Endless Sonic Mania (Inventory FM)

By Anthony Iles, 10 December 2001

In a dusty factory workshop three men stand inside a makeshift studio drinking, talking, reading, making music, ranting into microphones, jamming their fingers into instruments and equipment. That this is an otherwise sedate private view, seems to have no bearing on their desperation to make sounds that might disrupt or mark its passing. A table supports knackered transistors, clock radios and stereos. Poster-sized texts are pinned to the surrounding walls. The stereos pick up the live radio broadcast being made in the studio, transmitted across the surrounding area. Samples of public and commercial radio, films, original music, CDs are mixed in as sound sources whilst pre-written texts are intermittently read and re-sampled. The readings range from mock public announcements, to political rants and hallucinatory weather reports. Speech becomes rhythm, the stuttering, stammering beat over which the music ‘speaks’, screams and shouts, finding language in breakbeats, electro, hardcore, easy listening, thrash, and distorting them all.

The broadcast functions as interference: sound made, found, overheard and ultimately lost. Passing visitors either walk smartly away, repelled by the shabby spectacle, or move in, increasing the anarchic cluster inside. Eventually there is little distinction between the initiators of this chaos, and the group of friends and children who surround them, each involved in reading or making music with the available means.

The range of this sonic sprawl, its use of radio technology, can be compared to legacies of avant-garde sound culture, notably Futurist ‘anti-music’, musique concréte, Antonin Artaud’s play Pour En Finir Avec Le Jugement de Dieu, John Cage’s Radio Music and Imaginary Music No.4. Inventory FM was not only less systematic, but also technically inferior to these precursors. This experiment was a trawl through unpopular culture: unscored, immediate and incessant. It happily squandered itself in every direction, resting precariously within the art gallery, the sensitive cultures of electro-acoustic composition or improvised music. Broadcasting sound and speech that embodies intensities forced the negation of isolated contemplation. Radio became the vehicle for a direct attack on the puritan tendencies of a visually obsessed culture. It is questionable whether Inventory’s provocation met its targets, it is certainly unlikely that this activity will stem the flow of ‘interminable private views.’ However, their project to noisily interrogate contemporary banality persists. In the midst of its faults and failures the event produced a dysfunctional yet meaningful collectivity. Inventory FM appropriated radio as a space of playful possibility. It would be good to see others occupying this space with similar enthusiasm and attitude in the near future.

Anthony Iles <a_529 AT> is a writer-researcher.

Inventory FM 107.6 at Teeth and Trousers (Ideal House, London E8) 27th July 2001 (Exhibition ran 28th July-12th August).Inventory also featured in Casco and Luke Fowler’s project The Technology of Tears. [][]