Waves, Layers, and Processes…

Had another evening with the Radio Public bunch yesterday.

I am finding it reassuring being in company during the moments of “What the hell am I doing?” Trusting my own process in my own studio is one thing, but having launched myself at something different it’s great to feel I am in good hands and they know what they are doing, or at least they also trust their processes, and I’m ok to follow that.

Last night, after a brief catch up and a tussle with some technology, we embarked upon an evening of making. We talked quite a bit at first, about the words: radio, broadcast, transmit, long wave, short wave, medium wave, ocean wave, sound wave, shock wave, pocket radios, radios that were walnut and bakelite and pieces of furniture. Bill recorded proceedings, including the story of my childhood budgie that would repeat the shipping forecast from his position in the window next to the radio. Helen did a 3D wire drawing of a wonky RKO radio tower that brought many smiles. A trumpet jingle sounded. Collages poems and other wire drawings made… and then the quiet of making descended…

I cut bits of speech from The Radio Times and stuck them to layers of layout and tracing paper. The darkest and biggest on the bottom, could still be seen through the layers, using progressively smaller print.

I have had this idea about using overheard speech, as people go past in the street. But it’s not an idea that engages people, and is a bit sneaky, possibly borderline unethical, capturing their words for my own purposes without permission. I am not good at approaching people in the street or anywhere really… I prefer the hiding in the corner thing. But this project is called Radio PUBLIC so I have to shove myself out into it a bit more. 

All these thoughts provoked a small panic attack as I pasted my collage of layered overheard words and tried to think of a way around it. Helen just said “it’s ok, we will think of something that works”. And so my panic dissipated and I began to think about how I could use the words and sounds once captured/recorded/written…

I’ve also been talking to Bill about extending my “comfortable” length of sound from the 3 minute 42 second song, to a more immersive piece maybe 40/45 minutes long. 

It was only while working with these layers of paper and words that my thoughts started to coalesce. The loud words being heard from a distance, the smaller, quietly whispered words only being heard up close… how these words could weave amongst a pattern of sound until you start to invent your own narrative when you hear it. But then, at certain points, that narrative becomes more real, sentences, stories, songs start to appear, they might be spoken, or sung, poetry, prose or song, or a mixture of all. There is a slow breathing through the piece, a rise and fall of clarity and obscurity… now… my first thought was that there would, at some point in this 40/45 mins be a song. But there doesn’t need to be. If I feel the need to write a song it can stand separately. It can follow all those structures and habits that I have come to rely upon. But the longer, immersive piece can be different to this. It can be looser, free from such shackles!

(Photos courtesy of Helen Garbett)

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