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Untitled Radio (futile, fertile)

by Lia Kohl

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Lia Kohl is a cellist, composer, and multidisciplinary artist based in Chicago. She creates and performs sonic landscapes utilising cello, synthesisers, field recordings, and live radio to explore the mundane and profound possibilities of sound. She has presented work and performed at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Walker Art Center, Chicago Symphony Center, and Eckhart Park Pool. Her debut solo album, ‘Too Small to Be a Plain’, was released on Shinkoyo/Artist Pool in March 2022.

Her work has been featured in The Wire, Downbeat Magazine, The Chicago Reader, The Chicago Tribune, and on Bandcamp’s Album of the Day and Best Experimental Music. In addition to her solo debut, recent albums include duos with Macie Stewart (Astral Spirits), Zachary Good (Parlour Tapes+), and ZRL (American Dreams Records).

As an improviser and collaborator, she has participated in cultural exchanges in Mexico, France, Germany, Denmark, China and the UK, and toured on four continents.

As a sound and visual artist, she has presented gallery shows at Roman Susan Art Foundation and Experimental Sound Studios’ Audible Gallery. She has been a resident artist at ACRE, Vashon Artist Residency, High Concept Labs, dfbrl8r Performance Art Gallery, Mana Contemporary, Stanford University, and Mills College. She tours regularly with puppet theater company Manual Cinema, and helps create 60 Songs in 60 Minutes, a quarterly show with The Neo-Futurists.

Artist notes:

The basis of this work is a series of improvisations with live radio static, created while in residence at ACRE in northwestern Wisconsin. ACRE is situated outside of Steuben, WI, an area rural enough that pockets of it get little to no radio signal. Instead, the FM signal offers a rich and varied palette of drones, percussive stutters and pops, prompting the ear to invent myriad sonic architecture: harmonies, melodies, landscapes.

I’m drawn to the radio for its particularly physical expression of sound; these waves are all around us, all the time; broadcasting weather and emergencies and prayers and pop tunes, we only have to turn it on to hear them. These long recordings of static have a futile and fertile quality: full of possibility, transmitting nothing. Though these radio improvisations could stand on their own as musical objects, here they serve as scores or guides for further response. This work is a collection of four of these responses, utilising synthesiser, cello, voice, and processed field recordings.

My responses to these scores can vary dramatically in each realisation. Sometimes specific tonalities or clear melodic fragments emerge, other times I’m more struck by noise, or focused on a close recreation of the static sound. I am careful not to impose preconceived restrictions on the process, offering myself the opportunity for present and attentive listening, honouring the fact that listening is a responsive act. There is no single sonic truth. The more often I explore this practice, the more it changes.

Mastered by Simon Scott at SPS Mastering.


released November 21, 2022


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Lia Kohl Chicago, Illinois

Lia Kohl is a cellist, composer, and sound artist based in Chicago.

Her work centers curiosity and patience, an exploration of the mundane and profound possibilities of sound.

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