The best radio station in the world went on the air June 12, and it’s going off the air again July 5. Resonance Radio, put together by the London Musicians’ Collective (the people behind the excellent magazine Resonance), is part of the Meltdown Festival that’s being curated this year by Radio One DJ (and new-minted OBE) John Peel. Thanks to English legal vagaries, the station has a limited lifespan and can only be heard on actual radios in the center of London, but any computer with RealAudio can pick it up at http://www.l-m-c.org.uk/resonance.htm.
RR’s manifesto calls it “a museum of modern art for sound,” and eight hours of each weekday are devoted to radio art new and (mostly) old: Antonin Artaud’s once banned “Pour en finir avec le jugement de Dieux,” F.M. Einheit’s “Radio Inferno,” a Tristan Tzara play adapted by Montreal teenagers, a collection of Londoners’ recordings of their favorite sounds of their city…. There’s also a nightly avant-mix showcase, a superb international kids’-music show, live performances, spoken-word pieces, and special events (June 27 is “Saturn Day”: 15 hours of Sun Ra). Late-night programming is “nocturnal and durational works,” meaning quiet stuff and long stuff, followed by “Dawn Chorus,” field recordings in the literal sense–an hour and a half of birdsong. (There’ll always be an England.) Even the test tone is art, created by the Finnish group Pan Sonic.
On RealAudio, with its limited fidelity and frequent breakups, Resonance comes across like a transistor radio under the covers–teasing, frustrating, demanding concentration, sometimes thrilling. These vintage pieces may be arty and conceptual, but they’re classics of their kind because they work moment to moment, too. A good museum has its own kind of immediacy.