Lost In Darkness
By Wade Stephens
Close your eyes. Sit back. Imagine. The time for a renaissance is here, at least according to some people.
And no, it’s no form of religion, social progress or some new elaborate law picking up steam within the streets; the change is ear.
A niche social event called ‘In the Dark’ is bringing sound back, and in fact it already has, with the debut event at Format tickling Adelaide’s eardrums on September 6.
In the Dark is the creation of a ‘sound space’, where groups of people sit in pitchblack darkness and listen to radio through documentaries, features and soundscapes.
The founder of the event in Adelaide, Chris Brunner, promises a complete visceral, emulous experience, targeting your ears and your ears only.
“This is going to be overstimulating. We’re going to stimulate the hell out of you, but it’s going to go right through your ears and nowhere else,” Chris said.
“You turn the lights out and it becomes an immersive experience by focusing on one medium. You just engage with radio for just over an hour in total.”
Chris has no reservations into luring people into the dark for the sake of sound.
“People don’t always listen to sound as deeply as they should…by doing that with the lights out, you get so much more out of it…you can hear more.”
He said In the Dark aims to bring sound out of its shell for people to get in tune with their inner ear, so to speak.
“People go to short film festivals all the time, and that kind of thing is in popular culture, but sound isn’t at the moment,” Chris said.
“(Listening to sound) would usually be an individual experience. You would usually do that in your car or at home by yourself.
“In the Dark is not just a place where you do it together, it’s also place where we make sure you have no distractions.”
For me, the September debut is hard to describe…because you didn’t really see anything.
I recall Chris making a final introduction to a jam-packed room, before the lights were suddenly put out and darkness veiled our anticipation. Switching off the light-seeking, visually-oriented side of your brain isn’t the easiest thing to do.
Initially it’s a scramble for your own territory and space on the ground, away from the distraction of your fellow listeners’ random kicks and headbutts. Once comfortable, a second challenge arises: a tiny blue aura saturates the corner of your eye as the speaker’s light (that Chris hadn’t noticed in the setup) dampens the illusion of complete isolation.
But once you get over your childlike, easily distractible contemplations to stop and listen, the darkness absorbs you, and the experience takes hold.
“It’s a chance to really engage, be there and get lost in the moment,” Chris said.
“You get immersed in it, you see everything, you sit in complete darkness* but it’s all there.”
The debut night presented from all over the world; whether it was an American soundscape or a locally produced documentary, listeners were transported everywhere from drowning in the ocean, to sitting in a kitchen listening to a small child beg for pocket money.
The regressive, community-centred opening night paints an interesting picture for In the Dark’s next venture in November, as Chris wants some of the audience to begin producing their own audio experiences.
“What I hope will happen from here is that the collective will start creating the content (for In the Dark) from their own material, so we (not only) provide a space for people to play the material, but also give a reason for people to make it,” Chris said.
“You’ve got this cycle going on – there are producers who can have their own mini festivals to put their work towards rather than just a single broadcast or podcasting it.
“You can sit there, get feedback from the audience. You can be present while a room responds to your work, which I think for a radio producer is kind of priceless.”
Chris insists it’s radio’s time to shine, so if you’re up for producing compelling soundscapes or just simply wish to swing by and have a listen, have no fear, the darkness will return.
Is radio your thing? Search ‘South Australian Radio Collective’ on Facebook, and keep an eye (and ear) out for their next event.