Lost Among the Penny Dreadfuls ~ Marjorie Van Halteren
Imagine sitting with Marjorie’s old cat, as she surmises the instance of listening and making radio; of making, now, a podcast that meanders through sound artistry—often a duet with herself and another artist, in and around her adopted home of Lille, France.
Her episodes don’t care so much if you don’t speak her languages and those of her cohorts—English and French—as they compose a conversation, eventually a performance; though it’s never not clear.
Aside from working in radio drama and stand-up comedy, being a founding producer of WNYC’s long-running Selected Shorts, a founding member of the Association of Independents in Radio (AIR), and moving towards live improvisation, one of Van Halteren’s life highlights is having met John Cage, among other sound-centric luminaries.
That Tuesday is 9-episodes full with a promise of two more. Visit Marjorie Van Halteren for more projects
All the forgotten curiosities ~ Adriene Lilly
The thing I find liberating about podcasts is that it isn’t live radio. It’s just a feed of downloadable sounds. It can be eight minutes of running water, followed by a 45 minute episode interview with a congresswoman. It’s freeform radio without the time and location constraints or station cost (or the station manager). Sure, the surrounding culture can get saturated with talk of download statistics, audience development and branding, but we can rise above that.
So when I started writing out my thoughts for Earlid, I was ready to exalt the medium while offering a critique of some of the ways we’ve chosen to talk about it.
But as I wrote, I realized something that should have been obvious: I don’t make podcasts.
I do however, make audio. But instead of embracing what podcasts can be, I release most of my own audio art through Bandcamp or in two minute audio selects that eventually drift to the bottom of my Twitter feed. While some of my work has been featured on podcasts, I don’t have a show myself, I don’t work in series, and what I produce rarely sounds like a podcast in the popular sense of the word. Because despite how freeing podcasting can be, it is also limiting in the way we chose to talk about it. For newcomers the term “podcast” doesn’t exactly evoke a sense that you’ll encounter a diversity of form, if anything it hints at just a few limited formats.
Maybe the same critique could be made of radio. But radio does at least offer a long and curious artistic history from which to find the permission to experiment in sound.
But audio of all kinds forgets, it drifts past us, and its histories are not granted the same prestige as film or literature. And as a result, each new generation of would-be sound artists and documentarians must find their own way into the archives. The podcast community is getting there. More and more I find myself talking to podcasters who want to experiment, to disrupt, and to hear what else can be done. But often they don’t know where to start.
I point them to Earlid, Ubuweb, Third Coast Festival, Radiophrenia, HearSay, the Creative Audio Archive, and to programs that celebrate form: ABC Australia’s Soundproof, BBC’s Short Cuts and, recently, from Toronto, Constellations, among them.
My own permission to make sounds came years ago after hearing the WFMU podcast version of Vicki Bennett’s radio program Do or DIY.
Finally, a brief meditation:
We need to be able to think about podcasts as an art and to think beyond a surrounding culture hyper-focused on download statistics, copyright, and branding. We need to allow ourselves the space to breathe and to be willing to, on occasion, abandon storytelling, let go of the scripts, and elevate the sound design of a piece to the same level as the voice.
We should embrace the wealth of incredible, curious sound and radio art, soundscapes and collages, fictions, and mystical material that exist across the wider audio landscape. Let these works broaden how we think about audio, how we think about podcasts. We should be willing to risk making bad, unlistenable, dull work in the pursuit of something new, and to be curious enough to spend time digging through what came before to hear what we can do next.
To update Christopher DeLaurenti’s closing line from last year’s Radio’s Art forum: Ultimately, Gimlet will be Gimlet, and you will have to navigate to interesting destinations of your own volition.
To help all of this, I teamed up with Stuart Lynn to carve out another space for audio curiosities. An anti-podcast podcast that functions like freeform radio where audio experimenters of all kinds can send work, and listeners of any variety can dig through an ever evolving, and deeply eclectic feed: Long Live the New Sound.
Visit more projects constructed by radio- and sound-artist Adriene Lilly. Follow and listen to the increasing shares to Long Live the New Sound.