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BEHIND THE SCENES with Nadene Thériault-Copeland


Nicholas Longstaff *on Waiting . . . for Love

Radio is a medium of the voice -- at least the radio I find myself listening to most often. The interview, the news report, the ad for whatever-it-is-which-must-be-bought-NOW-without-waiting, all these tend toward a single voice at a time, delivering a single message. Waiting ... for Love combines six different voices from a six-speaker installation I created many years ago. Then, the idea was to encircle the listener in all the denials of love I'd received and (shamefully) used myself. Now, in simple stereo, the experience is more akin to a barrage of personality. (Think AM radio in prime time.

The radio is a tool of one-on-one communication. I remember well the time this concept sunk in for me: Shelagh Rogers on CBC said to a guest, "Remember, most people are listening in their car, or doing dishes." Here then, with this work, is a chance for a many-to-one relationship. But the many are all abstracted from the one. More simply explained: I pitch-shifted my own voice both higher and lower to create the illusion of different people speaking. This allowed me to possess the phrases that had plagued me throughout my somewhat unnecessarily troubled teenhood. Beyond that, I've not yet had a radio presentation where my carefully chosen profanity is allowed to reach the ears of the listener. It is strange to me in this time of tolerance and open-mindedness that this should still be an issue, but there you have it: the boundaries must be stretched

Regarding culture: Culture reaches beyond the boundaries of skin, street name, and shoe style. A culture is a mode of thought, and how better to illustrate the confusion of our culture than with the heart-pounding schizophrenia of the hopelessly romantic and helplessly unattached boy reaching everywhere for what he needed to find in himself

Is sound art experiencing a renaissance in Canada, or is has it historically had a presence there

Yes, sound art has historically had a presence in Canada. Many artists in Quebec still follow the musique concrète and acousmatic art tradition begun in France in the 1950s, which is one of the many precursors of sound art. Additionally, over the years, conceptual visual artists across Canada have also made sound-based works -- an activity that came to a peak in the 1980s (well-documented and contextualized in books edited by Toronto sound/radio artist Dan Lander). This inclination has given rise more recently to the creation of sound-based multi-media and installation works made by artists from a variety of artistic backgrounds -- theatre, digital media, sculpture, and dance. Although sound art has been around in Canada as long as it has anywhere else, it has not received the critical attention that it has in Europe. New Adventures in Sound Art, along with a handful of other organizations here in Canada, are trying to change that. We try to promote both existing and newly created works in events that are accessible to the general public

And then there's radio art -- sound art that's actually well-suited for the airwaves. But that's a tricky distinction. To your ears, what makes an audio program a veritable piece of radio art

When a piece is radiophonic it generally means that it has used text either as spoken text or speech within its composition or that it has derived its theme from a poetic, literary or conceptual idea. The exact phrase "radio art" means different things to different people. In Germany, for instance, the term radio art is used only to describe a piece created for radio that is "cutting edge." We use the term a little differently and perhaps in a more general way to mean sound art for radio. I would call radio art selections "pieces" or "compositions," rather than audio programs. Some are quite short pieces meant more as a glimpse of something, and others are more in the radio documentary style. What makes a veritable piece of radio art? Ingenuity, for one; the use of sound in interesting ways. For example, a piece can stand on its own without having a story-line attached; and a story can unfold without the use of spoken word, through sound. This is not to say that a radio documentary can not be considered radio art because I believe it can. It's all in how the radio producer (or composer) uses all the options available to create a unified and integrated experience for the listener. On a personal note, I just recently heard a documentary on CBC radio about Nelson Mandela that was spectacular for me as a listener because I felt as though I was reeled into the experience and didn't want to leave that listening space -- in fact, I remained in the listening space (i.e., the auditory experience created for me by that particular piece) for quite awhile afterwards

How did you solicit the radio art featured on the Deep Wireless compilation

A call for submissions, Radio Without Boundaries -- What Is Your Culture? , was disseminated nationwide. This call elicited pieces from Vancouver to Newfoundland, all conveying the word "culture" in much different ways

What inspired the theme for the compilation Radio Without Boundaries—what is your culture

The theme came about with the realization that there was not much cultural representation at the Deep Wireless 2003 festival. We wanted to see people from all walks of life making radio art or at least experimenting with sound beyond the normal boundaries set by the radio medium or their culture. Although the pieces we received for this call were diverse in nature and represented many of the styles within Canada, it still didn't represent the vast cultural diversity in Canada. I'm hoping with time, that this will change

Where are the programs on the DW compilation played? How are they heard across Canada and elsewhere

The point to producing the Deep Wireless 1 compilation CD was to get as many programmers as we could to help us celebrate radio art in the month of May 2004. We sent copies of the CD to radio programmers across Canada for airplay as well as to stations that asked for it. This included community radio stations from the west to the east coast in Canada, ten-plus stations in the U.S. including NPR Washington, Resonance-FM in the UK, and another station in Mexico. It was also played on a couple of the CBC's daily shows -- Definitely Not the Opera and The Arts Today . Currently, I'm still receiving requests for copies from radio stations both from the US and Canada

What are your future goals for the Deep Wireless project? Will we be hearing more cds down the road

Our goal is to continue to provide a reason for artists to create new works for radio and to continue to provide radio producers with pieces that use radio in interesting and evocative ways. Deep Wireless is an annual event that attracts artists from across Canada, the USA and internationally. It is a celebration of radio art in its many varied forms: radio drama, radio theatre, soundscape, documentary, to name but a few. It is for the artist and the radio producer alike and always will include speakers and radio works that provide both a historical background and new and innovative ways to use the medium. We plan to include a CD compilation with each annual Deep Wireless festival . We want to promote radio art so that we can encourage the production of interesting radio pieces and promote their airplay throughout May with the idea that these radio programmers and producers will become interested in it for the long-term.