Reverie, Vacant City Radio. Along the rail lines and the waterways of the city, the concrete hulks loom large and quiet; factories and silos that once clamoured with cacophanous machine activity, now laid to rest. These are hollow places: gutted, derelict, dusty, dark. In a city that fills with more people and cars every year, empty sheds or factories become liminal spaces, caught as they are in a limbo of intentions. They have been retired from service and left to their echos. From 2001-2002 I recorded sounds along an industrial section of the Lachine Canal in Montreal as part of Andra McCartney’s Les Journes Sonores project. I began going into some of these buildings as a side interest, and recording the small sounds inside that are literally all that remain of most of Montreal’s industrial past. In the following two years, many of these spaces are now lost, either replaced or renovated into condominiums.
Vacant City Radio links these recordings with another kind of lost urban space: the cities on the dials of old shortwave radios. Many transistor radios, particularly from Europe, were designed with the names of cities in place of frequencies on the dial, but these radio cities often no longer exist. The frequencies have shifted as the radio landscape has also been renovated to make way for more privately-owned units.
I am interested in these moments of transition between the monumental past and the generic present, particularly in the context of the relatively young cities of North America. Vacant City Radio considers sense of place and memory through ephemeral sonic and radio-phonic representations of city, through low-watt transmissions of lost sounds manifesting in the dark corners of the dial.
Anna Friz is a sound and radio artist living in Montreal. She has presented installation and performance works incorporating low-watt FM transmission across Canada, as well as at the Third Coast Audio Festival in Chicago, PS 122 in New York City, Ars Electronica 2002, and at the Akademie der Kunste, Berlin. She has produced numerous original radio works for Kunstradio, Austria, as well as for campus/community radio stations across Canada, and for public radio in Canada, Austria, Denmark and Mexico.