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Shortwave Radio, CD Players, the Inner Ear and Waltzing Goldfish

Medium-specific practices in sound

The Radio Canada International (RCI) shortwave transmission site before a storm. Sackville NB, August 2013. Image © Amanda Dawn Christie. [Click image to enlarge]

Theoretical discussions of medium specificity within electroacoustic and sonic art disciplines often draw on individualized works definitively bound to a singular medium. In practice, however, artists engage with the idea through a somewhat broader reflection on practices, projects and processes that prove challenging or impossible to “translate” into another medium.

About This Issue




For the Record. Thoughts on Medium Specificity in the Sonic Arts

The concept of medium specificity has history. Jan Thoben visits works by Marclay, Miller, DeMarinis and Brand in order to review its theoretical implications and develop a perspective on medium-specific practices in sound that draws on the idea of technological affordance.

Technological Media


Hacking the CD Player

Experiments with 1990s-era CD players led Nicolas Collins to develop a number of player-specific hacks to control them more directly, reminiscing on turntablism techniques. The laser could skip across the surface like a needle, but it could also stutter, squawk and jump-cut like no other.


Les ondes cachées entre le son et la lumière : Détournements de cellules solaires dans « Scanner Me, Darkly »

Media zombification begets optical listening. Modified scanner heads are used in a process that converts signals from solar panels into sound in Stephanie Castonguay’s performative installation, Scanner Me, Darkly. The soul of an obsolete technology is revived and hacked for new purposes.

The Environment and the Human as Media


Ohr-Weide — Salix aurita: A Work for 150 floating loudspeakers by île flottante

Visitors for the 50th anniversary of Basel’s Merian Gärten were treated to a site-specific work created by île flottante. In Ohr-Weide — Salix aurita, 150 floating loudspeakers travel downstream emitting sounds entirely made from voice recordings, extending the surrounding environment.


Performing the Listener: Utilizing auditory distortion products in the compositional process

Contemporary electroacoustic artists such as Brian Connolly draw on and exploit the increasingly common practice of integrating psychoacoustic phenomena. His work forges new artistic areas that employ the listener’s ear itself as an “instrument” or medium that in turn generates sound.



Low-Watt Radio and the Technological Mediation of the Voice: Or, Radio, voice and the sonic commons

As far back as 1993, Kathy Kennedy was using low-watt radio in performance works for choir and radio broadcast that addressed and explored issues of public and private space, and the ubiquitous technological mediation of the voice.


Requiem for Radio: Sound sculptures, shortwave simulcasts, performances and pirates

Requiem for Radio is a body of works created by Amanda Dawn Christie that uses a variety of mediums and materials to explore the loss of the Radio Canada International (RCI) shortwave transmission site, while engaging with and involving the international DX and pirate radio community.



Crazy Things Happened that I Can’t Imagine Ever Happening Again: Interview with composer and visual artist Charlemagne Palestine

With a central theme of the resonance of physical and sonic materials inhabiting spaces, Charlemagne Palestine’s career extends from experiences as a bell ringer through studies with Pandit Pran Nath to a role in the late 1960s and early 1970s Downtown New York scene.

Other Items


Unpopular Music at the End of the Universe: Burning Man as a venue for multi-channel electroacoustic music

Deep in the Playa stands a circular structure offering shelter from the desert wind and respite from the bustling hub in the form of a non-stop programme of multi-channel works. Come for the sunset, stay for the sunrise.

Works by some authors and / or artists in this issue can be heard in, the CEC’s online electroacoustic jukebox:

Media in This Issue

Fondation SOCAN Foundation

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