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Topology Celebrate 100 Years Of Radio Broadcasts In Queensland

Topology and Loops perform 'AIRWAVES: 100 Years Of Radio' at The Princess Theatre on 17 April.
Grace has been singing as long as she can remember. She is passionate about the positive impact live music can have on community and championing artists. She is an avid animal lover, and hopes to one day own a French bulldog.

In 1901, Guglielmo Marconi made the first transatlantic radio broadcast, a single act that would change the course of history.

A timeless medium, a constant companion and a lifeline for many even to the current day, radio remains cemented in the lifeblood of humanity.

Both avid lovers of radio, Robert Davidson and Jonathan Dimond considered the centenary of radio worth celebrating, so they lovingly crafted a tribute with a twist.

They took the most famous spoken milestones of radio history – speeches from Martin Luther King to Ghandi to Churchill – and paired them with their chosen craft, music.

Davidson reflects back on his initial interaction with music. "I remember going on a bus trip as a kid, eight years old, and the bus driver going from Canberra to Sydney kept playing this ABBA cassette.

"It had 'SOS' and I remember thinking this was this whole world I could live inside of that was full of swirling harmonies and sad voices. I really loved it, this house I could live in."

Their piece 'AIRWAVES: 100 Years Of Radio' debuted in 2001, and has been revived 20 years later for another anniversary. "We're reviving it for the 100th anniversary of the first radio station in Queensland.

"It took 20 years before they had a radio station in Australia. In most places actually, it wasn't until well into the 1920s that radio became a commercial business for broadcasting."

The choice to pair spoken word with instrumentation and melody came about from an idiosyncrasy Davidson and Dimond share. "For as long as I can remember, I found interest in how people speak as a kind of melody, because there's always rhythm and notes, melody, pictures in how we speak," Davidson shares.

"Since I was a kid, I would get distracted to the point of it being quite a problem, because I wasn't listening to what someone was saying. I was just listening to the music, maybe because I'm a musician.

"Jonathan Dimond said the same thing, he'd written some music based on that. He went around San Francisco and interviewed a number of homeless people and used their voices with their permission in a record and copied the sound of the speaking on his bass guitar and his guitar.

"I'd done the same thing with Topology, with the voices of a trial between two activists who were sued by McDonald's in England back in the '90s. We wanted to work together with his group Loops and my group Topology, since both of us had done that since we were kids and loved it, and the history of radio with speech was this way to use that to travel through time."

One ponders if certain voices lend themselves to particular instrumentation. "Absolutely," Davidson confirms. "Martin Luther King, for example, saying 'I have a dream' seems to work nicely with the saxophone.

"Gough Whitlam saying 'Well may we say God save the Queen' in 1975 is good on the trombone, and the double bass actually; and then, Winston Churchill in the war, 'we will fight them on the beaches'. He actually says 'this was their finest hour'. It sounds really nice on double bass, almost like a big teddy bear. What's new from the show we did in 2001, is that we now have video that goes with it."

Davidson reminisces on his own relationship with radio through the years. "I used to tape the radio all the time. I'd stay up late with my boom box under the covers, listening with my headphones, hoping my parents wouldn't find me. It was my companion when I didn't want to sleep. I just love the intimacy of you and the radio."

The rise of streaming services and YouTube has undoubtedly affected the consumption of traditional commercial radio, but Davidson feels radio is still an irreplaceable element of life.

"[Streaming] has taken over a lot, but I feel people like to listen to the radio. I definitely do. I listen when I'm not willing to make a choice. You can get playlists on Spotify, but there's something great about having someone curating.

"I listen quite a lot to 4ZZZ, because it's got interesting presenters who are really passionate and you're hearing somebody else's curation. That's what I like. Not having to choose for yourself. I don't think it can be completely replaced by streaming. It's got a different feel."

An accomplished academic and musician, Davidson shares the hardest lesson music has taught him, which may also be its greatest blessing to him and to others.

"For me, music is very much a way to experience my emotions fully, but in a way which is also safe, because it's not unlimited, it has boundaries around it. So maybe the thing it's mostly taught me to scarily do is to be honest with myself about what I'm feeling."

Topology and Loops perform 'AIRWAVES: 100 Years Of Radio' at The Princess Theatre (Brisbane) on 17 April. Topology support Tim Heckler at Brisbane Powerhouse as part of OHM Festival on 15 March.

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