Thursday, December 2, 2010

Speak Easy

by Drew Martin

My college newspaper office was next to the college radio station. I spent some time in the former and one day a small group of guys from an experimental radio show walked over to meet me because they liked the cartoon strips I was contributing to the paper. I think their intention was two-fold; to introduce themselves but also to initiate me into their tribe. After I humbly replied to their playful compliments in my shy, soft voice, however, one of them turned to the others with a sigh and a shrug of his shoulders and disappointingly and apologetically said:

"He doesn't have a radio voice."

None-the-less, we all became friends and I sometimes visited them during their wacky, multi-layered shows. Unlike the college newspaper, which was a hodgepodge of information and various interests, their shows were chaotic but also very focused and thematic. My one and only time speaking on the air was for a show dedicated to elevators. I wrote and read a story I made up about a father who worked as an elevator man and with whom I would spend my free days as a child vertically transporting people.

Radio is literally in all of us, pulsing through our bodies. It is the grandfather of modern media and a form of communication that still fascinates me. The orange ring design of the Museum of Peripheral Art and also the name came from growing up in the periphery of Manhattan and being within range of its radio and television broadcast waves. That being said, I should not give New York all the credit here since the first use of radio was in New Jersey by Guglielmo Marconi (pictured right), the inventor of wireless telegraphy.

I relish WNYC, especially Leonard Lopate's show, and feel very much part of the station. Not only is it around the corner from me but the company I work for built their new offices, studios and performance space and it was one of my first awarded projects. Despite their proximity, I now listen to them at work on the Internet, especially because I can access archives.

I started writing this post because I wanted to discuss something very different: cartoons and quantum physics, which I will save for the next post. The connection to radio is because of what I heard a physicist say about a cartoon on my favorite show of all time: WFMU's ever fascinating The Green Room with Dorian out of Jersey City, New Jersey, which was billed as "Interviews with some of the most intelligent people on earth!" The Green Room was originally broadcast every Monday from 6pm - 8pm, then was shortened to a 7pm - 8pm slot. The two-hour, in-depth interviews were typically with one scientist per show, who were often college professors, Nobel Prize scientists and MacArthur Fellows. The show ended in 2001, at which time Dorian transitioned to the one-hour general interests interview show Speakeasy, which apparently went off the air in the summer of 2009.

Although the Green Room archives simply have only lists of guests and links to related sites, the Speakeasy archives are still up and playable, click here >>>