Tag Archive: radio art

My long essay on the future of acoustic storytelling has finally been translated into English. You can read and download the full text on my website. Here is the tl;dr version:

Radio plays, features, radio art, reportages and literary readings are acoustic storytelling. Acoustic storytelling is the art of radio. With its production of acoustic narratives, radio generates cultural assets whose lasting value is expressed in the currency of attention. In a changing media landscape, linear broadcasting models become the enemy of attentive listening. The only place listeners can choose when to listen is online. The internet is not a supplementary medium to accompany radio programming. It is becoming the medium and the technical infrastructure through which radio is received. Media convergence has rendered the concept of broadcasting obsolete. In response to changing listening habits, acoustic narratives must be made available via the internet: on demand and forever. This requires a central online portal for acoustic storytelling. Radio becomes a platform for creating contexts where listeners can put together their own programme. Content producers must be properly remunerated. The networked radio play is a form of acoustic storytelling that has yet to be invented, but which might be a timely response to the changing media world.

IMG_0518The text discusses the German radio landscape, where the federal structure of public-service broadcasting is in contrast to the anglo-american system. But nonetheless, my deliberations might pose some general questions about the challenges radio plays are confronted with in the digital age. The translation was accomplished by Nicholas Grindell. The text was also the basis for some sort of manifesto I developed together with Heiko Martens and presented at Berlin’s Akademie der Künste in March of this year. The “digital manifesto” can be listened to at this site, but only in German.

German radio WDR3 will broadcast two new compositions of mine tomorrow, Friday 13th of March. “Chronostasis” was commissioned by the Studio Akustische Kunst of WDR3 and features ticking clocks organized in dense rhythmic structures. You can read more about the piece here. There will be the possibility to download a MP3 for one week after the broadcast, the link can be found on this page. Take the advantage: I put a lot of work and heart in this endeavour and I think it is a rewarding experience, especially for repeated listening. The second composition is called “Phonemenon” and a somehow special course in phonetics. A narrator is introducing the scientific names of the phonems which are then interpreted by the young and very talented singer Almut Kühne. The piece is a mixture of expressive voice improvisations and pre-composed passages, every voice was performed by her sticking to the correct sound of each phonem. The composition raises old questions about the relationship between language and music and suggests that both spheres are unthinkable without the extraordinary sound capacities of the human voice. You can listen to both pieces as a live stream of WDR3 on Friday night 23:00 German time here.

The Drip at Hering

Michael Rüsenberg and Dietmar Bonnen have a little series of listening events they call hering. It is intended to offer a special listening experience that is accompanied by water and bread, later wine. This track was my collaboration for the recent events in Wuppertal – 25.4.08 -, Düsseldorf – 3.5.08 – and Köln – 16.05.08 -. It is actually an excerpt from a very early demo stage of my composition dripping, that didn’t made it in the final mix.


This is a composition that I finished in 2000. I still like it, it is very slow, even meditative and connects a simple piano movement with original daily recordings of my backyard. That is what I wrote about the piece at that time:

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself” from Zenrin Kushu, a slim volume of Zen Buddhist teachings.   

The theme of Tagesringe is the inexorable passing of time and the steady rhythm of the days. A period of 61 days is spanned at a slow tempo, simple piano chords mark the transitions from one day to the next, and the seemingly banal is condensed into an intense experience of subjective time. The idea that days differ from one another in terms of sound characteristics and perceived duration came from the phenomenon of annual rings in the wood of a tree.

Tagesringe was inspired by an idea from Paul Auster’s film Smoke, in which the main character begins each day by taking a photograph of the crossroads where he lives, building up a collection of photographs of the same subject over years. Translated into the acoustic sphere, this yielded simple ‘rules’ for the realization of the sound composition: 1) Every morning after breakfast, record the random background sound at a fixed location for two or three minutes. These recordings were scheduled to span a period of two months covering the transition from winter to spring. 2) As a contrast to this extended image of an acoustic environment subject to constant change, play a piano improvisation consisting solely of long chords. For this recording, the following rules apply: one take only, that will then be used and left unchanged; improvisation to be executed with ‘empty mind’, i.e. with no intentions and no desire for musical expression; only white keys to be played, musical content should be reduced to a minimum. This piano recording was then manipulated in such a way that the tail phase of each chord was extended to infinity, blurring into a cloud of sound. The piano improvisation served as a framework on which to mount the outdoor recordings, with each chord marking the start of a new day and the length of the chord determining the length of the selected passage. Tagesringe begins with an introductory endless chord and the first day only begins with the second chord. The piano chords accumulating into a cluster stand for the idea of time extending outwards in concentric circles, where the present contains ripples from the past.

The location used for the recordings was the microcosm of a rear courtyard in Berlin, as heard from a top floor balcony, where the sounds of the city beyond are always audible across the roofs. Each new day/chord is marked by a single random event: children playing in the yard, someone emptying their rubbish, workers renovating an apartment, a plane passing overhead. As the days succeed each other, minimal changes in the basic sound structure can also be detected: it is as if every day had its own individual atmosphere. Weather features like wind or rain make for more drastic contrasts. On some days, radio broadcasts from the nearby television tower are captured on the left channel, a type of ‘interference’ whose unforeseeable occurrence finally became a characteristic element within the piece. Over the period of 61 days, the arrival of spring makes itself felt: songbirds return from their winter locations, leaves grow on the trees and rustle in the wind. In this compressed form, the imperceptible action of time’s inexorable progress is revealed to the senses. The steady rhythm of the days appears as the return of the similar, as daily renewal within apparent sameness, comparable with the concentric rings radiating outwards from a stone thrown into water.