|bubblegum static on the airwaves.|
|Two Hours With The Current - FM 88.7|
|The sad thing is that somewhere after I graduated from Elementary school the record player that hung the sounds of these flat vinyl wheels in the air of our home gradually started dying. Oh, not physically, the actual player worked just fine. It was just used less and less until we gradually forgot that it was still where we had put it, years ago. We started buying more cassettes because we could listen to them in the car on long trips and, perhaps because of the low quality of the tape medium, choose to listen to the radio more and more. Speaking in terms of sound quality, the radio didn't have a prayer compared to vinyl but the cassette was such a muted, muffled medium that the radio could sound much better.
I recall all of this, a decade later, because for that long two radio stations have dominated our house's audio intake; 99.5 MPR and 89.3 WCAL. Both of these classical stations have resisted the age of the compact disc and the digital music revolution. Cds take higher precedence over
the radio only during travel or select parts of the programming schedule that were a bit more extreme (aka opera hour).
Imagine my surprise then, as we sat down to dinner one night, and instead of the soft strains of Vivaldi or Purcell I heard (at a volume level that was barely audible) Minneapolis hip hop group Atmosphere. I can just imagine the critical levels of disbelief my parents must have heard in my
voice as I asked, "what are we listening to?" Had I missed some great cultural change? Or perhaps the significant historical discovery uncovering the influence of early Afrika Bambaataa on Bach's motets and cello suites? Had I secretly been transferred to an alternate universe where parents of all ages bored their Hayden-loving-children with Radiohead, Bjork, and the Roots?
It turns out that it was something much more reasonable. My parents, card-carrying classical-heads, were giving the Current (the new MPR owned incarnation of WCAL) a try. However improbable the success of their venture into hip hop or other forms of modern noise might be, their interest and belief in listener-supported music was touching. If these two music lovers could cross genre boundaries the size of the Gobi Desert to give the Current some attention, then surely I could donate an hour or two for the sake of curiosity.
So, this past Friday I decided to give the Current a chance. I packed no cds for the car or office, left my I-pod at home and dusted off the tuning dial of my office stereo system. I tuned in right at 2pm and caught the end of some 80s song that I didn't recognize or care to. I began to wonder how much I was going to regret committing to listen for two hours. All worries were shattered as the bold intro to Beck's Sexx Laws came on next and all of the countless hours my college roommate and I sat around blessing that album with every good word we could think of
finally came to fruition. I can honestly remember thinking, "man, this is too good to ever be on the radio!" What had just happened?
The next two hours were much the same. The joy of hearing those artists you thought only you had discovered, of being amazed by a new song and waiting patiently to try and catch the band's name, or hearing music so unexpected that you have to pinch yourself because this just should
not be happening. I felt like I was back in 5th grade putting away my kid tapes and finally discovering that there were other stations on the radio dial beside what was being played downstairs in the living room.
I guess that since that young age I've never quite understood people's fascination with the radio. After years of suffering through the painful music that's broadcast through our airwaves now I like to be in control of what music I hear. And in the age of the I-pod, digital music, mp3
players built into phones it is easier than ever to be in control. But now the radio makes sense again. The serendipity of what song comes on when, the commentary from DJs who get to actually play music they aren't paid to play, the sense of unseen community with listeners that, like in a big, dark, silent concert hall, you can't see or hear but you can feel their presence and imagine their reaction to the same art you are all taking in.
The Current reminds me that music is a big world. Stop playing around with a shovel in the backyard, digging up the same old dying tunes over and over again, and take a walk.
- Mark Hannan, 2/5/05
|My parents have always listened to three types of
music. If you were to look at their record collection
you would find an overwhelming amount of classical
music: Mahler, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mozart.
Classical music spanning centuries on beautiful vinyl.
Part two of the musical triad that makes up their collection is a relatively small amount of musical theatre albums. Let's see: Oklahoma!, South Pacific, My Fair Lady. A random smattering but, one centered in the hay day of the American musical.
Part three, a part that I am certain my mother is wholly responsible for, consists entirely of John Denver albums. They're almost all here, right up until the advent of the cassette. It's really quite amazing. There's even the cross-over duet album, Perhaps Love, with Placido Domino. I'm not poking fun here. I owe a lot to these records. Over the years this record collection has been a huge influence upon my musical tastes. I'm sure that I get my love of folk music from hearing songs like Sunshine On My Shoulder and Rocky Mountain High over and over again. In very obvious ways my musical tastes have sprung out of a love for that which is both classical and a bit theatrical (explaining my love for artists like Max Richter and Muse, respectively)..