March 7, 2013

Off Beat: Tale of the tape (casette) radio show at Space

It's radio without the radio, and the hosts are bringing it – and their cassette recorder – to Space.

By Ray Routhier
Staff Writer

When Pilar Nadal and Anne Buckwalter tell people they do a weekly radio show, they're often asked, "Where can we listen to it?"

click image to enlarge

Pilar Nadal, left, and Anne Buckwalter in Nadal’s kitchen/studio.

Courtesy photo


WHEN: 6 p.m. Wednesday

WHERE: Space Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland

HOW MUCH: Free; all ages


The short answer is, you can't listen. Not live, anyway.

But there is a way.

"We tell people to give us their address and we'll mail them a copy of the cassette," said Buckwalter, 25.

A radio show that gets mailed to individuals, one at a time, on a casette tape?

In the age of Twitter, Facebook and online streaming, why would anyone want to do such a thing?

Well, in the case of Nadal and Buckwalter, they began their "show" in December as something fun to do on a Sunday evening. Just the two of them at Nadal's kitchen table with a cassette recorder, discussing a huge range of topics.

Their longest show thus far -- 79 minutes -- has been on breakfast sandwiches. They named the show "NPilar," a play on National Public Radio and Nadal's name.

But the two artists -- Nadal is a printmaker and Buckwalter does drawings and paintings -- soon discovered that their mock show was in itself a creative process, an art form.

By simply switching on the tape recorder and telling folks they were hosting a radio talk show, their minds switched gears. Suddenly, they found themselves having very long and involved conversations on almost anything in the world or their daily lives, forcing themselves to come up with interesting things to say and interesting ways to fill space.

"The show is definitely more about the process it makes us go through. It's funny, but once that button gets pressed, we kind of go into action, said Nadal, 35. "There's no lull; we're constantly thinking of ways to fill up the space with something interesting."

"It's allowed us to be creative in ways neither of us had thought about," added Buckwalter.

The two women will share their unique radio show/creative art project with the general public on Wednesday at Space Gallery in Portland, when they tape a live version of "NPilar" before an audience.

Buckwalter, who also works in development for the Portland Museum of Art, currently has an exhibit of her art at Space. But instead of doing an artist talk, she asked if she and Nadal could do their radio show.

Part of it will be Nadal asking Buckwalter about her art. And part of it will be a general conversation about "making stuff" that could evolve into almost anything.

When the two women tape their show on Sundays, they use whatever resources pop up. If someone calls Nadal during taping, they become "callers" for the show, and often join the conversation.

During the epic breakfast sandwich edition, they talked about different kinds of breakfast sandwiches, preferences for different kinds and how and why you'd make one. (Deliciousness? Convenience?) Eventually, they began listing breakfast scenes from various films.

In a world where text messages sub for love letters, a long, meandering, thoughtful conversation on anything is rare.

"It's funny that it's so easy to talk to people, but nobody really spends that much time together," said Buckwalter.

So people who go see "NPilar Live" can expect just about anything -- except any modern-day electronic wizardry. Just them and a cassette recorder.

And that's part of the appeal too, the women say. The nostalgia and power of outdated technology.

They both had tape recorders as children and remembered the feeling they got when empowered with such a high-tech (at the time) way of expressing themselves.

"I remember having a tape recorder as a kid and pretending to have a talk show as a kid," said Buckwalter. "But playing make-believe works at any age."

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

Twitter: RayRouthier


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