Tuesday, July 26, 2011

communality on the radio dial

Fisher radio from 1959
Long before the Internet, one trawled the airwaves - searching for treasure.

Community radio during the late 1960's had a profound effect on many listeners in the San Francisco Bay Area, including myself. Discovering that there were alternatives to standard political rhetoric and top-forty entertainment was an encouragement, opening vistas in unexplored directions.

Cese McGowan, Indi Higham and Hugh McAllorum were important radio voices at KTAO in Los Gatos during that time, but it was station manager Lorenzo Milam who was most influential, albeit behind the scenes. Lorenzo would assign a task to a DJ - for example to make a program about love songs from different cultures using the gigantic ethnic record collection at the station. Or organising a five day Javanese gamelan festival in December. Or an overview of African drumming, Norteño music, Irish bagpipes, political debate or renaissance poetry...

Through his work at KTAO, Lorenzo Milam was attempting to create situations for intellectual stimulation that he himself had experienced a decade before while volunteering at KPFA Berkeley. He writes:
How wonderful, then, it was, to find this communality on the radio dial. Those of us who had a love for Joyce and the Beats and Marlowe and Bach and Dallapiccola and Telemann and Louis Armstrong and Blind Gary Davis and the Music of Macedonia had, at the same time, an antidote to the world that had suddenly gone off the track. Here was a voice of reason, one beamed at us with gentle calm, telling us that it was, indeed, wrong to destroy the country that we loved for a single, dark, knock-'em-dead world view.

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