Category Archives: Music

Holger Czukay: another musician fascinated with shortwave

Holger Czukay

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and resident shortwave music specialist, Justin Moore, for sharing the following from his blog, Sothis Medias:

Holger Czukay was another musician who was fascinated with the sounds of shortwave listening. He brought his love of radio and communications technology on board with him when he helped to found the influential krautrock band Can in 1968. Shortwave listening continued to inform Czukay’s musical practice in his solo and other collaborative works later in his career. It all got started when he worked at a radio shop as a teenager.

Holger had been born in the Free City of Danzig in 1938, the year before the outbreak of World War II. In the aftermath of the war his family was expelled from the city when the Allies dissolved its status as free city-state and made it become a part of Poland. Growing up in those bleak times his formal primary education was limited, but he made up for it when he found work at a radio repair shop. He had already developed an interest in music and one his ideas was to become a conductor, but fate had other plans for him. Working with the radios day in and day out he developed a fondness for broadcast radio. In particular he found unique aural qualities in the static and grainy washes of the radio waves coming in across the shortwave bands. At the shop he also became familiar with basic electrical repair work and rudimentary engineering. All of this would serve him well when building the studio for Can. In his work with the band he not only played bass and other instruments but acted as the chief audio engineer.

Click here to read the full article at Sothis Medias.

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Justin Moore on Making Music with Radios

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Justin Patrick Moore (KE8COY), who is a radio host, radio enthusiast and musician. At my request, Justin has shared the following article excerpts from his blog that discuss the convergence of music and radio:


Imaginary Landscapes

The development of telecommunications technology and electronic circuits had a major impact on the creation of new musical instruments from the very beginning, but it was only in 1951 that a composer first got the idea that the radio itself could be used as a musical instrument.  Since then the use of radio as a source for live, unpredictable sound, music, and voice has become commonplace across the genres of contemporary classical music, and various styles of electronic, rock and pop music. Using the radio as an instrument has become part of what composer Alvin Curran has called a “new common practice” and is just one of many methods being used to create the sonic backdrop of the landscape we now inhabit in this age of electronic multimedia.

“It’s not a physical landscape. It’s a term reserved for the new technologies. It’s a landscape in the future. It’s as though you used technology to take you off the ground and go like Alice through the looking glass.” John Cage wrote this about his series of Imaginary Landscape compositions. Imaginary Landscape No. 4 was first performed in 1951 and is scored for 12 radios played by 24 musicians, two on each radio, one to control the tuning, the other to control the volume. It is a great example of indeterminate music. The only guarantee about the piece is that no performance of it will never be heard the same way. This is guaranteed because John incorporates chance operations to determine how much the dials of each radio are to be turned by each performer. The novelty of each performance is also guaranteed by the nature of radio itself. Depending on the place and time of a performance, the things coming out of the radio speakers are going to be different. During its premier concert at Columbia University’s McMillin Theater those in the audience heard the word “Korea” over and over again, as well as snippets of a Mozart violin concerto, news about baseball, static, and silence. The performance took place around midnight and many of the stations in New York had already gone off the air for the night.  Of course the silence never bothered Cage, who considered  in an integral part of the experience. He had said that “silence, to my mind is as much a part of music as sound.”

Read the full article at Sothis Medias.

The Radiophonic Laboratory

Radio is the perfect medium for the diffusion of electronic music. The unpredictable sounds coming from radios are also a perfect source material. In many cases the production studios available at broadcast facilities made them the first laboratories for the scientific investigation of sound, for the sole purpose of making music, to be used by electronic music pioneers. Likewise these stations became the first to introduce electronic and other avant-garde music to the public. Such was the case with Westdeutscher Rundfunk, or WDR, the German public broadcasting institution located in Cologne. Their Studio for Electronic Music was the first of its kind in the world and became an epicenter for musicians working in the new medium. On the broadcasting side the WDR promoted new music through unique programming that included radio lectures, the playing of live and recorded music, and commissioning new works from composers working in the field.

Read the full article at Sothis Medias.

Telemusik

As the world caught wind of the work being done at the WDR’s Electronic Music Studio, other radio stations and broadcasting corporations followed suit. NHK (Nippon HosoKyokai) in Japan built their electronic music studio in 1955, directly modeling it on the one at WDR. In 1958 the BBC created their famous Radiophonic Workshop. (I blame starting to watch Doctor Who as a ten year old, with its strange soundtrack and incidental music, for what became my lifelong fascination with electronic music.) The studio at NHK was just over ten years old when they invited Karlheinz Stockhausen over to work there and create two pieces for their airwaves.

When he arrived in Japan Karlheinz was severely jet lagged and disoriented. For several days he couldn’t sleep. That’s when the strange hallucinatory visions set in. Laying awake in bed one night his mind was flooded with ideas of  “technical processes, formal relationships, pictures of the notation, of human relationships, etc.—all at once and in a network too tangled up to be unraveled into one process.” These musings of the night took on a life of their own and from them he created Telemusik.

Read the full article at Sothis Medias.

Kurzwellen

Starting in the early 1960s Karlheinz Stockhausen composed several instrumental works which he called “process compositions”. These did away with traditional stave notation and instead used symbols including plus, minus, and equal signs that indicated the successive transformations of sounds that were otherwise unspecified or unforeseeable by the composer. In this way he brings elements of improvisation into the fold of Western classical music where the strict adherence to a fixed score left little room for interpretation by musicians. The scores in his process pieces don’t dictate specific notes or ways of playing but rather specify the way a sound is to be changed or imitated. Taking a cue from his studies of information theory Stockhausen created a way of writing music that is similar to computer programming. The program “determines the way information is processed while leaving the choice of information to be processed to the individual user.” (Maconie 1990, 156-157)

Stockhausen’s process pieces include Plus-Minus (1963), Prozession (1967), Kurzwellen, and Spiral (both 1968). Eventually they led to the text based processes of his intuitive music compositions in the cycles Aus den sieben Tagen (1968) and Für kommende Zeiten (1968–70).

Kurzwellen (Short waves), the third of the process pieces also marks the beginning of Stockhausen’s magnificent voyage using shortwave receivers as a medium for musical transportation. The formal procedures in Kurzwellen (and the others) are fixed. Stockhausen thinks of these not as fixed in the way Beethoven’s Fifth symphony is a fixed piece that will sound the same to a greater or larger degree from recording to recording or performance to performance. Only the processes themselves are fixed. These are indicated primarily by plus, minus, and equal signs and constitute the composition.

Yet the sound materials themselves, like the knobs on the tuners, are variable. The process scores can be followed and bring about very different results each time they are played and yet somehow still sound similar. The sound material coming in from the shortwave radios is unpredictable. Yet the prescribed processes themselves can be heard from one performance to another as being “the same”. These developments in musical theory and practice make live performances and new recordings exciting events.

Read the full article at Sothis Medias.

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Slow Radio via BBC Radio 3

Described as “an antidote to today’s frenzied world”, the BBC has launched a new radio program with 30-minute recordings of “the sounds of birds, mountain climbing, monks chatting as you go about your day.”

With the popularity of Slow Television and ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) I imagine Slow Radio will be quite popular.

Of course, Slow Radio can be heard on Radio 3, via the BBC iPlayer and as a podcast. The BBC iPlayer is geo-blocked outside the UK, but the podcast is available albeit with some advertising.

Click here for the Slow Radio homepage on the BBC.

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Centauros del Desierto: a new shortwave music program on Channel 292

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Diego Collado who writes:

My name is Diego Collado and I’m an 18 year old student from Barcelona,
Spain. First of all, thank you very much for your website. It is a great
place for getting to know the amazing yet sometimes mysterious world of
shortwave listening. It has also been particularly useful when having to
choose a radio for shortwave and mediumwave reception.

I’ve been an SWLer myself for a while now, but I’ve decided to actually
start my own show on Channel 292, rebroadcasting the radio programme I
do monthly at the local radio station in my neighborhood. It is called
Centauros del Desierto“, broadcasting under the “Radio Collado” name
every first Saturday of the month at 19:00UTC on 6070 (Channel 292).
There is also a repetition of the show the Saturday after that at the
same hour, although this is prone to change if there is a conflict in
the schedule. I guess Channel 292 will warn if there is a schedule change.

Here is the show’s website: http://centauros.net

Excellent, Diego! We will all look forward to listening to Centauros del Desierto on Channel 292, first Saturday of the month at 19:00UTC on 6070 kHz! Indeed, I’ll listen for you this Saturday (September 1).

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Guest Post: The Days of AM Pop Music in New York City

Dan Ingram (September 7, 1934 – June 24, 2018)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Patrick, who shares the following guest post:


Dear Thomas,

Thank you for all good articles on the SWLing Post.

After the passing of Top 40 radio disc jockey Dan Ingram of WABC 770 AM and later WCBS 101.1 FM, the golden days of Top 40 radio in New York City, the biggest radio market in the United States has been observed in TV and articles. Since 1988, no major AM station in the New York market plays pop music.

Video: Big Dan Ingram Tribute of YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube.

In 1960 WABC 770 AM changed format top Top 40 with upbeat disc jockeys, taking advantage of its 50,000 Watts clear-channel undirectional transmitter with the possibility to reach distant suburbs even 100 miles away during daytime and large portions of eastern United States and Canada after sunset. Its competitors at time were Top 40 stations 1010 WINS, 570 WMCA and 1050 WMGM but with directional transmitters.

Link: News12: A look inside the WMCA Meadowlands radio tower

http://www.news12.com/story/38678814/a-look-inside-the-wmca-meadowlands-radio-tower

Link: WMCA Transmitter Building in LEGO

http://robbender.blogspot.com/2011/02/wmca-transmitter-building-in-lego.html

Link: Photos of the WMCA Transmitter on Flickr

https://www.flickr.com/photos/docsearls/albums/72157686311013535

In the mid-1960s and on to the 1970s WABC had a long line of radio personalities like Dan Ingram, Harry Harrison, Ron Lundy, “Cousin Bruce” Bruce Morrow, and Chuck Leonard to name a few. Teenagers would enjoy listening to WABC with their transistor radios being popular. In the 1970s WABC was often No 1 or 2 in the New York radio ratings.

However, the Top 40 format was to become less popular in AM with FM stations starting to play hits. WMCA dropped its Top 40 format in the fall of 1970. Despite rivals from FM stations like WXLO 99X, soul station WBLS, album-oriented rock stations like WPLJ and WNEW-FM, WABC stayed on top until 1978 with the only notable AM competitor being 660 WNBC with an adult-leaning Top 40.

But when FM-station Mellow WKTU 92 changed format to disco and became Disco 92, an FM became the No 1 station in New York City putting down WABC to No 2 in December 1978. WABC started to play more disco but the audience became confused. With new management WABC started to aim for an older audience playing more adult contemporary songs. By 1981 WABC played more oldies and started to promote talk shows. In May 1982 it was announced that WABC would become a talk radio station. On May 10, the music ended on WABC and it was in radio called the day music died.

Video: Dan Ingram air check from 1980 on WABC in AM Stereo (Youtube)

Click here to view on YouTube.

Link: AM Stereo – the Kahn system (WNYC)

https://www.wnyc.org/story/am-stereo-the-kahn-system/

Video: The end of music on WABC (Youtube)

Click here to view on YouTube.

Video: Aircheck from WKTU Disco 92 in 1979 (Youtube)

Click here to view on YouTube.

1010 WINS dropped rock and roll music in 1965 and became an all-news station. 1050 WMGM (WHN from 1962) had various music formats until 1987 when it became all-sports.

660 WNBC was the last of the major Top 40-stations to drop music. It had various pop music formats until 1988 when it became all-sports 660 WFAN since WHN/WFAN changed to that frequency. 660 WNBC introduced shock jock Don Imus and afternoon jock Howard Stern.

Videos: WNBC sign-off

(WCBS-TV)

Click here to view on YouTube.

(WNBC-TV)

Click here to view on YouTube.

Many of the disc jockeys, including Dan Ingram, would join 101.1 WCBS-FM, playing oldies with the Top 40 disc jockey upbeat. The classic Top 40 era with double-digit ratings and the nighttime signal reaching hundreds of miles away was gone.

The website Musicradio 77 has a lot of resources and memorial about WABC but also WMCA: https://musicradio77.com

Patrick


Thank you, Patrick, for the stroll down Memory Lane–and thanks for sharing the informative links and videos!

I truly appreciate honoring Dan Ingram as well–no doubt, there are many SWLing Post readers who remember him from WABC. He was and will always be a radio legend.

Post readers: Do you have any memories of AM Pop Music in New York City? Please comment!

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