20 June 2012, The Longest Day of the year marks the launch of the unique and colossal archive of a 744-hour online radio project called Radio Boredcast. Curated by Vicki Bennett (People Like Us) with the UK AV Festival, Radio Boredcast responds to our ambiguous relationship with time – do we have too much or not enough? – celebrating the detail, complexity and depth of experience lost through our obsession with speed. BASIC.fm first hosted the project through the duration of AV Festival (1-31 March 2012) and now accessible for “Listen on Demand” at freeform radio station WFMU. Within this goldmine of author programs there are 6 episodes of Zepelim. A must listen for radio lovers and supporters of radio art!
If the eye is entirely won, give nothing or almost nothing to the ear…and vice versa, if the ear is entirely won, give nothing to the eye. One cannot be at the same time all eye and all ear. – Robert Bresson, Notes on Cinematography
This episode of Zepelim sets out to make the eye impatient by presenting the sounds of non-dialogue scenes edited from 10 Manoel de Oliveira films. The cinema of Oliveira is known for its careful balance of image, words, and silence. There is a frequent use of static frames and extremely long takes wherein the characters deliver their lines while facing the camera, as if their dialogue was taking place in a play. This way, the spectator’s attention is deflected from the image and zeroes in on the words being spoken. In contrast, scenes without dialogue gain their significance as highly visual experiences – the ear tends to rest while the eye “is entirely won”. From the perspective of someone working in radio, I became interested in the auditory ambiance of Oliveira’s wordless scenes and background sounds that under normal film-viewing circumstances might blend in with the process of intaking image and either get overlooked or woven into the fabric of the image.
By separating sound from its image, Zepelim aims to explore the rich auditory dynamics of Oliveira’s non-dialogue scenes. The sounds presented in this collage are not organized according to the films’ chronology or storylines. Rather, they are grouped as much as possible according to other properties like volume, pitch, and intensity of the samples as well as by common themes like footsteps, motors roaring, wind blowing, characters breathing, wood creaking, etc. In the context of radio, these sounds become the focal point while unique new visual layers are free to form in the listener’s imagination. The sounds were taken from the following films: The Hunt (1963), Past and Present (1972), Benilde or The Virgin Mother (1975), Voyage to the Beginning of the World (1997), My Case (1987), The Cannibals (1988), Word and Utopia (2000), The Uncertainty Principle (2002), Belle Toujours (2006) and Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl (2009).
Manoel de Oliveira was born in Porto (1908) to a wealthy family from the North of Portugal. His father was the first man in Portugal to produce light bulbs. The young Oliveira had an ecclectic youth – competing at the pole vault, working as a professional racecar driver, and even performing as a trapeze artist. When the dictator Antonio Salazar seized power in 1932, Oliveira was just beginning his filmmaking career. His first films were documentaries (like “Douro, Faina Fluvial“), but in the early 40s he made Aniki-Bóbó, his first feature-length film. Over the following decades, Oliveira continually pioneered new styles of cinema and eventually secured his place as one of Europe’s most prolific and important filmmakers. At the age of 80, he hit the pace of making one film per year. This year Oliveira is 103 and still going – the world’s oldest active filmmaker.
The May 2012 issue of The Wire Magazine #339 features a chart compiled by Zepelim. To celebrate the Springtime, a chart of “Music to Grow Plants”. This chart is the sum of sounds presented in Zepelim’s forthcoming episode dedicated to our connection to plants through bioelectronic punctuations of energy as well as in a more mystical/pseudo-scientific way. The tracklist is composed of music made by codification of plant DNA, talking to plants, bioelectronic sensorial music, field recordings with contact mics, solar powered music, plant comunication and music inspired by plants.
Music to Grow Plants By 15
Plant Talk/Sound Advice (Plant Talk Productions)
Fern Formations (Lo Recordings)
Patterns of Plants (Tzadik)
Contact mics affixed to plants in the rain connected to amps inside studio (AARC)
Lingual Music (Paradigm Discs)
Quayola/Mira Calix/Oliver Coates
Natures (via quayola.com)
Sun Boxes (Paper Garden Records)
Mother Earth’s Plantasia (Homewood Records)
Dr. Linda Long
Music of the Plants (Molecular Music)
The Sex Life Of The Fern – Spores, Fertilization And Growth – Pine Cones And The Petrified Forest
Rudy Vallée and His Connecticut Yankees Orchids In The Moonlight (Victor)
Pandora’s Box (Atavistic)
In response to our ambiguous relationship with time – do we have too much or not enough? – Radio Boredcast celebrates the detail, complexity and depth of experience lost through our obsession with speed. With over 100 participants Radio Boredcast includes new and unpublished works, freeform radio shows, field recordings, interviews, monologues and much, much more. Thematic playlists will run throughout from “Acconci” to “Zzz…”
You can listen continuously for a month, or for hours, minutes or seconds. Online 24 hours each day, avfestival.co.uk / thepixelpalace.org. Co-commissioned by AV Festival and Pixel Palace, hosted by BASIC.fm.
Radio Boredcast launches on 1 March.
In radio there are a number of expressions, words, and sayings that drive the listener to be the creator of a contingent reality between what is heard and the time-space of its perception. For me, one of these words is “ether”. Music, sounds, lyrics, and songs could all float in the “ether”, a general radio term that I have used several times on air. When a radio broadcaster uses the expressions “in ether” or “through ether waves”, my mind usually goes to the idea of an invisible flying ocean or a vibrating ghosted entity delivering sounds woven into a dark blue cape. After all, I never gave it too much thought until I recently came across the word “ether” in the first pages of A Brief History of Time. Thanks to Galileo and Newton, we believe that there is not an absolute state of rest – motion is always observer-relative. Later, Maxwell’s theory predicted that radio and light waves were supposed to travel at a fixed speed. The problem was that this speed had to be relative to something. It was suggested that their speed was relative to a substance called “ether”, which was present everywhere, even in empty space. Ether was theorized to be the medium for electromagnetic energy, filling the large space between stars and galaxies. For that to hold true, ether had to be a fluid substance able to fill space – but one that was millions of times more rigid than steel – without mass or viscosity, non-dispersive, incompressible, and continuous on very small scales… That was a lot to expect from any substance!
The most successful failed experiment in science
During the years between 1881 and 1887, the physicist Albert Michelson and the scientist Edward Morley performed a series of experiments to determine the existence of light’s intergalactic medium – ether. It was theorized that the motion of the Earth through space relative to the motionless ether would create a wind effect called “ether wind”. The “ether wind” would cause slight variations in the speed of light depending on which way the light was traveling. Albert Michelson designed a device that could precisely measure the speed of light and thus detect this wind effect. After several years and several refinements by the optics expert Edward Morley, no change in the speed of light was detected and therefore no ether was detected. Disproving the existence of ether was a major step leading up to Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity. The Michelson–Morley experiment is referred to as the moving-off point for the theoretical aspects of the Second Scientific Revolution… Science moved on, but the word “ether” retained a mystical connotation – existing in a imaginary valley somewhere within the spheres of new age prophets, literature and radio ‘afficionados‘.
In this episode I trace a radiography of my perception of “ether”, rescuing old tunes like the Italian operatic soprano Amelita Galli-Curci (1882-1963) singing the beautiful theme ‘Crepuscule‘; the obscure music of Don Moreland Bert Williams; the soothing harp of Dorothy Ashby; orchestral sounds of Frank Chacksfield and Glenn Miller, Spade Cooley & The Western Swing Dance Gang and the exotic Lord Beginner. The theremin or etherophone is also featured with excerpts from the album Music Out Of The Moon: Music Unusual Featuring The Theremin. Curiously, in a recent book by David M. Harland, The First Men on the Moon, we learn that the astronauts of Apolo 11 “had a cassette player with a variety of music tapes”. Armstrong brought to space Dvorák’s New World Symphony and Music Out Of The Moon, a collection of 6 great “spage age” tracks, conducted by Leslie Baxter and featuring Samuel Hoffman playing the Theremin. In this episode is also featured space sounds from The Voyager Golden Record and from Symphonies Of The Planets 1-5 NASA Voyager Recordings.
Charting the Uncanny Valley 15
Basil Kirchin – Heavy Machinery – Abstractions Of The Industrial North [Trunk Records]
The User – @ . } @ } . @ . } @ } . @ . } @ } . @ . } – Symphony no. 2 for dot matrix printers [Staalplaat]
Cybraphon – A March For The Sea – Cybraphon demos [Alt-w]
Idea Fire Company – Body Without Organs – Explosion In A Shingle Factory [Swill Radio]
Bruce Haack / Esther Nelson – Ok Robot – Listen Compute Rock Home [Emperor Norton]
Pupa Jim – I Am A Robot – I Am A Robot [Jahtari]
Gottfried Michael Koenig – Funktion Grau – Acousmatrix ½ [Bvhaast]
Alain Savouret – Valse Molle – Le GRM sans le savoir [INA GRM]
Alessandro Bosetti – Gloriously Repeating – Royals [Monotype Records]
Kurt Schwitters – What A B what A B what a Beauty – Kurt Schwitters: What a beauty; Die Ursonate; und andrere lautgedichte [Wergo]
RIAA – A Frottage Co-Sale [RIAA]
Christof Migone – The Death of Analogies Part I – The Death of Analogies [ND]
Marin Marais – Tableau Of A Lithotomy – Norgine Ltd present “Tableau Of A Lithotomy” [Norgine Ltd]
Mount Vernon Arts Lab – Warminster 4 – The Seance at Hobs Lane [Ghost Box]
Satanic Puppeteer Orchestra – Where Is My Mind – Name That Tune [SPO]
Radio Universidade de Coimbra has transitioned into the summer schedule. You can visit Ruc’s brand new website and listen to the new shows . Zepelim will not be aired during this period. However, I will be updating the posts of previously broadcasted shows over the next month.
This episode of Zepelim is inspired by the Uncanny Valley, a term coined by the Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori that appeared for the first time in 1970 in the Journal Energy. The Uncanny Valley is one of the most intriguing and poetic concepts in the field of robotics in that it conveys an important message about how human beings interact and how we deal with the perception of the unfamiliar and death. In this show, Zepelim follows the curves of the Uncanny Valley chart, presenting a sound collage featuring sounds from industrial robots to humanoid robots and uncanny soundscapes.
Charting the Uncanny Valley
The Uncanny Valley describes a phenomenon that arises when we chart human likeness in relation to familiarity. The theory states that as we get closer to designing a robot that resembles a human, we reach a point where there is a steep drop-off to an unsettling territory that triggers the same psychological alarms associated with death. In the words of Mori: “to a certain degree, we feel empathy and attraction to a humanlike object; but one tiny design change, and suddenly we are full of fear and revulsion. That area is what I call the Uncanny Valley.” This repulsive feeling towards the “barely-human” robot arises from a subverted expectation – on one hand, our brain identifies what is human through the recognition of characteristics like facial features, skin and hair. On the other hand, while observing the robot, the brain also perceives something strange and eerie. Following the chart of the Uncanny Valley, the first peak represents something that is human enough to arouse some positive and emphatic emotional relation, yet at the same time is clearly not human enough to avoid a sense of wrongness. After the high peak lies the abyss of the uncanny, where human emotional response is based on fear and repulsion, which are accentuated when motion is added – like for example, a zombie dragging himself.
Mori took the term Uncanny from the essay “On the Psychology of the Uncanny” (‘Über die Psychologie des Unheimlichen’) written by the German psychiatrist Ernst Jentsch in 1906, which explored the thought processes humans go through within the borderline that divides the familiar and the unfamiliar. Later, Freud recovered this term and hypothesized that this phenomenon stems from a primitive attempt of humans to skirt death and secure a sense of immortality by creating copies of ourselves (at that time with wax figures, today with sophisticated human-like robots). Freud quotes the Austrian psychoanalyst Otto Rank in saying that “doubling behavior is an energetic denial of the power of death”. Freud ends to say that “the double reverses its aspect. From having been an assurance of immortality, it becomes the uncanny harbinger of death.”
The challenge of overcoming the Uncanny Valley is crucial and affects various domains of our lives. The entertainment business would
definitely benefit from not having such an eerie Tom Hanks in Polar Express. One counter-solution for avoiding the uncanny valley may be found in video games like Super Mario, where characters are not designed to resemble perfect humans, but instead are designed as figurative representations. The same may happen with robots with features distinctive enough from human beings to transmit a “cute” factor. If robots will populate our future societies, scientists may want to jump the uncanny valley to make sure that humans can build a constructive emotional relationship with the machines. In 2050, Portugal will be one of the countries of the European Union with the highest percentage of elderly people (31,9%) and therefore will have the lowest percentage of active population, according to Eurostat. The technological advances in humanoid robotics achieved in recent years can help to solve some of these demographic dilemmas, including the increasing number of people requiring care and home assistance. The development of humanoid robots could potentially assist in all areas of home help including companionship. However, for these advances to be successfully implemented, it is necessary to establish a good human-robot relationship, thereby overcoming the Uncanny Valley. Recently, scientists from Geminoid Lab at Aalborg University have claimed that they have made an android that transcends the uncanny valley – the Geminoid-DK. See for yourself.