Sounds of Broadcast
Radio is not merely a technological innovation but rather a site that has altered our consciousness of sound. Over the course of the past century, radio has established diverse techniques and broadcast formats of audio production engendering habits of hearing and listening. As such, radio is a significant territory for aural affordances and recent orientations of hearing. The spatial primacy in radio is apparent in the anatomy of transmission itself where discretely produced, localized sonic events link up with scattered listeners in networks of real-time connectivity. Although such spatiotemporal features of transmission play a pivotal role in sociohistorical narratives from the 1920's onwards – particularly in terms of radio's political and economic agency – there are other abstruse, yet pervasive, spatial qualities inherent in radio. Attending to these other spatialities reveals a density of contexts in play.
Radiophonic methods such as channel-mixing, sound foley, reverb effect chambers, multimiking and stereophony underscore specific ambient epistemologies of sound with dedicated technologies of production. Less apparent spatial-material signatures of microphone diaphragms, analog circuits, and adjacent fluctuating electromagnetic fields are also impressed upon the signals. After leaving the transmitter, signals further open up to terrestrial influences (atmospherics) and geological conditions (introducing effects such as reflection, refraction, diffraction, absorption, polarization and scattering).
As such, every transmission is also a record of social-historical, material-technical and terrestrial interactions. This audibility of context poses an alternative notion of signals that complicates narratives of messages-in-transit prevalent in communication models of sound. Focusing instead on the polyphony of locales impressed upon journeying signals, the sender-receiver link – often touted for its role in the 'annihilation of space' – produces precisely the reverse effect by manifesting the tensions between streamlined broadcast environments and scattered heterogeneous receivers along with the situated vernaculars inherent in radiophonic audio production. Simultaneity itself (where locations at a distance coincide yet remain distinct) is but one spatial characteristic in a vast polyphony of operative locales accumulated along sound's broadcasting pathways.
Sounds of Broadcast focuses on the concrete examples of the radio drama and a maritime weather forecast in order to tune-in to their spatial-material qualities and related contexts. Results of the research manifested in two audio works entitled Radio Plays Itself and Forecast for Shipping, respectively. In addition to these sound works, historical, theoretical and analytical insights have been explored through talks, texts, interviews and online presentations such as this. In order to manifest, enhance, and probe audible contexts, this research also involved the development of technical tools such as broad-spectrum (ultrasonic) microphones, spherical point-source loudspeakers as well as dedicated software for phased-array (multi-channel) audio montage and projection.
Sounds of Broadcast is part of Ganchrow's long-term Listening Subjects project testing the ambient circuitry whereby audibility, surroundings, and subjectivity are mutually conductive.