Researching Podcasting in the US

My PhD project focuses on the transition from analogue to digital radio and how works of acoustic art relate to it. Thus, the development of the US-American podcast scene is of special interest for me, as it takes a leading role in the field. The term podcast was first coined in 2004 as a portmanteau of “iPod” and “broadcast” and referred originally to digitally produced and distributed audio programs on the internet, which were published periodically and could be subscribed to via RSS feed. As podcasting is still a rather new media phenomenon and the academic field of podcast studies is just about to emerge, I applied for the 2018 U.S. Embassy SANAS Travel Award to do field research. Altogether my journey lasted 14 days and covered ten interviews in five cities.   

Due to its relevance for US-American radio history and the development of the podcast-scene, I started my research in Chicago. Thanks to the city’s geographic location, the first Chicago radio stations in the 1920s were listened to from the East coast to the Rockies and beyond. Needless to say, that Chicago emerged early on as a broadcasting center and a central switching point for transcontinental network lines, attracting various creative media people. One of them was the legendary radio host Louis “Studs” Terkel (1912 – 2008).

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The Road to Brexit – A Students‘ Podcast

The White Cliffs of Dover (Image: Makiko Itoh/Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Just in time for Brexit’s second anniversary, Prof. Ina Habermann at the University of Basel and students of her research seminar published their podcast The Road to Brexit on the historical and cultural preconditions and motifs why so many Britons voted to leave the EU on June 23, 2016. Trained as a professional radio journalist who writes her PhD at the English department in Basel, it was a great pleasure and challenge to help them bring their project alive. Together with Prof. Habermann I edited the texts of the students, I taught them how to speak on the radio and took care of recording, editing and publication of the project. In eleven contributions the students looked for example at Winston Churchill’s war rhetoric as well as at the myth of Dunkirk or the movie T2 Trainspotting and a European perspective at Great Britain.

You can read an article about the project and its background on the website of the university in German or in English. Further information about the project, the production and the contents you can find here. And last but not least you can listen to the podcast here.

I highly recommend to take some time for this podcast. Listening to these 69 minutes of an enlightening fusion of cultural studies research and radio journalism is in my opinion definitely worthwhile. Congratulations to Prof. Habermann and her students, well done! It’s been a blast to work with you.

Russian Avant-Garde on the Radio

It’s my great pleasure to announce the return or the Russian avant-garde, at least on air and online – unfortunately only in German, though: Today, Friday April 20 my feature “Die Medienkunst der russischen Avantgarde” will be broadcast. Therefore I had the great pleasure to talk to some terrific researchers and experts on Russian art, media and cultural history: Siegfried Zielinski, Berlin based media-archaeologist and theoretician, Sylvia Sasse, professor for Slavic literary studies at the University of Zurich, the historian and musicologist Boris Belge (Basel) and the Chlebnikov expert Andrea Hacker (Bern).

Some of the Russian Kubo-Futurists, around 1912

The reason for this radio show is the broadcasting of Andreas Ammer’s and FM Einheit’s terrific interpretation of Arseny Avraamov’s „Symphony of Sirens“, the loudest composition in music history, which was staged October 2017 in Brno, Czech Republic. Last Friday a recording of this unique performance has been broadcast by the radio drama department of Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR), which is still available on its website in different mixes: A binaural mix for headphones, a 5.1 mix and a documentary film of the performance in Brno.

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Symphony of Sirens: 1922 / 1923 / 2017

Of all the arts, music possesses the greatest power for social organization. – Arseny Avraamov          

 

When over 100 years ago women workers in Petrograd facotries laid down their work, because they didn’t have money to buy bread for their families anymore, they finally brought about the break-through of the the Russian Revolution. It was still the beginning of the 20th century, nobody knew how devastating it would get, and so hopes were still high that a new man and a new woman would be born through the revolution. According to the Russian avant-gardists one of the most important means to accomplish this aim was sound, respectively acoustic experiments, mainly – noise.

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Energies & the Arts

Visiting Joyce Hinterding & David Haines in the Blue Mountains (NSW), Australia

“Like linguists turn to coding, silversmiths turn to electronics”, says David Haines. For the Australian artists it seems to be the most natural thing in the world to artistically transcend materials, media and genres. Haines, who just has been awarded the 2017 Australia Council Visual Arts Fellowship for two years, to delve further into his “abiding interest in aroma as an art form” and develop a substantial exhibition across the range of his practices, is one half of the intriguing Australian art couple Haines & Hinterding. The other half is Joyce Hinterding, a former silversmith and nowadays an artistic expert on energies, especially on Very Low Frequency Radio Waves and Natural Radio.

 

During my research stay in Australia Douglas Kahn was so kind and generous to introduce me to his dear friends and neighbours Joyce and David. The couple invited me to visit them at their lovely home in the bush of the Blue Mountains to learn more about their art practices – an unexpected, spontaneous visit, which turned out to be one of the highlights of my research trip down under. After a nice spring roll lunch and some conversation we wanted to go and see some kangaroos together. However, I quickly became so fascinated by the multisensory artistic cosmos of Haines & Hinterding and our conversation lasted so long that the kangaroo visit had to be postponed. 

What makes the works of Haines & Hinterding so fascinating to me is the fact that they are outstanding examples of artistic research.

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Natural Radio

Energizing Encounter with Douglas Kahn

What makes Australia and especially Sydney for radio art researchers like me such a desirable place to go to is the variety of sound and radio artists and scholars, who live and work there. There are numerous reasons for this cluster or gathering, as I found out during my research stay. However, one main reason certainly is Douglas Kahn, Professor for Media and Innovation at the University of New South Wales. Being responsible for such outstanding, seminal books like the essay collection Wireless Imagination. Sound, Radio and The Avant-Garde (1992), which he co-edited with the radio artist Gregory Whitehead and his two monographs Noise, Water, Meat. A History of Sound in the Arts (1999) and Earth Sound Earth Signal. Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts (2013), Douglas Kahn attracts PhD candidates and researchers from all over the world, who are interested in radio and sound and their relation to the arts. 

 

When I eventually dared to contact Douglas Kahn and kindly asked him for an interview, he was very friendly and generous and invited me to visit him at his home in Katoomba, a cozy little town at the fringe of the overwhelming, scenic Blue Mountains Nation Park, about two hours by train west of Sydney. 

After I had read „Wireless Imagination“ and „Noise Water Meat“ with great benefit for my own research on the epistemology of radio art, I turned to „Earth Sound Earth Signal“, which left me behind quite a bit baffled at first. At the same time I developed the hunch that this book is about something really fascinating, mind-blowing. And as I like challenges, I kept coming back to it, over and over again. One sentence, which had struck me in particular, was „Radio was heard before it was invented and it was broadcast before it was heard.“ Therefore I asked Doug at the beginning of our interview, if he would be so kind to explain this phenomenon, which is called „natural radio“. You can listen to the interview dubbed in German here, and you can read it below in English. This is what Doug answered:  Weiterlesen

Sonic Reflections

Conversation with Colin Black about Radio Art

When I met Colin Black for the first time in June 2014 at the Radio as Art Conference in Bremen it made a strong impression on me when one evening this tall, slim man with shoulder-length blond hair from Australia looked up to the German sky and wondered whispering to himself: „Oh, this is how the moon looks like up here.“ Since then I was longing so much to go to Australia someday to find out how the moon looks like Down Under.

Of course the moon was not the only reason I very much wished to travel to Australia. Like Canada this huge country on the other side of the planet has an amazing radio research and radio art scene and as a radio art reseacher I of course wanted to find out more about the reasons why this is so.

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„Translating (as) Infinite Jest“

Reading & Workshop with Ulrich Blumenbach

Seminal novel, ingenious translation.

The novel Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (1962 – 2008) was published in 1996 and is regarded as a masterpiece of US-American literature. Like no other writer of his generation David Foster Wallace knew the Oxford English Dictionary by heart, was highly educated and could mimic various linguistic styles perfectly. Thus his book became not only an encyclopedic novel with 388 endnotes, some of which stretching themselves even over pages. The novel also displays a huge arsenal of figures, each of them speaking more or less in a unique way.

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A Recommendation: „Literature in the Digital Age“ Online Course starts March 13

Did you ever have to dump books at an airport due to excess luggage after a long trip with many souvenirs? I just had. Awful expirience. Almost like dismissing friends. But despite having gone more and more digital after I participated as a student in last year’s first run of the terrific Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) Literature in the Digital Age, I still brought three paperbacks with me on my 10-weeks-research trip to Australia.

I did it because I still and always will love the feeling of having „book-books“ around me. They look, feel and smell nice, they never run out of batterie and they are just a lovely companion on any kind of lonesome trip. And yet they can become quite bothersome or even an obstacle if you have to travel or move a lot, especially in globally connected, flexible and racy times like ours.

For situations like these an ebook reader is certainly a great alternative, although no substitute, if you ask me. But „literature in the digital age“ is so much more than only reading or writing a text on an electronical device. As the lead educator Philipp Schweighauser explains in this interview very nicely, the reading strategies of „social reading“ and „distant reading“ are just two of various examples how digital technology challenges literature and books nowadays.

In this MOOC  Philipp Schweighauser, Professor of American and General Literatures at the University of Basel (Switzerland), will take you on a six week journey through the world of literature in evolution. Together with my colleagues I will be one of the four mentors of this course and it would be my pleasure to attend you on this trip. You can join anytime but it is most fun to start in Week 1 with most of the other participants from all over the world. Just have a look!

„Desert Bloom“ received renowned Karl-Sczuka-Preis for Radio Art

Yesterday the German sound artist Christina Kubisch, the producer and composer Peter Kutin and the musician and sound engineer Florian Kindlinger, both Austrian, received the renowned Karl-Sczuka Preis für Hörspiel als Radiokunst at the Donaueschingen Festival. Their radioplay Desert Bloom, which was produced only in English, is an intriguing portrait of the city Las Vegas, of its shiny, gloomy and fake promises of quick wealth – and of  its dark, disturbing sides as well.

 

This city portrait is mainly told by the means of electric static, by noises that the human ear normally cant’t perceive. Christina Kubisch is well-known for developing her very special head phones which make it possible to discover the un-hearable side of modern cities and environments in the context of her performances and so-called Electrical Walks.

img_2057Being a great fan of Christina Kubisch’s work I of course went to the arward ceremony. Asked how she came up with the idea if portraiing Las Vegas this way, Christina Kubuch just replied: „Oh, I married there once.“ Listening to Desert Bloom I venture to say: It was definitely worth it…. Congratulations to all the artists!