Radio Access Memory

June 2002 - October 2010
Various UK and Ireland

…Smith roved the local frequencies, tuning in to random stations, producing a live improvised collage of available sounds, mixed in real time; a snapshot of fiction confused by fact, of local and global collapsed; moments of synchronicity that were quite thrilling. (Julie Forrester, Visual Artists News Sheet, Ireland, Oct 2004)

Radio Access Memory came about through a desire to merge the worlds of live electronic sound improvisation with plunderphonics. A term coined by Canadian composer John Oswald, plunderphonics refers to the use of other people’s recordings as raw material for creating new music. Thus plunderphonics is a creative process that is openly derivative. In a lot of plunderphonic work, source material is chosen for its extra-musical associations as well as its musical qualities, and the choice of source material has a strong aesthetic meaning within the work. With Radio Access Memory I wanted to remove most of this layer of source choice, and instead create the work out of whatever sound can be taken from the radio at the time of the performance - the only choice of source material being through the radio frequency dial. Inspired by the texts of post-modernist commentator Arthur Kroker, who amongst others posits the view of digital sampling as an extension of human memory, this piece is intended as a metaphor for the way we juxtapose and manipulate music we have heard in the creation of new work.

Through the performance, fragments of music and spoken word are captured in real-time from across the radio spectrum. These fragments are looped and juxtaposed, sliced and manipulated. I try to take the audience on the journey as the sound changes, allowing them to hear the transformations as the sound evolves away from its original form, and placing the derivative nature of creating ‘on display’. As the performance progresses, fragments are recorded (remembered), combined, manipulated and discarded (forgotten), emphasising the parallels between sampling and human memory. Because there are only four loop samplers, which store their recordings in RAM (volatile memory), older sounds must be discarded to make way for new sounds, and at the end of the performance all sounds are lost, leaving only the memory in the minds of the audience and myself.

Performance History (selected)

  • Sonic Event II : Access Space, Sheffield : Oct 29 2010
  • Middle of Nowhere : Departure Gallery, Southall : Mar 5 2010
  • Sound:Space : South Hill Park, Bracknell : Jan 20 2007
  • Trailerpark : Cineworld Cinema, Cardiff : Nov 2 2005
  • Ignition 2004 (Art Dept.) : Acorn Theatre, Penzance : Sep 11 2004
  • Soundworks 2004 (ArtTrail) : UCC, Cork, Ireland : Jun 21 2004
  • SCAN launch event (SCAN) : Soul Cellar, Southampton : Feb 25 2004
  • SONIC:ART (Oxford Contemporary Music) : Modern Art Oxford, Oxford : Aug 23 2003
  • re.sound 03 : Stroud Valley Artspace, Stroud : Jun 20 2003
  • realtime : Oxford Brookes University, Oxford : Oct 12 2002
  • HotWired : The Mill, Banbury : Aug 2 2002
  • VAIN (VAIN liveart) : Freuds, Oxford : Jun 13 2002