RADIO EIGHT: interactive soundscapes

OVERVIEW

RADIO EIGHT is a soundtrack to the subconscious world of children. It's an interactive web experience that combines elements of  audio documentary and social media to act a measure of our condition on the planet. The project accepts submissions from around the globe, and currently features recordings from Ethiopia, Cambodia, Nepal, and the U.S.

Describing the project in words is a little futile - Radio Eight is a nonlinear immersive experience that needs to be experienced. I encourage you to turn up your speakers or put on good headphones and visit the Radio Eight HERE. Wander around!

We made a short video that helps to convey the mood of the experience:


Music

Early on in the project, YONDER co-director/creator Mark Bashore  said, "We are trying to create a world of the subconscious, not of our rational world. Where time and place are mixed together." So, the music I composed is not of unconsciousness or sleep, rather this is about being wide away in the subconscious world, the 8th Continent of which every child is a naturalized citizen. Thinking what sounds might inhabit this world, I was reminded of James Joyce's epic dreamtime work Finnegan's Wake. At the end of the book, Anna embodies the River Liffey and flows from Dublin to her father, the ocean:

..I go back to you, my cold father, my cold mad father, my cold mad feary father, till the near sight of the mere size of him, the moyles and moyles of it, moananoaning, makes me seasilt saltsick and I rush, my only, into your arms. ... There's where. First. We pass through grass behush the bushto. Whish! A gull. Gulls. Far calls."

You can hear small glimpses of a seagull cry in several of the tracks, like Totems:

Since RadioEight will potentially feature children from every culture, we wanted to make sure the music didn't feel tied to a specific culture . So, I used musical scales that are for the most part universal and played instruments that are as well, like the dulcimer, flute and the human voice. Although the fiddle is not found in most non-Western traditional cultures, the way that it's played in these tracks and in the context of other unexpected sounds, does not read as overtly European. 

Unknown Undertones features a fiddle, but the way it's effected w/ a sound-on-sound looping process gives it a less obvious identity then if it were played straight:

and the human voice in pieces like Words Do Not Appear:

more seagulls, dulcimer and ambient tones:

fiddle, vibraphone and piano:

I composed ~60 pieces of music, ranging from :30 to 3:00, and several sound design+music ambient beds. While that may seem like a lot, the potential for millions of children from around the world to post recordings of their dreams meant that we would want millions of pieces of music to accompany them. Since that's not really feasible, we came up with a tagging system that allows music to be paired with dreams generatively. Every child's recording, after being translated and tagged with key words, was identified on a scale from "dark" to light" in subject matter (e.g., a fun dream about kittens is "light", a scary dream about monsters is "dark"). I did the same with all of the music, so that when a dream is selected by the user an appropriate mood of music plays underneath. 


ALBUM

The recordings of Nepali children on Radio Eight were taken on April 25th, only hours before a magnitude 7 earthquake struck Kathmandu. A second earthquake—of equal intensity—followed in May. As a way to help out a little in the relief effort, I compiled a Radio Eight album that's available for free download with the suggestion that listeners donate to the Nepal Earthquake Children’s Relief Fund through Save the Children, which provides much-needed aid in the wake of this crisis.

Please visit radioeight.bandcamp.com to listen and purchase and donate to this worthy cause.


Sound Design

In addition to music, I got to do a great deal of sound design. Using field recordings from my travels in Egypt, Portugal, Italy, Spain, Israel and Turkey, I created ambient pieces that both greet the listener when first visiting the site and between dreams. The intent of these is to create an immersive atmosphere, to present a setting that will best allow the listen to enter into this world of connected dreams. 

In one of our early discussions about RadioEight, Mark mentioned the iPad game Monument Valley as a project that uses sound and music in an interesting and seamless way. One of the reasons I love the game so much is how interacting with the world creates little bursts of sound that mesh so well with the music bed. When it came time to make the sounds for RadioEight's "antenna scrubber" I tried something similar. I created 21 unique sound/music pieces, each 1 second long and in the same key as the site's music. When the user scrolls across the bottom of the page to select a new dream, these small sounds cluster to create a fun jumble of sound that meshes with the ambient backing track. Visit the RadioEight site to experience this interactive feature.


RadioEight is conceived, created and produced by YONDER and executed by BELLE & WISSELL, CO. and is funded by The Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation .