(Re)Making Radio with Shortwave Collective

October 3, 2022 | 00:53:04

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The Shortwave Collective describe themselves as “an international feminist group using the radio spectrum as artistic material.” I was first intrigued by their piece Receive-Transmit-Receive, an exquisite corpse of audio, in which members each contributed their own recordings of sounds from across the radio spectrum. But what really affected me was their ongoing public education project of teaching people to make their own no-power, low-budget radios called open-wave receivers. They’ve held radio-making workshops in Portugal, France, and the UK and they’ve published a how-to in Make magazine.

I wanted to talk to the Shortwave Collective because they are presenting a radically different vision of what radio is and can be. Radio’s history can be thought of as an extended expression of military, political, commercial, and cultural dominance. But the Collective embraces play, experimentation, failure, community, and open listening in their feminist radio practice. So, let’s talk to the Shortwave Collective and see if we can rethink radio–what it’s for and what it can do.  

And in the second half of the show, we’ll hear an audio documentary in which the Shortwave Collective teaches you how to make your own open-wave receiver.

Special thanks for appearing on the show to Shortwave Collective members Lisa Hall, ​Alyssa Moxley, Georgia Muenster, and Maria Papadomanolaki. The other Collective members are Sally A. Applin, Kate Donovan, Brigitte Hart, and Hannah Kemp-Welch. 
Today’s show was written and edited by Mack Hagood with technical assistance from Craig Eley. Today’s music is by Graeme Gibson with additional sound design elements by Cris Cheek and Shortwave Collective. Phantom Power’s production team includes Craig Eley, Ravi Krishnaswami, and Amy Skjerseth. Our Production Coordinator and transcriber is Jason Meggyesy.


[33:47 For Tools Needed to Build Open Wave Receiver]

[34:47 For Start of Tutorial]

Mack Hagood: Before we get started, I have three URLs for your consideration. 

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All right, let’s get to it. 

Ethereal Voice: This is Phantom Power.

[Female Voices Talking Fades Into Robotic Music]

Mack: Hey, and welcome to another episode of Phantom Power, where artists and scholars and musicians tell stories about sound. I’m Mack Hagood and I am so excited about today’s episode. 

I mean, I’m thrilled because today we have the Shortwave Collective, an international feminist collective of scholars and practitioners, and artists who are reimagining what radio is and can be both as a technology and as a practice. 

And one of the really amazing things that they are doing is teaching folks how to make radios with just basically junk that you find in your house. So today you are actually going to learn how to make your own radio right here on this podcast.

[Robotic Music Fades]

So in a few moments, we’re gonna talk to the Shortwave Collective about radio as a feminist practice, and then we’re gonna hear a documentary that the Shortwave Collective made that talks about their project of radio making and will actually teach you how to make your own radio. 

But first I wanna talk a little bit about Shortwave itself.

In some ways, Shortwave is a really intimate medium for me. In the mid-1980s when I was a kid of 10 or 11, growing up in New Orleans, one of my most beloved possessions was a Ross World Master Multi-Band Radio. It was maybe a foot long, its exterior was black leather or maybe vinyl, and it had a silver flap that closed over the front, hiding the push buttons that were used to select the radio band and the orange needle that would glide across the frequency spectrum when you turned this big analog knob.

The radio had AM/FM and Marine band, but the good stuff lived in the bands marked SW 1, 2, 3, and 4. I’d stay up past my bedtime when the reception was better slowly turning the knob to encounter unknown languages.

[Radio Broadcast in a Foreign Language]

Cryptic lists of numbers 

[Voice Listing Numbers]

I later learned that these are supposedly transmitted by the CIA and other spy agencies. 

And moans and howls and static that iced my spine.

[Radio Noise]

When I’d lift up the silver flap to turn on the radio, a map printed on its underside was revealed. The map divided the world into 24 zones, so that with the Ross World Master, you were not only mastering space by eavesdropping on the sounds from the far corners of the earth, but you were mastering time as well.

My father, a former radio man for the US Coast Guard, was gone now, but he had left this technological artifact behind when he moved out. There was no one to explain shortwave radio to me, which only enhanced the almost religious mystery of these strange voices and spectral sounds from the ether. 

[Radio Noise]

Years later, as a college student, I got a job as a late-night board operator at a commercial shortwave radio station called WR&O Worldwide. My job consisted of three things. First, every hour I would record the latest radio news update off of a satellite feed, and I’d play it back over short wave at the top of the hour.

Second, I would unbox these reels of audio tape that arrived in the mail, thread them on a machine and broadcast them. These tapes carried the fire and brimstone sermons, haunted organs, distorted tambourines, and speaking in tongues of Appalachian Evangelical churches who paid the radio station owner to play them.

[Pastor Yelling His Sermon]

In fact, that was the station’s biggest source of income.

[Guitar Playing]

Third, in between the news and Jesus, I would play the station identification 

[WR&O Theme Music]

And old rock music, both of which were stored on special tape loop devices called carts. There were less than 10 music carts in the studio as they were only meant to fill the spare moments between the news and Jesus. 

I remember one of them was “Take it Easy” by the Eagles. I heard that song over and over and over and over.

By now, I understood the basic principle behind shortwave radio. The antenna was sending the signal, news, Jesus, and The Eagles over the horizon and bouncing it off of the ionosphere, the electrically charged field that surrounds the earth. Thus bounced off the gate of heaven the news, Jesus and The Eagles could be picked up on shortwave radios far away in South America, Asia, or Africa, or the Pacific Islands.

I would sit those late nights in the dim-lit studio, a silent board op in the deserted station, knowing that my transmission was being scattered upon the earth, and I felt that same sense of near-religious mystery that I felt as a kid. But now, instead of being part of the global flock, I was behind the pulpit of the mixing board.

The receiver had become a transmitter.

Recently, all of these memories came flooding back to me thanks to the work of the Shortwave Collective. The Shortwave Collective describe themselves as an international feminist group using the radio spectrum as artistic material. I was intrigued by their piece “Receive, Transmit, Receive,” an exquisite corpse of audio in which members of the international collective each contributed their own recordings of sounds from across the radio spectrum. Sounds like the ones that captivated me as a boy. 

But what really affected me was their ongoing public education project of teaching people how to make their own no-power, low-budget radios called “open wave receivers.” There are all these joyous photos on their website of smiling people making their own radios and listening together. They’ve done these workshops in Portugal and France in the UK and they’ve published an amazing how-to in Make Magazine (link in the show notes). 

And they’ve even produced an audio documentary that we’ll hear today on how to make your own open wave receiver. And I wanted to talk to them because they’re really presenting a radically different vision of what radio is and can be. If you think about it, radio’s history is the extended expression of dominance. 

Military dominance, political dominance, commercial dominance, and cultural dominance. So many amateur and professional radio operators like my dad got their training in the military. The CIA numbers stations of the Cold War. The way that the station I worked for blasted U.S. political perspectives and Jesus at the rest of the world, interspersed with The Eagles, admonishing everyone to take it easy. 

Even the name of my radio, The World Master, what the hell is that? The entire history of radio is the story of something mysterious, almost magical. A connection to the world that I saw as a little boy, but one that’s been mastered, weaponized for dominance.

So, let’s talk to the Shortwave Collective and see if we can rethink radio. What it’s for and what it can do.

[Robotic Music]

Georgia Muenster: I’m Georgia Muenster, and I am a contemporary art curator dealing with urbanism and architecture. I’m currently based in Braz, Austria. I’m from New York and I live in London. 

So the Shortwave collective was started in 2020 at the beginning of Covid when, you know, a few of us met at Sound Camp in London, a digital sound camp that is, and we decided to just start meeting informally and exchanging ideas around sound, art, and radio and then it sort of snowballed from there into something much bigger. 

Lisa Hall: Hello, I’m Lisa Hall. I’m a sound artist. I’m based in the UK across London and Brighton and a lot of my work is exploring urban environments with sound and radio environments with the Shortwave Collective. 

Sound Camp is a really great group of people who get together and literally stage a camp where people sleep over in tents and listen on International Dawn Chorus Day.

Mack: That’s Dawn Chorus, as in the sound that birds make when the sun rises. International Don Chorus Day consists of local events and a 24-hour streaming event online. 

Lisa: And there are camps all over the world and the one we met at was the one in London in this lovely ecological park in south, but very central London. So at these camps, there are a whole number of different creative activities, connecting sound in the environment and that particular location, but primarily connecting with live audio streams with other people and sites around the world. 

So they have a huge network that they work with of people live streaming audio and this sound hinges around International Dawn Chorus Day, where they do a live 24-hour broadcast called “Reveil,” and they literally track sunrise around the world through these audio streams and you can listen in the camps or you can listen online. 

Mack: But apart from the Dawn Chorus recording, there were also talks and performances at Sound Camp and it was one of those talks that really gave the collective its start. 

Alyssa Moxley: Well, it was Hannah Kemp-Welch, who’s one of the members who had given a talk actually on listening to shortwave at Sound Camp, and it was after that talk she said that she was interested in meeting up with some other women who wanted to explore shortwave radio because of this issue that it’s really a male dominated hobby and activity.

I’m Alyssa Moxley. I am originally from Pennsylvania and now I currently live in France and I work with field recordings and also music and I am really interested in the place of listening. 

Mack: Alyssa was among the small group of women who responded to the invitation from Hannah Kemp-Welch. This initial group made the piece called “Receive, Transmit, Receive.”

[Snippet from “Receive, Transmit, Receive”]

Alyssa: And after that we got, we were contacted by some more people and yeah, so the group grew a little bit and we were just meeting regularly from the beginning, once a month to talk about experimentations and radio, different ways of listening to the radio.

Mack: In those early meetings in 2020, the group came up with a manifesto. A set of guiding principles for the group and its activities. 

Lisa Hall, read it to us. 

Lisa: We are a feminist, inclusive group of women all interested in creative uses of the radio spectrum. We send knowledge together towards creative, technical, and artistic processes.

We feel the coded term YL as used in amateur radio for young lady is disparaging and diminutive. Our conversations as a group are part of a bigger formula and politics change in feminist representation. We’re an informal but committed group dedicated to creating a respectful, shared listening space. The group is informal and friendly, and we are committed to the group and working on projects together.

Alyssa: I haven’t heard those since 2020. It’s actually really, really amazing to hear now. Yeah, I think we steered away from Ham radio a little bit, and the YL that doesn’t necessarily, we still believe in the disparaging qualities of YL but it doesn’t come up very often anymore. 

Georgia: Maybe it will come up again. 

Mack:Yeah, I mean it’s interesting to hear that term being  a term of use and just giving a sense of just how gendered the world of Ham radio and amateur radio has been. Would you like to talk a little bit more about like what that space is like, was like, and being a woman with interest in this space, but having to enter it being so gendered? Or is that just boring part? 

[All Laugh]

Lisa: I mean, I think it is connected with all of it. I mean, I can say a few things. In terms of at the beginning of this journey, Hannah and I both did our amateur radio license, our beginners amateur radio license, and we are licensed and we have had a very nice group who taught us and got us through the test and that was fantastic.

However, during that experience, it was an amazing, encounter with a gendered education that I feel and have felt consistently through my life as a woman working in the arts, working in digital media, working with sound and technology, and I feel like I have had a very practical hands-on life experience in terms of working with wires and word and tools and things.

Yet, whenever I’m in a learning environment, I often find that the language excludes me, the ways of working exclude me and I feel it is based upon a gendered education gap that I don’t have that information. 

And so that’s really something that’s definitely fed through and in and with Shortwave Collective. You know, when we started making open wave receivers, we began by making foxhole radios and thinking about crystal radios, these very simple radio kits, and it felt like a group decoding process. We’d go through how-to guides and videos from very nice people online sharing this information. And we’d fill in the gaps and make the language easier.

And we would add in information around assumed knowledge and not assume, and that’d be very clear about things and talk openly about what kind of materials you might use, what kind of technical wire is it, or could you use speaker wire or garden wire or jewelry wire? You know, what are we really talking about here? Do all of these things work? And the answer is often yes. 

And so that’s a really kind of fundamental part of what we’re up to in terms of changing the way radio and technology is kind of accessible to others and I think that really comes through in our how-to guide that we’ve made on how to make an open wave receiver that’s shared in prints and in an audio guide and we have heard from lots of people online that have gone off and made them, and we’ve done lots of workshops with people and I think that’s working.

[Ambient Noise]

Mack: Well, it certainly worked on me. The way the Shortwave Collective’s materials online demystify radio and take it out of the technical, specialized language register that’s usually used. Well, it got me thinking a very basic question. What is radio anyway? 

So I asked the collective for a definition. Kate Donovan, a Berlin-based artist and academic researcher in the collective, wrote up a definition, which Alyssa Moxley read for us.

 Alyssa: Radio is sunlight and meteors and lightning. Radio is a visible light, and radio is a whole array of human-generated transmissions from submarine and satellite communications to TV and multiple forms of broadcast radio. 

Also microwave ovens, cordless phones, remote controls and walkie-talkies. In fact, if you’re listening to this podcast, you used or are using radio because wifi, Bluetooth and telecommunications technologies are all based on radio waves.

So when we listen to radio, we do not just listen to broadcast radio. We listen out for any or all of these signals. Depending on the devices we’re using.

Maria Papadomanolakic: Can I add something to that? 

Mack: That’s Maria Papadomanolaki. She’s a Greek transmission artist and composer and academic. While Kate’s definition centered on the materiality of radio, what it is as a kind of stuff, Maria wanted to talk about radio as a practice, a kind of activity. Maria is one of the main organizers of Sound Camp, and when she listened to Hannah Kemp-Welch’s talk, it was the rethinking of radio as a practice that really inspired her.

Maria: It’s all about little. It’s not about strong signal way of pronouncing a particular voice, pitches and timbres, clean transmission. It’s all about the opposite. It’s about exploration. Being very let’s say fragile. It’s about failure, about failure to send or receive a signal.

It’s about exploring bottom up how this technology works. It’s not about, you know, feeling shy about showing vulnerability because exploration, experimentation is a process where you expose parts of a method that you’re trying to figure out how things work, huh? And there are lots of moments where things can fail, which goes against the hierarchy maybe and the history of established broadcast, let’s say a methodologist.

[Ambient Noise]

Mack: One of the earliest examples of a Shortwave Collective radio experiment was a Zoom performance that happened in 2020 during the Covid lockdowns. Georgia begins to explain, and then Maria and Alyssa jump in as well. 

Georgia: One of our early pieces was creating what we called the Fence-tenna, which it was each of us building an early version of the open-weight receiver, a foxhole radio or a crystal set, and attaching it to a fence as an antenna. This was during Covid when we couldn’t meet in person, so trying to use very, very ordinary materials as radio transmitters and receivers.

Maria: and they were all remotely connected through Zoom, I think. So they were all sending their transmissions through Zoom and they were mixed by Zoom. That was also very interesting to witness. 

Alyssa: That was Franchesca who was, who was mixing it on Zoom and we had attached all of our radio receivers to different fences in different places because a fence is a really long piece of metal, which can amplify the signal.

It’s just a, it can be a big antenna and so that was it. And we were all recording in different places with our different kinds of devices, short wave radios, open wave receivers, and getting all sorts of different sounds. 

Maria: So when I witnessed that performance and it was so fragile, but also so exciting. If somebody could revisit that first performance, would basically understand a lot of the things that Shortwave Collective, I think, are, let’s say, interested in exploring.

So radio is about fragility, vulnerability, exploration, experimentation. Failure, with bold letters, you know, failing to receive and transmit sometimes. It’s about locality. It’s about embodiment. It’s about being bold with using technologies that you’re not comfortable with and so forth.

[Ambient Noise]

Mack: This is a different kind of radio communication. It’s the opposite of the World Master Paradigm and perhaps nothing represents this kind of open, adventurous listening more than the open wave receiver. 

Alyssa: So the open wave receiver is a very basic radio receiver with a handmade copper coil and a diode, which can be made from different kinds of materials.

Lisa: And the open wave receiver is, it can be literally just a bunch of wires in your hands so it’s easier to make it on a board because then you can see how it all connects together and put it together easily, but you can take it off that board too and it’s literally just a bunch of wires and a few bits of metal or other materials.

Alyssa: So the radio is powered by the radio waves itself. The antenna picks up the radio waves and they spiral around and around and around and around this crazy set that you make and that is the low power that it needs to function. 

Mack:So with the open wave receiver that you’re about to learn to make, powered by nothing but the electromagnetic energy all around us, you’re going to be able to do the exploratory listening but you won’t be trying to tune out the noise and tune in some specific commercial radio station. In fact, some of what you listen to will not be human at all. 

Lisa: These open waves listen broadly so we’re picking up natural radio emissions, like the lightning, the very low-frequency stuff, all kinds of other things. A mixture of radio stations, talk radio, music radio, perhaps data packets and weather signals, that’s radio to be heard by computers, and all of this is heard together very broadly. 

So we often think of it as, you know, it’s like an omnidirectional microphone, you could say, listening broadly into the electromagnetic radio spectrum out there.

Mack: Coming up in the second half of our show, we’re going to hear that Shortwave Collective documentary, and you’re going learn how to make your own open wave receiver. 

That’s in just a moment when Phantom Power continues.

[Indistinct Noises]

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If you were listening to that version of the podcast right now, you would get to hear amazing recommendations from Shortwave Collective on what to read and what to listen to and what to do, and you wouldn’t be hearing me right now.

Options start at just $3 a month. Donate more for a Phantom Power mug, tote bag, or T-shirt. And until October 31st, all new patrons get a Phantom Power sticker that url is patreon.com/phantom power.

[Indistinct Noises]

Mack: Welcome back, everyone. And now without further ado we are going to hear the audio documentary that Shortwave Collective created. This is an audio version of the how-to guide that they published in Make Magazine. It’s been broadcast at Radiophrenia in February, 2022 and on Movement Radio in March, 2022, and Collabo Radio in April, 2022, and now we’re really pleased to bring it to you. 

It’s 23 minutes long and it’s called “Open Wave Receiver.” Enjoy!

[Radio Feedback]

[Ladies Talking]

Voice: How to make an open wave receiver with Shortwave Collective. 

Open wave receivers use found materials to create self-powered radio wave receivers that open access to the sounds traveling on the invisible electromagnetic waves surrounding us.

[Radio Feedback]

Making an open wave receiver will teach you how to construct a basic self-powered radio circuit. It will allow you to have a very physical experience of radio. Over the past year, we’ve been making open wave receivers, experimenting with designs, and sharing these experiences within our collective and with others in an open workshop.

Now we’ll share our methods of making and listening so that you could hear some of this global electromagnetic network and if you want build your own self-powered radio receiver. 

The open wave receiver can detect sounds that are invisible yet surrounding us. Sounds traveling from distances near and far. Data signals, talk radio, music, airplane navigations, and spherex, which are bursts of natural radio that we hear when lightning interacts with the ionosphere.

[Spherex Sounds]

The open wave receiver is not tuneable to a refined frequency. Instead, multiple signals from a broad spectrum of frequencies are received simultaneously. 

[Radio Channel Feedback]

Radio waves interact with our environment, with our bodies, with our movement. The instability and precarity of the open wave receiver means that changes in the weather, location, and materials used are audibly present.

[Radio Channel Feedback]

An open wave receiver is a type of self-powered radio circuit. 

So what is a self-powered radio circuit? 

The antenna picks up radio waves from all directions. The coil exchanges current with the antenna. It stores the current and smooths it as it runs through the circuit. The diodes are the wave detectors. The phones convert the electrical signal into sound that you can hear. The ground allows the current collected through the antenna to dissipate and leave the circuit.

An example of simple radio design in action is the foxhole radio, which was made from materials that were accessible to soldiers in the trenches, foxholes, during World War II. 

[WW2 Radio Communication]

Foxhole radios use a razor blade, a pencil, and a safety pin for parts and operate without a power supply. Soldiers use them as a way to keep up with the world and listen to music from their posts. Another form of potentially self-powered radio circuit is a crystal set. These rely on a crystal, usually galena, as a detector. 

When these types of radio receivers are self-powered, they use the energy of the electromagnetic waves themselves to tune in and decode these vibrations into the audio signals that carry messages from other humans or from cosmic sources. 

Not necessarily aliens, okay. More likely lightning, meteors, and solar storms.

There is a basic recipe to build a simple foxhole or crystal radio circuit, and there are many examples available online and in books. However, there is lots of room to experiment with designs.

Materials can be swapped out for stronger radio reception or poetic cohesion. We refer to these variations as open wave receivers. The construction can be simple or more elaborate depending on the found materials. An open wave receiver is composed of a mounting surface, an antenna, a coil, a diode, a speaker or headphones, and a ground.

[33:47 Tools Needed]

Some useful tools are electrical tape, wire strippers, wire cutters, pliers (and insulated pliers are great if you have them), and a flame via candle, lighter, or gas stove. Now we’ll hear the process of building each of these parts, linking them up, and listening to the immediate surrounding electromagnetic space.

[Radio Feedback]

Building an open wave receiver involves working with tools. Some of the materials that can work inside the open wave receiver are very sharp, like razor blades or contained lead like galena. The audio signals can jump suddenly in volume. 

If you are inspired to go on this hands-on radio-building journey, take care and think about your health as well as the world of sounds traveling through the electromagnetic ether. Interested children should have adult help. 

[34:47 Start of Tutorial]

Let’s get started to make one of these radio receivers, you have all of these different parts and you connect them. You can just connect all of the wires together or sometimes it’s easier to attach it to a board. The mounting surface is an object that can maintain all of the components in place so that the receiver does not fall apart. This could be a piece of cardboard or foam board or wood

Connectors allow signal and electricity to flow from one part to another. You can use crocodile clips or any basic insulated circuit wire like hookup wire with bulldog clips.

So this here is part of a radio and it’s called a coil. The coil is made of enameled fine wire wrapped in parallel loops. It exchanges current with the antenna. It stores the current and smooths it as it runs through the circuit. To make a coil, you’ll need a hollow cylinder, like the cardboard tube found in an empty toilet roll or a glass bottle, which will then be wrapped with the wire.

But you could actually use anything for this. It doesn’t have to be like a toilet paper roll. It just, it has to be something that has a, you know, a cylinder shape. So what else could we have used? 

The thing with the bottom cutout? 

Yeah. Glass bottle? 

No, because you can’t poke a hole in 

So there doesn’t actually have to be a hole in there. It’s just you have to fix the end into place to be able to wrap it around more easily. 

You’ll need about 10 meters of magnet wire, also known as enameled wire or coated copper wire. Start with your cardboard tube. Poke a hole about a centimeter into both sides. And thread about five centimeters of enamel wire through one of these from the outside in.

Then tape the wire inside the tube at one end to keep it still.

Then wrap your magnet wire approximately 120 times around the cardboard tube or until you’ve used your 10 meters. Ideally, the coil should be wrapped tightly and no loops should overlap.

Next, scrape the enamel coating off each end of the magnet wire using sandpaper or a blade to make a bare end for your connections.

Make sure you scrape around all sides.

Get your board and then put the strip of tape along your coil to keep it secure. Then tape your coil to the board. Attach a crocodile clip onto one of the strip ends of the coil. 

Detector or diode? The diodes are the wave detectors. Diodes have two parts, a crystal or razor blade, and a thin wire known as a cat’s whisker. When the two parts meet, they act as a gate or semiconductor only allowing current to flow in one direction. They strip the radio wave leaving only an electrical signal. 

The diodes can be made of a galena crystal with a medium-sized safety pin as the cat whisker, or a very short pencil’s tip with two inches or less with a medium-sized safety pin stuck into the end.

The pencil point serves as the cat’s whisker in this case when it touches a razor blade that has been heated until it has turned blue. Try to find steel blades such as an exacto-type, vintage shaving variety or Stanley knife, and hold this in insulated pliers while putting the razor in a candle flame until the top side turns blue.

We can also experiment with a metal tent peg, iron pyrite (fools gold),  silicon, a germanium diode, or any other metal objects. Fix your galena crystal or blued razor blade to the side of the coil where the antenna is attached with a loop of tape or glue underneath it.

[Electrical Feedback]

The ground allows the current collected through the antenna to dissipate and leave the circuit. It’s made of wire and a metal tent peg. Any type of wire will do and any length, though the longer the wire, the more flexibility you have.

If the wire is coated, strip a section of both ends.

Wrap one end around a tent peg and push it into the ground outside. Or if you are indoors, Wrap it around a water pipe or radiator pipe.

Use a crocodile clip to connect the other end to the loose wire at the top end of your coil. 

You’ve now made half a circuit.

So I’ve got my tent peg and a local stick to hammer it in (a good dog stick, this one) and if you’re finding that there is a bit of rust on your tent peg, I would take a bit of sandpaper and I would just clean off the rust so that when you wrap your wires around, it won’t interfere with the signal flow. 

And also a good tip for using the tent peg is to make sure that the wire gets into the ground as far as possible. So maybe just take a bit of tape and tie the wire. To the bottom of the steak and see if you can hammer it in as far as you can with your found stick.

[Electrical Feedback]

The antenna picks up radio waves from all directions. Radio waves flow through the metal, creating an electric field, which moves along the length of the aerial to produce an alternating current. Use as much speaker wire as you can, at least 30 meters. Strip the coating, from five centimeters at one end of the wire, connect the stripped end of the antenna wire to the coil on the opposite side from the ground.

String your antenna as high as you can in a long line, parallel to the ground, perhaps on a washing line in your garden. You could even attach it to a non-electric fence, a fence-tenna, or a big metal structure to extend its range. 

[Ladies Talking]

Listening through the diode via connected headphones or a speaker. The phones convert the electrical signal into sounds that you can hear. You can use a battery-powered speaker or an audio recorder that’s got a strong preamp with a set of headphones, and you’ll need a mini jack cable with bear wires.

Take your mini jack cable and strip the plastic covering off the ends of both the ground and the signal wires using the wire stripper tool or carefully with a knife. Connect a crocodile clip to each exposed wire. 

Connect the ground wire of the mini-jack cable to the ground wire on your radio and connect the signal wire of the mini jack cable to a safety pin. This is going to be the cat’s whisker, which completes the diode. 

If you are using a razor blade as a detector, then jab the safety pin into the leaded center of the pencil, and then touch the pencil tip to the razor blade to search for signals.

[Radio Feedback]

If you’re using galena, touch the safety pin directly onto the crystal to search for signals and to hear what’s happening plug the mini jack into the speakers or your audio recorder.

[Radio Feedback]

How to troubleshoot your radio. 

This kind of radio is powered entirely by the energy of the radio and so the signal is likely to be very weak. You might not hear anything at all when you first assemble your radio. Don’t worry though, wait till sunset. Take your radio outside, climb a hill and string your antenna up as high as you can in a straight line parallel to the ground.

These are the conditions that we found. Give the strongest signal. 

If you’re still not hearing anything, ;ook at a radio circuit diagram. Are your parts in the correct sequence? Have you stripped the ends of your wire well, so that the connections are solid? Are all the needed parts touching without any extra unwanted contact points?

If your antenna is suspended in the air, change its position. Don’t let your antenna wire touch the ground wire.

[Radio Feedback]

Some things to test. 

Turn the volume on your speakers up to the maximum. You should hear a hum that gets quieter when your cat whisker touches your razor or crystal. 

If there’s a loud hum, change your ground connection. If you’re inside, connect to the metal of a radiator or water pipe. If outdoors, really drive your temp peg far into the ground and test it again.

If your antenna is suspended in the air, change its position. Don’t let your antenna wire touch your ground wire. 

Be patient with your diode. Try moving your cat’s whisker very gently over the razor blade edge or galena crystal. Swap out the whole diode for a tent peg by connecting each end to one of the loose crocodile clips and see if that works.

How to listen with your open wave receiver. 

Your radio is not just location-specific based on your antenna and ground, but time, weather, and season specific. We found signal to be strongest during gray line time. Dawn and dusk. Dry conditions will also help. 

Though signal strength is important so you can test if your radio receiver is working, we feel it’s just as exciting to listen to radio that is quiet, perhaps sounds out with strange beeps and hums, or has multiple stations competing rather than one clear signal. 

We’re making audible, the invisible radio waves around us and listening to them as they interact with our environment, rather than aiming to filter them out to a predetermined mode.

[Ladies Talking to Radio Feedback]

How To Make An Open Wave Receiver” was created by Shortwave Collective, a 10-member international feminist art group founded in 2020. Collectively, we have been exploring the process of radio circuit assembly and considering the radio spectrum as an artistic material. 

Shortwave Collective is Alyssa Moxley, Brigitte Hart, Franchesca Casavay, Georgia Meunster, Hannah  Kemp-Welch, Kate Donovan, Lisa Hall, Maria Papadomanolakic, Sally Applin, Sasha Engelman.

[Robotic Music]

Mack: And that’s it for another episode of Phantom Power. 

Huge thanks to Shortwave Collective for being on the show. Learn more about the collective and the very talented individual members, really any one of whom we could have done an entire episode about, at shortwavecollective.net. 

You can find transcripts and links to some of the things we’ve heard today and talked about today phantompod.org. You can also subscribe to our show there or wherever you get your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d rate and review us on Apple Podcast or your platform of choice, and we’ve made it super easy to do so. Just go to rate this podcast.com/phantom. 

Today’s show was written and edited by me, Mack Hagood, with technical assistance from Craig Eley.

Today’s music is by Graham Gibson. Learn more about his music and audio production services grahamgibsonsound.com. 

And we heard some additional sound design elements by my friend Chris Cheek and the Shortwave Collective. 

Phantom Power’s production team includes Craig Eley, Ravi Krishna Swami, and Amy Skjerseth.

Our production coordinator and transcriber is Jason Meggyesy. 

Take care and we’ll see you in a couple of weeks!

[Robotic Music Fades]