radio

chris connolly - black beach

photos by chris connolly

photos by chris connolly

Black Beach was produced by Chris Connolly, from a conversation with Andrew Thomson.

Thanks to artist Lee Rosevere for permission to use his track "Illuminations" in this piece.

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Chris says: 

This wasn’t the piece I went searching for as my first extended production, but it was the piece that found me. The heartache at its centre was all I could manage to focus on when I recorded it almost a year ago. It was so off-the-cuff that I forgot to record any extended ambient sound, which left me with only a 12-second loop of waves to work with. I decided to use this as a creative constraint that ended up shaping the piece in an important way.

Initially, I imagined the piece being led by the dialogue, as two men stumbled into and out of the dehumanizing language of masculinity. They seemed to be re-learning something new with the utmost of imperfections -- a way of being together in their pain and loneliness and longing. But as I worked with the tape of the waves, I began to see what I had been missing in own conflicted relationship with masculinity. By layering the waves in crescendos and decrescendos, they began to sound like the breathing of a restless and wakeful presence. I knew that this formed an important character who could bear witness to the powerful forces and voices that are left out whenever men gather -- especially to talk about their pain in relationships of difference with the women and trans* people in their lives.

I wanted to suggest how there are voices and forces that are acting on these men and holding space for something bigger -- whether or not they can see or hear it happening. As these men fall in and out of dialogue with each other, they are also falling in and out of dialogue with the spaces that hold and held them. They still have a long way to go. There is so much that they do not and cannot know. But there is something vital about the instinct to surrender: to fall into those surging waves as they move over and under and through.

Inspirations from the world of radio and sound and beyond:

I’ve been most drawn to the sonic landscapes of poetry lately, especially the book “Passage” by Annishinabe/Mètis writer Gwen Benaway, “Islands of Decolonial Love” by Michi Saagiig Nishnaabe writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, and “Devotions” by American poet Mary Oliver. And something about these times has me listening to a lot of classic country albums. (Willie Nelson and EmmyLou Harris have both stopped me in my tracks during each of the last 2 days.) In different ways, each of these speak to me about the counterpoints of love and hardship beyond simple romance, and the dignity of surviving what must never be accepted.

In the sound world, there are two pieces that I returned to while making this piece: Sayre Quevedo’s ‘Espera’, and ‘The Leaves, Frost-Crisp'd, Break from the Trees’ by Jaye Kranz.

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Constellations says:

When we first heard this piece, it was at an earlier stage in its development, at a gathering with a group of Toronto audio aficionados. We both were moved by rawness of the tape. This sort of vulnerable conversation about masculinity was something we'd rarely, if ever, heard before. We love the piece's intimacy, not only in the words spoken but also in its style - the stereo recording, the feeling of being able to drift alongside its narrators as they walk the shoreline. Black Beach is Chris' first foray into audio, and we're so glad to be able to share it here on Constellations.

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Chris Connolly is a producer, design researcher and community organizer. This first extended production marks a career leap into the realms of documentary and sound art, following a lifetime of ephemeral passion projects in live storytelling, poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction. As a producer, he orchestrates sound-rich stories from fearlessly intimate moments—when uncommon everyday people challenge and reinvent the mainstream cultures they just can’t abide. He has called his home Tkaronto/Toronto, within One Dish One Spoon treaty territory, since 2012.

aleksandra bragoszewska - coarse & janky

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Coarse & Janky was recorded & produced by Aleksandra Bragoszewska and is part of radio project that has been collecting dust for some years now. The extract featured here is pulled from one of four radio ballads to the Bread and Puppet Theatre; Coarse & Janky, Working the Clay, Monsters & Men in Suits, and Possibilitarian Meaning Making, the latter three which have yet to be made.

It features excerpts of the "Why Cheap Art Manifesto" by Peter Schumann (1984) as well as interviews and sounds from: Peter Hamburger, Massimo Schuster, Maryann Incoronata, Peter Schumann, Gregory Corbino, Tuesday night Shape Note Singers, Genevieve the Apprentice, Trudy Cohen, thrushes singing at dusk in the pine forest, Daniel MacNamara, Maura Gahn, the Bread and Puppet Band, Pepe Hilfrau on lip-whistle, Jason Hicks on porch-side banjo, and Highway 122 in Glover Vermont. It was recorded at Bread and Puppet Theatre in Glover, Vermont 2010-2016.

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Aleks says: 

Bread and Puppet Theatre is a 50-year-old self-sustaining radical political puppetry theatre under the artistic direction of Peter Schumann. It has a long history of making street theatre, radical puppet shows, and working with newcomers from far and wide to create shows. This is one of my radio ballads to the theatre, concerning the ramshackle esthetic characteristic of the theatre and its philosophical implications for show making. Presenting the audio in this way is my attempt to collect the vibrant sing- song chaos of the place and pleat it into a radio piece that would sound true to the Beast that is Bread and Puppet.

What's inspiring her these days:

The harmonics of old city apartments as heard underwater in the bathtub.

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Constellations says:

As this roller coaster of a year comes to a close, we thought this sonic manifesto and portrait was the perfect toast for ushering in the new year: To taking artistic risks! To having the courage to struggle on stage!  This piece, and the collaborative, political and tactile world of Bread and Puppet that it conjures, embody the ethos of experimentalism, interdisciplinarity, and community that Constellations aspires to. And we can't think of a voice more suited to sewing this cardboard cacophony together than Aleks'. 

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Aleksandra Bragoszewska is a puppeteer and an apprentice of storytelling. She sharpened her radio teeth with sound and storytelling experiments at CFRC 101.9fm Queens Radio in Kingston, Ontario, but they have grown dull since she apprenticed puppetry under the Bread and Puppet theatre in Glover, Vermont. She makes puppet shows with her independent company, Birdbone Theatre, and studies storytelling under Stephen Jenkinson, in Deacon, Ontario. 

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craig desson - 06-30-24

06-30-24 was written and produced by Craig Desson. 

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Craig says: 

First of all, don't worry, this 'experimental audio' piece is short.  It won't take more than four minutes of your time.  I promise you won't be bored. Second, picture what your hearing looks like.  Then this piece will be like watching a movie of somebody else's dream; which is fun! 

I love the work of the 60s era NFB experimental filmmaker Arthur Lipsett and so I wanted to try and do what he does. The piece is also an exploration of the digital subconscious that exists on my MacBook.  It's made up of sounds on my hard drive that I recorded over the last year that just felt right together. 

I tried to never work tired.  The moment my creative juices started to ebb, I put this away.  So it was always fun.   It was an experiment to put this quote from Ernest Hemingway into practice: The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel you will never be stuck. That is the most valuable thing I can tell you so try to remember it.

What's inspiring Craig the worlds of audio and beyond:

My hero is Adam Curtis. He's a filmmaker at the BBC who makes brilliant political documentary series using their archives. His films are the most epic stories one can imagine. One film tracks Freud's idea of psychoanalysis through the history of public relations over a century. Another film, (three hours long!) follows the history of Islamic extremism and neo-conservatism from the end of the cold war to September 11. Curtis's most recent series is called Hyper-Normalization and it's about how politics has become a surreal/bizarre theater to keep people confused.  Sound like anything you know?    

The other great thing about his films are 90 percent of them are just him talking over archival clips.  But, the writing is crystal clear and the narrative arch's so lean that it unrolls brilliantly. Also, he finds all these strange serendipitous moments in the archives you never see on TV.  So, it doesn't look anything like a regular news documentary. 

And finally! The opening montage to the Power of Nightmares is just amazing editing/storytelling.

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Constellations says:

"Every monastery should have a room like this." What a perfect snip of tape.

We love this piece for its intimate, collected quality - sparkling snapshots, bits and pieces pulled from recordings, archives, in-between moments. Each clip is like a little secret that the producer lets us wonder about (and with its spacious pacing, wander about, too). Maybe this also has something to do with the title of the piece, which was Craig's high school locker combination. Through the frame of meditation, Craig's 06-30-24 embodies the tension of a mind attempting calm in a loud world.

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Craig Desson creates audio and video, along with written things in the journalism genre and mostly for the internet.  Follow him on Twitter @craigdesson.