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Playing the Radio: A Personal History 285 sound, as opposed to "musical" sound, was undoubtedly the main ear-opener in a history of radio as instrument. Important to me were my being present at two or three presentations in 1964 of Blonde Cobra, a unique film made by a relatively unsung but incredible New York filmmaker, Ken Jacobs. The film has an optical sound track of talk and music, but as the description of the film for prospective writers in the New York Film-Makers' Coop catalogue says:" Very Important. A live radio, loud and clear is to play twice during Blonde Cobra. Easy timing instructions come written with the film." My first attempt to play the radio was the sound track for my 1967 film Standard Time, 10 minutes. The film is a number of circular pans from a fixed tripod in what was then my loft home in New York. The camera frequently passed the hi-fi equipment , includingthe radio. After seeing the footage, I decided to tape separately a playing of the radio, making a kind of Doppler effect by turning the volume down and up and changing stations in an aural imitation of the image. The sound was not intended to be in sync with but parallel to the movement in the picture. I was also playing the TV set in the '60s. In 1970 I made several short-wave radio tapes, parts of which were used in my four-and-one-half-hour film Rameau's Nephew by Diderot (Thanx to Dennis Young) by Wilma Schoen, finished in 1974. In 1961 a very interesting Cage-influenced "conceptual" artist (before the term existed) named George Brecht issued a box of his compositions called Water Yam; each piece is printed on a separate card. They're all very simple, tiny but strong gestures . Amongst them is this: "Instruction. Turn on a radio. At the first sound turn it off." When our group the CCMC made several concert tours of Europe and Japan between '74 and '88, a favourite game in our van or car was Brecht's piece, but I don't think any of the members of the group knew that Brecht had "patented" it. Try it. There are probably many more people around now who would have no problem with considering the radio a musical instrumentthan when Cage first performed Imaginary Landscape No. 4. I personally don't recall whether I knew about this work when I made my first attempts to use and hear radio that way. In 1970 or '71 Columbia University in New York City had a retrospective series of concerts of Cage's work. I heard the performance of his radio piece and ... I didn't like it very much! Of course it is historic and did open up an area of artistic endeavour, but as a piece it used so few of the possibilities of twelve radios that I was very disappointed. ...


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