The radio art project “Missed Call” was carried out on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of ELAK, the Institute of Composition and Electroacoustics at Vienna’s University of Music and Performing Arts, marking the end of the three-day “Electroacoustic music” festival at a vast warehouse, called Expedithalle, on the site of a former bread factory.
“Missed Call” was an attempt to short-circuit radio with itself, reflecting the medium with its own methods of communication. Listeners were invited to participate by phoning one of 18 mobile phone numbers and at the same time approaching the geographical centre of the project, the Expedithalle in Vienna, during the entire duration of the live Kunstradio broadcast.
The usual mode of on air audience participation – phone in radio shows with spoken contributions – was inverted, as the listeners became senders themselves. Furthermore, participants were asked not to speak during their calls, hence negating language as radio’s primary means of communication and declining its semantic dimension.
The city sounds transmitted via the callers’ mobile phones were played back at the Expedithalle, on a sound installation with 60 speakers of various types and makes, as well as blended into the radio mix. The nocturnal soundscape of the city of Vienna, from the point of departure to the Expedithalle, was transmitted via the mobile phones’ microphones and thus transferred into the radio space. Calls were received and processed simultaneously, they overlapped in a real time situation and created an acoustic depiction of the topology in the Expedithalle’s environment.
The generous space of the Expedithalle was used to play the received sounds, whilst head simulator microphones were moved inside the hall and provided further sound material to be included in the radio mix, creating an intriguing feedback loop between the city, the place and the radio. With all mobile participants arriving at the focal point toward the end of the radio broadcast, the media circuit was closed and senders/receivers were interlocked in the exchange of signals.
*) The German title “Anruf in Anwesenheit” is a pun and can’t be translated – we therefore decided to leave it as it is. It literally means “Call in presence” and relates to the term “Anruf in Abwesenheit”, which means “missed call” or literally “call in absence”.