Talking to a Loudspeaker
Although radio has been cited as a warm medium — due to its relative openness for interpretation when compared to television — it is nonetheless a one way medium. The listener is compelled, via the loudspeaker, to construct meaning without the benefit of a mechanism for re-address. In addition, radio as we have come to know it is limited by a host of predetermined factors: broadcast quality, balanced programming, congruent appeal, marketing research, the trained voice, restrictions to access, music distribution slavery, uniform time allocations, technical specifications, licensing regulations and so on. Talking to a Loudspeaker plays with some of these considerations.
- Mister Speaker is a truncated visit to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario where members address “Mister Speaker” without response. Protocol is the order of the day, with the allotted time for input devoted to maintaining its dominance.
- The Weather, excerpted from actual radio reports, begins with a compilation of the subjective style inherent in such presentations and evolves into a minimalist rendition of number: an incantation in celebration of degree, measurement and prediction.
- In The News, the listener is presented with two points of view, one from the left (channel) and one from the right (channel). Mimicking the simplistic regulatory notion of ‘balanced programming,’ this section suggests that the interpretation of news ‘events’ is contingent on factors beyond the prevail of media control.
- Call Now, introduced with a string of telephone numbers designed to allow for maximum cultural interaction, devolves into a call-in program in which the host retains his composure even though not one listener — due to ‘technical problems’ — is able to connect.
- The complexity of transmission infrastructure and technological maintenance and monitoring is addressed by the resident radio technologist in Talking About Ether. Through his machines, the world of aural transmission is rendered visual and his analysis, which at first appears to be scientific and objective, concludes with the assertion that radio “must be strictly controlled.”
- Broadcast Quality? raises a question — “Is this broadcast quality?” — with the implicit knowledge that monopoly, enforced and sustained through arbitrary controls, is not a healthy phenomenon. Health in this case is retained through irreverence and humour.
- In The Sponsors, a narrative is constructed via commercial radio utterance, creating a simple condensation of the manipulation of desire predominant in contemporary media.
- We Live in the Age… (of having to state the obvious) is comprised of few words, spoken in an aural phantasmagoria of a living soundscape. It represents an attempt to breathe — if in fact breathing in this case is possible — life into the dead space of radio.
- Which brings us to Dead Air and the falling away of authority, creating a presence articulated by absence.
- The piece ends with Here Comes Everybody, a telephonic, radiophonic, tongue-in-cheek liturgy in which utopian global communication theories are sung into sleep: here comes every(body), there goes no(body).
Talking to a Loudspeaker was commissioned by New American Radio and Performing Arts Inc (New York City, USA, 1988, 90). The piece premiered on the National Public Radio (NPR) Network: part I in 1989 and, part II in 1991. The tenth section, Here Comes Everybody, is by Gregory Whitehead and was performed by Gregory Whitehead (via telephone), Dan Lander and a live audience during Radio Free Banff on RADIA 89.9 FM in the fall of 1989. Talking to a Loudspeaker was realized in the artist’s home recording studio and was constructed via razor blade and analog 1/4” magnetic tape. Thanks to David Barteaux, Regine Beyer, Igor Bevc, Hanna Bulko, Peter Bulko, Hank Bull, Janice Carbert, Stephanie Carbert, Andy Dowden, Colin Griffiths, Ian Murray, Claude Schryer, Deirdre Swan, Helen Thorington and Gregory Whitehead.
- 1989, Concert, NPR, USA
- 1988 – 1990, Personal studio, Toronto (Ontario, Canada)