Radio Deprogramming

Listening syllabus


Radio Naked

Christof Migone · 1992

Radio Naked is a “manifesto that naively impels the radio programmer to dispense (or at least question) all of the conventions and expectations of what radio should sound like.” Radio artist Christof Migone composed the twenty-two prompts that make up the work in the early 1990s, and audio versions were later produced for each prompt. Radio Naked lends a key precedent to this workshop, providing form and inspiration for the deprogramming prompts we will develop together.


The Indians for Indians Radio Hour

Don Whistler · 1943

From its start in 1941 into the 1970s, the Indians for Indians Radio Hour was a vital presence on the airwaves of University of Oklahoma station WNAD and in the social fabric of Indigenous communities that intersected the station’s broadcast area. Whistler, a chief of the Sac and Fox Nation who also went by the name Kesh-ke-kosh, offers us a model of the radio programmer as cultural convener. His approach departed from and at times playfully critiqued the authoritative conventions of talk programming and pop music on network radio at the time. Radio historian Josh Garrett-Davis points out that Whistler’s ethos carries forward in widespread community radio practices as an anti-hierarchical mode of radio programming.


Radio Happening I

John Cage and Morton Feldman · 1966

In 1966 and 1967, New York City station WBAI hosted a series of relaxed, informal, one-on-one conversations between composers John Cage and Morton Feldman. In the first of these “Radio Happenings,” Cage explains how his experience of the radio medium changed after using it as a compositional tool. He also (around 22:50 in the recording) describes an attitude toward sounds and their effects on listeners that we will consider as a type of programming. This cybernetic approach to experimental composition was expanded by other artists including Pauline Oliveros (here are some longer thoughts on Oliveros and the computational arts context), and it offers one precedent for our artistic stance of deprogramming.


A Human Radio Station

Shelley "The Black Pope" Pope · 1978 (approx.)

In an undated aircheck, the celebrated 1970s music radio personality The Black Pope insists to listeners that he transcends the “disc jockey” category. Shelley Pope’s contributions to the Black radio community in Alabama are documented by the Birmingham Black Radio Museum. This recording has circulated, with an unfortunate degree of ironic distance, through largely white freeform radio and culture jamming scenes. Hearing Pope instead through the context of Birmingham’s intense intramural radio rivalries, we can ask what it would mean to take him literally when he declares that he is not a DJ but rather “a human radio station.” One interpretation hears Pope as a radio programmer merging with and subsuming the technical apparatus whose parts he lists off, anticipating by several decades the kind of bodily-electrical figurations that Matthew Fuller would use to comprehend pirate radio’s intermedial flows.



WOWOW/Hiroshi Yokoi · 1990

St.GIGA is considered the world’s first digital satellite radio station. Director Hiroshi Yokoi developed a radical broadcast methodology - St.GIGA’s broadcasts initially followed no externally fixed timetable. Rather, broadcast themes were approximately matched to the current tidal cycle throughout the 24-hour broadcasting period. Under this innovative schedule, the station broadcast a variety of primarily ambient music programs, various jazz programs, and live sound-broadcasts of the ocean shore. Between 1995 and 2000, St. GIGA partnered with Nintendo to broadcast video game-related programming to owners of the Super Famicon Satellaview peripheral – this included video games that could only be played during the live broadcast schedule.


Pirate Radio Station

Sherre DeLys and Rick Moody, with John Lurie · 2006 (approx.)

Producer Sherre DeLys, writer Rick Moody, and performer John Lurie created Pirate Radio Station for WNYC’s The Next Big Thing. The piece presents a kind of biography for an imagined station that flees from programming conventions. As definitions dissolve into absurdity, the piece’s characters and authors all confront the question of what radio could or should be in the absence of imposed structures.


The Joy Channel

Anna Friz & Emmanuel Madan · 2018

Participating in both transmission art and speculative fiction, The Joy Channel is a performance piece in which radio transmissions from various characters reveal a dystopian world and the arrival of a neural-emotional broadcasting technology. Though set more than 100 years into North America’s future, The Joy Channel heightens the stakes of an already existing clash between monolithic media corporations’ mollifying programming and the subversive or saboteurial efforts of smaller scale broadcasters.


Please Hold

James T. Green · 2020

In a short work for his audio zine U+1F60C, James T. Green performs what we might call a deprogramming of a very specific, non-radio audio medium: the Nordstrom department store phone menu. Lighthearted and direct, “Please Hold” lets us hear Green as he encounters the people in the interior of this medium – call center operators and sales clerks – and asks them to invert an aspect of its usual functioning.