“The beauty of radio art is that it is freeform and performed upon an endless canvas.” That’s certainly true of Sarah Washington and her creative partner Knut Aufermann’s ambitious 100 day Radio Art Zone broadcast project, which is covered in this month’s Unlimited Editions column. A spin-off of their regular Mobile Radio activities and part of Esch European Capital of Culture, Radio Art Zone involves programme makers taking to the streets, conversing around kitchen tables, and presenting 22 hour long audio works which range from drama to algorithmic composition.
Five minutes talking with the Mobile Radio duo can turn your ideas of broadcasting on their head. Bored with the audience hanging on the word of one person? What about making the audience broadcasters as well, using two-way audio channels which take sounds from wherever they are and spin them out further across the listening network in an ever-growing collage? Or, what about non-traceable, non-repeatable broadcasts, using radio receivers off the grid, creating an exclusive audience outside the circles of modern online life?
The pair have been making waves together since helping to found groundbreaking London station Resonance FM, which coincidentally has just celebrated its 20th anniversary. Some of these and similar ideas and practices – which were radical or, as founder member and Wire staffer Phil England put it, had “no common currency” at the time that Resonance started – have gone on to reshape the radio landscape. As Resonance’s Twitter bio now argues, it is “most influential radio station in the world”.
A look through Resonance’s schedule on pretty much any given day indicates approaches and themes which were either uncomfortable or unheard of for most radio 20 years ago. These include thoughtful programmes on micro-ideas like quietness, the senses, the lived environment; an openness to undervalued perspectives of retired people, ecologists, indigenous people, etc; engagement with formerly niche ideas like psychogeography or modular synthesis; fluency in methods of experimental sound like playing records at the wrong speed or longform collage. Overall, Resonance has a uniquely elastic and open feel for airtime, where giving the news on the hour or wrapping up an interview neatly is less important than letting radio take the listener somewhere they didn’t expect to go.
I first visited Resonance at their original Central London studios in Denmark Street for my band’s spot on the Glass Shrimp radio show and it was crazy in all the right ways. We played live, and then we trooped upstairs for a conversation that neither presenters nor guests knew how long would last. The upstairs of the studio could hear the engineers downstairs, leading to shouts back and forth to try and keep the programme on some kind of even keel. Glass Shrimp was a nicely anarchic show, playing music purely because they found it interesting, chatting about it on the fly and seeing what came out the other end. There was a tangible sense of underground and alternative culture being underreported, and experimental radio being the tool in the right place at the right time to unlock it.
Many of these methods are commonplace across radio, podcasts, documentaries and audio shorts of all types, especially since the pandemic has prioritised DIY broadcasting methods and people using the technology at their disposal. But back in the day, the world of radio was waiting to be shaken up, and Resonance’s role in that was immense.
This summer The Wire celebrates its own significant anniversary, with 2022 marking 40 years since our first issue. To mark the occasion, we’ve scheduled a host of live events happening across the UK and online in July. You can read more on the page opposite, and there are many more announcements still to come. To stay in the loop, sign up for newsletters at our website, follow our social media accounts @thewiremagazine and on Facebook, and check next month’s July issue. Derek Walmsley
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Issue 460 June 2022 £5.95 ISSN 0952-0686
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Words Yewande Adeniran, Vanessa Ague, Jennifer Lucy Allan, Steve Barker, Mike Barnes, Dan Barrow, Robert Barry, Tristan Bath, Clive Bell, Claire Biddles, Abi Bliss, Britt Brown, Madeleine Byrne, Philip Clark, Byron Coley, Lara C Cory, Julian Cowley, Raymond Cummings, Laina Dawes, Phil England, Josh Feola, Phil Freeman, Noel Gardner, Michael A Gonzales, Francis Gooding, Kurt Gottschalk, Louise Gray, George Grella, James Hadfield, Andy Hamilton, Adam Harper, Jim Haynes, Ken Hollings, Leah Kardos, Kek-W, Joshua Minsoo Kim, Biba Kopf, Matt Krefting, Steph Kretowicz, Neil Kulkarni, Chloe Lula, Dave Mandl, Howard Mandel, Peter Margasak, Marc Masters, Noel Meek, Bill Meyer, Frances Morgan, John Morrison, Brian Morton, Joe Muggs, Daniel Neofetou, Louis Pattison, Stephanie Phillips, Antonio Poscic, Emily Pothast, Edwin Pouncey, Chal Ravens, Tony Rettman, Simon Reynolds, Mariam Rezaei, Ilia Rogatchevski, Bruce Russell, Sukhdev Sandhu, Claire Sawers, Dave Segal, Stewart Smith, Daniel Spicer, Richard Stacey, Greg Tate, Richard Thomas, Dave Tompkins, Spenser Tomson, David Toop, Rob Turner, Zakia Uddin, Gabriel Jermaine Vanlandingham-Dunn, Val Wilmer
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