What is it?
This interactive “radio” has eight stations of computer-generated speech, presented in a faux old-time cathedral radio cabinet with a tuning knob. Each station is a Markov chain generated from texts including Alice in Wonderland, the U.S. Constitution, and the tweet history of Donald Trump. There are 24 hours of looping audio for each station, pegged to the current time.
Have a listen:
When I think of darkness, I think of radio; of wavering crackles over silent hills, portals, the freshest beats in stolen cars bouncing off of the atmosphere’s lower extents in a moonless sky. I think of hunting through a void with a dial and raised hackles. Destinations unimagined by the sender.
We hunt for sparks, for connections, for purpose.
With “Markov Radio” I have taken influential works and fed them to a dystopian meat grinder. Imagine “Alice in Wonderland,” but 24 hours long, stretched thin by a computer, and narrated by a chained Siri. You can hunt between its eight stations and find only calm, distressing, dead voices.
How to interact with it
As you turn its tuning knob, “stations” become clearer through the static.
Where has it been shown?
The Markov Radio was exhibited at the Hirshhorn Museum as part of Sound Scene X, a one-day show on July 8, 2017, curated by the D.C. Listening Lounge. About 10,000 people visited the museum that day.
What problem does it solve?
The Markov Radio is a deep dive into cognitive dissonance. It has a human-seeming voice reading sensical-sounding text… But if you really listen, it’s all just mash.
How does it work?
It is driven by a Linux computer (Next Thing Co. C.H.I.P.) and microcontroller (AVR: Pro Mini) running custom software in a bespoke laser-cut wooden enclosure.
The Markov Radio is driven by a Linux computer (Next Thing Co. C.H.I.P.) and microcontroller (AVR: Pro Mini) running custom software in a bespoke laser-cut wooden enclosure.
The radio is about 8x6x4”. It can be positioned on a tabletop and can be heard from a distance. It does not have an external speaker hookup so it would be hard to hear outdoors or in a loud/large space.
The generated text from Donald Trump’s tweet history may be offensive to listeners.
It is audible by many but adjustable by one.