Outside the Box

Jay Needham curated an evening of radio art pieces and surround sound works on Saturday April 2, 2011  for the Outside the Box New Music Festival, a festival of sound and music at the University of Southern Illinois, Carbondale, Illinois. My good friend and collaborator Eric Leonardson was on hand to play live, and the rest of us contributed our works remotely for the surround listening experience…. the “rest of us being” Dinahbird, Ron Coulter, Zoe Irvine, Jean-Phillipe Renoult, Barry Truax, and myself.

I had hoped to come down and play in person, but I was in the middle of moving down to Chicago and couldn’t bend my head around anything other than boxes, so I sent along the remix of Pirate Jenny which just played in Estonia at Radiaator last month. Jay had a nice setup to play the radio pieces back through a muster of radios, and I’m super pleased to have Pirate Jenny in circulation again. I really think it’s time that she came out of hibernation and started up some new trouble. What have those little people in the radio been doing for the past few years anyway??? Stay tuned….


I have a piece in the listening room at the first ever Radiaator Festival in Tallinn, Estonia March 17-18, 2011. I’ve sent them a remix of Pirate Jenny, called “The Clandestine Transmissions of Pirate Jenny: Are you one of us?”

Some great live performers will be making noise and radio, including Felix Kubin, Sarah Washington and Knut Aufermann, Paul Devens, Neboisa Milikic, Eesti Elekter, LokaalRaadio, and EleOnora.

If you’re near Tallinn, you can listen on 107.2 FM, or head down to EKKM, the Estonian Museum of Contemporary Art.

“For the time being” premieres at Äänen Lumo

linnunlaulu_bridgephoto courtesy of Tuuli Kyttälä

I was commissioned by curator Kimmo Modig of the Äänen Lumo: Festival of New Sounds in Helsinki to create a new piece for radio and performance about Helsinki, without visiting the city. You’ve never been here? Oh good, he said, please don’t come. But we have some keen sound design students from the Theatre Academy who will be your agents in this enterprise, who will record what you ask, and perform what your score.

For the time being is the result–the first in what will eventually be a series of works about transmission and timekeeping. Five people live here. One person lives seven timezones away and has never been here. How can time and place be heard and shared across blind distance? For the time being explores the subjective rhythms of micro-local time and experience against the standardization of ‘universal time’ in broadcast media. This piece records time passing in Helsinki, measured in both the regulated time that otherwise rules our lives through mediated timekeeping via watches, mobile phones, radio, television, train schedules, and in the polyrhythms of the city at dawn and dusk.

I sent my five agents (Ina Aaltojarvi, Roy Boswell, Ilpo Heikkinen, Tuuli Kyttälä, and Johannes Vartolaout) once a month for four months (beginning June 21, 2010) to a location of their choosing in Helsinki at either sunset or sunrise to record the ambience. They were also asked to count passing moments aloud, based on the rhythm of some characteristic element of their chosen site. Finally, they recorded some incidences of time-keeping from broadcast media heard in Helsinki. Once I received their recordings and sound journals from each recording session, I crafted a score, with some rules attached to it, which the five agents (under the name Suomen Teatteriorkesteri) will be performing for the opening of Äänen Lumo in Helsinki on Monday, November 8, 2010. Meanwhile, I’m making a composed piece called For the time being (clock radio mix) to air on the Finnish national radio station YLE.

The Suomen Teatteriorkesteri will be performing in a darkened cinema, with a mix of raw and modulated field recordings and auxilliary electronics. The score does not dictate treatment or duration of each section, and performers may make choices as to whether or not they will overlap sections.

For the time being, performance score (2010)

time (media, solo)
mic handling
time (media, duet)
clear sky
multitudes of birds
time (chorus)
rhythm (small droplets of water)
everybody’s just passing me by
sneaky listening of people talking
talk to someone
wind, water
time (solo)
time (chorus)
all the people are missing
rhythm (tiny insects are flying in the air)
the place seems even a bit more familiar this time, as though it was expecting me
time (solo or chorus)

For those of you in Finland, you can tune in to the broadcast of live and taped pieces on Mon 15 Nov, 10:05-11:05pm on Ääniversumi radio show, Yle Radio 1. It will remain online for Finnish listeners only for some time afterward, so look for a podcast or audio file.

The Wire #320 on Radio Art

cover320The October 2010 issue of the Wire features a cover article by fellow radio art enthusiast Knut Aufermann. There’s a very nice mention of my recent radio installations, as well as other excellent artists and projects like the international independent radio art network Radia FM, Tetsuo Kogawa, Reboot FM, Radioerevan, and many more.

News from the dissertation cave….


Radio listening continues, even when the chips are down and the doctoral dissertation must be finished. This little baby doesn’t actually receive any nearby stations, but the white noise is sublime.

Lots of good news for future projects, however:

I have received generous post-doctoral funding from the Fonds de recherche de la société et la culture (FQRSC) in Québec which will allow me to spend two years in Chicago at the School of the Art Institute. I’ll be moving stateside in April 2011 to get that rolling, and look forward to hanging out with the distinguished sound geeks there, including my long-time collaborator Eric Leonardson.

Meanwhile, the winter will be dominated by writing, editing, and production on a couple of great projects:

I’m working on a new commission called “For the time being” for Äänen Lumo Festival for New Sounds, taking place in Helsinki November 8-14, 2010. I have been especially invited NOT to attend the festival, but to work with five excellent sound students from the Theatre Academy Helsinki to create a new work for Finnish public radio, as well as craft a score for the intrepid agents to perform at the festival in a darkened cinema. They’re out there with their microphones at the ready, even as I write! Looking forward to working with the material they send me.

300 Tapes will premiere at the Theatre Centre in December 1-12, 2010 here in Toronto, and then head to the 25th playRites Festival at in Calgary in February 2011. It’s a Public Recordings show directed by Ame Henderson, and developed over the past two years in a company residency at the Theatre Centre in Toronto. I’ve been a co-creator of the work, as well as composing, sound designing, and will be doing live sound for the shows. Yes, there really are 300 tapes in the show, as promised.

Fresh from a rip-roaring run at the Minneapolis Fringe, Evalyn Parry’s bike show SPIN will also get its first full-length run at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre here in Toronto in March 2011.  I’m doing sound design and performing live in that one too (it’s the one show where I get to SING as well as twiddle knobs!)

And now, I need to get back to my nice little static, as it were.

The Lost and Found

Mercer1_webradios_Mercer_webE.C. Woodley and I have an interesting side project going titled after his long-running radio show on CKLN 88.1FM here in Toronto. He brings the records from his most recondite collection (featuring spoken word and misc. arcana pressed to vinyl back when the top speed was 78 rpm) to sample in long form, and I bring the glorious noise of radio world, all spatialized into three vertical layers of sound. 

Our most recent gig was at the opening of Deep Wireless on May 1, 2010, and the above photos are from our previous outing at Mercer Union‘s “Music in Alternative Spaces” in July 2009 (both locations in Toronto). Our set-up riffs on traditional radio listening (the big central radio around which the audience gathers), as well as my multi-channel tactics (in this case, an array of hanging radios, and speakers above the radios in the ceiling). 

Here’s how the official line on what we’re up to:

“The Lost and Found” is an ongoing collaboration between Anna Friz and E.C. Woodley to explore phenomenologies of recording, radio, and electricity, and the materiality of the transmission environment. Woodley uses three turntables to work with curious recordings, giving preference to these sounds as discrete entities, an audio equivalent to the approach Canadian visual artist Greg Curnoe used in his collages of the ‘60’s. Friz adds VLF, shortwave, interfrequency static, and live electronics to the mix, and spatializes the sound via multi-channel micro-radio transmission to an array of vintage receivers. “The Lost and Found” convenes a communal ritual of radio listening, and promises an evening lost and found voices heard in the dark corners of the radio dial.


Friz and Woodley met in 2005 over an impromptu collaboration on Woodley’s long-running radio program (also named “The Lost and Found”) on CKLN-FM in Toronto. Woodley has also written music for many films including Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” and his brother Aaron Woodley’s “Rhinoceros Eyes”, “Toronto Stories” and “Tennessee”.



I know, I know, another scene of sound artists pouring over gear on a table. At least we sit off to the side, so people can choose if they want to watch us twiddle our knobs or not. For the Deep Wireless gig we had the lighting adjusted better than in these photos, and I also replaced the Grundig Emergency radios in the array with a series of bigger transistor radios from the late 60s-early 70s (Nordmende Globetrotter, Transita, and Corvette; plus a Bel-Air and a Panasonic). 

Respire at Nuit Blanche Toronto, 2009

Well, the all-night frenzy of Nuit Blanche is over for another year, and my radio installation Respire had a steady line-up of visitors through the night. Toronto area artist and photographer Tom Blanchard took some marvelous photographs of the piece:



Building up “Respire” for Nuit Blanche


Yes indeed, Nuit Blanche, Toronto’s all-night art event is fast approaching, and I’m busy preparing to hang the big radio array in Zone B (in the lobby at 100 Yonge Street to be precise). Trevor Schwellnus is designing my rigging plan, and we’ll all be up and down ladders for a few nights later this week. 

But here, just to prove that art can still be a lot like working in factory… Trevor and I spent two days tying radios onto cable so we can get it all in the sky and then let down each radio on it’s little thread. Phew.


Open Studio at Gibraltar Point for 100th and 10th Anniversary Party


AGP Postcard 2 One Page

I’ll be holding an open studio on Friday September 25 (6-10PM) and Saturday September 26 (12-5PM) for the 100th and 1oth anniversary events at Artscape Gibraltar Point Arts Centre here on the Toronto Island where I’ve been camped out making art for September. Friday night promises to be a magical evening, with the Shadowland Puppet folks leading a procession from the Centre Island ferry to Gibraltar Point at 5:30PM. For all the details, check out Artscape’s site.  

I’ll be showing the in-process version of Respire, which will be installed shortly after at Nuit Blanche, October 3, 2009 here in Toronto! Come listen to the little radios breathing in the dark…. I’m in the portables out back of the Arts Centre at Gibraltar Point, so come on by and say hello!

Here’s a shot of radios hanging in my little studio:


a little lakeside radio….

I’m renting a studio at the Gibraltar Point Arts Centre on the Toronto Island for the month of September, where I’m preparing for a couple of upcoming Toronto installations: Respire at Nuit Blanche (October 3, 2009), and Domestic Wireless, Dust (as part of the Leona Drive Project, October 22-31, 2009). Glorious weather plus water and wind and  trees equals bliss! But little did I know that there are a series of AM radio transmitter towers down here. The business of broadcast never stops…..


…. and perhaps I ought to slap a warning on my little work shack out here: