Wednesday, December 21, 2005

5LISSENUP5 (v. BYOKleenex)

pictured here: the saddest horse in west texas. a fine though purely symbolic pictoral representation of "hinterlands," the story that will be featured at the next (and first of 2006) LISSENUP which in fact has nothing to do with lonely horses, but everything to do with sadness. it's one of the most beautiful and memorable radio stories i've ever heard in fact, somehow blending fiction, radio theater and documentary more effectively than you might imagine possible.

this may seem an odd way to kick off the new year, but for some reason it just feels right. hope to see you then, for delicious snacks, fine company and benign melancholy. oh and...i should mention - it's a 45 minute program. so you might want to bring a cushion to sit on too, you'll want to get comfortable.

sunday, january 8
7 - 10 pm, listening at 8:15
email for directions or more information
bring an aforementioned delicious snack or beverage and friends are welcome too

Monday, December 12, 2005

so far, so texas

here's a list of some 'sounds of texas,' or more accurately 'sounds heard while traveling to and spending a day in texas,' compiled in houston near the end of my first day here.

1. a man's cough, painfully contained and self-conscious, every two minutes. (this was on the plane, provided by the passenger to my right.)

2. cat-calling whistle, triggered by a motion sensor and coming from a white, stufffed animal gorilla, at this amazing 'five and dime' store called variety fair where we spent about an hour walking up and down crammed, dusty aisles filled with just about any and everything you can imagine. latch hook kit depicting noah's ark? check. blown glass dreidels? check. very eager-to-help proprietor? check. necco wafers? check.

3. the sound of stillness, absorbed during a several-minute-sit in the rothko chapel, (floor plan pictured above - it's worth clicking on to see more details) and then the sound of footsteps trying very hard to not sound like anything at all, when the docent tiptoed over to assure me that since it was only myself and my friends in the chapel it was ok that i was laying down on one of the eight wooden benches, staring at the ceiling...but if anybody else entered the room, would i please sit up?

what would [do] rothko's paintings sound like, anyway?

Thursday, December 08, 2005


heading to texas for a week on monday, as a willing ambassador of the third coast festival, to join forces with the inimitable audible picture show's equally inimitable matt hulse for a small tour of audio screenings in darkened cinemas. we'll be hitting austin (12/13), marfa (12/15), san antonio (12/16 ) and houston (12/17, followed by a screening of matt's own work on 12/18), bringing short audio works of all stripes, made by artists and filmmakers from all over the world.

now i don't know a ton of (or even a dozen probably) people in texas, so please do pass along the good word about these shows to anyone geographically and/or dispositionally inclined to show up. it's gonna be fun - check back here for tales of sonic adventures in the lone star state.

Friday, December 02, 2005

(the best) tv (ever) on the radio (sort of)

if you know me then you know that i'm not a big tv-watcher, (i even had one of these on my car back in my politically-charged (or so i thought) college days in colorado) and can rarely keep up with those conversations about the latest cable-generated-weekly-sitcom-with-integrity. i hear a lot of "i know you don't like tv, but you'd REALLY like this series!" and usually i agree that yes, maybe i would, then make some noise about eventually renting the dvds, and that's that.

if you've talked with me in the past three months however, then you probably also know that i finally made good on my threat and watched both seasons of 'the office' AND the holiday special over the course of a couple weeks and became, almost four years after the fact, an annoyingly obsessed fan of the show.

which is why i was so overjoyed to receive some great news yesterday (thanks wilcox) - the fine folks behind 'the office' (ricky gervais and writing partner stephen merchant) are starting a weekly podcast on 'the guardian unlimited." and it starts monday december 5th!! that's so soooon!! it's the best news ever, and i am very pleased to share it with you. (though given my track record with these things, chances are you probably already know.)

update - here's the address to subscribe to the podcast - i'm downloading episode #1 as i type this!!! :

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

free sound!

looking for that perfect sound snippet of a thunderstorm, cranky meow or boiling water? better yet, looking for a home for your own audio snippets of thunderstorms, cranky meows or boiling water?

then check out
the freesound project, an ever-growing collection of recorded sounds that are offered up for anybody's use through a creative commons license. basically you can download sounds to your heart's content, or upload as many samples as you want, to share with others. freesound is an especially remarkable and important resource given the antiquated and tiresome copyright laws governing intellectual property these days.

there's a particularly nice sounding bell on the site that i like a lot, or maybe you'd prefer to listen to some hens right now. but don't just log on to listen to or download sounds, you should consider contributing some of your own audio treasures to the mix. the site's creators are working steadily toward the goal of posting 20,000 audio files to the site before 2,000,000 files are downloaded by visitors, so stop by and get busy uploading...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

house sounds

spent a few days with my family in ohio for thanksgiving and was particularly aware of the sounds of being home this time around. recognized familiar pops and cracks - sounds that don't seem to come from anywhere specific but are somehow still emitted from the walls and floors of the house i grew up in. sounds that just last week were exactly the same - as mysterious and benevolent, almost comforting - as they were twenty years ago when i heard them all year round.

[the hum of the heating system, the miniature roar of an avalanche as snow slides off the skylight above the staircase, the creak of the pantry door as i go searching for midnight snacks. (chips ahoy - but of course. and something akin to pringles - same shape but more of a potato-chippy food stuff.)]

it's a big, sprawling house, easy to lose people in so there's often someone yelling for someone else from another room. add a portable phone to the equation and you've got simultaneous yelps of 'where's the phone?' and 'you had it last' every time the thing rings. add a five year old nephew to the equation and you've also got 'auntie julie, when are you gonna show me how to play ping pong?' every five or so minutes, much to my extreme delight. and i couldn't have been happier to wake up each morning and immediately recognize the sound of the TV steeping upward through the floorboards from downstairs (the weather channel...but of course)

also just as i remembered them: sounds of the dogs chasing each other around the living room - bounding on and off the couches. the crash of the five ft. high gate meant to keep the dogs downstairs, shaking between its hinges as the cats sc.ale it, madly scrambling to safety from their canine housemates. the particular flick of lights turning on and off and the unmistakable rattle and spillage of the water bowl, as it goes skittering across the tile floor, accidentally kicked for the third time that day.

next year this house will probably be sold, so i was grateful to get an earful while i was there. in the meantime, i'm becoming accustomed to the sounds of my own place, here in chicago - the whine of the water coming out of the showerhead just when the temperature gets hot enough, the regular and impatient honking outside my window, my neighbor vaccuming overhead every sunday. the sounds, i suppose, of home sweet home...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

...for an hour on the radio

Q: where can you hear balloons popping for an hour on the radio, landscape paintings being meticulously described for an hour on the radio or the feeding of experimental musicians from stockholm (six different varieties of fake meat, no less) for an hour on the radio?

A: perhaps _nowhere_ but on
blind spot, a notably brave program inspired by the radio theater of the 1930's and 40's that broadcasts live every sunday night on WLUW in Chicago. blind spot employs a diverse (and i do mean diverse) range of styles, themes and strategies to accomplish their one clearly defined goal -- to explore the potential for radio as a place for artistic and experimental efforts, and to do this through live radio, i.e. the presence of bodies in a space: creating noise, reading scripts, releasing cats (yes there was a cat party show) or shoveling name just a few scenarios.

bravo, i say!
sometimes the concept matters as much as the content...or more. sometimes it's fine to be bored by an idea. sometimes your radio need not be information-packed and delivered in a cadence you can imitate in your sleep. (poor all of us.) sometimes we allow art for art's sake...

it's not that every episode of blind spot holds my attention for the full sixty minutes. (nor theirs, they've confessed.) but i _have_ been astounded by so many of the ideas this SMALL crew of people has brought to the microphone, week after week. you know how difficult it is to fill an hour of live radio every week?

well into their second season, these folks deserve your attention, and if you live in chicago and want to get involved, they would love your help. Give 'em a listen, or a

(broadcasting sundays from 10 to 11 pm on WLUW 88.7 fm chicago, and via webcast too.)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

lampo brings mathieu brings radioland

this saturday lampo (bringer of experimental music and intermedia events to chicago) presents german sound artist/composer/musician stephan mathieu, performing 'radioland' - a suite of computer-processed live AM radio, accompanied by a fast, random video flicker of 256 colors. not sure what to glimpses and snippets of golden oldies/ dusties? rabid sportscasters? spewed right-wing hatred for all things just and meaningful? traffic reports?

or maybe it'll all just sound like fuzzed out computer murmurings and secret drones, a sound pillow to rest your weary head against and simply listen to on a windy, chilling evening. helloooooo winter.

either way see you in radioland -

november 19th / 9 pm

6ODUM / 2116 W. Chicago Ave.
(across from the pierogi store)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


the sixth annual outer ear festival, a month-long presentation of performances, installations, radio broadcasts, cinema screenings, workshops, and roundtable discussions from chicago's very special experimental sound studio (ESS) kicks off this weekend with an installation at the lincoln park conservatory.

for the installation, composer bob snyder has created pseudorniphones - a multi-channel sound piece emulating the sounds of birds, based entirely on his memories of birdcalls. let's hope he remembers having heard a loon at some point in his life.

if you've never visited an experimental sound installation in the ferm room of a historic conservatory, may i please recommend the experience not once but regularly? and why not start with the opening reception for pseudorniphones, happening sunday november 13th from 3 - 5 pm. (in chicago. but a good a reason as any to visit, if you're not currently a resident.)

the outer ear festival continues in many manifestations through december 11th. check out the schedule and learn more about the participants here.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

musique mechanique

recently stumbled upon a cd by pierre bastien, which i've been listening to whenever possible, since. bastien builds amazing musical instruments amounting to a one man mechanical orchestra which he both makes recordings on and performs with all over the world. and from tree tops. here's some text from bastien's website, which i have to admit, charmed my pants off. and not just because of its endearingly slight broken english quality!

In a studio, it is more than funny to build a small automaton that will play the violin, or a nigerian drum : rather an irreverent joke about Music, and about the human machine as well. So what ? Will a simple mechanism be able to play a violin, when a student spends so much time in learning how to bow ? Will the talking-drum sound, while beaten by the stick through a motor and some gears, instead of a dancer with muscles?

However, during a concert, the other way around : the constructor becomes a conductor. Instead of a screw driver, he now holds a trumpet. His fellow musicians are nobody else than his metallic contraptions. Their nerves are nothing but rubber rings. Their heart, some recycled electro-motors taken from old record-players. He has to trust on these light and fragile creations. The composition is based on this delicate machinery. Then a strange phenomenon occurs in the music, that makes the necessary emotion come less from the man, than from the machines around him.

Find out more about pierre bastien, see some neat photos and listen to some songs here.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

prometheus strikes again nov. 11-13

a few months ago i came back from northampton, MA, all googly-eared about my experience there at the combined grassroots radio conference / prometheus barnraising, where after a weekend of all sorts of radio activities the low power fm radio station VFR actually came to life / joined the airwaves.

well, prometheus is at it again, this time in our corner (pocket?) of the world. if you're anywhere close (or feel like a nice drive through the midwest) consider joining the radiostation / barnraising happenings in urbana-champaign, IL, november 11-13. there'll be radio skills-sharing, opportunities to meet other radioheads from all over and most excitingly, at the end of the week 104.5 fm WRFU / Radio Free Urbana will claim its place in the radio universe.

additionally, if you've been thinking a lot about 'independent radio production' and would like to learn more i'm heading down there with my colleague roman mars and fire on the prairie's aaron sarver and emily udell, to present a discussion about just that. um, better start reading up on the subject...

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


announcement! from now on, the Every Third Sunday Audio Gathering LISSENUP series will exist as an Every Six Weeks Or So Audio Gathering LISSENUP series. which means it's about time for:


a potluck/listening soiree,
with snacks, drinks, fine humans to talk to and a couple of audio stories to digest as well. including one about an octopus.

- sunday, november 13

- 7:30 - 10 pm / listening at 8:30ish
- in the lovely logan square neighborhood in chicago

send me an email if you'd like to come / need directions.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

days of rage

this sounds like a perfect way to spend an hour next thursday evening, if you happen to live in chicago. an experimental audio theater piece about revolution and tigers! it's co-presented by the public square at the illinois humanities council and the TCIAF.

Thursday, November 3
Shows at 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm.
1420 N. Lake Shore Dr., Apt 11B
Space is limited to 34 people per show, so please register right away! Reservations are REQUIRED and can be made at 312.422.5580 or Please be sure to specify "Days of Rage" and the time of the show you plan to attend.

DAYS OF RAGE is an audio performance for small audiences which combines headphones, speakers, and live piano.

During the weekend of October 10, 1969, the radical left wing Weatherman organization (later the Weather Underground) brought their Days of Rage to Chicago, promising to bring thousands of participants from all over the country to violently protest America's involvement in Vietnam, to support the efforts of the Black Panthers (who did not endorse the Days of Rage), and potentially to spark a violent revolution against the U. S. capitalist establishment. Instead of the thousands they had predicted, only a couple of hundred people showed up. They made some speeches, destroyed a modest amount of property in both affluent and working class neighborhoods, and were beaten by the police.

DAYS OF RAGE takes place in present day New York City and follows several twentysomethings as they plan their own violent revolt while trying to pick up girls, make t-shirts, learn how to leave the house, get high on opium, and prevent the tiger in the bedroom from escaping.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

the sound of a happy city

ok, what sort of chicagoland-based-person-
who-keeps-an-online-journal would i be if i didn't post something tonight about the white sox claiming GREATNESS as the world champions of baseball just a couple hours ago? (actually, i don't quite understand the 'world champion' claim. but am willing to roll with it.)

what's more relevant to this particular online journal is an observation i made while riding my bike home from watching the game on tv with some friends. as soon as the victory was sealed, the streets of chicago erupted in sound, with honking cars parading across the city and whooping of all sorts tossed from balconies lining the streets. someone saw a car pull into the gas station nearby, open each door and blast 'We are the Champions' for all in the surrounding two-block radius to hear. not very original, i agree, but the point is - people are ecstatic here in chicago tonight. we _are_ the champions.

but what i really want to point out is how different a car horn can sound, depending on the context in which it's being employed. though one might (understandably) associate the sound of a honking car with irritation, impatience or a near-death experience, tonight's honking was all about the love. tonight's honkers were joyful, electrified, drunk, giddy, empowered and all the rest of the emotions many feel when the really good guy wins the really big game. i was even somehow drawn into the fervor (yes, it was a fervor) during my bike ride home, and rang my bicycle bell at every chance in solidarity with the rest of the whooping revelers.

brrrrrinngg. brrrrrrringggg.
(see earlier post about spelling sounds....)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

'i just want some silence'

i'm quoting my 5 yr. old nephew.

we were driving home from dinner at the Unexceptional Family Restaurant, and he and his cousin/my niece were easily having the most puzzling conversation i've overheard in a long time.

(my niece was clutching her alien-man balloon which had been twisted and pumped into existence by the Balloon Lady at the restaurant. rather than bring his with, my nephew lost all interest in his own alien-man balloon right around the time the waitress delivered the wrong check, and in fact asked me to pop it for him in the parking lot. i ask you, what are aunts for??)

so as i'm driving along, nephew and niece launch into this conversation about Who They Know. he lives in akron, she lives in philadelphia. she knows a few people in chicago, he knows _everyone_ in chicago. they may not know him, but he knows them. she points out he must be lying, he takes great offense and begins to turn away from the conversation, and to ask, repeatedly, for us to be quiet. 'i just want some silence. i just want it to be silent.' over and over.

blanket over head helped cut out our chatter, and gave him some peace of mind, and in that moment i wanted it to be silent - thick, dense and true, as much as he did, even as we sang along to the tune about the crocodile, performed by the eight year old girl, in german. he gave up, and joined us during that catchy chorus.

later, hours after the kiddos said goodnight i took a walk outside with the dog. stargazed. thought about growing up in ohio. enjoyed the silence.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

mystery and recommendation

been thinking about rabbit's feet. rabbit foots? rabbits' foots? i remember that besides teaching me how to throw like a boy, my childhood friend ricky gerber had an envious collection. were they real? were they kosher? what was the appeal? i _don't_ know. maybe ricky has some insight into this deep and puzzling mystery.

um, sound. right.

a couple friends have recently launched projects worth checking out. one -
ear crack - i feel an especial kinship with contentwise, and i think you'll see why pretty quickly. plus, jonathan has figured out how to post audio, and uses this same software, and so has inspired me to get to it, and try to post some audio files myself. um, soon.

regarding the other - first a story. early this spring my bicycle lock key broke off IN the lock, while it was attached to a rack downtown. now this bike is very dear to me, so i couldn't fathom leaving it stranded overnight. i called around to bike shops and though received much sympathy, no one was able to assist. in desperation and on a hunch i called my friend richard and asked if he happened to have a crowbar. within about an hour we'd liberated my poor bike, with a hammer and can of air!! and we had a silly amount of fun while doing it.

richard brings this same creativity and aplomb to
bad at sports , with the help of his partner-in-podcasting, duncan. he also brings a fresh and welcome take on art stuffs happening around chicago.

both sites will welcome you, i promise, with open arms.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

sound people are geniuses too

a heartfelt mazel tov to emily thompson, who was just this morning named as a 2005 macarthur fellow (otherwise known as the recipient of a "genius grant.")

according to the macarthur website, ms. thompson is a noteworthy aural historian,
who has been working to bridge the history of the United States and the histories of technology, science, sound, and acoustics to examine transformations in the American soundscape. hoorah for emily!

Read more about her efforts and acoustic adventures

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

variation on a LISSENUP(three)

i know. i can't believe it either. it's almost time to once again convene, eat,
drink and listen to radio stories together. where _do_ the minutes run to?

(this is not the rhetorical question it may appear to be. i want Answe

LISSENUPthree is on the near horizon (september 18th)
but in case you were beginning to tire of the usual routine,

this month's gathering is scheduled for earlier in your third
sunday of the month,
from 11:00 am - 1:30 pm / listening
starts at high noon.
in the usual potlucky spirit of LISSENUP, feel free to bring some
breakfast/brunchy foods to share.
i'll do my best to have enough
coffee for everyone.

just drop a line if you would like to come;
i'll hit you back with whereabouts.

pertinent details:
sunday, september 18

11:00 am - 1:30 pm

this time: radio about plastic wraps,
an odd snacking habit,
and an
inquisitive story about a man named vern.

Monday, September 12, 2005

word of the day - sounder

who knew?!!

sounder (SOUN-duhr) noun

1. A person or thing that makes sound.

2. A group of wild boars.

[From Old French sundre.]

Thursday, September 08, 2005

think: the sound(s) of power

deep wireless is the most heartful celebration of radio art i've ever encountered. the organization has announced a call for radio pieces which you may want to consider answering, even (or especially) if you're new to all of this. get in there!

Deep Wireless / Radio Without Boundaries
Call for submissions
On the theme - POWER
deadline September 30, 2005

Stretch the meaning to fit your idea of power
and create a piece for radio that reflects it.

Guidelines and submission details can be downloaded here.

Monday, September 05, 2005

the things they listened to

i'm finally getting around to reading tim o'brien's timeless collection of stories about the vietnam war, the things they carried and am finding it precisely relevant to present day realities - both in warzones overseas and right here in the usa - a different sort of warzone.

in the chapter titled 'how to tell a true war story' there's a story related about a group of six men who are sent into the mountains basically to listen for enemy activity. they spend a week in silence, listening, and share a near-hallucinatory aural experience including party music, and a chamber choir, and a barbershop quartet, and the fog rolling in. all of these sounds [whether they existed or not] talk and beckon to the soldiers endlessly. eventually the sounds collectively invite the soldiers to call in an attack, which arrives swiftly and wipes the area out. completely. [whether the story is true or not.]

the soldier telling this story then waits for the soldier he's told the story to, (presumably the author of the book) to ask about the moral. the moral of the story.

"all right," i said. "what's the moral?"
"forget it."
"no, go ahead."

for a long while he was quiet, looking away, and the silence kept stretching out until it was almost embarrassing. then he shrugged me a stare that lasted all day.

"hear that quiet, man?" he said. "that quiet - just listen. there's your moral."

i'm not really sure why i've posted this. [morals. listening. silence. all of it. why not?] but it may be a good time to read the book, if you haven't yet.

Friday, September 02, 2005

mayor of new orleans, uncensored

"excuse my french everybody in america. but i am pissed"
- mayor of new orleans, ray nagin

biking to work this morning, on the most gorgeous morning ever,
my frustration and sickness with what's happening in louisiana just continued to thicken.

please think about what you can do to help.
and listen to this un-cut version of an interview with the mayor of new orleans, ray nagin, on WWL AM in NO. be prepared for emotion, words you don't usually hear on the radio, and some fairly grim descriptions.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

daily meaning

a colleauge of mine has been working very diligently on an audio installation that you should know about.

'daily meaning' is the combined effort of 5 audio producers and 5 photographers. it's a collection of audio portraits and photographs created to catpure the stories of work situations related to this country's growing dependence on a service economy.

if you're in or near chicago, or planning a trip here soon:

daily meaning: life inside america's service industries

the peace museum
garfield park, gold dome, 2nd floor
100 north central park avenue

the opening reception is this friday, september 2nd, from 5 - 10.
but you should additionally consider stopping by when you also have time to stroll around the garfield park conservatory, just up the road and probably my favorite place in all of chicago. the exhibit will be up through october.

(bravo, ben!!)

what is the sound of sleep deprivation?!!!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

the sound around

believe you me, i've been listening to a lot of radio documentaries lately. which is why stumbling across the canadian broadcasting corporation's series the wire was a nearly transformative experience - despite all of the new stories in my head, my ears are still ringing from it. the series spans eight hours, all of which explore the impact of electricity on music, and is simply put --> some of the most memorable radio i've ever heard, excelling in both form (beautiful production) and function (it's informative and deeply experiential.)

the wire's website is down right now, due to a 'labour disruption' up north, but i urge urge urge you to check back until it's back up and running. you won't be able to hear the programs online (many samples of copyrighted music complicate the situation, as far as permissions issues) but there's a ton of information about the people and music featured in each show (including...john cage, steve reich, dj spooky, lawrence lessig, amon tobin, kid koala, les paul, bob moog) and there's even a nifty (and informative, to boot) interactive timeline outlining milestones in the history of electricity's impact on music.

in the meantime, if you want to actually HEAR some of it and read an interview with one of the producers responsible for bringing the series to life, we're featuring the wire over at third coast festival HQ, and have posted two 15 minute excerpts from the programs. treat yourself, if possible through headphones, and then if the spirit (or the radio) moves you to, check back in here, and let us know what you think...

Monday, August 15, 2005

grab your passport...and headphones

motion. as i sit here on my back deck, watching the planes fly to and from o'hare, wondering about points of departure and arrival destinations (shouldn't planes have bright, scrolling LED displays on their bellies revealing such things, so curious observers below could know?) i'm also taking a trip in fact, from lappland to indonesia, with stopovers in andalucia and tanzania, by way of sounds recorded in all of these places and uploaded to sound transit, my new favorite daydream- generator.

sound transit is a collaborative online travel agency for your restless, peregrine ears. field recordists, phonographers and audio artists from around the world have posted some of their richest recordings to the site, allowing visitors / fellow travelers to listen or download them individually, or as part of a self-designed itinerary.

tonight's sojourn included very crunchy footsteps in snow, fireworks off in the distance, and a full moon gamelan festival. all of which just barely trumped the roaring cicadas, which somehow are thriving even in the middle of chicago. sound transit welcomes your own sound souvenirs, so don't forget to pack your recorder, next time you venture out into the world...

[happy trails]

Thursday, August 11, 2005


LISSENUPtwo is comingup.

- sunday, august 21
- 7 to 10 pm (listening starts around 8:00)
- in logan square, chicago
- email me for directions

come snack, drink, share the company of fine people and listen to a few audio stories. i don't want to give away too much, but you'll hear from a disenchanted boil, john cage and the VP of the muzak company over the course of the evening, to name a few.

the gathering is free / bring what you will

vacant city radio

sound artist / accordionist / and basically all-inspiring humanoid anna friz can really make radio static sing. i've known anna for a few years now, and her work, which incorporates ideas ranging from the sounds inbetween stations on the dial to the people living inside the radios making those sounds (where else do you think they come from?) is consistently beautiful, often hypnotic (spooky even!) and always provocative in just the right way.

her piece vacant city radio aired on kunstradio earlier this spring, (kunstradio = art radio [literally] and is an amazing show on the national radio organization in austria - the ORF) and will also air in berlin this winter. about the piece anna writes:

"I am interested in these moments of transition between the monumental past and the generic present, particularly in the context of the relatively young cities of North America. Vacant City Radio considers ebbs in place and memory through ephemeral sonic and radiophonic representations of city, through low-watt transmissions of lost sounds manifesting in the dark corners of the dial.

the studio version of vacant city radio floats through three movements in a sojourn across remembered and radiophonic urban spaces.

not all radio delivers information through text or narration, rather for some broadcasts, the experience is the information. to this end, may i suggest you find some quiet time, plug in your headphones and get thee to the vacant city!!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

free movies for the ears

if you've always wanted to book or host a listening event, specifically one featuring strange sounds and music, weird field recordings and psychedelic musical interludes combined into one hour long crazy story resembling a post 9/11 verison of kafka's 'the trial'... well now's your chance. the new free matter for the blind release, psicklops, will be released and effectively tour the world on september 24, and you're invited to not only Get in the Van, but to also Be the Venue.

here's how, according to someone deeply in the know who's taller than you might think:

"email free matter for the blind before August 15th (SOON!) if you are interested. Mention where (city) you would want to do it, and what your general idea is. You don't have to be very specific. A few sentences will be fine."

and as soon as you've sent this inquiring email, you'll probably want to start hunting for comfortable bean bag chairs immediately...

Monday, August 08, 2005

birth of a station

i'm just back from the grassroots radio conference / prometheus project barnraising event in northampton, massachusetts, where i witnessed the final stages of a multi-year effort to bring a new low power radio station to life: valley free radio / WXOJ-LP. i can't tell you how exciting (and slightly surreal) it felt to watch (and help! participation in the process was highly encouraged) this come together, in a day and age where most news about 'new' radio service has to do with clear channel, or the religious right, or satellite radio. there's a brand new radio station on the air, RIGHT NOW!!!

in general i came away more impressed than ever (in awe, really) with the prometheus project, which considers itself 'a collective of radio activists.' this group (and anyone can be in the group. even you) travels around the world (they'll be in tanzania by the end of thursday) helping communities bring low power radio stations to life. additionally the group has lobbied for legislation to change current federal laws concerning media ownership, and by all accounts has become a force to be reckoned with. a force for good, that is.

for those in the chicago area, or anyone that's just waiting for an excuse to
visit the windy city, rumor has it that the next prometheus 'barnraising' (station-building) will take place this november, in champaign-urbana - not so far. check back here, as i'll be posting more information then. all volunteers will be welcome, this i know already.

not only did i witness the birth of a new radio station over the weekend, i also caught an unexpected acoustic performance by thurston moore at a live taping of 'democracy now!'
really, the weekend gave me hope. Big Hope.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

sonic matryoshkii

UPDATE!! thanks to my sister barb for the grammatical correction. apparently, the plural of 'matryoshka,' which used to be the word in the title to this post, is actually 'matryoshkii.' what would we do without sisters?!!!

a few weeks ago while in nyc i had the good fortune to catch an audio installation/tour in central park - janet cardiff's her long black hair, which was originally produced and installed during the summer of 2004, but has luckily been brought back for a few months this year.

during the tour you carry around a small bag containing a cd player, headphones and five numbered photographs.
for 35 minutes you're instructed in every action by a narrator, including when to pull out each photograph, which direction to take when at a fork in the path, when to stop along the way, and you're even asked to perform a task from time to time. i don't want to give away too much about the content of her long black hair, instead i'll just encourage you to somehow find yourself in nyc before september 11 and treat yourself to the experience. but there's one idea maybe worth sharing...

after thinking a lot about the tour, i realized that participating was like being inside the very core of a set of nesting dolls, you know those blob-ishly shaped hollow wooden figures that come apart in the middle, (only to reveal a smaller, identical figure inside, with a smaller, identical figure inside, and so on...) traditionally depicting russian peasant women and girls, hand-painted with complex floral decoration (also known as 'matryoshkii').

here's how:
the smallest doll in this particular set tells my story, of being there that day, and the surrounding circumstance. the next largest doll explains cardiff's efforts in producing the audio tour (hear more about this), the next in line includes the story that begins with the first words of the tour, the next doll contains the sub-stories within the main story, and the largest doll points to the stories unfolding in real time, all over the park and in every direction (like the one about the homeless woman sleeping on one of the benches i was told to sit on) as you walk through so thoroughly ensconsed in the tale being told in your ears. but this set of matryoshkii has been completely assembled - all of the stories are happening simulatenously, layered into one dense episode, perhaps waiting to be taken apart and deciphered individually later.

the production of her long black hair is excellent. it's meticuolously recorded, narrated, timed and conceived. the story is...gradual, and obscure at times, and melancholy in a way that's hard to pin down. the amount of control possessed by the storyteller is phenomenal - her voice becomes your lifeline to progressing, moving, existing even for those 35 minutes that you're inside her voice, inside your own head.

it's not so often that giving yourself over to instruction and direction in this way is so deeply satisfying...
nor lastingly reflection-worthy. ironically, there was something ultimately liberating in such a precise and delineated experience. well anyway, that was my impression. if you've taken the tour, or are able to in the next couple months, i'd love to know yours...

Thursday, July 28, 2005


a comment offered in response to the previous 'big shed' post planted an idea in my head, and got me thinking about how to _spell_ sounds. some, i've concluded, are simply unspellable, at least using the alphabet i've grown up with.

last year i made an audio piece about slide projectors and wanted to title it with the sound of a slide dropping into place for projection, just as the carousel advances.
..but i couldn't figure out how to spell this. in my head, it came out kuh-chunk, but if you read that out loud (which i hope you've just done) i think you'll agree that you didn't sound anything like a slide projector. maybe if there was an umlaut or something, over the second u...

in the end, the piece was (and still is) named "autofocus," (actually the sound of my projector's autofocus is a quiet, sturdy and comforting one, and is not too hard to decipher somewhat reasonably in english: whiirrrhhrrrrh) which is ok, but of course now that i'm thinking about it again, i'm wondering how one _could_ spell the projector sound. or the sound of the dog's nails scraping on the floor every time he gets up from resting. or the sound a peeler makes, when stripping a carrot. or the sound of fingers on a keyboard, in the earliest morning hours...

p.s. relevant, but just barely: remember these?

Monday, July 25, 2005

the best sounding tool in the shed...

as noted at the very beginning of this blog, there isn't much (read: any) audio to be found on it. yet. perhaps this will change one day. in the meantime there are many many many blogs out there that actually _do_ post / podcast audio. one that's wholly dedicated to this, and this alone is big shed, presented by the indiefeed project. if you've been hearing all about That Podcasting Phenomenon but haven't yet taken the plunge, here's a perfect starting point. directions within.

full disclosure - big shed's founder, the generous and keenly audio-minded shea shackleford, invited me to contribute near the beginning of the project, and i was very honored to do so. so if you've always wanted to hear a seventeen minute soundscape about public parks in chicago / audio homage to ice cream trucks, now's your chance.

p.s. the subject of this post, though simply meant to capture attention/interest while referring somewhat obtusely to the content within does in fact beg the question: what might be the best sounding tool in the shed??

Saturday, July 23, 2005

better than sirens

so it's early for a saturday night by some indicators, around 11 pm, but it seems a little bit late for the neighborhood kids to be out and about, counting at the tops of their lungs. this was the sound that greeted me as i climbed the back stairs at the end of a long day -- a chorus of voices, "twenty THREE one thousand. twenty FOUR one thousand. twenty FIVE one thousand..."

but the alley between my home and their sidewalk playground was playing tricks, and so the count seemed to be coming from many directions at once, sort of echo-y, hard to pin down or find with my ears. this called for further investigation, so thirston (dog) and i hit the trail for our nightly walk around the block.

sure enough, we walked into a small swarm of girl counters, barefoot, sweaty, and all jazzed up about the game they were in the middle of playing. "hide and seek?" i asked, hoping to demonstrate my vast knowledge of outdoor, late-night, summertime game options.

"nope," melissa (age 11) explained, "cops and roberts. and the boys are the cops and the girls are the roberts. the cops have to chase the roberts and then we switch and the roberts get the cops."

practically on cue three cops surfaced noisily from around some bushes and the chase began with six shrieking girls taking off down the sidewalk. what these roberts lacked in stealth, they more than made up for in squeal. thirston and i finished our walk, monitoring the game's progress from the other side of the block while also keeping our ears open for a late-night ice cream truck circulating the neighborhood with a 'last call for cones and cups.'

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

competitive model horse collecting

yes, it exists (all around you, i promise) and yes i got a bit swept up in learning all about it. this resulted in the making of a twenty minute audio piece eventually called "are there any more rare, plastic ponies?" which has been played on the radio (june 19) but will also be presented, live (the way i always imagined it should be shared), on july 29 around 8 pm at mess hall, in rogers park, as part of the open source/open ear two-week sound extravaganza happening there. a couple of my other audio pieces will also be "screened," TRT - 'bout fifty minutes.

listen to 'are there any more rare, plastic ponies?'


it's true that my days are already pretty much all about listening, but i've been wanting, for awhile, to do something on a smaller and more personal scale, and was recently inspired to finally get busy with it.

hence: LISSENUP - a semi-regular (every third sundayish) listening thingee where you'll find a variety of radio/audio to listen to, some discussion, snacks and the company of good people.

LISSENUPone is happening july 24 from 7 - 10 pm in logan square.

send an email ( for directions if you're interested in coming, or if you'd just like to receive announcements about future LISSENUPs.

a few details for the curious:

- LISSENUP is free

- some snacks will be provided, by all means bring some to share as well. snack-lucks are beautiful things...

- byob, if you'd like to enhance your listening experience in such a way

- there will be a cat and dog present and roaming, so if you're deathly allergic, you may want to keep this in mind.

on the agenda for the evening:
stories about a pirate radio station and a darth vader impersonator.

a (sort of) introduction

finally, there's time (at least i'm telling myself so) to build a place to think, write and share information about all things sound/audio/ radio/music that are circulating around my brain and ringing in my ears most days.

welcome to lissenup - not just a collection of words about sounds, but a semi-regular listening series in chicago, and a source for finding out about other listening happenings out in the world.

i know, it's silly. not even ironic, but silly - a text-drenched blog with occasional images about audio. well...for now that's enough, maybe there'll be sounds one day.