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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Thursday, April 4, 2013 - 3B

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom ti-ic 1> Thursday, April 4,2013 - 3B

WCBN
From Page 1B
Potential, but as of yet unex-
plored, options include underwrit-
ing, a way nonprofit organizations
like WCBN can procure funding
from lusinesses by playing unbi-
ased, pierecorded messages on air.
The messages are overseen and
regulated by the FCC to ensure
there are no strict parallels with
advertising.
"It's just the facts. It's noncom-
parative, and it's dispassionate. At
its most base, it's money for air-
time, but it isn't advertising because
that's legally somethingelse,"Both-
ner said.
"If you listened to two compari-
sons of an actual ad and underwrit-
ing,thedifferenceisveryapparent,"
Madagame said. "We also aim for a
thematic relationship so it makes
sense for the listener. For example, I
had underwriting for a show about
sexual inequality and gender that
was done by a lab on campus that
needed participants for a related
study."
The radio station has also invest-
ed a significant amount of money
to upgrade their transmitter in the
hopes of reaching alarger audience.
"The current broadcasting area
has around 90,000 potential lis-
teners, while the new area will
reach approximately 175,000. But
at the same time, we have a very
loyal listener base that's been there
for 30 years," said Chief Engineer
Jim Campbell. "They don't listen
because it's a convenience or a tech-
nologythingbutbecause ofthe pro-
gramming."
Serendipitous radio
For many reasons, WCBN and
the content it produces are the
antithesis to commercial radio, a
direct contrast to popular music
stations and their recycling of
limited, Top-40 playlists. Unlike
a radio personality on a station
like Detroit's 95.5, a disc jockey at
WCBN has - barring the restric-
tions of the FCC - essentially
complete creative control over the
content he or she can assemble for
a show.
"Somebody can come in here
and make the kind of radio they
want to make," Newmeyer said.
"That includes not just music, but I
mean, interviews; do a short-story
reading ... just talk in the micro-
phone for a while. There's a lot of
things that can go into what a free-
form (slot can be)."
Thoughthe possibilitiesforcon-
tent are nearly endless, and though
the station does feature various
talk shows (including a sports
segment), WCBN's predominant
focus is music. The station's music

library is an overwhelming collec-
tion of thousands of vinyl records
and nearly 40,000 CDs that spans
every genre imaginable, and its
music-programming schedule
will unfailingly venture through
numerous genres over the course
of several hours.
"With us ...you can be like,'Well
it's Tuesday at seven o'clock. That
means I'm going to be hearing
some vintage ska, some Jamaican
sounds,'" Newmeyer said. "But in
general, what we do that makes
us special, in our opinion, is that
we not only (have a schedule), but
there's a certain amount of unpre-
dictability involved."
The disc jockeys at WCBN
describe themselves as "music
curators." Much like the curator
of a museum, these students often
strive to unearth rare music -
from the innumerable shelves of
WCBN's library or the Internet -
and present it to listeners in care-
fully constructed, yet contingent,
playlists on air.
"I'm a big fan of the chaotic and
the unexpected," Newmeyer said.
"I think that there's a lot of novelty
in that, in just not knowing what
you're going to hear. Because some-
times the thing that you're going to
hear is something that you would
never even know how to find oth-
erwise."
As a platform for music discov-
ery, WCBN differs from online ser-
vices like Pandoraor Spotify in that
it employs this human element to
creating variation in its content. In
that sense, WCBN and other online
stationsvie for divergent interests.
"If Pandora or Last.fm or Spo-
tify had like a shuffle button, where
... it has absolutely no bearing to
the kind of music that you say you
that you're into, just something off-
the-wall and completely random,"
Newmeyer said, "if they had a but-
ton like that ... then maybe I would
feel some sortofcompetition."
High-conceptradioart
Within the context of free-
form radio, WCBN's DJs can - in

addition to compiling songs for
a set - pursue their own artistic
ambitions in the form of "high-
concept radio art." As Madagame
explained, DJs frequently create
spontaneous art pieces during live
sets, using the various turntables
and CD players to layer spoken-
word tracks, instrumentals and
even an occasional whale sound
to construct one compelling, sonic
whole.
"One of my favorite things I've
ever done, actually," Madagame
said, "(was when) I played the
movie, 'We Are the Strange' ...
and I layered the entire (two-and-
a-half hour) movie with different
pieces of music at different times.
There was some metal music, some
indie music, some classical music,
sometimes all atthe same time."
Occasionally, the station's DJs
play spoken-word recordings or
songs to make political statements
- which, as Bothner pointed out,
have a longhistory atWCBN.
"When Reagan won the presi-
dency, we played 'It's My Party
and I Can Cry If I Want To' for 24
hours, non-stop," Bothner said.
"So (not all pieces) are 'good art.'
Nobody said it had toube pretty."
The creation of "radio art,"
according to Bothner and Mad-
agame, is an exercise in expand-
ing the ways we think about
sound.
"It's sort of like that conceptu-
alist idea of putting non-art things
in museums to appreciate them as
art," Bothner said. "As soon as you
put a piece of sound on the radio,
people hear it as music, even if it
isn't music. It sort of opens your
mind to the possibilities of things
that could be."
Though some would catego-
rize this philosophy, WCBN and
its content in general as geared
toward a specific niche, Newmey-
er disagrees.
"Maybe not even a niche, but
just (toward) people who are
open-minded. I mean, that's not
a niche," Newmeyer said. "That's
a large segment of the population.
People who are open-minded
have a huge amount of different
interests and ... aren't necessarily
going to turn on WCBN and hear
something they enjoy, and that's
totally not the point."
So is WCBN a purer form of
radio?
"Personally, I think about radio
not just as, 'We are WCBN, and
this is real radio,' but I think
Pandora is radio, too. Spotify is
radio," Madagame said. "They are
all online radio stations, like that's
all radio, and they serve their
purpose, and we serve a different
purpose.
"I think that we all play togeth-
er, and I don't think that we
need to fight against any of these
things. I think we just need to do
our thing well, and I think we do."

Mastering the art
of the demo tape

Audiophile had to be chosen from WCBN's
library.
attempts to perfect Uh oh. The fantasies I had
of waltzing into the studio
a playlist at WCBN and impressing all the other
DJs with the stuff I thought
ByJACKSON HOWARD was cool on my iPod instantly
Daily Arts Writer popped. Four genres? Vinyl? I
swallowed and smiled warily at
In the depths of the Student Dettling. She then directed me
Activities Building, 24 hours a to WCBN's gargantuan abyss
day, seven days a week, the vol- of records and, taking a deep
unteer staff at WCBN plays the breath, I officially embarked on
coolest music you've most likely my journey to make the perfect
never heard. This isn't to imply demo tape.
that the station doesn't play nor- I spent a good half hour dig-
mal music, whatever that means. ging through the WCBN library,
But what separates WCBN - picking carefully through dirt-
the University's independent ied and worn record sleeves,
radio station - from typical col- trying to put together an eclec-
lege broadcasting services is its tic mix of music of which I had
dedication to freeform radio, basically no knowledge.
embracing the entire musical Eventually, I emerged with
diaspora, from 1990s techno to five vinyl records and one CD: a
mid-century African folk music rockabilly compilation entitled
and everything in between, giv- Rollercoaster Rockers Vol. 1;
ing disc jockeys complete cre- Rake, a hard rock album by the
ative freedom. Velvet Monkeys; Know Now, by
"I think it's good that they're the reggae artist Ras Michael;
purportedly freeform," said Bishop Rides South, by the leg-
Isaac Levine, aMusic, Theatre & endary soul singer Solomon
Dance freshman and WCBN DJ. Burke; Thokozile, by the Afri-
"At other college radio stations can group Mahlathini and the
there's a lot of top indie songs Mahotella Queens; The Shining
and shows ... but I'm glad (free- Path, by the folk group Blue-
form) is enforced here because grass Cardinals; and last, but
it instills a sense of earnest dis- certainly not least, Klasikleri,
covery, and I've learned about by the Turkish singer Asik Vey-
so much great stuff through it." sel (what the hell, there's a first
The process of becoming a time for everything, right?).
DJ at WCBN is time-consuming As I sorted through my vari-
and draining. Potential mem- ous records and CDs, I noticed
bers are required to complete on many of them faded, hand-
multiple hours of volunteer written reviews and recommen-
work at the station, submit an dations from other DJs about the
approved demo tape of their albums. "A great album; PLAY
own freeform show, pass a IT!" read a note on one record,
broadcasters exam and - if while a different DJ bluntly
all that is accomplished - the commented, "There's some real
newly crowned DJ is required obscure, weird shit on this," on
to host a 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. free- another. These radio hosts -
form show once per week. who ISwill probably never meet -
Training Coordinator Joy wrote these comments and hints
Dettling explained to me the not for themselves, but instead
two main characteristics of the for their fellow WCBN mem-
perfect demo tape: comfort and bers, motivated by an overarch-
proficiency with the technical ing love for music and the desire
equipment, and a willingness to to share it with anyone willing to
embrace and explore the music listen. After reading these notes,
WCBN has to offer. I felt it was my responsibility to
With the help of Dettling, create the best demo tape pos-
I decided to give it a shot, as it sible, even if I had no clue what
was probably the closest thing on earthI was doing.
I'd get to actually being on air. I started to listen to the
She happily showed me how to records and simultaneously
use the equipment in the small began planning the schedule
studio designated for making of my show, from the order of
demos, and though there was a the songs to the placement of
lot to learn, it didn't look all that the PSA, radio promo and event
complicated - nothing my iPod announcing I had to include.
couldn't solve. I picked "Gonna Tell on You"
I started to scroll through my by George Fleming - a fun, foot-
digitized playlists when Det- shuffling tune - from the rocka-
cling reminded me of the rules: billy compilation and decided
The demo tape needed to con- to start my show with it. I then
sist of at least four genres, one opened up the Velvet Monkeys
CD, five vinyl records; I had to record, and chose "Harmonica
speak at least three times and, Hell House," a highly recom-
most importantly, the music mendedbutbizarre, psychedelic,

harmonica-infused mess. Next
was Ras Michael, and I decided
on "Rastaman Gives Thanks
and Praise." I picked a power-
ful cover of "Proud Mary" from
Solomon Burke, "Lilizela Mlili-
zeli," a spirited, buoyant number
from Mahlathini and the Maho-
tella Queens and "Wash the Feet
of Jesus" by the Bluegrass Car-
dinals, which sounded exactly
how you'd expected.
Finally, I arrived at Asik
Veysel. I chose "Necip," (it was
the easiest to pronounce), and
as I pressed play, a whirlwind
of guitar and guttural prayer
flew into the room, making me
cringe. I almost turned it off, but
I remembered it was my duty
to embrace and experience this
new music, and so S grudgingly
allowed Veysel to continue doing
whatever the hell he was doing.
I outlined my show, prepared
my music and at last turned on
the microphone. Hesitating for
a moment, I managed to squeak
out a few words. The sound level
arrows barely moved. I took a
deep breath and tried again,
this time speaking louder, and
watched the arrows bounce up
excitedly.
I then pressed play on the
rockabilly record, but the speak-
ers were silent. I started to
worry until I realized that I had
left the mic on. I turned it off,
and the music snapped on. Of
course. Rookie mistake.
The rest of the show went as
smoothly as possible, consider-
ing the circumstances. I totally
butchered the pronunciation
of "Lilizela Mlilizeli," forgot to
turn off the mic a couple more
times and made a good amount
of prolonged and shaky tran-
sitions. Even more, I was so
worried about using the equip-
ment correctly and fulfilling all
the different things the demo
required that when it was time
for me to speak, I completely
forgot that I was supposed tobe,
well, myself, and instead ended
up speaking in the driest, most
monosyllabic tone that had ever
escaped my mouth. Carrying on
a one-sided conversation is real-
ly, really hard, I realized.
Still, I finished the show in
one piece and forgave myself for
my multiple mistakes. As I stood
to leave the room and return my
music, a small sense of accom-
plishment rose in me. I had been
completely reluctant to indulge
in these random albums, yet as
I stood there holding them in
my hands, I felt a certain affec-
tion for them. I had become part
of the WCBN community web
in some form or another, and as
I walked out of the station that
day, I couldn't help but hum the
melody of the African song I still
couldn't pronounce.

WCBN recently lost funding from University Housing.

And we're back. Like a newly
turned vamp opening her eyes;
to the harsh singe of light, "The
Vampire Dia-
ries" emerges
from the dis-
mal myopia The Vampire
of its fourth varies
season's
middle-parts "American
transformed. Gothic"
"Ameri-
can Gothic"
doesn't waste
. a second of
screentime - but sheds plenty of
blood - as itslashes through the
race for the cure's true climax.
Most importantly, Katherine's
back, along with Elijah, and the
devilish doppelganger and virtu-
ous vampire have become lovers.
Turns out Katherine might have
a heart beneath those leather
jackets and years of manipulat-
ing men into executing her bid-
ding after all.
Elena, on the other hand, has

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