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1921 __ « Radio of the Future »
Velimir Khlebnikov (Chlebnikov, Hlebnikovs) (1885-1922)
Comment : The Russian poet Velimir Chlebnikov (1885-1922) presents an astonishing vision of the Radio-Eye as a utopian model for a new world-wide community. He wrote futurological essays about such things as the possible evolution of mass communication ("The Radio of the Future", written in 1921 - more than a decade before Bertolt Brecht’s often quoted “Radio Theory”) and transportation and housing ("Ourselves and Our Buildings"). He described a world in which people live and travel about in mobile glass cubicles that can attach themselves to skyscraper-like frameworks, and in which all human knowledge can be disseminated to the world by radio and displayed automatically on giant book-like displays at streetcorners. He formulated his view of the future role of radio. While his view is a pessimist one (pointing to the danger of the radio as a centralized propaganda tool à la “one sender, a thousand receivers” [Goebbels]), he also envisions the possibility of a truly dialogic, point-to-point, or one-to-one-communication via the radio by suggesting a “chess game between two people located in the geographic antipodes”, or an “inspiring discussion between a person in America and a person in Europe”. In addition to that, he claimed that wireless communication would play a crucial role for the development of new concepts of space and time. He described a world in which people live and travel about in mobile glass cubicles that can attach themselves to skyscraper-like frameworks, and in which all human knowledge can be disseminated to the world by radio and displayed automatically on giant book-like displays at streetcorners. (Compiled from various sources)Khlebnikov in "The Radio in the Future" foretells of long-distance synesthetic healing without medicine and the transmission of an anthem of strength in production : « It is a known fact that certain notes like 'la' and 'ti' are able to increase muscular capacity, sometimes as muc as sisty-four times, since they thicken the muscle for a certain length of time. During periods of intense hard work like summer harvests or during the construction of great buildings, these sounds can be broadcast by Radio over the entire country, increasing its collective strength enormously. ». (Douglas Kahn)
Original excerpt 1 : « The Radio of the Future - the central tree of our consciousness - will inaugurate the new ways to cope with our endless undertakings and will unite all mankind [alternate version : The Radio of the Future - the main tree of consciousness - will open up a knowledge of countless tasks and unite all mankind]. The main radio station, that stronghold of steel, where clouds of wires cluster like strands of hair, will surely be protected by a sign with a skull and crossbones and the familiar word "Danger," since the least disruption of radio operations would produce a mental blackout over the entire country, a temporary loss of consciousness [alternate version : Nearby the main radio station, this castle of steel, where clouds of wires spread like hair, there will certainly be sketched a pair of bones, a skull and the well known “Danger” sign, as the shortest interruption of the transmission of the Radio will cause a mental crisis of the whole country, will cause a timely loss of consciousness.]. Radio is becoming the spiritual sun of the country, a great wizard and sorcerer. Let us try to imagine Radio's main station : in the air a spider's web of lines, a storm cloud of lightning bolts, some subsiding, some flaring up anew, crisscrossing the building from one end to the other. A bright blue ball of spherical lightning hanging in midair like a timid bird, guy wires stretched out at a slant. From this point on Planet Earth, every day, like the flight of birds in springtime, a flock of new departs, news from the life of the spirit [alternate version : Around the clock from this point of globe, flocks of news items from the life of the spirit scatter like the spring flight of birds. In this stream of lighting birds, the spirit will prevail over force, good advice over intimidation]. In this stream of lightning birds the spirit will prevail over force, good counsel over threats [alternate version : Within the flow of flashing birds, the spirit will overcome force, the good advice will win the day against violence and threat.]. The activities of artists who work with the pen and brush, the discoveries of artists who work with ideas (Mechnikov, Einstein) will instantly transport mankind to unknown shores. Advice on day-to-day matters will alternate with lectures by those dwell upon the snowy heights of the human spirit [alternate version : Tips and tricks for everyday life will join in with thoughts by inhabitants of the snowy mountains of human mind]. The crests of waves in the sea of human knowledge will roll across the entire country into each local Radio station, to be projected that very day as letters onto the dark pages of enormous books, higher than houses, that stand in the center of each town, slowly turning their own pages.RADIO READING-WALLS.These books of the streets will be known as Radio Reading-Walls ! Their giant dimensions frame the settlements and carry out the tasks of all mankind. Radio has solved a problem that the church itself was unable to solve and has thus become as necessary to each settlement as a school is, or a library [alternate version : The Radio solved the task, which the church itself was not able to, and it is needed at every spot of the country, as today are schools and libraries]. The problem of celebrating the communion of humanity's one soul, one daily spiritual wave that washes over the entire country every twenty-four hours, saturating it with a flood of scientific and artistic news -- that problem has been solved by Radio using lightning as its tool. On the great illuminated books in each town Radio today has printed a story by a favorite writer, an essay on the fractional exponents of space, a description of airplane flights, and news about neighboring countries. Everyone can read whatever he chooses. This one book, identical across the entire country, stands in the center of every small town [village], always surrounded by a [eternal] ring of readers, a carefully composed silent Reading-Wall in every settlement [alternate version : as a thoroughly composed, silent reading room at the countryside, in the villages]. But now in black type, news of an enormous scientific discovery appears on the screens; a certain chimist, famous within the naroow circle of his followers, has discovered a method for producing meat and bread out of widely types of clay. A crowd gathers, wondering what will happen next. Earthquakes, fires, disasters, the events of each twenty-four-hour period will be printed out on the Radio books. The whole country will be covered with Radio stations.RADIO AUDITORIUMS.Surges of lightning are picked up and transmitted to the metal mouth of an auto-speaker, which converts them into amplified sound, into singing and human speech. The entire settlement has gathered around to listen. The metal trumpet mouth loudly carries the news of the day, the activities of the government, weather information, events from the exciting life of the capital cities. The effect will be like a giant of some kind reading a gigantic journal out loud. But it is only thos metal town cryer, only the metal mouth of the auto-speaker; gravely and distinctly it announces the morning news, beamed to this settlement from the signal tower of the main Radio station. But now what follows ? Where has this great stream of sound come from, this inundation of the whole country in supernatural singing, in the sound of beating wings, this broad silver stream full of whistlings and clangor and marvelous mad bells surging from somewhere we are not, mingling with children's voices singing and the sound of wings ? Over the center of every town in the country these voices pour down, a silver shower of sound. Amazing silver bells miwed with whistlings surge down from above. Are these perhaps the voices of heaven, spirits flying low over the farmhouse roof ? No ... The Mussorgsky of the future is giving a coast-to-coast concert of his work, using the Radio apparatus to create a vast concert hall stretching from Vladivostok to the Baltic, beneath the blue dome of the heavens. On this one evening he bewitches the people, sharing with them the communion of his soul, and on the following day he is only an ordinary mortal again. The artist has cast a spell over his land; he has given his country the singing of the sea and the whistling of the wind. The poorest house in the smallest town in filled with divine whistlings and all the sweet delights of sound.RADIO AND ART EXHIBITS.In a small town far away, a crowd of people gathers today in front of the great illuminated Radio screens, which rise up like giant books. Why ? Because today Radio is using its apparatus to transmit images in color, to allow every little town in the entire country to take part in an exhibit of paintings being held in the capital city. This exhibit is transmitted by means of light impulses repeated in thousands of mirrors at every Radio station. If Radio previously acted as the universal ear, now it has become a pair of eyes that annihilate distance [alternative version : If the radio has once been the ear of the world, today it is going to be the eye, for which no distances exist any longer.]. The main Radio signal tower emits its rays, and from Moscow an exhibit of the best painters bursts into flower on the reading walls of every small town in this enormous country, on loan to every inhabited spot on the map.RADIO CLUBS.Let's move up closer. Majestic skyscrapers wrapped in clouds, a game of chess between two people located at opposite ends of Planet Earth, an animated conversation between someone in America and someone in Europe. Now the reading-walls grow dark, suddenly the sound of a distant voice is heard singing, the metallic throat of Radio beams the rays of the song to its many metallic singers : metal sings ! And its words, brought forth in silence and solitude, and their welling springs, become a communion shared by the entire country. More obedient than strings beneath the violonist's hand, the metallic apparatus of Radio will talk and sing, obeying every marked pulse of the song. Every settlement will have listening devices and metallic voices to serve one sense, metallic eyes to serve the other.THE GREAT SORCERER.Finally we will have learned to transmist the sense of taste -- and every simple, plain but healthful mean can be transformed by means of taste-dreams carried out by Radio rays, creating the illusion of a totally different taste sensation. People will drink water, and imagine it to be wine. A simple, ample meal will wear the guise of a luxurious feast. And thus will Radio acquire an even greater power over the minds of the nation. In the future, even odors will obey [to] the will of Radio : in the dead of winter the honey scent of linden trees will mingle with the odor of snow, a true gift of Radio to the nation. Doctors today can treat patients long-distance, though hypnotic suggestion. Radio in the future will be able to act also as a doctor, healing patients without medicine. And even more : It is a known fact that certains notes like "la" and "ti" are able to increase muscular capacity, sometimes as much as sixty-four times, since they thicken the muscle for a certain length of time [alternate version : It is well known that some sounds like "lja“ or "si“ help to increase the workforce of the muscles, sometimes about 20 times as much]. During periods of intense hard work like summer harvest time, or during the construction of great buildings, these sounds can be broadcast by Radio over the entire country, increasing its collective strength enormously [alternate version : In the days of hard work, summer harvests, huge construction projects these sounds may be translated by the Radio all over the country, increasing its force for several times]. And, finally, the organisation of popular education will pass into the hands of Radio. The Supreme Soviet of Sciences will broadcast lessons and lectures to all the schools of the country -- higher institutions as well as lower. The teacher will become merely a monitor while these lectures are in progress [alternate version : The teacher will only be the sputnik, the satellite, who accompanies the process of lecture and work]. The daily transmission of lessons and text-books through the sky into the country schools of the nation, the unification of its consciousness into a single will [alternate version : Daily flows of exercises and study books throughout the sky to all the schools in the villages, the unification of the consciousnessof the country in one will]. This will Radio forge continuous links the universal soul and mold mankind into a single entity [alternate version : This is how the radio will scow together the inseparable parts of the world soul and reunite humanity]. » (Translated by Paul Schmidt)
French translated excerpt 2 : « La Radio du Futur.arbre essentiel de la conscience.ouvrira à la perception des problèmes infinis et fera l’union de l’humanité.Et voici que l’on apprend à transmettre les sensations gustatives : sur un simple repas, frugal encore que sain, la Radio va projeter le rêve gustatif de ses ondes. […] Les gens vont boire de l’eau, mais il leur semblera qu’ils ont du vin devant eux. Un simple dîner se déguisera en somptueux festin. […] Ainsi, la Radio forgera les chaînons interrompus de l’âme universelle et amalgamera l’humanité en un tout unique.[...] provoquer la pâmoison mentale du pays, une perte de conscience temporaire.Radio-auditoriums.La bouche de fer de l'autoparleur a transformé la houle de l'éclair, captée et à elle transmise, en conversation à haute voix, en chant et parole humaine. Tout le village s'assemble pour écouter. La bouche de la trompette de fer clame les nouvelles du jour, les informations gouvernementales, les renseignements sur le temps, les rumeurs de la vie orageuse des capitales. On dirait que quelque géant épelle le géant livre du jour. Mais c'est un lecteur de fer, le gosier de fer de l'autoparleur ; net et concis, il transmet les nouvelles du matin, communiquées au village par le phare du quartier général de la Radio. Mais qu'est-ce ? D'où vient cette vague de fond, cette inondation du pays par un chant supraterrestre, par le bruit d'ailes, les sifflements et le clapotis, par tout un torrent de merveilleuses clochettes délirantes, ruisselant sur nous de ces lieux où nous ne sommes point avec l'accompagnement de chants d'enfant et de bruit d'ailes ? Sur la place de chaque village ruissèlent ces voix, cette averse argentine. Les merveilleux grelots d'argent et les sifflements coulent à flots de l'au-delà. S'agit-il de sons célestes, d'esprits survolant la chaumine à basse altitude ? Non... Le Moussogorsky du futur, aidé par le matériel de la Radio, donne son grand concert national dans le vaste local qui va de Vladivostok à la Baltique entre les murailles bleues du ciel... Sortilégeant les hommes ce soir, les faisant communier avec son âme – et simple mortel demain ! Lui, l'artiste a ensorcelé son pays ; il lui a fait don du chant de la mer et du sifflement du vent ! Chaque hameau et chaque hutte seront visités par les sifflements divins et par tous les doux plaisirs des sons. » (Velimir Khlebnikov (1921/1927). La Radio de l'Avenir (ou La Radio du Futur). In "Le Pieu du Futur". (pp. 214-219). Lausanne : L'Age d'Homme, 1970). »
Source : Khlebnikov, Velimir (1921), “The Radio of the Future”, In Works, Moscow 1987, pp. 637-639, 638; also In “The King of Time - Selected Writings of the Russian Futurian Velimir Khlebnikov”, Translated by Paul Schmidt, Edited by Charlotte Douglas, Harvard edition World, 1985, pp. 155-159; also In “Collected Works”, Vol. 2, Cambridge MA. 1989, p. 67; also in "The Collected Works of Velimir Khlebnikov, Volume I : Letters and Theoretical Writings", trans. Paul Schmidt, ed. Charlotte Douglas, Cambridge, MA : Harvard University Press, 1987, p. 395.
Source : Khlebnikov, Velimir (1921), “La Radio du Futur”, Translated by L. Schnitzer, In “Le Pieu du Futur : Récits, théâtre, textes théoriques”, l'Age d'Homme, 1970.
Source : Kahn, Douglas (2004), “Art and Sound”, In “Hearing History: a reader”, Edited by Mark Michael Smith, Athens, University of Georgia Press, pp. 36-48; Abridged from "Introduction: Histories of Sound Once Removed", in Douglas Kahn and Gregory Whitehead (Eds), "Wireless Imagination : Sound, Radio, and the Avant-Garde", Cambridge, Mass : The MIT Press, 1992, pp. 1-29.
Urls : http://www.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/russ-cyb/project/en/project_old.htm (last visited ) http://acousmata.com/post/90347897/the-radio-of-the-future (last visited )

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