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Torn Light Records
1855 N Milwaukee
Chicago, IL 60647
Open Everyday

Aki Onda – Transmissions From The Radio Midnight

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This project, entitled Transmissions From The Radio Midnight, started around 2006, when I acquired a Sony TCM F59 — an AM/FM radio and cassette recorder combined in a slim, handheld body. Since then, whenever I went on a trip, I would throw it into my suitcase and take it around with me. No matter which country I was in, upon returning to the hotel room I made a habit of listening to the radio into the late hours of the night. As soon as I would snuggle into bed, I would begin tuning the radio in search of a program that I liked.

If I concentrated intently on my fingers controlling the knob, I could sometimes catch two or three frequencies at once and hear the overlap of different languages. Otherwise I would scan through frequencies and jump around programs to hear the juxtaposition of different languages, such as Spanish, Swedish, French, Polish, Arabic, Korean, among others. There was no greater joy than the moment in which I would begin to hear these languages, which were foreign to me, not as words but as aural texture. Was I enjoying text-sound compositions with alien words? Perhaps it was the abstract fusing of these lingual sounds. It was, at the very least, something akin to sound poetry.

I would often fall asleep while doing this — and so, just as often, the radio would continue playing in my dreams. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, I would wake up to the high-pitched beep of a test tone bouncing off the walls of the hotel room. On other occasions I would awaken in the mornings to some unknown program, or, if the tuning was off, simply static noise.

For this album, I selected some of my favorite segments from the recordings made in ten-or-so countries over the span of roughly a decade, beginning in 2008. All of the fragments are presented just as they were captured. Since frequency behavior is often unpredictable, and since the act of catching waves was done manually, the recordings capture all sorts of incidental sounds, including various kinds of static noise and radio interference.

The radio is like an ocean of languages. It continuously projects a million chatterings happening simultaneously all over the world. This album captures and presents a tiny drop of this ocean, while the ocean itself flows onward — enormous, endless, infinite — for as long as the medium itself lasts. Isn’t that amazing?

Aki Onda
September 20, 2022