It’s almost the end of November, and where has the time gone? There were so many more articles I was going to write for nablopomo and it feels like the month went by in a flash. The temptation to panic and try to squeeze as much in to the last few days of the month is almost overwhelming, but sometimes, when you instead just take some time to pause and reflect for a while, you end up achieving much more. Much like taking the time to check out Slow Radio this afternoon, actually caused me to be far more productive than I would have been otherwise and inspired an article for this blog!
I’ve always liked the concept of Slow Television more than it’s actual execution. Perhaps because the slightly meditative state of mind I have to be in to enjoy it, is something that nature documentaries give me. Unless I’m loaded with the cold – in which case I want my television viewing to just gently waft over me.
Slow Radio on the other hand works much better for me. Perhaps because I’m more accustomed to having the radio on in the background while I do something else, so the slow gentle unwinding of the episodes is a more natural fit for my brain. I can listen closely to the narrated episodes if I want to, or just let someone’s lovely voice drift over me. Secure in the knowledge that the content will be interesting if I tune in, but that I’m not missing anything vital if I tune out for a little while.
I listen to Radio 3 for much the same reasons that some people listen to ASMR podcasts and videos; I find their output deeply soothing. I used to subscribe to the Front Row podcast, purely to have a backlog of Mathew Sweet to talk me to sleep whenever I needed a little outside assistance. One of my other favourite podcasts, 99% Invisible did an episode on that other great friend of insomniacs across the British Isles, The Shipping Forecast, and it has that quality too, slow, soothing and slightly strange. (Somehow deeply arcane yet utterly mundane, all at once.) It is pleasing to know that in these days of ever faster and ever louder content, that people making radio still remember that there is an audience for something slower and quieter and have found a way to make space for it. Radio 3 is a bit of an oddity in these times and it’s something of a pleasure and relief to see them embracing that oddity and taking that as licence to push the boundaries in their own unique way. It reminds me of that odd delight of the early days of DAB radios, when someone came up with a channel that was nothing but birdsong that ended up with something of cult following for a while. Fundamentally though, I can’t help but feel that this is the kind of thing that public service broadcasting does so well, giving the audience not necessarily what they want, but instead striving to provide what they didn’t realise they needed.
As a sound designer, I’m delighted by both the concept and the execution of Slow Radio, the combination of experimentation and carefully craft on display is a pleasure to behold. As a listener it’s just a deeply soothing – if occasionally decidedly odd – experience, like being wrapped in a warm fluffy blanket of sound. The perfect accompaniment to a cold winter’s evening, tucked up with a hot beverage and an actual fluffy blanket.