I’m writing about the radio playlist collaboration I am working on with Thomas Benno Mader. It’s for an online radio station in France called webSYNradio (http://droitdecites.org/websynradio/). They routinely invite artists and musicians to submit their curated playlists. Since they broadcast 24/7 worldwide, Thomas and I have been considering what would capture the sound of being “busy” in our times and how normal it is to be always busy producing or creating your own work. We would like to constitute an actual full day of “busy” sounds by inviting participants to record themselves for an hour during their most creative moment such as studio time. It could range from reading to thinking to talking to typing, or all combined. Since I am deaf and Tom is hearing, we want to balance our standing in this project that deals mostly with sound. Therefore, Thomas and I have agreed that I will have full control over selecting and inviting “busy” people of various professions whom I personally know. Thomas will capture and collect our thought process for the piece in an essay written in English, a second language for both of us, that will be published alongside the recorded material. After we receive an hour-long file from each 24 participants, we will arrange them as a full day and invite the public to tune in to listen to our curated busy day and get a glimpse of our overall progress of executing our ideas. This way we will create a sort of “archive of busy”, raw material people can use to get inspired, to procrastinate or to satisfy their voyeuristic tendencies.
In order to submit, kindly let us know if you are able to participate (or not) and contribute an hour of your time. You could easily use your own iPhone, computer, or audio recorder to record for an hour and send the file to us via email or wetransfer.com (no need to sign up for an account!). Also, please write a sentence or as much as you like of what exactly you did during your hour, so I (along with potential deaf readers) can envision your time, making our project conceptually accessible. This proposal also overlaps the idea of trust; we ask that you do not listen to your own file after recording as we would like to keep this as raw as possible. We would need it by Monday, May 12th and this project will be posted online by the end of the month.
Unfortunately, this does not come with a budget but please feel free to propose an exchange (such as your file for our busy-hour file or the like).
Thank you for taking your time to read this! We sincerely hope you will consider contributing your busy hour to us.
Compiling a playlist can be a sign of affection. Typically done for friends and/or lovers, it is a task that is done with the people one cares about in mind. The content is carefully debated and selected, the audience’s taste considered and the different components arranged in an often time consuming procedure. It is then re-arranged again and again until the result is perfect and each individual component has found a place where it will shine on its own, but still complement the others. A playlist can be made for a variety of reasons – to make a good time even better, to make a dull time more bearable, or to distract from the boredom of a repetitive task.
Sometimes compiling a playlist can also be an egotistical endeavor. The selector puts themselves in a superior position because they believe that their taste is worth dedicating time to, or that it might even be better than somebody else’s taste. They believe that their future audience will grant them their time and attention. At this moment the playlist becomes more than just the sum of its components. It becomes a sort of business card, a letter of recommendation, a sonic representation of the selector that is almost larger than life. At this very moment that selector’s reputation is on the line, because every time a selection is being presented to an audience, it becomes possible for the audience to judge and to criticize. The selector could then possibly lose a trust that was only an assumption right from the start.
What medium does one choose to get one’s message across? How many people can one successfully communicate with anyway? If the medium one chooses is meant to spread a uniform message to as many receptors as possible, does this mean that the communication is flawed from the start? Perhaps this is just the subliminal and subversive potential a successful communication needs. If the process of communication is riddled with loopholes, the content becomes open to interpretation. This is the moment the selector’s authority becomes undermined. Trust is only the initial element that is required to get the process started and, once the momentum has gained speed, the following events are no longer under the selector’s control.
Nonetheless this initial trust is essential to the process. What if the selector is not a native speaker? Is this selector still a trustworthy person? How much of a voice and how much of a body does a medium require in order to get a message across? Is the relationship between listener and selector being destroyed if the selector cannot access the selected material directly? Is the message of the medium too uniform to truly catch the audience’s attention? Is it merely background noise, a pleasant white noise that covers the boredom of everyday activities and repetitive tasks? What does it take to grip somebody’s attention, to have them look up for just a second and think: “What was that?”
Whatever the reason for compiling a playlist is, be it altruistic or egotistical, it is always done with a deep appreciation of the content and its producers. Effort and time went into all of the steps required to compile a playlist and a selector’s process is still considered work, even if they were not directly involved in the creation of the content itself. They are in full control of the process, but the interpretation of the result is somebody else’s job.
This playlist is an archive of motivation and interaction. It is an invitation to get involved in the process and to bring it to an individually shaped end, despite the technical limitations of the medium and questionable motives of the selector.
To be busy means to invest time and energy, but to experience somebody else being busy can result in all sorts of reactions. One can become inspired by these creative people and feel like creating something oneself. Or one might just relax and let somebody else do the work for once. The world is still turning, even if you are having a gloriously lazy day. Being busy and procrastinating always go hand in hand. So have a busy day, but have it your way.
Christine Sun Kim and Thomas Benno Mader
TBM: How familiar are you with the concept of a playlist?
CSK: Not really familiar, it’s more of a list that automatically jumps from a song to another. Like this mad men marathon I was on two weeks ago. TBM: Is this the first time you were asked to compile a playlist?
CSK: FIRST TIME EVER.
TBM: Do you consider other deaf people as an audience when you create art?
CSK: Almost never.
TBM: Are you an outsider in the deaf/art community?
CSK: Always was/am. Also an outsider of all other communities. But aren’t we all?
TBM: When you mention deaf, does hearing always come up? Are the two categories forever linked?
CSK: Yes. Would like to make it much less binary.
TBM: Is sound a multi-sensual experience?
CSK:Not sure – its more of using other senses to justify “listening”, but there are other ways around it rather than using your hearing. Am I making sense?