Begun while in residence at PlugIn’s Summer Institute, Reva Stone and I collaborated to create “Signal Carrier” & “Carrier Signal” to mark the centenary of the birth of John Cage (Sept. 5, 1912) and the 20th anniversary of his death (Aug. 12, 1992).
Cage’s works for radio were based on scores developed through chance operations, which designated a series of tunings and volumes for radios. The compositions that resulted included static between stations, silence, and bursts of talk and music. With the possible future demise of analog radio and its replacement by a digital signal, important compositions of John Cage’s work for radio, including Radio Music (1955) and Imaginary Landscape No. 4 (1951), may soon not be performable at all.
In Cage’s compositions live performers adjusted the knobs on the radio according to Cage’s score. We developed an electro-mechanical system, using programmable stepper motors to tune vintage radios, producing similar compositions. In 2012 we finished a version of the project with three radios, called “Signal Carrier” and in 2013 we added two more radios under the title “Carrier Signal.” With the completion of “Carrier Signal” the project now has the capacity to record and playback the snippets of broadcast captured by the Zenith radio. As the project travels to different locations, a database of analog radio from a variety of times and places will be an ever-growing aspect of the piece.