Variations on a Topography is constructed in stratified layers, each containing a recording of a full scan of the AM/FM spectrum from bottom to top and back down again. Tuning through the spectrum in the same place every time, Kohl charts a map of her specific signal, showcasing the geographic specificity of radio and drawing out its topography with additional musical sounds. Cello and synthesizer highlight moments of clarity and static, creating a counterpoint ruled by the dichotomy between them. These “signal sweeps” also offer a sedimentary view of time, capturing multiple 28 minute sections of what would otherwise be completely ephemeral sounds. The recordings, taken over the span of a few months, speak in various ways to the passage of time – the weather gets colder, traffic patterns shift, wars break out. The signal, like a ghostly mountain range, hovers around us.
Lia Kohl is Wave Farm’s fall 2023 Radio Art Fellow. She is a composer, cellist, and sound artist based in Chicago. Her wide-ranging practice includes solo composition and performance, installation, improvisation, and collaboration. Kohl tours nationally and internationally, working in theater, jazz, rock, and experimental contexts. Her work centers curiosity and patience, an exploration of the mundane and profound possibilities of sound.