Audio: Broadcast Overload [MHz]
by Beauchamp Art
Broadcast Overload [MHz] (AKA Simultaneous Radio) uses all the UK [East Anglian] radio frequencies recorded from one location combined together, producing a drone.
This image from Logic shows the multiple layers and recordings of the piece, with 12 unique recordings, and 4 additional layers; modified version of the primary sounds. As is illustrated by the Automation graphic [the bright line, indicating volume], the clips all started simultaneously, but then fade in and out at different speeds, trailing off at the end.
Though it may not be visible, each sound was coupled with another recording that would change in volume simultaneously; or reversed to its twinned track; and would be panned symmetrically if not mono or centralised. Such as tracks 4 and 6 change at the same rate, though the peak volume of each is different.
Moreover, the main radio recordings are also [1–10] are also panned to parallel the recording frequencies. So a low-frequency radio station would be position in the left speaker, and the high-frequency stations to the right. Tracks 11 and 12 are recordings of the radio totally detuned to both the high and low extremes, and were panned similarly, though not in the same arc as the other recordings, and only become louder towards the end, as well as having the level or reverb increased to add to the climatic cut off and ringing at the end of the piece. The two recording panned to the most extreme of left and right [1 & 10] were also duplicated, and positioned in the opposite ears, after being filtered and turned into a greater drone.
By having the sounds come in at different rates, the impression may be given of multiple radios being tuned independently, and do not all play at their maximum volume together collectively, though there is a peak around 2/3 of the way through, at 1:30 for the majority of the sound, though it lulls and builds back up for the cut off at 2:30, letting the sound ring and hang on before fading out completely. This way the piece could be played on a cycle, building up and fading out, tidally, letting the growing waves of audio information to descend into the noisy, chaotic tempestuous overload of incomprehensibility.
Though the building of multiple frequencies of radio could be compared to John Cage’s Radio Music (AKA ‘Symphony for 12 Radios’), Cage there is exploring the performative act and the sound of going between the stations, were as I wish to build up a harmony of noise; as if the various radio frequencies [MHz] were themselves notes, coming together to form a chord; panoramically displayed to place the listener at the centre of the soundscape, within the radio.
Moreover, as this was recorded in a single location, than the distance between the radio transmitter and receiver affect the overall sound, and the geography becomes a relevant part of the piece. This would have not work using a digital radio or online audio streaming services, iPlayers, et al., as the sound would have been too perfect; each frequency defined against the other with no interference or noise, lacking in the distinct auditability of the radio’s idiosyncratic timbre; the thin, tinny sound of compressed audio transmission and low-fidelity speakers. As Brian Eno said. “Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit – all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided.” [Eno, 1996] Indeed, with a digital radio there is a greater range of stations, and online that number grows exponentially, so constructing this through analogue FM radio also limited the piece and made it more possible, as well as geographically dependant: digitisation delocalises.
Furthermore, I felt that cycling through stations was a more fitting metaphor for the individual’s experience of modern digitalism and mass information; as rather than picking clearly defined channels from which to listen to, all frequencies blur together, merge and coalesce more fluidly than the rigid channels of a fixed frequency digital radio [or TV channels, for that matter]. It could be argued, “In the culture of simulation, cycling through is coming to be the way we think about life itself.” [Bell, 2007, 34] – whereas Modernity sought to categorise, the contemporary condition it to explore the liminality of the established means of categorisation (and sub-categorisation); looking “directly at the noise, not past it,” [Kahn, 1999: 28] and trying to make sense of the chaotic data-smog [Shenk, 1997] of mass-information exchange, rather than growing ignorant of the “constant aurality leading to a pervasive deafness” [ibid, 209].
Broadcast Overload was also a swansong for my FM alarm clock radio, as it has been replaced by a DAB digital radio, and the still-functioning analogue system now resides in silence; reserved as a back up should the upgrade fail, and as a reminder of its continuing potential for usefulness as an information medium, entertainment device, and creative media. It has been disconnected the power supply, mute, and rendered redundant by a new technology. “Nobody wants a motorcar till there are motorcars, and nobody is interested in TV until there are TV programs. This power of technology to create its own world of demand is not independent of technology being first an extension of our own bodies and senses.” [McLuhan, 1964: 67-68] As part of a continual process of technological and societal progression in the current stage of post-Industrial Revolution, Late-Consumer-Capitalism, new products are not only produced, but need is also manufactured, creating obsolescence in its wake.
Though I shall hold on to my old radio, the majority of outmoded electronic items get thrown away, scrapped, adding to growing mounds of e-waste, to be sifted through by third parties (such as in the digital dumping ground of Agbogbloshie) or let to rot over millennia. Though it must be worth pondering what will become of the other e-waste; the old emails, abandoned web-pages, the clutter of images amalgamating in online archives; or the radio signals lost in space.
- Eno, Brian, (1996), A Year With Swollen Appendices: Brian Eno’s Diary. 1st Edition. Faber & Faber.
- Kahn, D. (1999) Noise Water Meat: History of Sound in the Arts. Cambridge: MIT Press.
- McLuhan, Marshall (1964) Understanding Media. 1994 Edition. Routledge. Great Britain.
- Shenk, David (1997). Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut. 1st Edition. HarperOne.
- Turkle. 1995: 14, 174 in Bell, David. (2007) Cyberculture Theorists. Great Britain. Routledge.