Show 896: 25 Hz by Andy Kelleher Stuhl for Wave Farm

Writes Stuhl,“The age of automation – that art of worker-less factories which has industrial management crackling these days – is coming close to broadcasting,” announced Broadcasting magazine in 1954. Just as it is today, automation to radio practitioners in the 1950s was a daunting complex of threats and promises around technology, labor, and artistry. But it was also, more simply, a property of magnetic tape recording. Radio automation began as the technique of embedding “cue tones” in taped sound and configuring tape players to start or stop upon detecting them. From the ’50s into the era of syndication by satellite, almost every automation system used the same frequency for these tones: 25 Hz.

25 Hz splices together audio samples from a span of 1951 to present, casting radio automation amid characters from the sonic arts and popular culture in a historical drama. A 25 Hz “cue tone” punctuates each splice, inverting the automation system’s goal of seamlessly executing a programmed sequence. Re-sonifying those seams from within radio, the piece aims to open automation up as more than an industrial object – as a peculiar, emotionally charged, and passionately countered dream that has perhaps had something in common with avant-garde legacies in post-WWII America.”

Audio sources include:
John Cage, Imaginary Landscape No. 4 (1951)
Russell Tinkham (as voiced by Gregory Whitehead), “Automatic Station Operation” (1953)
Schafer 1200 advertisement (c. 1960)
John Cage in conversation with Morton Feldman on WBAI (1966)
Paul Schafer (as voiced by Lynn Claudy), NAB Radio Automation Workshop (1968)
Annea Lockwood in conversation with Pauline Oliveros (1972)
Annea Lockwood, Soundmap of the Hudson River (1982)
American Grafitti (1973)
Howard Broomfield, A Radio Programme about Radio (1974)
Schafer 903 demonstration at 2KA Katoomba (1975)
Lee Bailey, Drake-Chenault automation tips (1975)
TM Productions jingle package promotion (c. 1976)
Jack Miller, The WCFL Story (1979)
TM Productions beautiful music automation package promotion (c. 1976)
Dave McElhatton, KPIX news segment (1980)
Shelley Pope, “A Human Radio Station,” (c. 1980)
Phil Jones, “The Last Polka” (1992)
Christof Migone (as voiced by Jennifer Cherniak, Amos Latteier, Chris Myhr, and Gintas Tirillis), Radio Naked (1994)
“Bart Gets an Elephant” (1994)
Absolute Value of Noise (Peter Courtemanche), “Monster Audio,” 1998
Tom Petty, “The Last DJ” (2002)
Paul Schafer, NAB Engineering Achievement Award acceptance speech (2002)
Shellac, “The End of Radio” (2004)
Google Radio Automation advertisement (2009)
Anna Friz and Emmanuel Madan, The Joy Channel (2018)

Many thanks to the following sound artists who contributed 25hz tones:
Keith de Mendonca
James Staub
Andrew Madey
Ezra Teboul
CJ Eller

A special thank you to Gregory Whitehead for voicing and audio production in the reenactment of “Automatic Station Operation” (1953).

Andy Kelleher Stuhl is the 2021/2022 Wave Farm Radio Artist Fellow. He is also a PhD candidate in Communication Studies at McGill University, where his dissertation traces the cultural meaning of radio automation between 1950 and 2010. He approaches radio history as a resource for overlooked precedents that artists and critics might adapt toward intervention in present-day technological systems. Visit https://wavefarm.org/wf/calendar/x1x6q0 for more information.

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