Suspension of Belief, 7.6.09

Sketch 2 for Suspension of Belief which we at last plan to broadcast on 7 June, arose from discussions that Chris Weaver and I had over the last few years, but particularly when we were in residence at the AV08: Broadcast festival in Middlesbrough. There we had decided to restage Antonin Artaud’s “Our en finir avec le jugement de dieu” as part of the festival’s celebration of iconic radio works. The French academic and actor Christoph Alix kindly agreed to provide the voice for this. Rhodri Davies, the well-known harpist, and Tom Besley, a young guitarist who had worked with us before in the Resonance Radio Orchestra, joined us to provide the musical setting, with Chris on circuit-bent devices and me on turntable. We spent a day trying to work our way through the piece, did two takes and then Rhodri had to drive home.

The next morning, the rest of us recorded two takes of a short piece the text of which I had written on the flight up to the festival: this was the first sketch for Suspension of Belief and was deliberately intended as a fragment. It was broadcast by ORF in Austria at the suggestion, I think, of Knut Aufermann. It attempted to combine a reflection on Artaud, the sense of fear when flying, the mood of certain childhood memories and the gist of a discussion Chris and I had had about being airborne. The idea was simple: to create a “radiophonic object,” small, partial and incomplete. Later when we came to talk more about what over the years (it was an idea I had even before I met Chris) we called “the rock-climbing show,” the tone set by this first sketch seemed suggestive.

I wanted to broaden the scope of the text and thought that bringing in another writer was the simplest and best option: my role would simply be to facilitate an encounter rather than to direct the participants. The encounter would be acousmatic: the participants wouldn’t be able to see one another, nor hear one another. Put simply, we thought in terms of a post-expressionist experiment. Chris likewise rapidly assumed a technical role. The upshot is that he will travel next week to Spain to broadcast a climb by the English climber Gaz Parry, while the writer Jim Perrin (a very fine writer who was himself a climber) provides the text from our friends Bob & Maggie’s studio in Caudeval. Incidental sound and/or music may be brought into the mix – we have yet to see who might be to hand and who we think suitable. With Bob Drake as engineer, anything is possible.

This is a project that has been gestating for a long time and then has very suddenly been drawn together. For us, it is a research project for a larger work, in which perhaps we will combine many different elements in a rich radiophonic object. The trouble is, Chris and I mostly have too much work to do at the radio station, so our artistic projects move forward so very slowly… and I am not even certain we have discussed this yet in any depth. For the time being, we’re excited to get our teeth into a self-created problem and see where it all leads.

Another time, I’ll write about other aspects of this project, at the risk of boring the reader with too much information. After the event, I think.

Ed Baxter

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