19th November

Radio Free Radio

When you switched the radio on it had to warm up, you know, it warmed up and then it became something live. If you put your ear against the cloth in front of the speaker it vibrated, it buzzed. Everything came through the radio, into the house, the room, your head. It was a highway heading off into the distance and you rode out on it, and then it split into more roads and traffic was coming and going in every direction, you were dodging it, jumping on and off buses, climbing on the back of a flatbed lorry just for the thrill. That’s what the radio did, it opened up roads and possible journeys in your head. You’d be listening to Mozart or Beethoven and then later it would be Bartók or Stockhausen and your mind was trying to absorb how all this could be music, and you were half not listening too, dreaming, imagining everything out there, and you turned the dial and people were speaking in some language, you tried to work out what it was, Danish or Russian or German, and just when you thought they had nothing to say to you anyway they paused to listen, you heard them be quiet so that they could hear something and what they were waiting for was this other music, and it began, and it was jazz, modern jazz, and this was being played and heard and talked about right around the world, and then you turned the dial again, or switched from long wave to medium wave to short wave, and things found you by accident – plays, highbrow discussions, folk songs, or some old blues singer, a ghost, whose scratchy voice was somehow coming at you from behind that buzzing cloth. And the signals roamed and collided and faded in the darkness and came round again and you knew there was more life out there than you could ever experience but you wanted it all. And it was different, radio, from television. When television came it didn’t liberate your mind, it didn’t expand it, it hooked and held it, and that wasn’t the same thing. It was radio that set you free.

Reader: Kate Molleson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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