Does Being Uncool Mean You're Lukewarm?
Last week I was totally psyched about getting back into radio production. The :Vocalo staff had found my work and invited me to play. Funny how a little encouragement makes the spirit soar.
I started doing my homework. Crisis of confidence: Was it a mistake for them to have contacted me? First answer: What were they thinking??? The new radio station is meant for people who don't listen to traditional public radio. Public radio is for college types who like their world news tempered with whimsy and the occasional brainy satire -- people like... me. :Vocalo has a goal of 65% minority listeners. Its interactive internet home means they are going after youth -- the hip-hop or post-hiphop generation. They want a Chicago sound. South Side.
"Respectacle" has youth, has minority voices... Did they think I was cool when I'm really old and suburban and very pale? Can the Uncool ever be Hot or is the only fate to be eternally Tepid?
I decided to straighten up my studio. If I can't be cool, I'll be organized.
Putting a book back on the shelf, I saw a booklet stuffed in back. "Radio Art Companion" -- a handout from the Toronto "Radio Without Boundaries" sound art conference we attended in 2006. An article by Jacki Apple lifted my gloom. It reminded me that radio culture encompasses a huge variety of voices and approaches.
The very phrase 'radio art' may seem like an ironic contradiction, an oxymoron even, given the nature of the mainstream broadcast landscape. But it is in actuality a paradigm for our time in which ancient traditions of aural cutlure collide with instant information access and retrieval in the global village of mass media telecommunications systems. From the artist's point of view, radio is an environment to be entered into and acted upon, a site for various cultural voices to meet, converse, and merge in...
She goes on... but the point I take is that radio art should be less about worrying whether you fit in and more about communicating in your own unique voice.
What contemporary radio artworks share with the golden age of popular radio is the way in which they intimately engage the imagination of the listener.
So... challenge. There is more to Chicago than a hiphop beat. I went to college in Chicago. For many of my ancestors the South Side of Chicago was their first home in America. My great grandmother Ellen Gibbons arrived in Chicago a week before Mrs. O'Leary's cow set the city on fire in 1871. My immigrant great-grandparents Moses Flanagan and Maggie Keville fell in love, got married in Holy Angels Church and started their family in Chicago in the 1880s. And their son Moses was gunned down there at the outset of Prohibition. I have stories to tell.