BBC4 'Forest 404' preview


Tuesday April 2nd - Forest 404 Launch (BBC4, Barbican)

I found myself once again invited to a BBC Sounds podcast launch, much to my pleasure, this one was held in the scenic ‘Barbican Conservatory’, and upon arrival we were presented with headphones that provided an accompanying soundscape, whilst we’re told to ponder around the plants.

The headphones were the first sign that this podcast launch was about more than a simple story.

After a walk around the immersive experience that was the soundscapes conservatory: of which by the way, is a stunning collaboration between the beautifully natural and the brutal urban: stunningly aesthetically pleasing. (check out some of my pics).

After the walk, we shared a drink or two and some finger nibbles whilst strangers socially awkwardly small spoke, waiting for the vital glue to this group: the podcast launch.

Upon being ushered to a seating area, the head of BBCSounds launches made an interesting speech in regards to the statistics surrounding listening habits. Such as, since BBC Sounds launched, podcast listening has tripled such as 16.4 million podcast downloads in last October alone- as a podcaster, that’s exciting.

In turn, this has helped creative and more distinctive opportunities in podcasting and radio thrive, and the chances for more experimental platforms have opened, such as a popular weekly podcast ‘NB’ which explores the experience of non-binary people.

The speaker then went into how this is furthermore a new age of innovative audio, and that some of that innovation is presented in the new upcoming ‘Forest 404’ podcast, which breaks boundaries in terms of listening experience.

This is the age of ‘audio converts’ - meaning people are listening less to radio, and more to podcasts. Radio and music has a tendency to be shared on speaker systems, whereas podcasting really is mostly catered to the headphones commuter.

Forest 404

Forest 404 is an environmental thriller podcast series focused on a dystopian parallel world, whereby a ‘cataclysm’ occurred in which our existence as we know it, where anyone can create digital data - has failed to exist. It is this premise that inevitably destroyed our existence. Out of this catastrophe, an archive of our data was left behind to a select guardian whilst others those don’t understand and can’t appropriate or place the sounds from our archive.

The premise is that our protagonist ‘Pam’’s job is to sift through our audio archive, and choose which data to delete in order to make room. She often clears 40 Terabytes a week.

Whilst doing this, Pam stumbles across the sounds of s forest, and a singing bird. Completely alien and unknown, she serves to find out what this sound was.

Described as a plater, the series is unique in many ways

1) Each of the nine episodes of the dramatic podcast are each accompanied by two further podcasts. The first, a talk from an expert touching on subjects such as the physiological effects of natural sounds. The second accompaniment is a podcast soundscape specifically designed and relating to the episode.

2) The sound design swerved from the usual stereo / mono options and instead created a binaural experience. Meaning that instead of shaping the sound to the experience, they shaped the sound as though the microphones were either side of a human head. Sound entering each ear from everywhere. This means that the experience of listening becomes some what 3D, highly immersive and deep in textures. Furthermore upon questioning, it was revealed that very little manipulation to the natural sounds had acured in order to maintain the purity, and save reverb for the more ‘monstrous dystopian’ topics in the show.

3) The show is a subtle nod towards climate change, global warming and the ongoing extinction of our planet.

4) It’s an exploration into the phsyciological side effects of soundscapes, sound effects and the natural sounds of the world, not just in it’s experimental and innovative methods of recording binaurally, but also in it’s accompanying talks from experts on such matters. For example, they matched the natural sonic motives, such as the crackling of leaves - discovered the notes and scales produced by such sounds and composed the pieces around the given scales. Thus creating an incredibly pleasing audio experience, that draws you into it’s layers and depth.

5) The cast is all female!! Wooo for women!! The writer said that as a rule of thumb…

“If there’s no damn good reason for a character to be a man - he’s not. “ Writer - Tim

He also said that he’s living for a time when the question about an all-female cast doesn’t exist, for it is no longer note worthy.

Go Tim, we love you Tim.


The sentiments of this podcasts aims to open the minds of the listener, in the opening 10 minutes they say

“data isn’t free, once it is created it continues to exist somewhere on some level”

and it’s this idea that leads to the post cataclysm world in which

“sentiments are like rust, after you have some, you then have to clear it up or cut it off”.

A clear idea of what a sentiments a world might hold post-apocalypse, post the digital “CRUSH” as they have coined. Furthermore the tech ode to: Forest 404.

404 being the ‘not found’ digital message.

The idea: Pam has no idea what the sound of a singing bird is, how it existed, and she wants to find out more.

That’s all we really found out in regards to the story plot, but the context and ideas behind the listening experience is really groundbreaking and actually thoroughly excited me.


So image you are listening to the 3D soundscapes BBC4 have binaurally created: you’re experiencing sound in a unique way, recorded as though tailored to the human head, with the sounds of nature at the forefront. They want us to engage with what we are hearing in an analytical and critical way, and although the promotion of the podcast doesn’t scream that it is an environmental awareness project, being asked to listen analytically to the intricate and beautiful sounds of the forest and of nature, all while questioning an existence in which we have destroy such natural beauty - is surely an ode to the on going climate war.

“In this new world, there is no question about climate change, it has happened. The question now is how we deal with it”

The writer Tim, said he experienced writing the show with the same part of his brain he uses as though he were composing an orchestral piece, compared to that of a play in which he would consider time, or a film in which he would consider frame.


It questions our balance with digital and with the natural.

It challenges our perceptions of importance - in a dystopian world where people are at odds with themselves.

In a final love letter to the forest Pam says in awe:

“In one single hector of forest, we have 500 species of bird, and 600 species of tree.”


I’m thrilled and excited in many ways to hear this podcast series. Not just in a nerdy sound experimental way, but also in the epic ideas and story lines. A dystopian world in which digitalisation and data have destroyed us, and we no longer remember the sound of a bird.

I wonder if perhaps, in the same way that some people have taken resistance to the ‘Extinction Rebellion’ claiming it’s an exclusive and privileged form of activism unavailable and cut off from some, whether this might evoke a similar response when parents question when their child last ran through a forest of heard a bird song.

However in all, it can only be a good thing. It stems back to my initial blog about why BBC Sounds is important.

For it’s encouragement for boundary breaking ideas, ideologies and truly allowing freedom of expression. It’s telling budding young podcasters and documentary makers to go for it, it’s giving the go ahead to inspired sound manipulators, and most importantly - it’s providing a platform and a space to make these ideas and thoughts heard, not shying away from active politics.

Cudos BBC4 - I can’t wait for Forest 404

Exploring Why is Childish Gambino's - This Is America Important?

In this writing I aim to explore (some of) the ways in which Donald Glover uses his song ‘This Is America’ (TIA) and its video to present a message about identity, race and consumerism in America today. I will do this by explaining the role hip-hop and music videos play in the construction of the African American identity. I will then analyse the song for symbolic and linguistic features that further represent his message. 

Brief Overview of the Video 

In the opening scenes, we hear harmonic singing and see Glover dancing with both his face and body distorted as he takes a gun and shoots a black musician with a bag over his head. The music then changes to a trap beat and Glover raps. 

Glover continues to dance throughout, remaining the central focal point of the, nearly, one-shot film. As we focus on him, at various times, a group of children join his central dancing, and in the background chaos unravels. A dead body is dragged from the scene, there are repeated cyclical fights, kids cycling and dancing on cars, a black choir is shot down in a moment by Glover. There is apparent rioting, a man jumping to his death, teens on their phones, a police car on fire, a white horse gallops behind, and multitudes of stationary cars. 

The final scene sees Glover running into the darkness with fear etched across his face. 

Music Video 

In 1981, MTV (Music Television) first adorned our television sets and levels of performance, dance and their context all entered the realm of the ‘music video’ which was resurrected with the recent digitalisation of the music industry: global media platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo reinstated this form of expression with great success. 

Music videos act as an audio-visual (sound and image) medium, and thus a medium defined by an inherent hybridity: neither is it simply imagery, nor music. Therefore it requires a multidisciplinary analysis: a re-mediation across a multitude of disciplines from media studies, to sound and cinematography (Korsgaard, 2017).

In surveys by Statistica: 5 billion people have access to the internet and 10 billion have mobile phones. Thereby making music videos an unstoppable force with the potential to go viral, rendering them as virtually un-deletable information. (Statistica, 2018)

Hip-Hop and It’s Diaspora 

Hip-Hop grew as an alternative identity for marginalised and economically oppressed communities, lack of funding led to innovative music making techniques such as DJing. Donald Glover fits the rhetoric of a reinvention of identity and self-definition via the portal of his now famous hip-hop studio name ‘Childish Gambino’. 

Hip-Hop is a direct relation to the culture in which it was created ; Glover represents this by styling the musicality of his song to sonically represent the living society and cultures on which he’s commenting. Lyrically and metaphorically he does this, but also in the very musicality: by starting with choral harmonies with wide vocal ranges he represents the long tradition of black music, art and spirituality from gospel choirs, the church, the community and a response to pain. Furthermore, choirs represent the coming together of community into one entity representing black people against their oppressors. Glover moves musically from this imagery, and at the sound of the gun shot, the music drops into ‘trap’ and his delivery moves to a low staccato monophthong clipped triplet flow. A rhythmic flow which in itself is interrupted by the repeat of the chorus’s musical passage. This is a representation of our inability to remain focused on the issue (Rose, 2018).

We know that in order to be successful in hip-hop you must have a level of cultural authenticity - you must serve the needs of your community identity. In his chapter “Jewels Brought from Bondage,”  Paul Gilroy asserts that: 

“music and musical style were the only forms of language that were transportable for enslaved Africans coming to the new world… (he calls this the)“Topos of Unsayability”….inaccessibility to traditional western forms of literacy gave black music disproportional importance as it replaced written and spoken language” (Gilroy, 2018).

Glover further asserts his authenticity by speaking in the African American Vernacular  and following hip-hop syntax. He uses restricted code: short grammatically simple unfinished sentences, few conjunctions, simple and repetitive lyrics, monosyllabic phrases. Perhaps most notably the heavy use of the copula “ This IS America” linking the subject to the predicate, which in this case, is Glover’s presentation of racism, gun violence, and role the African American plays in his own story. 

I believe Glover also uses the racial signifier ‘black’ 28 times in the song to signify the lack of equality amongst those that assert that race “isn’t a thing”  - all the while, in American, there is a disproportionate access to fundamental human rights (Lyubansky PhD thesis, 2018). Glover adds to his authenticity by including ad-libs by others within the scene such as Young Thug, Slim Jxmmi, Blocboy JB, 21 Savage, and Quavo and Thug.

Furthermore, his assured flow continues smoothly, and directly after every scene in which Glover uses the gun to shoot another black man thus continuing this juxtaposition of inhumanness with humanness, an affirmation of violence, and displacement of the African American in the complicity of gun violence and its willingness to be distracted by media (Rose, 2018). In every shot where Glover instantly kills and ends lives with a gun, he then gently places the gun on a red cloth, perhaps representing the value the red Republicans place on gun laws over human lives.

This Is America Video 

The use of the music video as a transmission broadcasting tool cannot be underestimated; it is one that is void of socio-political regimes whilst existing in a paradigm void of spatial-temporal elements (Korsgaard, 2017).

Just as a hip-hop was born out of remix-culture, appropriating and borrowing elements from other fields - such as DJ-ing, sampling, roasting - music videos can now be analysed in the same way. Korsgaard says that we experience audio visuals and music differently from one another. For example, if we took Glover’s TIA music away from the video, our perspective of context would be greatly skewed. Without sonic signifiers we would be unable to determine Glover’s intended message: if the music was minor or major (sad or happy) for example. This is an element that enhances a music video’s power - a combination of forces and disciplines. (Rubin, 2016)

Glover’s TIA amassed ten-million views in the first twenty-four hours. In its first week TIA was the biggest debut of any music video this year with 85.3 million views reaching no.1 in the YouTube Song Charts in 11 countries. Lastly it’s the fifth fastest video ever to reach 100 million views - which it did in only nine days. 

Glover uses the spatial-temporal space of music videos to reflect and reference the past experiences of the black American. Examples are his caricature-esc resemblance to the racist character ‘Jim Crow’ offering connotations of repressive racist customs (Andrews, 2018), his re-enactment of the racially led Charleston Shooting (BBC News, 2018) and the use of Gospel-esc vocals. Whilst all the while relentlessly stating that “This ‘IS’ America” - ‘is’ being the verb for present. 

Therefore Glover disrupts history, and creates a paradigm that comfortably sits in the past, present and alludes to the future, thus capturing a vivid image of his perceived truth (Korsgaard, 2017).

Urban Space - Appropriation - Remediation 

Hip-Hop is about symbolically appropriating urban spaces and this is done through a variety of Hip-Hop characteristics such as sampling. Also in dance, as we see in TIA, Glover uses his body and dance expression as a way of occupying the narrative created around him (Rose, 2018). He appropriates the setting of the video to one which resembles American prison cells. The importance of this appropriation comes from the symbolism of the African American black kid being unjustly incarcerated. A study showed that ‘African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites’ (NAACP, 2018).

Furthermore, Botler and Grusin said that: “…all processes of mediation are always also instances of remediation, meaning that any new medium is defined by the way in which it incorporates or reworks the techniques, forms, and aesthetics of existing media” (Botler and Grusin, 1999). Relating that to Glover’s TIA means that we can mediate the existing media he’s highlighting, the elaborating dancing, his clothing’s asethetics, the symbolism of the cars and the biblical running white horse in the background. We can assume that Glover has created himself in the position of exerting influence into the remediation of the black American experience with himself symbolically representing ‘America’ or ‘the black man’.

Position of Self 

Glover’s position within the TIA video is contested online. Some say he positions himself as the proverbial black man in America, others say he IS America.  

On one hand, Glover conforms to the characteristics of appropriating self through a critique of satirical style: many hip-hop stars in the spot light will brag about their new Versace, and new flashy cars. Gambino points ironically to this by wearing two gold chains depicting an obsession with consumerism and commodities. Also when we first see Glover, he has wild unkempt hair and a ruffled beard. This image provokes as a reminder of how Western slave owners decided to call Africans ‘savages’ in order to dehumanise them.

Glover also chooses to be naked from the waist up to, in turn, humanise himself and as nudity represents vulnerability. This is Glover recycling black American trauma into mainstream art, just as he does with the shootings, the burning of police cars, the riots, the references to police brutality and unlawful deaths of Black kids.

“This a celly (ha), That’s a tool (yeah)” is reference to the 2018 killing of an innocent Black teenager by police (Levin, 2018). In the same way, it can be argued that the African American has compartmentalised its trauma of racism in America 

I can’t stop being black because of trauma and discrimination. I still have to live life and forge on”  (Loughrey, 2018). In this way Glover is working towards “normalising blackness”.

So perhaps Glover is playing a caricature of the black experience in America, presented through his juxtaposed imagery. He is a black man, but he is centralising himself in the argument that the black man allows himself to be distracted by consumerism and thus allows his oppressor to stay on top. Glover also wears trousers that resemble oppressive Confederate trousers. In this way, I feel that Glover is stating he IS his own oppressor in allowing this distraction. 

Throughout the video, this is played out, in the medium of dance and in which Glover is the centre shot. At times his moves resemble the flamboyance of Fela Kuti who is a famous advocate and activist for black rights and a progressive and unapologetic figure in black history. All the while children join Glover in the latest internet dance craze such as the “Roy Purdy Dance”  or the “Gwara Gwara” dance from South Africa (a reference perhaps to racism and apartheid) which all seem pointless in the context of the African American experience of violence and racism Glover is displaying the obscured background. 


Every second and syllable of TIA can be analysed further, be alas, I’ve no space, however in conclusion I have proved that, through the use of the hybrid medium of audio-visual music videos, Donald Glover has attempted to re-appropriate the America that represents an ideal of equality amongst the races. But that Glover has instead placed it in a position whereby African Americans turn the mirror on themselves to question why the progression has stalled and why they are implicit in the violence, murdering and repetition of racism in America. 

In this ‘trap’ song, Glover provokes imagery of the desensitised African American being trapped in black-American existentialism: guns are more important than lives, black innocent lives being taken is seen as being as important as the current entertainment spotlight. Described as the ‘black renaissance’, Glover’s ‘This Is America’ rightly sparked reactions from the black diaspora the world over. 


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Aniftos, R. (2018). Childish Gambino's 'This is America' is YouTube's Biggest First Week Debut This Year. Billboard. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Nov. 2018].

BBC News. (2018). Charleston shooting - as it happened. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 Nov. 2018].

Botler, J. and Grusin, R. (1999). Remediation: Understanding New Media. 1st ed. MIT Press.

Coates, T. (2018). I'm not Black, I'm Kanye. The Atlanta. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Nov. 2018].

Gilroy, P. (1993). Jewels Brought from Bondage. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness,.

Johnson, T. (2018). Donald Glover’s ‘This Is America’ Is a Nightmare We Can’t Afford to Look Away From. Rolling Stone, [online] p. Available at: [Accessed 3 Nov. 2018].

Korsgaard, M. (2017). Music video after MTV. 1st ed. New York: Routledge, pp.1-16.

Levin, S. (2018). 'They executed him': police killing of Stephon Clark leaves family shattered. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 5 Nov. 2018].

Loughrey, C. (2018). Childish Gambino music video director says 'our goal is to normalise blackness'. Independant. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Nov. 2018].

Lyubansky Ph.D., M. (2018). Psychology Today. [Blog] A Racial Analysis of Childish Gambino's "This is America". Available at: [Accessed 3 Nov. 2018].

NAACP. (2018). NAACP | Criminal Justice Fact Sheet. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 Nov. 2018].

Rose, T. (2018). “All Aboard the Night Train”: Flow, Layering, and Rupture in Postindustrial New York. The Improvisation Studies Reader Spontaneous Acts. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Nov. 2018].

Rubin, J. (2016). Hip Hop Videos and Black Identity in Virtual Space. Journal of Hip Hop Studies, [online] 3(1), pp.74-85. Available at: [Accessed 3 Nov. 2018].

Statista (2018). Global digital population as of October 2018 (in millions). Global digital population as of October 2018 (in millions). [online] Statista. Available at: [Accessed 3 Nov. 2018].

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THOMAS, K., Day, K. and Ward, L. (2018). Multiculturalism and Music Video. In: Multiculturalism and Music Video. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 Nov. 2018].


Why is BBC Sounds Important?

An opinion piece on what I learned at the BBC Sounds Launch (Tate Modern 30.10.18)


An opinion piece on what I learned at the BBC Sounds Launch (Tate Modern 30.10.18)

In the last couple of days, BBC launched it’s brand new platform for all things radio, music and podcast and it’s called BBC Sounds. In my opinion it’s a fantastic scheme that is laying the foundations to empower and encourage a creative generation. 

In this day and age, it seems it’s getting harder and harder to aspire to function within the music industry professionally - especially as a woman. Schools are scrapping music modules, the prices of musical lessons are sky rocketing (it would cost you between £30-£50 a session for piano or singing classes in London), and the powers that be continue to dominate and monopolise the music industry (the “big three” record companies own 80% of the worlds music and nine males make up 1 fifth of singer-songwriter credits).

Furthermore, a scary state of global politics, the rise in the right,  threatens to further immobilise innovation, creativity and variety in terms of the creative arts and music. 

Sure we can argue that on the other hand:  technology is degrading in price thus becoming accessible for those that desire such music making tools. This has directly given rise to the generation of ‘bedroom producers’, the youtube stars, and the ‘everyone’s a photographer’ with an iPhone. But at what point are we reaping the rewards? When do we get our pay check? 

Short of moving to London, and mingling with the right people, actual success and finance from an otherwise glorified hobby is really only achieved still, by the lucky very few. 

Things are different now than when radio started…we are the generation of knowledge: we have Google. Unlike our elders who would huddle round a single TV set per family, listen to the radio and read the newspapers for updates in the worlds happening, we have global knowledge in our pockets and at our finger tips. Furthermore we have the choice of a whole world of updates, as apposed to the selected updates one might receive from nationalist news. We are the generation of quick fire searches and tune skipping: my mother says I have turrets for tunes when I DJ the car stereo…there’s so much available, we want to hear a little of a lot. 

That’s why BBC Sounds is important. It’s a shining beacon of hope to an otherwise disenfranchised generation. It’s a shiny new platform for hopeful podcasters to aspire too. A whole division of a global company dedicated to the preservation of all things audio. Preservation being the operative word. 

With information readily available instantly on our phones and in our pockets, it’s a necessary and obvious step to offer any and all desired listening to be instantly available too.

Radio is intergenerational, I share podcasts with my father and visa versa, and now the exciting aspect for me, with the new BBC Sounds is that they are re-exploring the riches of their podcast archives. That’s right. The archives are being re-released. 

That means that the old John Peel shows that introduced ‘Rankin Trevor’ to my father, can now be found and relived by me. It’s radio for everyone: wherever, whenever. BBC has recognised the sheer scale of passionate podcasters, and realised a space for it all to come together. As a gentleman by the name of James described at the BBCSounds launch…

“Radio helped make us who we are, it is our chosen soundtrack to our lives.” 

Listening is an immersive and creative experience and we want flexibility and too listen on our own terms. This new platform is not only thrilling in it’s rerelease of it’s radio and podcast archive, it’s got every contemporary corner of podcast platforms readily waiting to be listened too along side every radio channel. 

For podcast makers it’s a huge step into the light that a company as important and large as the BBC is taking steps to preserve the art form, ensure it’s continued and to avoid the death of radio. 

It’s a platform to support it’s extended a helping hand and encouraging creativity and innovation. Let alone the hours and hours of knowledge and entertainment, the herd of podcasters and documentary writers waiting to be heard. 

A whole world of podcasters can equip themselves safe in the knowledge BBC is making radio cool again - the doors of opportunity have been opened, and hopefully will encourage others to open theirs too.