Magazine article The Spectator

Radio - Communal Listening

Magazine article The Spectator

Radio - Communal Listening

Article excerpt

Where mostly do you listen to the radio? In the kitchen, on the M25 or M62, under the duvet, soaking in a bathtub? We've got used to moving around with the wireless, often listening with just half an ear, not really connecting at all, and with no opportunity to share the experience with anyone else. In the Dark, a band of radio enthusiasts who've got together to produce unusual audio documentaries, is trying to take us back to the sensation shared by those first listeners to radio, when families, friends, neighbours joined up to listen and laugh along to The Goon Show or Children's Hour. They organise communal listening events in unusual venues, usually with the lights out, but with an unconventional twist. This is radio as 'art', not the mangled speech of politicians, DJ-managed music, weather alerts and shipping forecasts, but what In the Dark calls 'found sound' or 'adventures in audio'.

Nina Garthwaite, a founder member, is taking the project on to Radio 4 this month with a half-hour magazine of documentary clips from around the world. Short Cuts (Tuesdays) has been buried in the afternoon schedule and I missed the first programme but was lucky enough to hear a snippet from it on Pick of the Week and was hooked.

A rather cheesy update of Brief Encounter to the last train home from Charing Cross and a couple who'd known each other at school and met up for a night out after a chance encounter on the Tube made me stop what I was doing to listen because of the quality of the production (by Eleanor McDowall). It was offbeat, yet acoustically sharp, and sent me back to iPlayer to hear the other items, lights dimmed, attention switched on. Out of the laptop came the voice of the climber Jim Perrin, suitably craggy and measured, as if with each carefully modulated phrase he was reliving a previously impossible route.

'Misadventures' was the theme of the week, or rather 'True tales of risk-taking', and Perrin's focus was not so much on his sense of achievement on getting to the top of a mountain but on the experience of getting there. He equates rock climbing with rock music: both of them are drug-dependent. For the climber the recreational drug of choice is adrenaline, rather than acid, but the high is exactly the same (Perrin spoke as if he knew this for sure). After the terror of being halfway up overwhelms you, comes the unexpected surge of adrenaline, calming the body and clearing the mind to accomplish the task. But at the top something else happens, the release, when 'the colours suddenly leap out at you, the forms take the most perfect aesthetic shapes . …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.