How ‘Sŵn’ Is Noise: A Foggy Transmission

A few week’s ago I was approached by Cardiff’s Sŵn Festival Radio who asked if I would be interested in curating a programme for the ‘Experimental hour’, part of their week-long transmissions on 87.7FM (and online) for this year’s Sŵn Festival.  I didn’t need to be asked twice, particularly as fellow curators included Messers Robin Rimbaud and Connor Walsh aka ‘Scanner‘ and ‘that In The Dark chap’. The Festival may now be over but the archive of transmissions has now been put up on Mixcloud to be enjoyed and savoured FOREVER AND EVER, so I thought you’d appreciate a link.

As with life in general, the hour can be divided roughly in two, the first half bouncy and upbeat and the second rather more sinister. For all the amusing clippped voices speaking to you from the antique past, the moment Ken Nordine apparently phones himself up you just know that you’re in for a decidedly spooky time. There’s some misappropriated instructional recordings left over from my recent ‘Looking Good, Feeling Great‘ series for Resonance FM, an extract by Oscillatorial Binnage of an amplified Baptist Church and the hour ends with an exclusive 15-minute work entitled ‘The Foggy Transmitter’. It’s my salute to the secretive world of Numbers Stations documented so beautifully by Irdial’s Conet Project recordings, to Guglielmo Marconi‘s pioneering radio experiments at nearby Lavernock Point in 1897; and finally to the very modern development of online speech synthesisers and language translation engines, perhaps the latest ripple created by that enormous splash the great Italian inventor made on these shores 116 years ago (if you’ll forgive a clumsy metaphor – and a very long sentence). I was originally going to try and pass the whole thing off as a fake recording of a Welsh Numbers Station, but quickly realised nobody would be fooled for a second.

On a sombre note I’d like to dedicate this hour to fellow doyen of the mixing desk and expert speaker of Welsh, Mr. David March who provided me with some pointers when looking for Welsh language recordings and then suddenly and tragically died in Snowdonia on the week it was transmitted.  The World Service has lost a warm smile and a firm arm on the tiller. We will miss him greatly.

Another recent development I completely forgot to mention – new Howlround album Secret Songs Of Savamala featured as part of Monocle’s Culture Programme  a couple of weeks ago. You can hear the interview here, alongside a full hour of other stimulating stuff including Mark Kermode, Laura Cantrell and Massive Attack. What distinguished company I keep these days, albeit in ‘pre-recorded playlist’ form.  And then that affable fellow Strictly Kev of DJ Food fame went and reviewed it on his blog as well!

I haven’t been this excited since I was “book-ended” by Cliff Richard and that Jar Of Hearts woman, the name of whom I can’t be bothered to Google. I did have to Google Marconi’s first name, however, and use an online translation engine to work out how to pronounce it: ‘Goolie-Elmo’, apparently. Sounds horrific…

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