activated space
 origins  david cunningham
'Continuity' - an installation for live radio broadcast

(originally proposed for Resonance FM, 2001)

This proposal is structured around the idea that it can be used as default programming.  I have no objection to the work being more conventionally scheduled as a single piece in a more conventional programming format.

The time base of radio is one of continuities, recurring event types and patterns of time rather than specific programme units.

What the BBC call a continuity suite is a structural basis for broadcasting.  In the UK station and frequency identification at periodic intervals is a statutory requirement.  The continuity suite provides this function and also provides programming identification, overall output control, switching between studios and pre-recorded programming and monitoring of the transmission output.

On Radios 3 and 4 in the UK continuity is manifest as a series of voices linking programme units.  On Radio 1 and pop music stations pre-recorded jingles supply station identification and programme identification, the continuity function comes from DJs within the programming itself.

The proposed work 'Continuity' is a continuous installation providing a live signal available to the station over the entire duration of the broadcast period of Resonance FM.  Default programming to fill gaps in the schedule.

The input material is a series of tiny fragments (less than 100mS) recycled from the live outputs of other radio stations and automatically restructured.  Input will be from 2 sources of broadcast radio.

The live installation nature of the project means that the content of piece will constantly change over a very long timescale whilst the structuring of the sound remains constant.  Although the piece appears to have duration as a prime concern, I prefer to deal with this in the context of a radio station broadcasting other material and referring back to the continuity of the piece from time to time.  This is an attempt to focus attention on the real-time structure of radio itself, and reflects the piece's ability to include the changing nature of other broadcasting over the 24 hour cycle.

Radio provides the additional context that at some point discussion or documentation of the work can become part of the station output, completing the cycle of self reference.

The piece should be capable of adapting to various functions in the overall programming of the radio station.

station ident/jingle function: the installation in its raw state should provide an immediately identifiable sound, (identified by structure rather than content) which idents the station simply by being different to other stations.  Infinite duration will provide a level of scheduling flexibility.

basic continuity function: the installation at low level with voice over providing any necessary verbal information between programming.

breakdown function: following loss of signal from any other source, an immediately available substitute along the lines of the BBC's inevitable use of light classical music in these situations.

overnight function: a kind of test card in the absence of other programming.

The enclosed tape* has three extracts from test versions of the piece based on a version using only one source radio.  They all sound broadly similar except that (2) has some music content.

1  (8.00)
2  (9.40)
3  (8.20)
(* this recording is unavailable)


Drawmer DS201 noise gate
FM radio receiver x 2
Roland SDE 3000 or TC electronic D-2 (or similar, capable of at least 4 secs high quality audio delay)
Yamaha SPX900 processor
8 input audio mixer with at least 2 cue sends
programmable drum machine with 2 discrete outputs
mains outlets, audio cables and lines to main station continuity desk

The equipment should be situated in a small room (preferably not a basement for reasons of radio reception) and left running unattended.  Set up should take no longer than about 3 hours.

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