The Hooting Yard Podcasts

Key's Cupboard

For the past seven years I have spent half an hour, nearly every week, babbling into a microphone on the world’s finest radio station, ResonanceFM. The show, Hooting Yard On The Air, goes out live, which means that my reading is sometimes accompanied by banging, crashing, and buzzing noises, or interrupted by me having a choking fit, or by other disturbances. That seems to me far more exciting than a rehearsed, cleaned-up recording. Live, but not forgotten, for an implausibly vast archive of past shows can be downloaded as podcasts, here.

Anyway, I thought it might interest readers to know how the podcasts are created. Many people think that it is simply a case of taking the recording of a show and making it available as an mp3 file. Would that it were so simple! The truth is that in order for the original live broadcast to be made podcastable, a number of extremely delicate and complicated operations need to be carried out. And that is why, about once a month, I am summoned at dead of night to the gleaming high-tech skyscraper wherein lurks ResonanceFM’s podcasting maestro.

The first time I went there, it took me about an hour to find him, for the skyscraper is enormous and wholly lacking in informative signage. What signs there are are either baffling or redundant. I do not know why this is so, and I have never had the courage to ask. I have learned to accept that the front desk in the lobby is labelled, simply, The Front Desk In The Lobby, and that the person sitting at the desk wears a badge reading The Person Sitting At The Front Desk In The Lobby. This person has not been authorised to answer any questions whatsoever, so when, on this first night-time visit, I asked “Where will I find the podcasting maestro?”, I may as well have been shouting into the wind, as indeed I was, for the lobby acts as both lobby and experimental wind tunnel. Apparently, sound recordings are made of the wind in preparation for one of the podcasting maestro’s planned podcasts, tentatively titled “Wind In A Wind Tunnel”.

Now I was used to the more homespun atmosphere of the station’s main studio and was somewhat unnerved by the grandiosity of my surroundings. I took a chance, however, walked past the person sitting at the front desk in the lobby (who was immersed in reading a battered copy of Stockhausen Serves Imperialism by Cornelius Cardew), took the lift up – hitting a floor number at random – and skittered off down the corridor in which I found myself. There were numerous doors along this corridor, all marked Door. There was also, I noticed, an overpowering smell of guinea pig, though I saw no guinea pigs, and have seen none on my subsequent visits. I pushed open doors at random, and peeked into each room, hoping to discover the Resonance podcast maestro, but all I found were bales of fusewire, discarded yoghurt cartons, and toy crustaceans made of plasticine. There was a lobster that took my fancy, but it was high up on a shelf and I have an aversion to teetering on step-ladders.

I think I checked every room on that floor before getting back into the lift and choosing another level, again at random. This one was different. It had no corridor, just a vast open plan area – with a sign, reading A Vast Open Plan Area – empty except for a small patch of ectoplasm.

I said that it took me about an hour wandering the skyscraper to find the podcast maestro, but in truth he found me. I was stumbling fretfully around what seemed like the umpteenth floor when I heard a loud electronic crackling noise, and then a disembodied voice.

“Podcast maestro to Frank Key! Podcast maestro to Frank Key! Floor 96, Rectangle Zone!” it called, so that is where I went.

The podcast maestro was sitting at a console from which occasional puffs of vapour jetted up to the ceiling and slowly dispersed. He was wearing a metal hat and taking ravenous bites from a toffee apple.

“Glad you could make it,” he said, “You’d better put on these mittens,” and he tossed a pair of mittens to me. They were woven from a material I was unable to identify, and I worried for a moment that I might suffer an allergic reaction, for in the past I have had allergic reactions to mittens woven from unfamiliar materials. On this occasion, however, all was well.

The podcast maestro, with a great deal of effort, pulled a big lever on his console, to no apparent purpose.

“Now,” he said, “It is nearly three o’ clock in the morning. At precisely two minutes past, we will begin effecting the transfer of one of your past shows into podcastable format. It should take about an hour. You will need to attune the flimflam and steady the rattling. Just watch me, you’ll soon get the idea.”

And do you know what? He was right. I did, and by four o’ clock we had a complete recording of Hooting Yard On the Air all ready for podcasting. Since then, I have been back to the skyscraper regularly, whenever I get the summons on my metal tapping machine. I would not say that I have become friends with the podcast maestro exactly, for there is something formidable about him, emphasised by his metal hat, but we do engage in affable banter as the clock ticks towards 3.02 a.m. After that, of course, we are silent, concentrated, utterly involved in our task. And I hope that the pod people among you, when you listen to each new podcast, are also silent, concentrated, and utterly involved, borne away from the dull cares of your day into the realms of instructive and sensible prose.

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About Author Profile: Frank Key

Frank Key is a London-based writer, blogger and broadcaster best known for his Hooting Yard blog, short-story collections and his long-running radio series Hooting Yard on the Air, which has been broadcast weekly on Resonance FM since April 2004. By Aerostat to Hooting Yard - A Frank Key Reader, an ideal introduction to his fiction, is published for Kindle by Dabbler Editions. Mr Key's Shorter Potted Brief, Brief Lives was published in October 2015 by Constable and is available to buy online and in all good bookshops.

17 thoughts on “The Hooting Yard Podcasts

  1. Worm
    March 18, 2011 at 08:39

    ahh the proustian scent of the guinea pig

  2. Gaw
    March 18, 2011 at 08:46

    A joy. However, I have my suspicions about the mittens made from an unidentified material and the absent guinea pigs.

  3. Worm
    March 18, 2011 at 09:03

    Could the mittens have been hewn from a block of pure Starlite?

    March 18, 2011 at 09:52

    I don’t know, Gaw, I’m inclined to believe this. Certainly the toffee apple has the ring of truth.

    • Gaw
      March 18, 2011 at 10:54

      It’s that I think the two may be related.

    March 18, 2011 at 10:21

    This would never have happened in the days of amplitude modulation and Radio Caroline, a quick pedalo across the estuary and a swan up the gangplank, sit on the bean bag next to Tony and off you go. Additional thrills come from the knowledge that you are contravening the act.

    Podcasting has always brought on a dose of technofright, does one require plaster of paris?

    Banished To A Pompous Land
    March 18, 2011 at 13:44

    Ah Cardew, Cardew. I’ve been having fun these last few days playing Cornelius’s late songs ‘There Is Only One Lie There Is Only One Truth’ and ‘We Sing For The Future’ around the office.

    Well if the ass in the next office can play Glen Beck’s radio show…

    All together now,

    ‘There is the lie of revisionism
    Of opportunism,
    Of all Hues,
    There is the lie of imperialism and reaction’
    Anf there is the truth of Marxism-Leninism,
    Of revolution and socialism…’

    Damn it they don’t write ’em like that anymore. It fair brings a tear to the eye and a lump to the throat.

    March 18, 2011 at 14:17

    Cardew is one of the classic examples of the upper class English communist (along with Sylvia Townsend Warner). I wonder, were he alive, if he would still consider Enver Hoxha’s Albania as the sole example of the ideal state? Yet for all the swivel-eyed bonkersness of his worldview, he was a wonderful composer. Go and listen to The Thalmann Variations, which I was delighted to find on youtube…

      Banished To A Pompous Land
      March 18, 2011 at 14:26

      Frank I’m listening to them at this very moment as I have been most of the morning on the IPod.

      Its a question that vexes me almost anytime I hear the Memorial Concert. Would the madness have passed and his true brilliance reemerged? Or was he right and Hoxha was the new Marxist Leninist messiah.

      Who knows on the first, clearly not on the second.

      He really was a terrible loss and considerably before his untimely death.

      Banished To A Pompous Land
      March 18, 2011 at 14:37

      And for those of you who don’t know what we old farts are talking about, shame on you.

      Go here:

      for a much needed education. The Memorial Concert is strongly recommended as an overview and has a cracking version of the Thalmann variations as performed by John Tilbury

        March 18, 2011 at 14:58

        I was amused to read, in the wikipedia entry on Cardew, the suspicion that MI5 may have been involved in the hit-and-run accident that killed him in December 1981. Obvious, innit? Thatcher’s government would have been trembling in their boots at the prospect of an uprising of the masses in revolt, inspired by an avant-garde composer with his finger on the pulse of the working class (Tirana branch).

          Banished To A Pompous Land
          March 18, 2011 at 15:08

          Everyone knows that Frank. But not everyone knows it was the same chaps tried but failed to take out Brian Eno in a hit and run a couple of years earlier. Imagine the cultural war they could have waged in combination. With Cornelius’s political awareness and Brain One’s branding and self promotional expertise.

          I’d have given Maggie 6 months, tops.

            March 18, 2011 at 15:15

            Is this related to Paul McCartney not wearing any shoes on the cover of Abbey Road?

            Banished To A Pompous Land
            March 18, 2011 at 15:19

            For god’s sake Brit keep your voice down. They are listening.

    March 18, 2011 at 16:23

    Cardew… Eno… McCartney… Is there anyone who still believes it was a Luftwaffe bomb that killed Al Bowlly during the Blitz?

    • Brit
      March 18, 2011 at 16:28

      Some people still think the earth is flat, Frank. And that Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

        Banished To A Pompous Land
        March 18, 2011 at 16:42

        Everyone knows it was really Sting. You don’t think Gordon Sumner could have invented a lyric like that on his own do you?

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