It’s late, and I’m tired. Mamoru Iriguchi’s At the Ends of the Day starts at 10.50pm, and as I log into Zoom I wonder how on earth the “late-night pirate radio station” is going to keep me awake. By the end, I am blown away; this is Zoom unlike I have ever experienced it before.
The premise is wonderful; the audience tune in to a radio station run on Zoom, with each time zone overseen by its own DJ who broadcasts for the last hour of their day, wherever they are. The radio station, however, is joyously unique — it plays ‘soundscapes’ rather than songs, recordings of the sounds of life taken from around the world between eleven o’clock and midnight. So, when the show begins, we are listening to the Scottish broadcast, and as the presenter speaks I can hear the ambient sounds of Edinburgh in the background. Cars driving past, feet hitting the pavement, people talking and laughing.
The soundscapes are quite simply the most soothing, calming, and fascinating things I have heard in a long time. The ambient tracks have been recorded in Namibia, Bethlehem, Japan, Shanghai, Auckland, and Dhaka, from the last hour of each day in each time zone, and every track has its own unique quirk. The Japan recording cannot escape the sound of frogs croaking endlessly; the soundscape recorded from a balcony in Dhaka includes the melodious beeping of a tumble-dryer; and the Auckland track is filled with the sounds of rain, falling to earth in the silence of deep night.
There is a life-affirming juxtaposition of the urban and the natural between and within the tracks — we move from the populated street-food market in Shanghai to the frogs in Japan, and within the recording from Dhaka we hear late-night traffic alongside dogs howling at the moon.
The multi-lingual nature of the show also brings me joy. As the presenter plays sounds of the last hour of the day from around the world, we hear each DJ signing off in their own languages. It makes me feel as though I am on a global road-trip, travelling to places far and wide, immersing myself in the unknown. At the same time, it all feels close to me; the sounds, through my headphones, transform my London bedroom into a place that belongs to different spaces all over the world.
Another intriguing aspect of At the Ends of the Day is its anonymity. Upon joining the meeting, everyone is renamed. Those who have their cameras on are sat (as instructed) in the darkness of their rooms, lit only by the glow of flickering candles. The effect of this has the potential to be spooky, but in actual fact it creates an intense collective feeling of community. I feel a part of something, and I feel close to the other audience members despite not knowing their names and not being able to make our their faces properly.
The show claims to be a “late night antidote to Zoom fatigue”, and the experience is nothing less. In a wonderful twist, the conventional rules of Zoom are overturned. Instead of the prioritisation of looking at a screen, we are invited to simply listen. Instead of staring at other people’s faces, we instead can barely see each-other save for candlelight. It is the perfect way to end the day, and by the time midnight rolls around I feel sleepy and ready to dream.
At the Ends of the Day is part of the Take Me Somewhere 2021 Festival. For more information see Take Me Somewhere Festival online.