With the proliferation of audio webstreams and all sorts of digital smart boxes calling themselves radios, we need to ask, well, if these streams are becoming ever more fluent, then what space is being drained? When someone asks me, as they do, often, if I love Pandora, well, what sort of bugs are they asking me to love?
- Radio poesis flows from the edges, some of them very fragile and sensitive, and occasionally they may even swell or bleed. Edges between signal and noise. Edges of frequency and range, both of which implicate edges of power and politics. Edges between attraction and repulsion; between Eros and Thanatos, or utopia and oblivion; the double edged ambiguities of sender and receiver caught in their limbic limbo dance. How low can we go?
As any biologist will confirm, edges are very often the key to the vitality of an ecosphere. Without edges, exchanges of energies (be they hoots, howls or body fluids) are rapidly and perhaps terminally diminished.
When I bemoan the lack of poetic or aesthetic diversity on public radio (whether CBC, NPR, BBC or wherever), I am bemoaning the lack of edges. Instead of program streams that celebrate lively & liminal qualities such as fluid ambiguity and slippery murk, qualities that give heart and truth to the medium, we hear nothing but tight and tidy pitter patter, which in an infinitely messy cosmos (well expressed within the human species) serves up the ultimate deceit.
But at least within the edgelands of analog broadcast, the curious and hungry listener can still find refuge in the dank cosmic electromud squeezed between signals or smudged at the far ends of the dial: the intrinsic poetry of the medium is still safe, and easily accessed, no matter who or what is on the air.
So what about web radios and digital broadcast formats such as DAB? Well, I have no quibbles with the acoustics or the sound envelopes or the infinite variety of coded signals, if that is what your ears desire. What bothers me is the near complete elimination of edges, within the idea that the medium has of itself. The pops and growls of random noise and interference have all been mathematically cleansed from the system.
Yes, I know: that’s the point! But at what price to those who wish to creatively play inside the space? The once intricate and indefinite relationship between sender and receiver has been flattened, codified, tracked and tabulated. No more random and completely unexpected crossings, since navigation is now rationalized and purposeful. Listener behavior is recorded, analysed, packaged and sold, all in the name of “enhanced service”.
The murky boglands have been drained of their vital mystery and replanted as an immaculate suburban garden, while the bugs inside Pandora’s little black box have no stink, no rub, no click and no bite. How can any sort of poetics, or any sort of art, come from there?