Radio Oracle

Continuing the festival’s ethos, Radio Revolten—the book—has also been organized and written collectively by its organizers and its observers.

Gabi Schaffner’s Radio Revolten Diary was a live-stream blog during the festival and peppers the book’s pages, offering a different kind of festival documentation. It’s like a back-lit scrim we get to peek through to see and hear the numerous strands of radio artistry and its echoes.

Two walnuts and four acorns collected from the Botanical Gardens in Halle became my set of questions for the Oracle.”

— Gabi Schaffner, Radio Revolten Diary

The festival’s Radio Oracle, perched high up in the market church towers, feels like an overseer to the month-long events. And it is the narrow outdoor bridge that might make a visitor queasy in the same way that sound can dismantle the listener, whose origin is mysterious—like a radio signal. (Nausea is rooted in the word noise.)

Marold Langer-Philippsen settled into the south tower as Radio Oracle. He broadcast for one hour, daily, beginning at 5 p.m. and if you wanted to ask him a question, you had to climb 225 steps to the cozy nest of a radio studio.

The Red Tower (right, with advertising poster for exhibition in the city museum) and the twin towers of the market church (the left one being inhabited by the radio oracle). ~ all images this page by festival photographer, Marcus-Andreas Mohr ~

Brave souls visited; they saluted the crows and jackdaws perched atop the towers. But Ralf Wendt, who describes this aspect of the festival in the mid-section chapter of the book, suggests the Radio Oracle “acted more as a good listener than as an esoterically charged authority on the future.”

The Oracle told me that all directions are good. I went down the steps, crossed over to the record shop around the corner and wasn’t seen for the remaining hour.”

— Gabi Schaffner, Radio Revolten Diary

The market square seems further ‘overseen’ with the Hausmann’s Turme (double church towers) and Roter Turm (Red Tower). On the latter’s 500-year-old crown is a sphere whose long spikes were conceived to ward off evil spirits towering from its supreme height. Wendt and others conjure these as a visual equivalent of antennas—they can transmit in all directions.

In fact, at the radio festival 10 years prior, in 2006, the festival frequency was broadcast from this unobstructed vantage way up in the air. This physicality and nearly spectral vantage, again, served the artists and observer-listeners well.

Red Tower as Antenna

UK artist Sarah Washington’s In the Air We Share took the Tower of Babel into consideration with her multilingual words and phrases spinning about by chance. Her installation was housed in the Roter Turm, however the radio broadcast version of the work was hosted by the Radio Oracle high up on the bridge between the two Hausmann’s Turme.

As the bodies of visitors climbed the tight spiral staircase, voices within the towers transmit information about an elevated state of being, calling upon something other than the physical body to ascend through space.

A compelling aspect of this installation was the adjunct broadcast version for three radio frequencies, which aired during the festival, excerpted here. Visit the gallery of images of perched listeners, by festival photographer Marcus-Andreas Mohr.

Horns, Radio, Midi, SMS

Imagine giant quadratic horns roaring in the midst of a city’s central market square, autumn pears being packed into crates. The gingerbread vendor declares the sounds are too loud, though his daughter suggests you could call it music. For the festival’s opening performance, a radio-controlled composition by Rochus Aust was performed by the First German Electricity Orchestra. The square saturated with brutal force. The sounds blasted from the ground and rooftops (very loud and strange noises that came from the so-called quadrophones, which were dotted around the marketplace) into the ominous weather of an approaching thunderstorm. Nature’s own climatic ‘music’ accompanied the sonic artistry.

In a recent email correspondence, Radio Revolten festival artistic director Knut Aufermann remembers both the launch and the closing concerts emanating from high up in the tower, which houses the world’s second largest carillon with 76 bells.

“The carillon can be played manually or triggered via midi and was already made use of during the first Radio Revolten in 2006 when visitors could trigger the ringing out of radio jingles via sms messages. In 2016 we could again use the carillon for our festival courtesy of the city of Halle. One use was that the bells would play the intro and outro jingles for the daily show of the Radio Oracle (just after 5pm and just before 6pm), who was situated in one of the two towers of the market church, nearby on the market square and who would use a shotgun microphone to pick up these sounds for his show. These jingles were slightly different each day and were composed by Viennese composer Rupert Huber.”

Hans W. Koch, Roter Turm carillon

“A second work for the carillon was a composition commission for Hans W. Koch with the request to utilize the carillon along with the two FM frequencies at our disposal (Radio Corax and the Revolten festival frequency). After an initial visit Hans decided to play the carillon himself (he has a background as a church organist) and came up with the title glocke+tier which translates to bell+animal.”

The performance took place at 6pm on the 30th October, the last day of the festival, with as much mystery as Koch could muster.

“Due to the fact that the clocks had changed back to winter time in the night before, it was already pretty dark on Halle’s market square. There were not too many citizens on the streets as shops are shut on Sundays in Germany. We brought around 100 small portable transistor radios (borrowed from community radio station FSK in Hamburg) out on the market square and handed them out to the audience that had turned up to witness the concert, telling them that they could choose either of the radio frequencies that would be part of the piece. Apart from the title of the composition and Hans’ request for recordings of some obscure animals that could be found in the Halle Zoo we did not know much about what was going to happen. Hans had delivered two sound files that were to be played on the two FM frequencies, he knew that synchronizing the playback on two radio stations was not a simple feat and had built this fact into his composition.”

“Some visitors had brought their own bigger portable radios and made sure that the levels between carillon and the two radio channels were well matched. As people walked around with their radios taking up more and more space on the square, some began to form in pairs, to be able to hear both radio channels. Right from the start it was clear this was going to be fun, when the first animal noises rang across the market square. The first trumpeting of an elephant sparked the first laughter in the audience, the typical German division between E- and U-Musik (ernest and entertainment music) was broken. Passers-by realized that they had wandered into a concert performance and were handed further radios. The furious finale of the piece ended with applause from the square and somebody shouting Zugabe (encore). Many people waited long minutes to welcome Hans back on the square with more applause when he emerged from the small entrance door of the tower. The recording by Rodrigo Ríos Zunino was made with a small stereo recorder, a field recording that captures the interplay of the carillon and the portable radios.”

All photos: Marcus-Andreas Mohr

Listen to the final part of glocke+tier for carillon and two groups of performers with portable radios. This time the carillon pealed alongside recordings of other city sounds—from Halle’s zoo—broadcasting on two radio frequencies.

Squeals and animal grunts and bird calls accompanied the bells blasting for the closing festival performance.

Recorded by Rodrigo Ríos Zunino.