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1910 Radio Set, George Mason, Fredonia NYWednesday 6.29.05: Seductive Radio

I love radio and can't get it out of my head that I need to "do radio."

Every time people start thinking radio is dead, it makes a resurgence. I think it's less about "radio" -- transmitters and receivers -- and more about the effect of disembodied sound in our ears that plays with our brain in different ways.

The FM revolution (late 1960s?) gave us music stations and stations that didn't cut out when you went under a bridge.

AM struck back by giving us talk radio.

Now we have satellite radio, internet radio, and podcasts.

If I had a job where I was in a car all day or travelling cross-country, I'd invest in satellite radio. I have no excuse to do it now. It would be like my cable TV -- buying 500 channels in order to listen to 2.

Internet radio is as low-tech as satellite radio is high tech. A lot of it is terribly illegal, since kids are "netcasting" all their favorite CDs from their dorm rooms without paying any artists' royalties. The easiest way I've found to tune in is to go through iTunes (a free download) and press the Radio icon while you're online. (I think most of the media players have a Radio feature.) That gives you an array of genres to choose from. I've used this option when I'd like some interesting mood music while I'm sitting at my computer -- trance music or strange melodies from the Arab world.

Now I'm hooked on podcasting.

Now I'm hooked on podcasting. Here, you are basically downloading an audio program to put onto your portable audio device and take with you. As of today, you can subscribe to podcasts from right within iTunes, through the store.

The idea isn't really new. I've been downloading books and radio programs from Audible for years. The difference is now just about anyone can create content, upload it to their websites, and offer subscriptions (although it doesn't appear that there is any way to earn money from this yet). Most podcasts are about 10 minutes of "live" content. I say "live" because they feel so spontaneous, not "produced" with added music, effects, and careful edits. Wouldn't you just love to do a podcast? I'd be terrible at it because I can't always think and talk at the same time (unless I'm drinking, which is probably just self-delusion anyway). The good deejays can keep talking even as their equipment is failing and requires fixing to keep going.

But I go back to that intimacy of the voice in your ear, the sense that someone is speaking to you alone, keeping you company or helping you fall asleep. I'm hooked.

 

My favorites

Studio 360. "Where Art & Real Life Collide." Kurt Anderson's magazine show. Great place to learn about artists of all sorts in all genres. You can listen from the website.

This American Life. Storytelling.

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