Radio radio

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A recent radio news item reminded me of an oddly unsettling experience. In the summer of 2007, my book “Fundamentals of Sonic Arts” had just been published and was generating a gratifying amount of response. I was contacted by Michael Rusenberg from Germany. Michael is a great advocate of sound art and, in addtion to his own work runs a very useful website and a regular programme  on WDR3 (the German equivalent of Radio 3). He was about to visit the UK and wanted to record an interview with me for his programme so, in due course, we recorded our discussion in his London hotel. This was very much a first for me and, despite being a huge boost for my ego, was more than a little alarming when I realised that it would be broadcast by a national radio station. Fortunately, Michael conducted the interview in English and explained that I would be “re-voiced” in German for the programme. This flattered me no end: my words would be “read by an actor”, just like in the real world.


This struck me a being an obvious way of dealing with my total lack of fluency in German but, at the same time, I found it genuinely disconcerting, especially when I heard the final broadcast. I just about managed to understand Michael introducing me and asking questions but then the strangeness began: I heard myself start to answer but then, my voice was suddenly overlaid by an unknown German one who, I presume, was saying in German what I was still faintly saying in English. Given my fear of being misunderstood (see my previous entry), it required a great act of faith to feel that my words were being well translated and that my ideas were coming over as I had intended. Oddest of all though was the sensation that I suddenly had a new and different voice that wasn’t my own but that stood for me: it wasn’t as if someone was reading something I’d written, my alter voice was actually being me! This was a thoroughly dislocating experience and gave me the sensation that my ideas had an existence of their own that was separate from me, that they had somehow moved from being part of my internal mentation to being part of a larger entity, the continuum that is “idea space”. At this point, it came to me that we just assume ownership of our own ideas and the means by which we express them but that there is a point at which we have to let them go much as a parent watches their child leave home and venture into the wider world.

So it was that I had to watch my ideas stride off into the outside world: no longer mine alone, they now had an existence of their own. I do hope they take care and don’t speak to strangers.l