[John Rieger's three-year bi-weekly late-night experiment in radio programming, Artifacts: KPFA-Berkeley 1985-1987, introduced the idea of "audiography"... and Steve Piccolo in the same years...]


"Artifacts" is an experiment in the esthetics of non-narrative audio figuration and thematic organization. The sound recording media have produced figurative works primarily in such narrative forms as journalism and drama. Non-narrative audio composition has been understood as a musical enterprise rather than a figurative one. The poverty of this accepted wisdom is suggested by the analogy with photography. While painting begin with "stuff" -paint, the elementary color stuff- photographic composition begins with what might loosely be called "semantic" elements, visual records of world objects which contain a world reference. Photography has a passive or receptive moment which painting does not; for while painting may be a wholly abstract enterprise, photography must at least begin from the figuration which occurs when the film receives the light image from the world object.


So we may compare sound recording with musical composition. Music begins with the elementary sound stuff, whose fundamental property, we shall say, is timbre. Sound recording, however, begins with the passive or receptive moment which we noted in photography, where in this case the audio image of the world objects is received and recorded. Sound recording is "audiography". But while photographic figuration has long since freed itself from the compositional constraints of the narrative tableau and the news photo, audiographic figuration still serves almost exclusively the dramatist and the journalist. Only by considering the audiographic record as sound stuff (musique concrete) have we managed to break these narrative shackles; but in so doing we have lost the reference to the world object and so destroyed the audiographic image qua image.


John H. Rieger, June 17, 1985










Hearing Voices is an hour of radio's best: a sixty-minute stream of adventurous audio. Each episode mixes broadcasts, podcasts, sound-portraits, slam poets, docs, radio dramas, features, and found-sound, all bound together by a common theme.