A little bird told me…


Some news from the Uhrwald, where cuckoos nest at night: I’m very pleased and honoured to have been awarded second place in the Prix Palma Ars Acoustica 2014 for Collecting Clocks and Losing Time (2013), a feature-length radio art composition created in 5.1 surround sound for ORF Kunstradio, on the Austrian national public radio.

Collecting Clocks and Losing Time is part of a body work I’ve been developing over the past four years of iterative experiments with radio and timekeeping, and includes Studio Time (2013), 5 Times (less a hundred) (2012), Measure the time taken (2011), For the time being (2010), and the ongoing project Zero Hour. This piece has some special emotional resonance for me, as it was composed around recordings of my late father’s cuckoo clocks, one of which was broken in such a way as to eternally cuckoo until the escapement runs out. In addition to the individual eccentricities of these clocks, the work features manipulations of the atomic clock, or coordinated universal time as broadcast globally on shortwave frequencies. It would be fair to say I’ve been obsessed with broadcast time since the mid-1990s, and since making Collecting Clocks and Losing Time, I have continued my focused manipulations of clocks in longer form works for overnight broadcast, particularly the 5-hour work Uncoordinated Universal Time (2014).

Collecting Clocks and Losing Time


I have a new radio art/work premiering this weekend: Collecting Clocks and Losing Timemade in 5.1 and stereo (2012-2013),  44:00. It premieres on Sunday, 8. December, 2013, at 23:03 CET or GMT +1, on ORF Kunstradio, Vienna, Austria. If you’re in Austria, tune in live to Ö1 on the radio to hear it in 5.1 or stereo, or stream from their website. You can also listen to the archived (but lower-quality) mp3 stream on Kunstradio any time after.

Developed as part of a suite of iterations about radio and timekeeping (includes the broadcast and performance work For the time being (2010), the compositions Measure the time taken (2012), and the installations 5 Times (less a hundred) (2012), and Studio Time (2013).

The first version of Collecting Clocks and Losing Time premiered at the Tsonami Festival de Arte Sonoro in Valparaiso, Chile, on November 26, 2012, and was then performed in 8 channels at the Deep Wireless Festival of Radio and Transmission Art in Toronto, May 2013. The present 5.1 version of the piece, which premieres on ORF Kunstradio, is the final version of this cycle.

Here’s the description, which, though cryptic, is really what it’s all about:

An aural expedition across zones of hard and soft time, to where cuckoos nest and errant robotniks bungle the machinery of atomic time.

Once upon a time there was a house in the countryside which housed a hundred clocks. Once upon a time the clocks in every home ran on their own time, and all the trains and hotels and shops counted their own time. One day time was made universal, divided into zones, and propagated around the globe. One day microwaves were fired at a cesium-12 isotope, and the rate of electron loss dictated the most standard time of all. Still there were digital devices that did not understand which time zone they lived in. Still the clocks slowed, dragging the seconds and minutes and hours behind them. Still everyone was late.

My father collected cuckoo clocks, which I inherited when he died. He left 5 clocks behind. Once upon a time there were 26. I have come to learn that there are much larger clock collections than this. I have also learned that coordinated universal time is a legend told among the cuckoos in the clock forest on a rainy night.

Recorded in Vancouver and Chicago.
Mixed in 5.1 at Ö1 studios, Vienna, Austria.  Martin Leitner, teknik.