For an upcoming HV hour on Lincoln and Civil War (for July 4th), here’s a couple poets mixed with music from Lincoln Shuffle (by Bryce Dessner, guitarist for The National and Clogs, for the great bicentennial site 21st Century Abe, used with their re-mixing blessings).
UPDATED AGAIN VERS “Lincoln Langston Carl” (4:27 mp3):
Voices: 1- Langston Hughes performing his poem “Lincoln Monument, Washington” (1955 album: The Dream Keeper and Other Poems of Langston Hughes). 2- Poet Carl Sandburg addressing the U.S. Congress on Lincoln’s 150th birthday (2/12/1959; excerpt). 3- “A Visit with Carl Sandburg” interview on NBC-TV Wisdom Series: Conversations with Elder Wise Men (2/8/1953; excerpt). Music: Bryce Dessner “Long Summer” (2008: Lincoln Shuffle for 21stcenturyabe.org). Production: Barrett Golding HearingVoices.com.
Sonic Signatures- Tips for Creative Use of Interstitial Time
07/12/05 by Jay Alllison
At our radio stations (WCAI/WNAN/WZAI for the Cape and Islands in Massachusetts), we have been experimenting with interstitial time since the day we signed on. By interstitial time, I mean the cutaways, the hourly breaks, all the little moments between programming blocks, the cracks in the sidewalk.
We use that time to create our station signature, to declare our sensibility in 30, 60 and 90 second bursts.
Our first experiment is something we dubbed, “Sonic IDs,” an odd name that stuck. These are little community vignettes — portraits, anecdotes, oral histories, overheard conversation, short poems, jokes, slices of life — that end with our call letters. They are sudden narratives or images — like photographs for radio. Some are pure sound preceded by our favorite word: “Listen.” Others are simply the unheralded voices of our neighbors telling something about life. Our test of these surprising, non-standard moments, the way we know they work, is if the listener turns and looks at the radio when the come on. (Current article: “Bursts of lush and local life are new stations’ trademark“.)
[John Rieger’s three-year bi-weekly late-night experiment in radio programming, Artifacts: KPFA-Berkeley 1985-1987, introduced the idea of “audiography”…]
“Artifacts” is an experiment in the esthetics of non-narrative audio figuration and thematic organization. The sound recording media have produced figurative works primarily in such narrative forms as journalism and drama. Non-narrative audio composition has been understood as a musical enterprise rather than a figurative one. The poverty of this accepted wisdom is suggested by the analogy with photography. While painting begins with “stuff” — paint, the elementary color stuff — photographic composition begins with what might loosely be called “semantic” elements, visual records of world objects which contain a world reference. Photography has a passive or receptive moment which painting does not; for while painting may be a wholly abstract enterprise, photography must at least begin from the figuration which occurs when the film receives the light image from the world object.
So we may compare sound recording with musical composition. Music begins with the elementary sound stuff, whose fundamental property, we shall say, is timbre. Sound recording, however, begins with the passive or receptive moment which we noted in photography, where in this case the audio image of the world object is received and recorded. Sound recording is “audiographic”. But while photographic figuration has long since freed itself from the compositional constraints of the narrative tableau and the news photo, audiographic figuration still serves almost exclusively the dramatist and the journalist. Only by considering the audiographic record as sound stuff (musique concrete) have we managed to break these narrative shackles; but in so doing we have lost the reference to the world object and so destroyed the audiographic image qua image.
Surely, then, we have not yet exhausted this remarkable medium!
Audiography records only the mystery. Radio journalism has fought against this mystery, doing appalling violence to what is subtle, ambiguous and profound in the name of clarity, and strapping the unruly “actuality” into a straightjacket of anemic literalism.
Consider the richness of the audiographic image. Unencumbered by the superabundance of banal visual information against which photographers and filmmakers have had to struggle to uncover what is mysterious in the Thing, audiography records only the mystery. Radio journalism has fought against this mystery, doing appalling violence to what is subtle, ambiguous and profound in the name of clarity, and strapping the unruly “actuality” into a straightjacket of anemic literalism. (Or perhaps it is the journalist who wears the straightjacket.) Radio drama, with equal violence, reduces the audiographic image to a sound “effect”, playing a perpetually supporting role, and coming and going by the servants’ entrance. Should the image then seek the seductive embrace of musique concrete it will find only the ultimate subjugation, its destruction.
“Artifacts”, then, is the audiographic annunciation of the Thing. It heralds the esthetic of the blank stare. It calls upon us not to subjugate the image, but to receive it as it is for-itself; for within these audiographic artifacts objects lead lives of their own, revealing in their gravitational attraction one to another the unconscious mass, the hidden psychic substance which sustains them. They are to be approached not with a will to mastery, but with an attitude of reverence and humility befitting one on whom a thing of mysterious beauty has been bestowed.
Radio was discovered some 50 years ago by a dog named RCA Victor. RCA Victor discovered radio accidently by looking into a horn, and discerning the voice of his master. Ever since then, RCA Victor has been a tradition, and many have capitalized on his cocked ear and puzzled face.
In the early days of radio, there were many exciting inventions. The Father of The Tube was Lee DeForest. He evacuated a bulb left by the Gardener (coincidentally, a friend of RCA Victor) and stuck his in his thumb and pulled out some mysterious little bugs called electrons. When he put the whole thing in a wall-socket, he said “Yreka.” And he heard the voice of London Calling. The voice said, “This is London Calling!”
Radio grew apace after that. There were modifications of DeForest’s evacuated tube. One of them was put together with some verve by Maj.-Gen. Edw. Armstrong. He called it the Heartstrong receiver. He was able to hear Trenton on his receiver. He also said ‘Yreka!’ which was a favorite quote of radio inventors.
Television also grew apace. The first signal was a picture of Howdy-Doody sent from Seacaucus N.J. to Weehawken, N.J. The effect was electrifying. Howdy-Doody was seen from as far away as Bayonne. CBS then was invented to steal patents from RCA Victor and his friends.
Here’s a notion I picked up while visiting KWCW in Walla Walla WA, the radio station of Whitman College. “Inspirational Quote” from Eli Hansen (former KWCW General Manager,’99-’00):
Q: What function do you believe the college radio station should serve on campus?
A: When I was a little kid, the house I lived in had a pond in the backyard. My friends used to come over to look at it, then I’d usually end up pushing them in.
The pond wasnt very big, maybe five feet across at its widest point. It had a few fish in it — town rumor held that during the winter, they’d freeze right along with the water. This meant you had to be careful during the winter, cause if you broke the ice, you were liable to break the fish as well.
One time, a friend dared me to put my face in the pond and then go kiss my mom. I had a good time, but I don’t think my mom found it as funny as I did.
Anyway, the way I see it, our radio station is kind of like my old pond. Sitting in the backyard, providing some good solid down-to-earth entertainment whenever necessary. Like the pond, the radio station is a good place to take a dip and find your bearings. Something to take seriously, but not get too worked up about… it’s just a pond.
By 1967, national leaders recognized that noncommercial broadcasting was being held back by its lack of a network structure. Stations were on their own, with little way to share programming of national interest. With the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, Congress provided for ways to build a national financial and distribution infrastructure for noncommercial television and – oh, yes! – radio (added to the legislation at the last minute).
The Act created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to serve as a conduit for federal financial support of local radio and television stations, nationally produced programming, and interconnected services. With regard to radio, it was concluded (after a year of study) that most noncommercial radio was either student-run, or religious in nature, and therefore did not fit the criteria for funding. Consequentially, two important strategic decisions were made with regard to administering radio. First, a set of criteria was devised for funding. Unlike television, virtually no on had the capacity to produce sustainable, quality programming on a national level. In 1970, National Public Radio (NPR) was created as a national production center for news/information and cultural programming. NPR was to also serve as the coordinator for national program distribution. NPR began its national program service in 1971 with production of “All Things Considered”, a daily hour of in-depth, primarily national, news. The distribution infrastructure was completed in 1979 with the launch of public radio’s own satellite system which, for the first time, allowed local stations to send and receive programs among themselves. Between the years of 1970 and 1982, NPR was funded almost entirely by the CPB (stations paid $100 to join NPR).
Community radio also formalized itself during the ’70s. Fifteen stations and license applicants, several from Lorenzo Milam’s original group, formed the National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB) in 1975. In general, the ’70s and early ’80s were a period marked by dramatic growth across the spectrum in public radio… the independent producers community emerged, the number of public radio stations tripled, minority participation grew significantly, Morning Edition from NPR (the a.m. sister to All Things Considered) went into production, and university stations moved to redefine their community outreach beyond simply acting as “classrooms of the airwaves”. More…
In 1970 National Public Radio’s first program director wrote a “mission statement” to define the aspirations for this new network and its first daily program, All Things Considered, which debuted May 3, 1971. Here’s some prime cuts from “National Public Radio Purposes” by William H. Siemering:
Because National Public Radio begins with no identity of its own it is essential that a daily product of excellence be developed. This may contain some hard news, but the primary emphasis would be on interpretation, investigative reporting on public affairs, the world of ideas and the arts. The program would be well paced, flexible, and a service primarily for a general audience. It would not, however, substitute superficial blandness for genuine diversity of regions, values, and cultural and ethnic minorities which comprise American society; it would speak with many voices and many dialects. The editorial attitude would be that of inquiry, curiosity, concern for the quality of life, critical, problem-solving, and life loving. The listener should come to rely upon it as a source of information of consequence; that having listened has made a difference in his attitude toward his environment and himself.
There may be regular features on consumer information, views of the world from poets, men and women of ideas and interpretive comments from scholars. Using inputs from affiliate stations, for the first time the intellectual resources of colleges and universities will be applied to daily affairs on a national scale.
Philosophically, time is measured by the intensity of experience. Waiting for a bus and walking through an art gallery may occupy the same time duration, but not the same time experience. Listeners should feel that the time spent with NPR was among their most rewarding in media contact. National Public Radio will not regard its audience as a “market” or in terms of its disposable income, but as curious, complex individuals who are looking for some understanding, meaning and joy in the human experience.
Most of the ideas in Siemering’s doc still seem sound; many remain untested. For instance, here’s NPR’s hopes for “cultural programs.” Notice the use of the term “radio art”… perhaps the first and last time NPR expressed the concept: More…
The “radio voice” was established early: it demanded a norm of intonation, inflection and voice projection which was as absolute in its rules as the BBC’s so-called “standard English”. Deep chest tones, bland assurance, total lack of hesitation or error were essential, so as to convey that ineffable, indispensable quality-Sincerity. This exaggerated diction also helped to compensate for the primitive equipment and the bad reception in “fringe” areas…
(1948) FM radio was just being launched in America. Therefore there were open channels available which were not yet worth a great deal of money, since there were very few receivers and only a small audience. The new medium was especially suited to the kind of broadcasting Hill intended, which was to achieve a high technical as well as intellectual and artistic standard. A few years earlier there would have been only low-fidelity AM channels, prohibitively expensive to acquire; a few years later FM would also become expensive, though not in the same league as AM, whose broadcast radius and therefore its audience were much greater. In the meantime the asset, a greenfield site, would become also a liability as KPFA struggled to reach an audience without FM receivers….
Having established two totally revolutionary principles — absence of commercial sponsorship and indifference to a mass audience — Hill went on to describe in detail some of the attributes of a broadcasting medium which would conform to these criteria. The very fact of non-commercial broadcasting led at once to two interlocking principles: there was no time-ownership and no need for commercial breaks:
On examination of the tradition and uses of second-hand timing in commercial radio, it appeared that this practice had an entirely economic origin and meaning. Since at best it poses an obstacle to programming freedom, there appeared no reason whatever for its continuance in educational radio not engaged in the sale of time segments.
This had two highly pragmatic results: (1) the absence of commercial breaks meant that broadcasts could assume whatever attention span was required by the subject matter; and (2) this could be extended to its logical conclusion; i.e., a program could be as long as necessary or appropriate.
One of the many sources Whiting cites is: Lewis Hill, Voluntary Listener-Sponsorship: A Report to Educational Broadcasters On the Experiment at KPFA, Berkeley, California. Berkeley, CA: Pacifica Foundation, 1958. If anyone knows where I can get a copy, please holler.
“In a crisis grow. That’s the only creative possibility, take a risk and expand.” —Lew Hill
Lewis Hill co-founded Pacifica Radio (then KPFA & WBAI), based on “The Theory of Listener-Sponsored Radio.” In this taste of his 1951 treatise, he describes the commercial broadcast and how it differs from his new idea of a non-commercial radio:
Let me instance the announcer, not only to seize the simplest case, but because he will serve as the gross symbol for the writer, the musician, and all who try to make a living in the program end of radio. You will recall without difficulty, I hope, this fellow’s nightly solicitude toward your internal organs. In his baritone way he makes a claim on your attention and faith which few of your closest friends would venture.
I know of no better explanation of this man’s relation to you, to his utterances, his job, and his industry, than one of the time-honored audition tests given to applicants for announcing jobs at certain of the networks. The test consists of three or four paragraphs minutely constructed to avoid conveying any meaning. The words are familiar, and every sentence is grammatically sound, but the text is gibberish. The applicant is required to read this text in different voices, as though it meant different things: with solemnity and heavy sincerity, with lighthearted humor, and of course with “punch.”
If his judges award him the job and turn him loose on you, he has succeeded on account of an extraordinary skill in simulating emotions, intentions and beliefs which he does not possess. In fact the test was especially designed to assure that nothing in the announcer’s mind except the sound of his voice–no comprehension, no value, no choice, and above all no sense of responsibility–could possibly enter into what he said or what he sounded like. This is the criterion of his job.
The significance of this situation is strangely neglected, as I have said, although the commonplaces of industrial life that best explain it are much discussed. We all know, for example, that the purpose of commercial radio is to induce mass sales. For mass sales there must be a mass norm, and the activity must be conducted as nearly as possible without risk of departure from the norm. But art and the communication of ideas–as most of us also appreciate–are risky affairs, for it can never be predicted in those activities just when the purely individual and abnormal may assert itself. Indeed to get any real art or any significant communication, one must rely entirely on individuals, and must resign himself to accept not only their uniqueness but the possibility that the individual may at any time fail. By suppressing the individual, the unique, the industry reduces the risk of failure (abnormality) and assures itself a standard product for mass consumption.
We know these commonplaces, but it is truly staggering to contemplate what they imply and cause in American radio. Should you inquire why there is no affinity between the serious arts and radio, you will find that this is the reason.
America is well supplied with remarkably talented writers, musicians, philosophers, and scientists whose work will survive for some centuries. Such people have no relation whatever to our greatest communication medium. I have been describing a fact at the level of the industry’s staff, it is actually so notorious in the whole tradition and atmosphere of our radio that it precludes anyone of serious talent and reasonable sanity from offering material for broadcast, much less joining a staff. The country’s best minds, like one mind, shun the medium unless the possessor of one happens to be running for office. Yet if we want an improvement in radio worth the trouble, it is these people whose talent the medium must attract. The basic situation of broadcasting must be such that artists and thinkers have a place to work–with freedom. Short of this, the suffering listener has no out.
“The Theory of Listener-Sponsored Radio,” Lewis Hill 1951, from The Exacting Ear: The Story of Listener-Sponsored Radio, and an Anthology of Programs from KPFA, KPFK, and WBAI, Eleanor McKinney, Editor, (Pantheon Books/Random House, 1966).
Lorenzo Milam is “the Johnny Appleseed of community radio,” sez Broadcasting magazine. He helped establish KRAB-FM in Seattle in 1962, which grew into the KRAB nebula, a loosely affiliated group of freefrom stations (KTAO, KBOO, KDNA and KCHU — “the wet spot on your dial”).
But listen: the fears of the community radio people, I am loath to tell you, come as strongly from within as without. It works like this: people like you and me who are involved with strange and honest broadcast operations have a looseness in the brain-pan. We (you and I, love) operate best through tension, insane schemes, and bizarre fears. We seem to create nests of slander, inwit, neurotic outrage, and mental dyspepsia.
I tell you all this not to cover you and me and the existing community stations with calumny. But rather, to suggest that as you move towards getting your operation on the air, you should also set about defusing the madness inherent in the people who will come to be volunteers or staff for you.
See: commercial radio stations have a built-in defusing process which is make-money. You don’t have that. What you have is a group of dedicated sincere people who want to Do Good and Right. And they are all crackers. Aren’t we?
Choose your fellow workers carefully and well. Get people who are stable and loving and involved, but get people who have a life outside the station. Because they can drive you (and it) balmy.
Listen: the reason KRAB was such a benign operation through its first five years was not just because Seattle is such a benign city where the outrage of free speech has been tolerated up through the ages. Nor is it because for the first Ave years we were convinced that no one ever listened to us: what with our two hour concerts of Korean Temple Bells and weekend extravaganzas of the music of Dahomey. No — it was because Nancy and Gary and Jeremy and James and I were careful to people the station with richly self-contained individuals. Good people, who loved listener-supported community radio, and what it could do for our minds; but, individuals who valued life outside the station.
It was not just that we took a couple of gallons of Mountain Red to the board meetings; it wasn’t that we practiced an anarchistically politically detached wryness in our daily lives: it was, most of all, that we had a loud early warning system which went off whenever ‘political’ types came in the door. And I ain’t talking about communists or John Birch Society members.
You will have hundreds of volunteers. They, and your board and staff, should be apolitical. Apolitical in the most inner sense. Apolitical in that you can only survive through openness, warmth, and a militant avoidance of rumor. You must be a lightning-rod.
“A radio station should not just be a hole in the universe for making money, or feeding an ego, or running the worldhellip; A radio station should be a live place for live people to sing and dance and talk: talk their talk and walk their walk and know that they (and the rest of us) are not finally and irrevocably dead.”
Public Radio is in transition. CPB and other tri-letteral commissions believe radio must march into a new world order of MyFaceSpace YouTwits.
I’ve never put faith in people’s predictive powers — we humans are remarkably bad at it. But I do think a journey into an unknown future benefits greatly from a grasp of the past. So I spent a sleepless night chasing tidbits of pubradio history, especially from community radio pioneers like Lorenzo Milam and Lewis Hill.
HV kicks off April by posting some excerpts from these early essays and books in our Writs- Pubradio category. We’ll start with the seminal Sex and Broadcasting.
Radio is Dead. Love Live Radio.
“But the spectrum is as big as all outdoors — and there is a niche here, a crack there, for those who care to squeeze some of the art back into radio.” —Lorenzo Milam
The 1929 BBC Handbook was untroubled by controversy. Seven years on from its first cracklings, John Reith’s pioneers were still drunk with the glory of it all. “Broadcasting, that magical agent,” they wrote, “has made available by means of comparatively simple apparatus and at next to no cost the finest things there are to hear.”
Meanwhile C. A. Lewis, Reith’s deputy, spoke of the aerial posts “like spears against the sky”, as sounds were carried “along the roadsides, over the hills, brushed by trees, soaked by rain, swayed by gales … [to] the shepherd on the downs, the lonely crofter, the labourer in his squalid tenement, the lonely invalid on her monotonous couch”. Grim old Reith himself put it more succinctly: “There are two kinds of loneliness: insulation in space and isolation of spirit. These are both dispelled by wireless.”
The lore of the Yukon used to be the gold, hidden in the rocks. Today, only a few still dig and pan, but others treasures in culture and history still abound. Aired on NPR All Things Considered; by producer Jake Warga, “Exploring The Yukon” (5:26 mp3):
At Funny or Die “Mark Gagliardi drank a bottle of Scotch… And then discussed a famous historical event. That night history was made… Drunk History.” This first episode is on Aaron, Alex and ammo, “Drunk History Vol. 1:”
It’s another presidential election year; the American people are deeply divided and deeply entrenched in another unpopular war. The topic is not 2008, but 1968. If 1967 was the Summer of Love, maybe 1968 was the Summer of Hate.
We hear Dale Minor report from the battleground during the “Tet Offensive;” part of from Pacifica Radio Archive 1968 Revolution Rewind.
We go live to the “Chicago 1968” DNC demonstrations, mixed by Barrett Golding. (Voices: Martin Luther King, Jr, Robert Kennedy, Edward Kennedy, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, journalist, police, and demonstrators at Chicago 1968 Democratic National Convention. Music: “Ballad of the Green Beret” by Sgt. Barry Sadler, “For What It’s Worth” original by Buffalo Springfield and cover by The Staple Singers.)