whiteout transmission series

Posted on | November 13, 2012

whiteOutwhiteout is a new series of live FM transmission performances exploring and questioning the aesthetic of noise on the radio. These new textural works are created live in the moment through the use of multiple analog electronic instruments and a 7-watt FM transmitter. Each work is recorded directly off the radio as it was potentially heard by the listener. The whiteout works are generally performed in undisclosed locations although a few public performances have recently been held. So far the whiteout itinerary includes Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Houston, Austin and Los Angeles with the possibility of additional cities being added. A collected set of all the performances in the whiteout series will be released as a deluxe limited edition, collectable box set available sometime in early 2013. More info will be available soon.

Project Statement:

I was about twelve when I first became aware of how beautiful radio noise could be. I recall laying in bed and listening to my portable shortwave radio, slowly turning the dial, but allowing for long pauses on the dead spaces, as I moved from one distant broadcast to another. At times, I think I was more interested in the sounds produced by the odd interference and signal modulation than the broadcasts themselves. I would often drift to sleep listening to the ghost like voices buried beneath layers of slow and undulating static. At that age, I didn’t think much about what attracted me to the noise. I just enjoyed its sometimes violent yet mysterious and relaxing qualities. Looking back on those late night listening sessions in the early 80’s, I’ve come to realize the impact they had on my own development as a sound artist and electronic musician. The seeds for my awareness of the radio as an expressive medium were probably planted during this years. Of course, I was totally unaware that artists like Neuhaus, Stockhausen, Vostell, Cage and others had already begun exploring the possibilities of the radio as an art form decades earlier.

With this in mind, two years ago I began to include live scanner feeds in my concerts and performances. Unlike shortwave radio, scanners pull from air traffic, police, ham and other types of local broadcasts within just a few miles of the listener. The idea of incorporating live, local transmissions into the performance as a sonic fingerprint of the local geography was appealing to me. I saw it as an aural snapshot of that very moment or even an invisible, stringed instrument of sorts.

Recently, I was in my car listening to the SPK debut album Information Overload Unit from 1981. About halfway through the albums opening track Emanation Machine R. Gie 1916, I became aware of how much it sounded like some of the textures and modulating frequencies I would listen on the shortwave for hours as a kid. I began to wonder if a musical performance of pure analog electronic “noise” was broadcast on the radio, how would a listener moving through the dial know what they were hearing was an actual broadcast? And if they did, how where they able to discern synthetic, controlled noise from pure generative noise? It is my hope that the whiteout series of performances brings the very essence of noise, music and even our own environmental sonic awareness into question.

Updated november 14, 2012:

Above are images from whiteout.3 – Pittsburgh, PA. Live June 17, 2012 on 102.9FM
Below are two complete performances.
photos: beth brown

whiteout.5 – Acra, New York- 96’03” performed live at the Wave Farm October 27, 2012 on 90.7 FM

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whiteout.1 – Washington DC – 21’26” performed live June 2, 2012 on 105.3FM

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About

Jason Sloan is a new media & sound artist, electronic musician, composer and professor at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland.

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