Pitch Battle

Broadcasting a Bit-Stream War

In what may be a new benchmark for "difficult listening," two teams of sound artists based in Belgrade and New York will use the Internet Sunday to wage an audio "war" live on the radio. Organizer Brian Conley has assigned each team an FM channel and limited the weaponry to cartoon sound effects. The teams will first alternate five-minute "volleys"; after 30 minutes an air raid siren will signal the start of an hour-plus all-out war. "Our team has an elaborate strategy, but I won't reveal it," says Conley, who suspects that a recent crash of his hard drive may be a dirty trick by the Serbs. It will be up to listeners to decide the winner, if any.

Conley pulled off a similar stunt in 1996, when New Jersey's WFMU and Columbia University's WKCR battled to a cacophonous standstill, but this time the sides will be separated by a larger body of water. The Belgrade team will be in the studios of Radio B92, a Net-savvy renegade radio station that recently resumed broadcasting from a makeshift studio after the Milosevic government, angry at critical news reporting, seized its offices and equipment. The New Yorkers (including indie wonk Brian Dewan and musicians Joshua Fried and Dafna Naftali) will gather in the studios of Harvestworks, an Alley digital media arts organization. They will be joined by collaborators in Orlando, Florida, using a "teletour," a homemade device developed by sonic pranksters Negativland for long-distance broadcasting over regular phone lines, but a plan to include folks at KPFA, the beleaguered Bay Area Pacifica outlet that has been having B92-like problems of its own, was derailed by technical difficulties.

At noon New York time the feeds from Belgrade and New York will be combined; the streaming audio will be available at www.harvestworks.org and at www.freeb92.com and broadcast in Belgrade by B92 and in New York by WBAI (99.5 FM), barring any snafus. "We may have to have one of the composers at the station in case there's Net congestion," says Carol Parkinson, Harvestworks' director. "We have fast computers, so any interruption would probably be very short." And perhaps welcome.

 
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