm tonight ‘Days of Future Past’ by Leon Clowes.

First broadcast on Reel Rebels Radio on 20th April 2020, this nightmarish re-entry into creative practice is an audio sketchbook of lived trauma. There are three elements: bootleg recordings of artists that have inspired, visceral voice pieces recorded at the beginning of lockdown, and DIY four track demos of electro pop and cabaret songs written in the late 80s/early 90s. 

Leon Clowes is a queer disabled conceptual artist (www.leonclowes.com). His research-led creative practice combines sound, words, space, co-creation, autoethnography and Brechtian Verfremsdungeffekt. It is informed by research excavation of his lived trauma experiences, and exchange with other artists who also deal with trauma. Days of Future Past is broadcast with the kind permission of Queer Art Projects. The piece is currently part of the #WIPexhibition: https://qap.digital/wip/

 

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The Islands of the Strangers

Friday 20th November

At 2pm today:

Innse Gall ‘The Islands of the Strangers’ is a companion piece to the film An Dà Shealladh ‘The Two Sights’; a sound focused documentary that cinematically re-connects a disappearing oral tradition to its surroundings.

These two compositions were developed from studies made for the films soundtrack using the same elements: hydrophone and field recordings collected on the islands of Barra, Berneray, North Uist, Harris, & Lewis between 2017-19, collaged and assembled in Ithaca, New York 2017-20.

In the spirit of Glen Gould’s contrapuntal radio documentaries and Luc Ferrari’s Anecdotal Music thework explores the shifting acoustic ecology of the islands interwoven fragments of dialogue, song, and industry.

 Joshua Bonnetta (b.Canada 1979) is an artist and filmmaker working at the edges of documentary across installation, performance, and traditional cinema exhibition.

The companion film to this piece ‘The Two Sights’ is screening at the Alchemy Film Festival live with a Q & A on 17th December, and on demand between 18th and 20th December.

www.joshuabonnetta.com