WAVE TO WAVE

While the world is increasingly preoccupied with taking selfies, posting pictures and placing pins, some people spend their time painstakingly selecting music, information and culture to share with an invisible audience. Technological advances have only further freed radio from its constraints, and avid broadcasters now compile bespoke shows that explore a phenomenal thematic range. SEEK tuned into some of the most exciting stations and asked: why radio? 

Text by Antonia Harris & Laura Storfner 

 
 

Broadcasting your own online radio station is not that much harder than setting up a blog. All you really need is a computer, an internet connection, and the desire to be heard. Yet, aside from this, the attraction to radio remains a complex confusion of the hyper-futuristic and the quintessentially retro. There’s something nostalgic in the word itself; maybe upon hearing “radio” you picture a real, tangible object, with the scu ed black surface and the wobbly antenna, or maybe the cheap replicas of vintage radios that get sold in discount stores, capitalising on the much documented desire for authenticity in daily life.

In the past, German media theoreticians such as Walter Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht, and Hans Magnus Enzensberger focused on the technical opportunities of radio as a media to connect people in non-hierarchic networks. In some ways, their thoughts followed the phenomenon of mass broad- casts, passed through the rise of pirate radios, and continued in the independent radio projects, accessible to millions, which have crackled to life along the lines of a networked society.

 

With an indisputable connection to the analogue still resonant within the clearly digital elements of internet based broadcasting, radio has emerged as a medium that perfectly represents contempo- rary times; a resolute and anchored point within the uidity of the postmodern world. Yet, in an image-centric society obsessed with the visual, where is the value in not being seen, but heard? Perhaps, as we are saturated with pictures, the anonymity of a faceless voice provides a sensation of freedom and release, or maybe some nd rebellion in the refusal to succumb to a hyper-monetised and merchandised entertainment culture. Whatever it is, there is certainly something that keeps the electric attraction of radio sparking.

Indeed, despite modernisation and technolog- ical advances, the purpose of radio has always remained the same: to reach people – whoever wants to listen, and whoever wants to be heard. SEEK magazine discussed the curious nature of internet radio with a handful of people who hold it close to their hearts; the brains behind the broad- casting stations and the hosts putting on their shows, no matter what. 

 
 
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CHASMERE RADIO

 

 

Broadcast from a cocktail bar in Lichtenberg, Berlin, Cashmere Radio is an avant-garde digital station that builds on an appreciation of the history of free radio to push for an innovative edge in their shows. As a team of only three – Matteo Spanò, Edoardo Calgari, Giacomo Gianetta, – they support fteen shows and send an open invitation to the public that creates an immersive, yet provokingly double-sided media experience. 

SEEK: What was the initial spark that inspired you to create your radio station?

 

Cashmere Radio: With backgrounds as music producers and composers, the ambition we had was to create a platform for di erent people and genres to meet, evolve, and inspire each other. We came across a project space that had great potential in that sense, but then we were still lacking a coherent concept. The turning point occurred when Matteo was at a workshop with Diana McCarty, the editor of “reboot.fm.” He learned about free radio stations such as the ground- breaking “Radio Alice” from the 1970s. Together with Edoardo and Giacomo, who were equally fascinated by the UK pirate radio scene of the 1990s, they decided to extend their project to a concept that would encompass physical and radio space. 

Why radio?

 

Because of the critical act of tuning in, reaching out and connecting to a reality happening and changing in the now, one that is not prepackaged, stored and re-playable. We do have an online archive, but, when it came to our vision, live acts and being “live on air” had to be the key elements. 

Radio is a space of limitless possibilities – how do you create yours? 

 

By combining the radio space with an actual, physical space – our headquarters are open to the public during our live broadcasting events. We try to re-interpret the concept of a local, territorial, rooted radio within the frame of contemporary web radio space, where possibilities are indeed limitless. We address the feeling of presence in time through the act of tuning in, and of presence in space by actually dropping by. The live vibe that radio DJs and the public create together is directly transported to the radio space – and it’s palpable for online listeners as well. 

Radio has been a background activity for a long time. Does your station encourage change in this area? 

 

To come to terms with an oscillating focus level of the listener is not necessarily a problem; it’s just something that radio has to be engaged with at a conceptual level. Take, for instance, Chronopolis, our generative music show. Every segment of this show has the duration of one month, and is constantly playing in-between the other shows, meaning, broadly, 70% of the month. A piece with such duration is not meant to be listened to in its entirety (in fact, that’s probably impossible). Its unfolding shows you, physically and metaphorically, the passing of air time. It is critical that radio practice addresses the lows of the listener’s attention as much as the highs. 

Eloise S. Leigh

 
 

She hails from Seattle, works as a graphic designer and used to DJ at her college station. In 2012 Eloise S. Leigh moved to Berlin where she met Anastazja Moser and Sarah Miles who run Berlin Community Radio. The two founders of BCR encouraged Eloise to stream her own show called “New Age Rage.”

 

 

SEEK: How do you bring all the aspects of yourself together in your radio show?

 

Eloise S. Leigh: The visuals and title for each show set the stage for each mix and clarify the theme before listening. I really let loose on the graphic design part of it, which is fun for me to experiment with, using things like loud Photoshop filters that I would not normally use in professional work. There is definitely some “branding” involved in the aesthetic that helps to tie the show together as an ongoing series. The general structure I try to keep for the two hours is a quieter, more meditative first hour that leads into a more cathartic, aggressive second hour. With these stabilising elements, hopefully listeners can pick up on and enjoy interpretations of the theme from point A to point B.

 

What is radio capable of?

 

As one of the most free and accessible forms of media, it still has the power of freeing and educating minds, or controlling them, for better or worse, depending on who has control of the airwaves.

 

 

Radio is a space of limitless possibilities – how do you create yours?

 

Creating a different theme for each show prompted me to curate songs in a more meaningful way, not just for a pleasing flow of music, but by paying attention to the other elements of composition like song or album titles that I often find as intriguing as the sounds. I guess that is a bit of the graphic designer in me, finding the related visual or poetic elements in the music.

 

 
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Radio 80000

 
 

An online radio station with a growing team of 15 show hosts, Radio 80000 was founded in Munich by Leo Bauer and Felix Flemmer, who also take care of the station’s management, communication and design. Although their crew broadcasts from Wien, Berlin, Passau as well as Oradea in Romania, the capital of Bavaria still is their base. Carrying 80000 in the name, everyone knows their hearts truly belong to Munich, where the city's zip code starts at 80000.

SEEK: What was the initial spark that inspired you to create your station?

 

Leo Bauer and Felix Flemmer: While listening to a lot of independent online broadcasts, we always imagined how we would create our own programme and that's when we came up with some plans. Since getting started requires so little, we implemented our ideas almost immediately.

Why have you chosen to do radio?

 

We think that radio as a medium offers this unique live experience. It’s real and unfiltered. You can talk about any topic, without any sort of visualisation. And even when there’s nobody actually talking, there’s still this direct connection between the audience and whoever is behind the mic right at that moment in time. 

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Byte FM

 

Hamburg-based station ByteFM is probably the most renowned and popular online radio station in Germany. Founded in 2008 by Ruben Jonas Schnell, the team has around 100 employees.

SEEK: How would you define ByteFM’s philosophy in one sentence?

 

Ruben Jonas Schnell: A passionately curated, professionally presented music programme. Or, the short version: Good music. Good words. 

Whom would you like to reach?

 

We want to bring good music to an interested public. Our broadcasts are very varied, from jazz to new skweee, and all the possibilities in between: techno, house, folk, pop, indie, reggae, country.  The program is versatile, so we can fulfil all the desires of our listeners. 

Radio has often been perceived as a background activity – how do you react to this?

 

We have never been interested in radio as a side project. There’s no need for radio if you don’t want to listen to it, and that’s how we like it at ByteFM. We want listeners that want to listen and who are – just like us – excited about the music we broadcast. Of course you can tune in and out of our shows and not pay attention to every single word, but Byte FM’s quality means that it is worth listening closely.

Which show of yours in particular would you like to recommend to the SEEK readers?

 

The ByteFM Magazin is a good place to start. It’s a mix of recommended records for the week, concert tips and recommendations for other shows, as well as visits from musicians in the studio.