“Jennifer Callaway’s ‘No Ground,’ commissioned for the Radia network’s first broadcast of 2023, is a composition that takes a single 27 minute live improvised recording of a 1940s Bakelite valve radio, and subtly weaves this instrumental base into a patterned sonic fabric with several other musical and sonic elements. It is a delicate meditation on radio as instrument and channeller of the unknown, and a dual love letter to the medium’s long histories of domestic sonic use and its role as gateway to sonic experimentalism.
To ‘ground’ an analogue radio is to earth it, with this process located somewhat literally in the geographic; the ultimate goal being to locate a local frequency bandwidth signal. An improperly earthed radio wanders the dial, never able to fully fix down on one location; it might pick up several signals at once, or none at all. Many contemporary transmission artists and composers have become enamoured with such indeterminate phenomena, in the context of living in the world of digital radio (which in a cultural sense is still radio, but in a material sense is arguably not radio at all), dialing back into the histories of radio through its potential as a physical medium, re-learning the lessons first encountered by the earliest amateurs and their crystal sets, hearing again the sound of the first violin transmitted on the night airwaves, or the frail morse of a maritime signal speaking across the as-yet unlanguaged sea. Here, we are collectively listening back beyond Stockhausen’s Hymnen, which in its prescient beckoning to a global geopolitics in a polyphonic entanglement of nationalisms, was nevertheless a high Modernist composition, grounded within the signals provided by their translation into the anthemic - and monolithic cultural position of the radiophonic. This itself might be one key to listening to Jen’s composition No Ground, as it joins this conversation. A mobility and precariousness found in our contemporary media ecologies moves back into the analogue; the dial is now an ungrounding, that resists the very idea of the signal as a resting place within the sea of noise, it playfully flutters around it, it speaks back to the everyday droning voices found there with not a small amount of humour and transforms them through active listening, not for sense but for sound. It is resolutely un-earthed.”
Sally Ann McIntyre, January 2023.
Jen Callaway is a Naarm/Melbourne (AU) based musician, sound and performance artist, and photographer, raised in various parts of Lutruwita/Tasmania. With a special interest in psychodynamics, hauntology and conservation, current projects include bands Is There a Hotline?, Propolis, Snacks and Hi God People.
Une émission proposée par Jennifer Callaway et Radio One NZ pour le réseau Radia.fm.