Grapefruit Radio Operator’s Manual [excerpt] — Rhys Langston Podell

A History of Grapefruit Radio

As it tends and as it lends, time extends outward, merely condensed in devices we construct to measure and express it. The origins of Grapefruit Radio reside in this maxim and our other approximations of greater understanding. As the venerated Chocolate Davis is said to have remarked, “we must remember to not drape pathways to the ether in red tape.” Though some have seen this apocryphal admonition as vague metaphor, its chiding outlines our early ambitions to control the immaterial and the transient. These efforts forever colored the nature of public and private transmissions, for these efforts resulted in Grapefruit Radio.
Up until The 4th Era in its half quadrature, social mores and their various ligatures held in place the peer-to-peer communication within The Domain of Langstónia. However, as the second half began to catch on the new age’s corner, The Accidentals first discovered by Calculus Johnson began to emanate without cause or interruption, flooding the ears of all personas in their wide radiuses. Given their nature as foreign notes within The Quotidian Key, dissonance began to build without attendant adjustment, tuning, or attunement.
Yet it was during a seemingly nondescript day cycle on the eastern border of the Brooding Zones that a rather green civil servant (in just his second term of service) rigged a tectonic dial to fortuitous specifications. Manticore Duvet, sent on assignment by The Neural Assembly of Langstónia, had devised a downward lilt to document the oscillations of energy from the Zones. But by accidentally turning his homespun dial upwards, Duvet modulated The Accidentals that were flooding the airwaves.
Flirting on the edge of observation, he would later recognize The Shift while clambering back to The Estate of The Lord Chocolate Davis to issue a vote in The Assembly. The change was not a mere harmony or a simple key shift around the previously foreign notes. Rather it was a softening of some tones, a hardening of others—and further, a blending of many between. A witness at the time, Consolé Interfacci said, “It was as if all resonances occurred at the same time, but each distinctly, without vagary, like Bandwidth itself were an ensemble performing with all its players.”
This unerring soup of frequency washed without ebbing, positively and quietly until The Estate’s Internecine Exchange late in The Era. Its origins are still hotly contested, but the history is well documented in house and eld recordings: Discord projected from many sources, like The Vowel-Less Opera, Terrestrial Granite Divers, Open-Air Kitchenette Exponents, and most notably, The Neural Assembly of Langstónia. All unaffiliated parties and unassigned personas caught between could not distinguish one temperament from another. Thus, locked without motion or motions, many essential operations such as collective levity bargaining, motif sashaying, and word herbing sputtered in Langstónia. It seemed a rather raucous about-face compared to a pleasantly humming lull The 4th Era n de siècle had otherwise augured.
Around this time an intrepid young Dentist Rodman came upon the techniques employed by Manticore Duvet during The Accidentals Shift. Flummoxed by the dissonance, she took it upon herself to engineer a tectonic dial toward a more personalized end. Through an inversion of localized frequencies, she parsed the nearest soup of tones and Internecine Notes, forging an unprecedented method for arpeggiating previously concurrent and conflicting audio proceedings. Wigwagging sound waves, she could splay, individuate, and resequence harsh, compacted sounds into time signatures and time series analyses on the fly.
Because the device affected only a small radius, the personas local to Rodman and her contraption immediately dressed themselves in freedoms from The Internecine Stagnation and Interruption. Like Duvet’s attunement, this new radius-altering dial would provide a new magnitude of respite from—but most importantly, control over—less dulcet moments and their looping negations. This is how The 5th Era became known as the beginning of Sonic Modernity.

Word spread of Rodman’s refined invention and greater near-field agency over frequency ushered in a renaissance of regionalism, as it were. Radiuses of Langstónia’s Domain gained their own rhythm of life, based on the arpeggiation chosen by particular operators, or those agreed upon by small syndicates of sound sculptors. Indeed, more redolent rhythms even began to be daisy-chained between distances, with borders of Venn Diagrams oftentimes creating quasi-orchestrations for those in transit and under constant liminal operations. Naturally, as resonance, dissonance, sustain, and pulse more freely fluctuated by hop, step, and hectare, some principalities’ precepts valued the original attunement set forth by Manticore Duvet’s happenstance, preserving to this day a more antique stationary process of sound.
The colloquialism “Grapefruit Radio” developed over time to casually describe this uniquely Langstónian phenomenon. Some attribute the name to the resultant pink noise of Rodman’s revision and inversion (1/f ). Others trace the affectionate dubbing to the thiamine-rich airwaves engendered by the now-ubiquitous tectonic dilations. Still, the most romantic among us say “Grapefruit Radio” most aptly describes a continual conniving for the proverbial “sweet spot.” As detailed in the next section and slice, prominent operators have established their own varieties upon given densities, sequences, and time series analyses. Though usage remains more audial intuition than statistical data plotting or forecasting, the developments of Grapefruit Radio and its ensuing functions and functionaries nonetheless serve as one of the most assured measurements of Langstónian trends and markers of time’s passage through The Eras.
If any scholar of Langstónia were to draft a study of our history and deign to omit from their picture of The Domain a consideration of Grapefruit Radio and its many flowerings, this author would vociferously decry that endeavor as a fool’s errand. Though rather scant in our historical narrative here, we hope this bit of provenance will serve well any operator of Grapefruit Radio, whether amateur, professional, artisan, scientist, or unclassifiable dabbler. May the spirit of The Lord Davis be with you in all your attenuation and attendance.

Rhys Langston Podell is a musician, visual artist, and writer born, raised, and based in Los Angeles, California. Publications such as The NY Times, The LA Times, AFROPUNK, LA Weekly, STEREOGUM, and SPIN have praised his multimedia efforts, like 2020’s book and album Language Arts Unit: a Rap Textbook and the recently released Grapefruit Radio, which melds his outré rap, visual art, and absurdist prose. A graduate of Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, he remains the poet laureate of his living room and has a higher vertical leap than your favorite rapper. 

Art by Rhys Langston Podell

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