Time to gather ’round the radio

maxresdefaultThe powder milk biscuits are ready. Rhubarb pie is cooling on the counter top. A bottle of ketchup is on the table. Getting ready for this week’s radio broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion with Chris Thile.

The family chatters about what to expect of the show. Jack White is on the show. Will they still have “Lives of the Cowboys” or “Guy Noir”? Will there be more music and less comedy?

The expectation is high for this family. Who listens to the radio as if it were the Super Bowl or something like that?

The elegant lie

Sunday, I had the opportunity to sit in the WPVM studios during a broadcast of WordPlay. Katherine Min read from Secondhand World; a lyrical novel of sorts. Sebastian Matthews discussed the autobiographical elements of the novel. Katherine Min responded, “Fiction is the elegant lie that leads to the truth.” And I wrote it down in my notebook along with other jewels I gathered from observing the recording of WPVM’s WordPlay.

Hi-fi, lo-fi, and the death of good vibes

I’ve been dubious for years at the proliferation of iPod/MP3 music. I find this article, “The Death of High Fidelity,” delicious. Maybe it’s the former radio guy or just plain audiophile geek in me that screams, “Rawk on!.”

It’s not just new music that’s too loud. Many remastered recordings suffer the same problem as engineers apply compression to bring them into line with modern tastes…. MP3 and other digital-music formats are quickly replacing CDs as the most popular way to listen to music. That means more convenience but worse sound…. MP3s don’t reproduce reverb well, and the lack of high-end detail makes them sound brittle. Without enough low end… “you don’t get the punch anymore. It decreases the punch of the kick drum and how the speaker gets pushed when the guitarist plays a power chord.”



And further (this is great):

Still, “it’s like going to the Louvre and instead of the Mona Lisa there’s a 10-megapixel image of it… I wouldn’t look at a Kandinsky painting with sunglasses on.”

Now, I am not advocating abandoning iPods and other MP3 players.

It is just the fact that art, literature and music have been so diminished in the last couple decades that most people in our culture couldn’t tell quality art, literature or music if it was served them on a silver platter with a cue card reading “applause.”

For my generation, Gen-X, the touchstone song is Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Robert Levine, writer of the article, illustrates — with graphics — the difference in audio architecture of Nirvana’s anthem and Arctic Monkey’s hit “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor.”

Suddenly I feel old.