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Peer-reviewed audio paper

Listening beyond radio, listening beyond history

A proposal for alternative radio histories.
18. december 2019
Fokus: Sonic Argumentation II
  DOI https://doi.org/10.48233/seismograf2305

This paper argues that the documented history of human interaction with radio is a matter to be unravelled, and pirated. The ‘first documented radio listening experience’ is questioned, and followed by the proposal for alternative radio histories – that disrupt, critique, and reach beyond the usual masculine, Western, ‘modern’ tellings of this era.

Interweaving scientific research into the capabilities of human hearing, with the often spectacular occurrences of natural radio (such as the Auroras, lightning and meteorites entering the earth’s atmosphere), this audio paper takes seriously Donna Haraway’s statement: ‘It matters which stories tell stories’ (2016), and therefore purposefully entangles radio history with feminist, postcolonial, and speculative tellings of the past.

Here, the notion of listening is used in an expanded sense, and as such is posited as a way to pay attention to – and foster care and respect for – not just the voices, sounds and gestures which often go unnoticed, but also the possible histories.



Kahn, D. (2013) Earth Sound Earth Signal: Energies and Earth Magnitude in the Arts. University of California Press.

Sawchuk, K. (1994) Pirate Writing: Radiophonic Strategies for Feminist Techno-Perverts. Daina Augaitis and Dan Lander (Eds.) Radio Rethink: Art, Sound and Transmission, Banff: Walter Phillips Gallery.

Donovan, K. (2018) Auroral (hi)stories: The Bespoke Headpiece. Expanding Radio. Ecological Thinking and Trans-scalar Encounters in Contemporary Radio Art Practice. Masters Thesis, University of Potsdam.

Haraway, D. (2014) Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene: Staying with the TroubleAnthropocene: Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet, Aarhus University, 5 September 2014.

Keay, C. S. L. (1980) Audible sounds excited by aurorae and meteor fireballs. Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, vol. 74.

Keay, C. (1994). Audible Fireballs and Geophysical Electrophonics. Publications of the Astronomical Society of Australia, 11(1).

Evans, C. (2018) Meteor/ites(Radio Show) Elements, with Kate Donovan. Freies Radio Berlin Brandenburg: CoLaboRadio.

Dimock, W-C. (2003) Planetary Time and Global Translation: Context in Literary Studies. Common Knowledge, vol. 9, no. 3.

Sound sources

Stephen P. McGreevy (2000). Auroral Chorus II: The Original CD Tracks.

ctrlAG. (2013) Russia Meteor sound shockwaveYouTube.

“Live Meteor Radio Echoes.” Listen Live to Meteor Pings While They Strike Earth's Atmosphere.

And the voices of Jarrod Higham; Molly, Hunter and Scout. (With thanks!)

Further reading

D'Arcy, M. (1993) Playing with the Airwaves. Neil Strauss and Dave Mandl (Eds.) Radiotext(e), New York: Semiotext(e).

Davis, H., and Z. Todd. (2017) On the Importance of a Date, or Decolonizing the Anthropocene. ACME An International Journal of Critical Geographies, vol. 16, no. 4.

Donovan, K. (2018) Expanding Radio. Ecological Thinking and Trans-scalar Encounters in Contemporary Radio Art Practice. Masters Thesis, University of Potsdam.

Dyer, S. and Engelmann, S. (2017) Lore of the Radio FossilTemporary Art Review.

Friz, A. (2010) The Art of Unstable Radio. Langlois, A., et al (Eds.) Islands of Resistance: Pirate Radio in Canada. Vancouver: New Star Books.

Haraway, D. (2016) Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham: Duke University Press.

Hamacher, D. W. (2014) Recorded Accounts of Meteoritic Events in the Oral Traditions of Indigenous Australians. Archaeoastronomy – The Journal of Astronomy in Culture, Vol.25.

Irigaray, L. (1996) In Almost Absolute Silence. I Love to You: Sketch for a Felicity within History, New York: Routledge.

Noll, U. (2014) Surfing the Gray Line. A sonopoetic exploration of space, sound and radio. Fisher, Berit (Ed). Hlysnan: the notion and politics of listening, Luxembourg: Casino Luxembourg.

Silvestrin, D., M.d. Vega et al. (Eds.) (2016) Limen: Ecologies of Transmission, Mexico City & Berlin: 17 & ñ.

TEDx Talks. (2014) Ešenvalds, Eriks: What Do Northern Lights Sound Like? (online video).

Westerkamp, H. (1994) The Soundscape on Radio. Daina Augaitis and Dan Lander (Eds.) Radio Rethink: Art, Sound and Transmission. Banff: Walter Phillips Gallery.


postcolonial and feminist histories
multiple narratives
natural radio