Idea of South – Documentation Notes

Idea of South – A unique live radiophonic performance by Roger Mills, comprising three simultaneous broadcasts performed live over two radio stations and the Internet.

Inspired by resonances of location and memory, Idea of South sets out to explore, provoke and question our sense of place in the southern hemisphere through atmospheric music, location recordings, spoken word and sound design. As the program moves through hot dry deserts or icy antarctic waters, the sense of these locations is enhanced through the diffusion of sound over a multi-channel radio broadcast.

Combining the mediums of networked terrestrial radio and Internet streaming, the work is designed as three individual layers (mixes) of audio, which will be broadcast simultaneously and experienced by listeners tuning their radios into both radio stations and a home computer or iPhone for the Internet (Shoutcast) stream. Idea of South seeks to push the boundaries of experimental radio by engaging audiences to become actively involved with the interactive decision making part of the entertainment. It guarantees a unique and immersive listening experience, which will unsettle as much as it will sooth.

Seminar Presentation Notes
Although there is much dispute over who actually invented the first radio transmission, one certainty is that it has captured our imaginations ever since.

In 1895 as Nikola Tesla and Guglielmo Marconi raced to patent their ideas, it wouldn’t be long before artists began to define theories and practices in this emerging medium for sound performance.

This is no more so than with members of the Italian art movement the Futurists.

As Phillipo Tomasso Marinetti and Pino Masnata stated in their Futurist manifesto ‘La Radia’ (1933)

‘La Radia shall be the utilization of the various resonances of voice or sound in order to give a sense of the size of the place in which the voice is uttered.’

Radiophony and Resonant Meaning
Contained in this statement is the conceptual notion at the centre of my project ‘Idea of South’, in that it acknowledges the temporal transfer of meaning that occurs through the broadcasting of sound or ‘resonances’ or of the signifier and signified.

In his book Phantasmic Radio, sound artist and theorist Alan Weiss confirms my thinking on this:

‘Radiophony transforms the very nature of the relation between signifier and signified, and [….] the practice of montage established the key modernist paradigm of consciousness.[….] Between voice and wavelength, between body and electricity, the future of radio resounds.’ (1995:7-8)

Underscoring Location
Environmental sound, an ear into the uniqueness of location.

Canadian composer, writer and sound ecologist R. Murray Schafer recognised this when he proposed setting up permanent radio transmissions from rural environments to Canadian cities in his essay ‘Radical Radio’ for Ear Magazine (1987).

‘We might put microphones in remote locations uninhabited by humans and broadcast what ever might be happening out there; the sounds of wind and rain, the cries of birds and animals, all the uneventful events of the natural landscape transmitted without editing into the hearts of the cities.’ (1987: 15)

Acousmatic Sound
As with R. Murray Schafer’s proposed natural location broadcasts, the theory of hearing sound without seeing it’s origin or location is known as Acousmatic sound or listening.

This was a key theoretical development of the composer and broadcaster Pierre Schaeffer whilst working as an engineer at Radiodiffusion Française. Writing in his paper À la Recherche d’une Musique Concrète, Schaeffer coined the term Acousmatic sound after the Pythagorean sect Acousmaktoi, who would receive their teachings with the lecturer behind a curtain so as to not detract from the message being taught.

Musique Concrète
Whilst phonography or locational recordings will play an important role in this work, it will only be a facet of it.

Of equal importance to me is the manipulation of sound or as Brandon LaBelle puts it ‘harnessing sounds intrinsic ambiguity and malleability’ (2006, p. 46) to create tonal compositions as creative impressions of the Southern Hemisphere.

Web Map
Idea of South first started as a collaboration with digital artist Neil Jenkins creating an interactive audio visual installation at Loop Space Gallery, Newcastle, February 2009.


Part phonography, part psychogeography, Idea of South web sound map is made up of location recordings contributed by sound artists and phonographers throughout the southern hemisphere. Responding to a call for submissions on sound based Internet forums, contributors submitted over forty field recordings, which included latitude and longitude coordinates and their emotional response to the location. The web map allows you to select and mix location recordings in a contrapuntal collage of sound, and the audio content from the installation has formed an inherent part of the radiophonic work.

The map continues to be updated as new sounds are contributed to it. Click to play online version.

Graphic Score
I have also produced a graphic score from the web map data base of latitude and longitude coordinates, by printing the raw data as points on a grid. Removing the grid, the data points were then given parameters in timbre, rhythm and structure. It has now been recorded and performed by percussionist Damian Castaldi and forms and interesting collage of tones and rhythm within the soundtrack.

Download Graphic Score based on Latitude and Longitude Coordinates of submitted location recordings.

Listen to Graphic Score Audio

Tone Poems
As with the symphonic tone poems of the nineteenth century Romantics composers, instrumental orchestration will also play a role in communicating a sense of place.

An example of this is Czech composer Bedřich Smetana’s Má Vlast (translated as My Country or My Fatherland) is a set of six symphonic poems composed between 1874 and 1879. The movement Vltava (also known as The Moldau) is an orchestral illustration of the famous Vltava river which runs through Prague.

Fugue and Contrapuntal Radio
A musical fugue is a form or technique of composition for a fixed number of parts independent in contour and rhythm, described as contrapuntal. It was developed during the Baroque Era (1600-1750) and exemplified by composers such as J.S Bach.

Canadian composer and pianist Glenn Gould applied this notion of counterpoint to a series of radio broadcasts in 1967 entitled Solitude Trilogy. One of the compositions Idea of North was a spoken word composition by five people with contrasting views of Northern Canada.

Watch Documentary Idea of North

The Eventios3
Idea of South will be broadcast at 22.30 EST on Sunday 14th June 2009.

A live three part radiophonic work, broadcast simultaneously between Sydney radio stations 2ser and FBi with concurrent Internet Shoutcast stream. To listen to this broadcast you will need two radios receivers and a computer or iPhone. Tune the radios to frequencies 107.3 FM (Radio 2SER) and 94.5 FM (Utility Fog on FBi Radio) and click the link below to receive directions on how to pick up the SHOUTCAST stream from your computer or iPhone.

Download audio samples and play concurrently:

sample layer 1

sample layer 2

sample layer 3

Marinetti, F, T and Masnata, P. (1933) La Radia: Fururist Manifesto. < Available from>

Weiss, Allen S. (1994) Phantasmic Radio, Durham, NC:Duke University Press.

Schafer, Murray, R. (1987) Radical Radio. Ear Magazine, March 1987, p.18.

LaBelle, B (2006) Background Noise: Perspectives on Sound Art, New York, Continuum.

Gould, G (1967) Solitude Trilogy LP, CBC.

Gould, G (1969) Glenn Gould on The Idea of North, Fugues, and Webern. You Tube 2008< Available at">Idea of North >

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