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An essay which uses Negativland's radio show 'Over the Edge' as a specific example of the use and creation of found sound or sound collage in general. This has a new 2014 prologue which explains more about some of the terms used to describe these ideas.

Prologue - The Essential Characteristics of Mediage:

1. Mediage is a new genre consisting of compositions or 'programs' that chiefly use a topical, eclectic span of material derived from the current and available media environment at large. Examples of this type of programming (or Mediage) are Negativland's "Over the Edge" radio show (described in the 'Using Found Sound' essay below) , The Puzzling Evidence Show, The National Cynical Network, "Bob"'s Slacktime Funhouse, Big City Orchestra's 'UB Radio Salon' webcast, Pop Defect Radio, and work by Emergency Broadcast Network and the Evolution Control Committee, etc. Non-derived material can also be included in Mediage Programs. Ideally, all source material is credited, and links are provided back to the original works and their sources, or at least to information about them and/or their creators.

2. Mediage programs are each more or less related to a certain theme(s) or idea(s) that are ideally universal themes. The more common and familiar to all humanity or 'iconic' the theme or idea, the better. Mediage seeks to be 'syntopical' in its arrangment of material, i.e. capturing (and artistically and journalistically synthesizing) the conversation abouttopic as it is treated in the available media at any given time. A mediage, or mediage program, can be thought of as a time capsule which holds a photo album made up of collaged (and more or less artistically modified) 'snapshots' of the media landscape at the time of its creation. In this sense, a 'mediage' is an artistic documentary which has journalistic elements. 

3. Mediage 're-works' or somehow transforms the material it uses. In other words, it applies a subjective artistic process to the material, through the use of techniques and effects, in order to create a linear program imbued with its own unique identity, as well as the characteristic style of its creator(s). The creator (or creators) are fashioning an experience which is eclectic, but flows in a stream of consciousness and even psychedelic (i.e. appealing to the mind and spirit) fashion. Season to taste. Usages should ideally be re-worked (i.e. transformed) by re-contextualization, or fragmentation or remix. Terms for types of re-workings of derived material include but are not limited to: 'remixes', 'mash-ups', 'subliminalisms', 'mush-ups', 'mods', 'weaves', 'conversational compositions', 'variations' and 'version medleys'. Some of these techniques are described in the essay 'Using Found Sound' below. 

4. Mediage strives for musicality in that it is in the creator's or creators' personal and unique style as well as seeking to create an experience that is sonically different, beautiful, or interesting, overall. The program is largely derivative in content, but original in form and should have its own unique artistic identity. A program should be more than the sum of its parts and not merely a collection of songs. Mediage or 'a mediage' or 'a mediage program' seeks to be somewhere between an actual musical album and a 'mix'. It seeks to blur the lines between these two formats and include characteristics of both. 

5. Mediage puts the results of its process back into the media environment for public consumption in the form of unique 'programming'. This can be through the web or by droplifting. It is typically a DIY or undeground undertaking in the purest sense of it. However, it doesn't necessarily shy away from mainstream exposure or being 'the next big thing' sort of like MTV and music videos were back in 1983. 

Someone who acts as a 'meta-DJ' or a fashioner of mediage experience can be thought of as a 'Mediagician'. A mediage program can be called 'a mediage'. A mediage ideally is something that makes a unique statement, taken as a whole. However the statement(s) it makes may be abstract ones which cannot necessarily be put into words but rather 'told' by the use and creation of various effects and techniques. A Mediagician has the prerogative of not having to fully explain his statement since it might undermine the 'mystery and mischief' of the program itself. Besides, who wants to pluck the wings off a butterfly?


USING FOUND SOUND (an OTE Primer) by Phineas Narco:

Over the Edge is a more or less weekly radio show started by the experimental music group Negativland back in the early 80's. The main idea behind Over the Edge and Negativland's work, simply put, is creating new work out of pre-existing material, specifically audio material or 'found sound' in the form of collage. Negativland was involved in a legal controversy when Island Records sued them for copyright infringement in connection with their 1991 single-'U2'.

Back to Over the Edge...

The show's format consists of three main elements: Material, Techniques and Effects.

Let's take a look at the element of Material:

More and more, we live in a media environment of audio, video and computerized information. In fact, we are so steeped in it we are often not aware it is there, rather like how a fish is probably not aware of the water it's immersed in.

Negativland and Over the Edge as well as a growing number of 'media artists' want to make us aware of it by going about the business of taking samples of media and mutating them to create something new. Material comes through readily available media sources: tapes, cd's, television, radio, video, computers, etc. Devices to collect this daily torrent are readily available to the public. This practice is, however, in some cases illegal and under debate in the courts and the community, but Negativland believes, as, do we, that culture is to a very large extent defined by media and that use of that media to create new and unique work, commentary, criticism, or reinterpretation is a time-honored, legitimate and worthwile artistic enterprise.

Material on Over the Edge is normally collected and used in accordance with a particular theme or subject that will be explored throughout the course of the show, for example advertising, copy-right laws, specific artist profiles, news events, death, national trends, cartoons, fads or obsessions, humor, UFO's, war, the media itself, guns, etc. etc.... the list is endless. (A lot of material on Over the Edge includes original scripted features, running gags, routines and characters which are too extensive and numerous to go delve into here.) Let's take a look at how this material is used and reused:

One technique, probably the most basic, is mixing. This consists of playing one sample over another at the same time to create a new effect different than the elements taken alone. Whether the resultant effect is desirable or interesting, whether it 'works' or not, is subjectively up to the creator or listener. I use a technique of composition called 'mixing and straining' whereby different mixing combinations are tried live, like on the Over the Edge radio show, and, are then edited so that the stuff that doesn't work is left out of the final edit and all the stuff that does work is left in. The result is a better 'mix' or compilation of mixes. This is the case in my 'EHL' or Edited Highlights versions of Over the Edge shows and why I feel they are more compelling and less exhaustive than most of the full versions. All the boring stuff, the 'unfavorable mutations', are strained out in a what can be thought of as a system of audio Darwinism. 'Survival of the Most Interesting'.

The technique of what I call 'simulmixing' can lead to interesting effects. This is taking two very closely related sources, for example a live version and a studio version of the same song or musical piece, or the same text being read at different times or by different people, and playing them on top of each other in a more or less synchronous way. John Giorno uses this technique in his poetry readings, and lots of artists do it in enhancing live recordings: they call it 'overdubbing'. If you're using the EXACT same sample, coming from two different sources, say a cd and a record, a 'lag' will almost inevitably occur (or can be created) and will result in a 'poor man's reverb' effect that can be quite interesting.

Another basic technique is the juxtaposing of samples which can consist of playing a little bit of one, then pausing, then playing a little bit of the other(s), and so on, back and forth. The effect can be sometime be humorous and can sometimes lead to strange unintentional coincidences. On Over the Edge this technique is called 'Conversational Composition' because it proceeds much like a conversation. The basic mechanism here is the pause button. Other terms that I use for this are 'intercutting' or 'weaving'. This type of juxtaposition can either be created live on the air, or in pre-production or a combination of both can be used.

Recognizable material can be mutated into sounds or noises or any number of effects through various devices that are used on Over the Edge. These can also change the nature of pre-existing sounds or noises. These include repetition-which can be created through a digital delay unit. This can be used in combination with running a sample backwards, and/or changing the speed, pitch and/or volume of the resultant 'loop'. Repetition can also be created by recording the sample over and over again beforehand and can be put on a loop tape which will play indefinitely. Or this can be done by hitting the review or rewind button briefly on the playback deck to repeat the desired sample.

Reverb or 'echo' is another form of repetition that can be produced with the resultant subtle or strident, long or short, repeats fading away quickly or slowly by controlling a reverb machine. Lots of different effects can be created from making the sample sound like it's in a cavern, or an auditorium, or inside a steel drum, a time warp, and so on.

Another interesting sound or noise can be created through feedback. The Weatherman, of Negativland, has created a machine called 'The Booper' which creates feedback that can be controlled and modiied through various switches and knobs on the unit. This produces a variety of sounds that are generally cleaner, better modulated, and more synthesizer - like than the spitting, grinding 'grungy' noise created by feedback at many rock concerts ala Jimi Hendrix.

Another element in Over the Edge is that of callers who are invited to inject their own material into this live mix through the phonelines. Some callers have devised a 'phone fidelity system' whereby they play material DIRECTLY from their audio output devices into the phoneline resulting in better quality sound. One caller has even figured out how to come over the phone line in stereo, and can pan himself, by his using two phonelines that are punched in, at the station, at the same time, one line for each channel.

When one considers the variety of techniques, the practically unlimited supply of media material, and the use of special effects devices, the possible different combinations of these elements and techniques to produce different effects that can be created and composed are virtually infinite. Over the Edge does this. But it is unique in a further sense in that it is all done live. There is a good deal of wonderful unpredictability about the show. Sometimes eerie, unplanned synchonicities occur, a lot of times what's happening on the air doesn't 'work' but quite often things will just spontaneously come together and magic will happen, out of the blue, humor can spontaneously arise out of nowhere, wonderful psychedelic atmospheres are created. Part of the fun is not knowing what's going to happen next. Often the people in the studio don't even know until it's happening. And of course there is the further unpredictable factor of callers adding their own material and helping to create the resultant composition or mix which can be further mutated and sampled, juxtaposed, mixed, delayed, reverbed, etc.... resultant mixes can themselves become elements in yet other mixes on different shows, and so on.

Over the Edge is on Thursday night (technically Friday mornings) from 12am-3am PST at 94.1 FM in the San Francisco Bay Area and can be heard over the internet by going to www.kpfa.org.



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