gregory whitehead – in absentia

Gregory Whitehead (Nantucket, MA) is a writer, radiomaker and audio artist based in Lenox, Massachusetts.

Allen S. Weiss considers him to be a major international figure in the fields of audio and radio art, from the 1980s to the present.

Active in cassette culture during the 1980s, his early works include Disorder Speech (1985), Display Wounds (1986), Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1987), The Pleasure of Ruins (1988), Writing On Air (1988) and Reptiles and Wildfire (1989). In 1991, RRRecords released a 7” vinyl record titled Vicekopf.

Whitehead collaborated with Christof Migone on the 1995 radio play, The Thing About Bugs, for New American Radio. Other radioplays from the 1990s include Pressures of the Unspeakable (1992), Nothing But Fog (1996) and Bewitched, Bothered, Bewildered (1997).

Since 2000, Whitehead has produced numerous plays and documentary essays for BBC Radio, including The Marilyn Room (2000), American Heavy (2001), The Loneliest Road (2003), On One Lost Hair (2004), No Background Music (2005), The Day King Hammer Fell From The Sky (2007) and Bring Me The Head of Philip K. Dick (2009). The Loneliest Road and No Background Music (featuring Sigourney Weaver) both won Sony Gold Academy Awards.

In 2001 the independent producer Gregory Whitehead made a generous private donation to the Åke Blomström Award. Whitehead has also been a speaker at various conferences and festivals.

Gregory was the most inconspicuous of the artists who were part of Word(s)round. To my hears, he also was the one with the most valor. I haven’t seen him again since. But we break the ice abruptly once in a while with a phone call or email message. Here is where I get to say, ‘important people are important!,’ because in sound everything is obvious, everything is clear, everything is luminous in the dark, and everything is daily, as Gregory should be.

He’s been on our Advisory Board for decades too, to which he’s told me: “From afar this has got to be hands down the easiest board I’ve ever been involved with.”

No, he isn’t coming this time. That is because I didn’t call him. Maybe I will. Likely I won’t. That’s the way life curates itself sometimes: ambivalently. I trust our paths are soon about to cross again. It has been way too long, “mi gran amigo Gregorio de la Cabeza Blanca.”

In his absence, Subtropics 25 will dig out two of his short yet exquisite radio art pieces from the time when radio art was the fuzz: Ice Music (1996) and If a Voice Like … Then What? (1994).

— Gustavo Matamoros, artistic director, Subtropics