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OAM: Or maybe not.

08/09/2009

I will be a DJ for my college (Covenant College, The Scots, liberal arts, Presbyterian of America, atop Lookout Mtn, GA) radio station (streaming, http://wklt.covenant.edu, The Kilt) for my “practical service.”

How I lucked out in terms of getting a creative and non-grunt-work (hopefully) job for my final year of PS remains somewhat of a mystery to me.
It helps when you have a sig.other who 1) already does work with the Kilt; 2) encourages the spread of good music and ideas strongly; 3) and can give the insider’s perspective on how the organization works.

Sadly, the Kilt doesn’t attract many listeners simply because it’s the age of ipods, Pandora, and various other forms of audio dissemination. The so-called silver lining of this fact being the relative security it provides a new DJ who doesn’t quite know what she’s doing to start out.
I’ve been encouraged to listen to “A Prairie Home Companion” not only to hear the “best voice out there” (Garrison Keillor) but to hear some slam-bang awesome radio.

I confess that I have not listened faithfully to the radio since high school. My parents repossessed my cd player/radio sometime after my senior year. I had shipped out to Covenant (more specifically driven hours and hours to said institution) and its silvery surface was dusty and its speakers unused. Soon it was blasting Dvorak symphonies at strange hours of the day due to its automatic timer that no one appeared to know how to disable.

Before the repossession of a once-Christmas present, I listened to the radio quite faithfully. I listened to cds as well, though I’d listened to cds and tapes almost exclusively before middle school. The reasons for this exclusivity being 1) my radio before the elegant silver Panasonic had been an old black Sony boombox with a 2-tape deck/cd player. The radio had a dial selecter complete with tab to scoot back and forth, but the antenna was broken so radio listening was useless anyway. 2) I lived in Germany when I first started using the player for my own listening — Adventures in Odyssey tapes and classical music from the parental collection– and we’d dropped a transformer on the player. It broke cd player’s door so that henceforth we had to keep something relatively weighty on the door to keep it shut and the music playing. My parents eventually took pity on our (my sister and I; we shared a room) ingenuity in the face of faulty technology or were at least embarrassed enough by it to buy a new sleek Panasonic (with digital radio, on-top tape deck, motorized cd-tray, programming options, AND remote control). The world of radio, hassle-free cd listening, and (later) taping the radio was now open to me.

I was highly familiar with the Christian and classical radio stations thanks to Mom-as-chauffer-and-music-selector. For a time, my curiosity about the less-holy airwaves was limited. From what information I’d gathered, there was only audible “garbage” being strewn about “out there” and it would infect my young mind. Also, thanks to my antenna-less radio and nigh-unshakable belief that my mother wouldn’t change the station in the car (and therefore wasn’t worth requesting) there was little opportunity for experimentation.

Middle school duly arrived and as is common with middle school, new experiences and the beginning of the excavation of my musical-tunnel-vision.

My first venture into the secular world of radio had been to a top hits station and was pre-Panasonic, oddly. I had a handheld radio; one of those freebies they give at walk-athons or other such events at private Christian schools. Feeling adventurous and even rebellious, I moved it to a (gasp) non-Christian station and furtively listened to the second half of Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up the Sun.” As Sheryl twanged her song that I would later hear many times in the orthodontist’s chair, I felt slightly discomfited and simultaneously daring to have moved past the parent-sanctioned airwaves to more popular fare.
It was an experiement.
I had not planned to begin listening to popular “godless” music (meaning that the songs rarely mentioned God and if they did, in a questionable light). I did not set out to learn how to tolerate commercials by creative station-hopping. I did not know I would later avoid morning-talk shows because I preferred music to celebrity gossip or that I’d fall in love 80’s music or sing along to 90’s singer-songwriters over my algebra homework.
I did not know the next song would insure that all these would come to pass.

The mellow, casading piano chords of Train’s “Drops of Jupiter” came small through the unit’s earbuds, even a little staticky since cheapie handhelds aren’t known for great reception. I shifted, leaning on the bookshelf in my bedroom, and the song came in more clearly. I had been impressed by the rich, full piano intro; I’d been taking lessons since grade two and always admired the skilled. Pat came in with the vocals; I listened closely for evil, negativity, dirty words. Listened for the entirety of the song and found Nothing of the sort.
Nothing but a song about a man singing to the woman he loves who’d been gone “lookin’ for [her]self” among the celestial bodies, asking if she missed him while she was “out there.”
The way he sings and plays, I daresay she did.

When people ask me about my favorite song, I tell them “Drops of Jupiter.” While it is very easy for me to fall in love with a song if it has the right combination of magic elements, DoJ’s magic was mindscape-scattering; it taught me there was music “out there” that was okay to love, that it was okay to keep turning on the radio, to keep challenging my perceptions about what made music “good.”

That all being said, I am excited to be a DJ this fall and to share “good” music–overtly Christian, closet-Christian (the band-made-up-of-Christians phenomenon versus a Christian band), and secular. I cannot write succinctly in this post what my views are on what makes good music, but hopefully my show (whether it will be called ‘Owls on the Answering Machine’ or not; still can’t decide if that’s too out there for Cov) will present a working definition every hour, every week.

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