Final Project – Reconceptualizing the Auditory and Physical Space of Radio

Radio is a particularly important medium, both in terms of it as a sonic space and its placement within the space of the home. The radio has had a long history as a technology that is consumed daily, which for many people continues to be applicable today. The sonic nature of this technology highlights the power of the voice while emphasizing the notion that it is distinct and separate from the body. This misconception of the voice as separate from the body ignores how embodiment exists simultaneously in physical and auditory space. Moreover, the sound of the radio voice contains particular privileges in regards to who is granted the ability to speak within spaces and who are proscribed to listen. In this way, the radio functions as a space in itself, which is placed in private spaces like the home. This project re-conceptualizes these characteristics of radio space through an abstract sound piece.


Frances Dyson states that in the functioning of the radio “most of what it says is perceived by the listener as factual and informative, newsworthy, or at least dedicated to the betterment of life” (167). Additionally, the radio voice “does not mumble or stutter. It pronounces full and meaningful sentences” (Dyson 167). Radio production, like most mass media, produces polished broadcasts that present a particular degree of professionalism and ‘truthfulness’ to the audience. This sound piece challenges and transforms these notions, presenting an experimental interpretation of radio sound and space. By incorporating recordings of radio technology, broadcasts, frequencies, white noise, voices, as well as ambient sound of the home and bodies that reside there, this project re-articulates the notion of radio spaces, both physically and intangibly. Critically, the piece takes on a narrative form, beginning with an individual walking over and turning on a radio. At this point, the listener is shifted towards the space of the radio as manipulated frequencies and broadcast voices fade in and out. By creating a distorted interpretation of radio broadcasts and space, this project counters the polished, professional and informative structure of the medium.

radio voice

The inspiration for restructuring radio space is influenced by the artistic method of détournement, a signature of the Situationist International movement. A détournement, is an artistic practice that involves the reuse of elements in a structure or space to create a new ensemble, which may completely change its original functioning, thereby creating new meaning (Debord par. 1 & 2). This artistic method is often used in relation to spaces and their contents to establish a new interpretation of cultural signs. The artistic method of the détournement is utilized in this piece by editing and morphing various recordings of radio broadcasts to create a new interpretation of radio space. Aural signifiers are transformed by changing the pitch, speed, tone, timbre, and mastering of preexisting radio recordings. This appropriation of broadcasts is a diversion from the normal functioning of radio. Furthermore, The practice of manipulating radio sound is also inspired by the work of The Hallicrafters. This alternative music/sound art duo of Eric Hubel and Algis Kizys, work with live radio frequencies and channels, manipulating broadcasts in real time during public performance (“Festival du Nouveau Cinema”). By taking on the form of a sound piece, this project is effective because it utilizes the sonic nature and contents of radio space to present its message, which would not be the case if constructed visually or by other means.


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