31 March 2011

Election Indeterminacy: Ideas for Alternative Election Coverage

While helping out at Leith FM studios during the general election in May, it occurred to me that, despite planning, everything seemed a bit random. At the same time, I was listening to recordings of John Cage's Indeterminacy, and thought that perhaps one can combine the two into a performance piece for radio about an election in progress.

The basic idea: in the studios are the players: elected officials from at least two parties, a political activist, a newsreader (to read wire stores), a reporter at a polling place who can be reached by phone, and a comedian. A moderator would use some method to randomly choose one of the players to speak about anything for no more than one minute. Most players are free to comment about what previous players said, or address general questions to the next player to speak, though that player is only determined afterwards. (The newsreader would be confined to reading only wire stories.)

My "hypothesis" is that the casual radio listener would not be able to distinguish this performance from actual election coverage that one might hear on other radio stations.

This could be extended to a live performance in front of an audience, allowing audience members to queue up to be players. (An audience member would only have one turn.)

To make this more entertaining for a live audience, one might also include a jazz band as another "player" to improvise.

(With the Scottish parliamentary elections coming up in May, I thought about organising this as an event, but it's too short notice and I am too busy with other things to do it properly, alas.)

Postscript: this technique could be applied to news coverage of any "breaking story" besides elections.