Radiooooo: Discover the Musical Time Machine That Lets You Hear What Played on the Radio in Different Times & Places

Radio has always been a fairly transportive medium.

During the Great Depression, entire families clustered round the electronic hearth to enjoy a variety of entertainments, including live remote broadcasts from the glamorous nightclubs and hotels where celebrity bandleaders like Count Basie and Duke Ellington held sway.

1950s teens’ transistors took them to a head space less square than the white bread suburbs their parents inhabited.




During the Vietnam War, South Vietnamese stations played homegrown renditions of the rock and soul sounds dominating American airwaves.

The Radiooooo.com app allows modern listeners to experience a bit of that magical time traveling sensation, via an interactive map that allows you to tune in to specific countries and decades.

The content here is user-generated. Register for a free account, and you too can begin sharing eccentric faves.

Find a user whose tastes mirror your own? Click their profile for a stat card of tracks they’ve favorited and uploaded, as well as any other sundry details they may feel like sharing, such as country of origin and age.

There are fun awards to be earned here, with the most sought after pelts going to the first to upload a song to an empty country, or upload a track from 1910-1920. (Cameroon, 1940 … go!)

As with an actual radio, you are not selecting the actual playlist, though you can nudge the needle a bit by toggling to your desired mood—slow, fast and/or weird.

And you need not limit yourself to a single destination. Embark on a strange musical trip by using Radiooooo's taxi function to carry you to multiple countries and decades. (I closed my eyes and wound up shuttling between Ukraine and Mauritania in the 60s and 80s.)

Dotted around the map are island icons, where the ever-growing collection is sorted according to themes like Hawaii, Neverland (“for children big and small”), and 8-Bit video game music. Le Club, floating midway between Europe and North America, contains brand new releases from contemporary labels.

The Now Playing window includes an option to buy, when possible, as well as the artist’s name and album artwork. Share, like, get your groove on…

And stay tuned for Radiooooo’s latest baby, Le Globe, an interactive 3-D map of the world and a decade selector dial mounted on a “beautiful connected object.”

The boundaries are extremely permeable here.

Have a browse through Radiooooo’s Instagram feed for a feast of cover art or head to France for one of their in-person listening parties. (There’s one next week in the secret listening room of Paris’ Grand Hotel Amour.)

Readers, if your explorations unearth an exceptional track, please share it in the comments, below.

Download the Radioooo app for Mac or Android here, or listen on the website. (You may need to fool around with various browsers to find the one that works best for you.)

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Her radio dial is set to Romania 1910 in anticipation of the third installment of her literary-themed variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain , Monday, April 23 at the New York Society Library. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

An Impressive Audio Archive of John Cage Lectures & Interviews: Hear Recordings from 1963-1991

History has remembered John Cage as a composer, but to do justice to his legacy one has to allow that title the widest possible interpretation. He did, of course, compose music: music that strikes the ears of many listeners as quite unconventional even today, more than a quarter-century after his death, but recognizable as music nonetheless. He also composed with silence, an artistic choice that still intrigues people enough to get them taking the plunge into his wider body of work, which also includes compositions of words, many thousands of them written and many hours of them recorded.

Ubuweb offers an impressive audio archive of Cage's spoken word, beginning with material from the 1960s and ending with a talk (embedded at the top of the post) he gave at the San Francisco Art Institute in the penultimate year of his life. There he read a 30-minute piece called "One 7" consisting of "brief vocalizations interspersed with long periods of silence" before taking audience questions which "range from inquiries about the process by which Cage composes, his lack of interest in pleasing an audience, his love of mushrooms, Buddhism, chance operations, and whether Cage can stand on his head."

Turn the Cage clock back 28 years from there and we can hear a spirited 1963 conversation between him and Jonathan Cott, the young music journalist later known for conducting John Lennon's last interview. "At every turn Cott antagonizes Cage with challenging questions," says Ubuweb, adding that he marshals "quotes from numerous sources (including Norman Mailer, Michael Steinberg, Igor Stravinsky and others) criticizing Cage and his music."




Cage, in characteristic response, "parries Cott's thrusts with a veritable tai chi practice of music theory." This contrasts with the mood of Cage's 1972 interview alongside pianist David Tudor embedded just above, presented in both English and French and featuring references to the work of Henry David Thoreau and Marcel Duchamp.

Cage has more to say about Duchamp, and other artists like Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, in the undated lecture clip from the archives of Pacifica Radio just above. Have a listen through the rest of Ubuweb's collection and you'll hear the master of silence speak voluminously, if sometimes cryptically, on such subjects as Zen Buddhism, anarchism, utopia, the work of Buckminster Fuller, and "the role of art and technology in modern society." The contexts vary, both in the sense of time and place as well as in the sense of the performative expectations placed on Cage himself. But even a sampling of the recordings here suggests that being John Cage, in whatever setting, constituted a productive artistic project all its own.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

David Sedaris Creates a List of His 10 Favorite Jazz Tracks: Stream Them Online

Image by WBUR, via Wikimedia Commons

You can't read far into David Sedaris' writing without encountering his father Lou, a curmudgeonly, decades-and-decades-retired IBM engineer with a stiffly practical mind and a harsh word for everybody — especially his misfit son, dedicating his life as he has to the quasi-occupation of writing while living in far-flung places like Paris and rural England. Even now, solidly into his nineties, Sedaris père keeps on providing the sixtysomething Sedaris fils with material, all of it — once polished up just right — a source of laughter for the latter's many readers and listeners. But Lou has also given David something else: a passion for jazz.

"My father loves jazz and has an extensive collection of records and reel-to-reel tapes he used to enjoy after returning home from work," writes Sedaris in one essay. "He might have entered the house in a foul mood, but once he had his Dexter Gordon and a vodka martini, the stress melted away and everything was 'Beautiful, baby, just beautiful.'" He then goes on to tell the story of how his father once attempted to train young David and his sisters into a Brubeck-style family jazz combo — a hopeless dream from the start, but one that has since entertained his fans around the world. (Not that Sedaris hasn't provided some of that entertainment by performing commercial jingles in the voice of Billie Holiday.)

Appearing on a guest DJ segment on Los Angeles public radio station KCRW, Sedaris told of how his father introduced him to jazz: "I remember seeing the movie Lady Sings the Blues, right, and thinking Diana Ross did such a good job. And my Dad saying, 'Oh boy, you've got a lot to learn,' and then him playing Billie Holiday 78s for me... and then him taking it back even further and sitting me down to listen to Mabel Mercer. He really did give me quite an education and it's the music that's stuck with me." As for the first jazz album he ever heard, he names in a recent JazzTimes interview Charles Mingus' The Clown, the one "with a close-up of a clown’s face on the cover" that still, in his estimation, "looks so modern and it sounds so modern."

When Sedaris' official Facebook page posted ten of his favorite songs, he came up with an all-jazz list including the work of Nina Simone, Antonio Carlos Jobim, John Coltrane, and other luminaries of the tradition. (He did not, of course, neglect Billie Holiday.) A fan turned it into a Spotify playlist, which you'll find embedded below (and if you don't have Spotify's free software, you can download it here):

"I used to work in complete silence," Sedaris tells JazzTimes, but "about three or four years ago I started listening to music [while I work], but not music with lyrics in it." Much of the jazz he loves fits that description, and he's also, in combination with the variety of music-streaming services available now, discovered new jazz artists while writing. Having put drinking and smoking completely behind him — and having written about both of those experiences — Sedaris retains jazz as one of the substances that keeps him going. It certainly seems to have worked for the man who brought the music into his life, whom Sedaris has imagined may yet outlive us all: "If anything happens to me," he says, "the one thing my father wants is my iPod."

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Hear Glenn Gould Channel Marshall McLuhan and Create an Experimental Radio Documentary Analyzing the Pop Music of Petula Clark (1967)

Glenn Gould, that intellectually intense, aesthetically austere interpreter of Johann Sebastian Bach, had little time for pop music. He had especially little time for the Beatles: "Theirs is a happy, cocky, belligerently resourceless brand of harmonic primitivism," he wrote in High Fidelity in 1967, when the Fab Four had reached the top of the zeitgeist. "The indulgent amateurishness of the musical material, though closely rivaled by the indifference of the performing style, is actually surpassed only by the ineptitude of the studio production method," he declares, likening "Strawberry Fields Forever" to "a mountain wedding between Claudio Monteverdi and a jug band."

But the Beatle-bashing was incidental to the purpose of the article, a paean to English singer Petula Clark. At first listen, her four singles on which Gould focuses his analysis — 1964's "Downtown," 1956's "My Love," and 1966's "A Sign of the Times" and "Who Am I?" — sound like nothing more than adolescent-oriented pop hardly touched by any of that decade's musical (or indeed social) revolutions. But "this quartet of hits," in Gould's view, "was designed to convey the idea that, bound as she might be by limitations of timbre and range, she would not accept any corresponding restrictions of theme and sentiment," with the result that she came to command an audience "large, constant, and possessed of an enthusiasm which transcends the generations."




Gould says all this in The Search for Petula Clark, a 23-minute radio documentary that aired on the CBC on December 11, 1967, less than three weeks before his much better-known experimental documentary The Idea of North. He situates his analysis of the singer he calls "Pet Clark," which gets into not just her songs' themes and lyrics but their technical qualities as music, in the context of a solo road trip around Lake Superior when "Who Am I?" first hit the airwaves. So compelled did he find himself that he timed his drive to get within range of one of the radio stations scattered across the vastness of his homeland at the top of each hour in order to hear the song over and over again, after 700 miles he got to "know it if not better than the soloist, at least as well, perhaps, as most of the sidemen."

Though born within two months of each other in 1932 and thereafter living lives dedicated to music, Gould and Clark would seem to have little else in common. While Gould died at 50, Clark, at the age of 85, continues to both record and perform. Gould, as J.D. Connor writes in an essay on The Search for Petula Clark, "stopped performing for live audiences in 1964. Freed from the rigors of the concert circuit, he dove into radio and television at just the moment when he and Canadian state media could parlay his immense musical popularity into something more."  This and the more intricate radio productions that would follow both sprang from and allowed Gould to construct "a media theory of his own. In print, on television, and, most important, on radio, Gould became the great complement to Marshall McLuhan." And like McLuhan, when Gould obsesses over something that never seemed to merit serious attention, we'd do well to heed the insights he draws from it.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Listen to Glenn Gould’s Shockingly Experimental Radio Documentary, The Idea of North (1967)

If genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains, Glenn Gould merits each and every one of the many applications of the word "genius" to his name. The world knows that name primarily as one of a genius of the piano, of course, especially when interpreting the genius of Johann Sebastian Bach, but he also made an impression in his homeland of Canada as a genius of the radio editing suite. Having recorded for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's classical-and-jazz record label CBC Records placed him well to realize his ideas on the CBC's airwaves, most memorably in the form of The Idea of North, an hourlong meditation on the vast, cold expanse that constitutes the top third of the country, which first aired on December 28, 1967.

The broadcast's fiftieth anniversary has prompted Canadians and non-Canadians alike to have another listen to Gould's best-known radio project, back then shockingly experimental and still boldly unconventional today. "The pianist used a technique he called 'contrapuntal radio,' layering speaking voices on top of each other to create a unique sonic environment situated in the space between conversation and music," says the site of CBC's Ideas, which recently aired a new episode about the making of The Idea of North called Return to North.




The page quotes Gould biographer Geoffrey Payzant as describing it and Gould's subsequent documentaries as "hybrids of music, drama, and several other strains, including essay, journalism, anthropology, ethics, social commentary, [and] contemporary history."

One might might well compare The Idea of North's form to that of a fugue, the type of complex contrapuntal composition so closely associated with Bach and thus with Gould as well. But the form also serves the substance, "that incredible tapestry of tundra and taiga which constitutes the Arctic and sub-Arctic of our country," as Gould himself puts it in the broadcast's introduction. "I've read about it, written about it, and even pulled up my parka once and gone there," he continues, but like most Canadians remained ever "an outsider" to the North, "and the North has remained for me, a convenient place to dream about, spin tall tales about, and, in the end, avoid."

The North also offered Gould a powerful symbol of solitude, a condition which he sought throughout his life, especially after quitting live performance to focus exclusively on the studio shortly before making The Idea of North. In the decade thereafter he made two more formally and thematically similar documentaries, one on coastal Newfoundlanders and another on Mennonites in Manitoba, and the three together make up his "Solitude Trilogy." A television film of The Idea of North, co-produced by the CBC and PBS, appeared in 1970, layering images of the North atop of the words about the North Gould had collected. It certainly adds a dimension to Gould's painstakingly constructed audio collage, but somehow pure radio, the old "theater of the mind," still suits it best: the images of the North he wanted to evoke, one senses just as well now as half a century ago, exist only in the mind.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Hear the Christmas Carols Made by Alan Turing’s Computer: Cutting-Edge Versions of “Jingle Bells” and “Good King Wenceslas” (1951)

Alan Turing (right) stands next to the Ferranti Mark I. Photo courtesy of the University of Manchester

This Christmas, as our computers fast learn to compose music by themselves, we might gain some perspective by casting our minds back to 66 Christmases ago, a time when a computer's rendition of anything resembling music at all had thousands and thousands listening in wonder. In December of 1951, the BBC's holiday broadcast, in most respects a naturally traditional affair, included the sound of the future: a couple of much-loved Christmas carols performed not by a choir, nor by human beings of any kind, but by an electronic machine the likes of which almost nobody had even laid eyes upon.

"Among its Christmas fare the BBC broadcast two melodies that, although instantly recognizable, sounded like nothing else on earth," write Jack Copeland and Jason Long at the British Library's Sound and Vision Blog. "They were Jingle Bells and Good King Wenceslas, played by the mammoth Ferranti Mark I computer that stood in Alan Turing's Computing Machine Laboratory" at the Victoria University of Manchester. Turing, whom we now recognize for a variety of achievements in computing, cryptography, and related fields (including cracking the German "Enigma code" during the Second World War), had joined the university in 1948.




That same year, with his former undergraduate colleague D. G. Champernowne, Turing began writing a purely theoretical computer chess program. No computer existed on which he could possibly try running it for the next few years until the Ferranti Mark 1 came along, and even that mammoth proved too slow. But it could, using a function designed to give auditory feedback to its operators, play music — of a kind, anyway. The computer company's "marketing supremo," according to Copeland and Long, called its brief Christmas concert "the most expensive and most elaborate method of playing a tune that has ever been devised."

Since no recording of the broadcast survives, what you hear here is a painstaking reconstruction made from tapes of the computer's even earlier renditions of "God Save the King," "Baa Baa Black Sheep," and "In the Mood." By manually chopping up the audio, write Copeland and Long, "we created a palette of notes of various pitches and durations. These could then be rearranged to form new melodies. It was musical Lego." But do "beware of occasional dud notes. Because the computer chugged along at a sedate 4 kilohertz or so, hitting the right frequency was not always possible." Even so, somewhere in there I hear the historical and technological seeds of the much more elaborate electronic Christmas to come, from Mannheim Steamroller to the Jingle Cats and well beyond.

via The British Library

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Hear The Cinnamon Bear, the Classic Holiday Radio Series That Has Aired Between Thanksgiving and Christmas for 80 Years

Eighty years ago, just after Thanksgiving, children across America turned on their radios and heard a couple of voices very much like their own: those of Judy and Jimmy Barton, a sister and brother eagerly composing their wish lists to send off to Santa Claus. Judy asks for a velocipede, seemingly a hot item in 1937 but not even a recognizable word to most of the children who've listened to the broadcast in holiday seasons since. Despite the occasional such archaism, The Cinnamon Bear, the series in which Judy and Jimmy star, continues to enchant not just generation after generation of kids, but also those grown-ups among us who savor the opportunities this time of year affords to more fully appreciate timeless childhood pleasures.

The Cinnamon Bear follows the adventures of Judy and Jimmy as they search for the lost silver star that tops their Christmas tree. They first check the attic, there encountering the title animal: Paddy O'Cinnamon, an Irish-accented teddy bear with a tendency to greatly overestimate his own fearsomeness but an indefatigable spirit of service as well. He even helps the Barton children "de-grow" to miniature size in order to take the hunt to his home of Maybeland, a hidden fantasy realm inhabited by such eccentrics, harmless and otherwise, as the Crazy Quilt Dragon, the Roly-Poly Policeman, the Wintergreen Witch, Oliver Ostrich (prepared with a musical number about his love of scrambled alarm clocks and bacon), a flying hat, and even Santa Claus himself.

But Paddy O'Cinnamon and the kids don't meet jolly old Saint Nick until the proper time: Christmas day, on which the original broadcast of The Cinnamon Bear concluded. The first fifteen-minute episode aired on November 26, 1937, with the story continuing six days a week until the big holiday. Produced in Hollywood by radio syndicator Transco and written, songs and all, by the husband-wife team of Glanville and Elizabeth Heisch, it initially found local sponsorship across the country from department stores, some of whom paid for many years of repeat broadcasts and even put up Cinnamon Bear-themed displays and events along with their Santa Clauses. (The now long-defunct Lipman's of Portland, Oregon got into it in a big way, establishing the show as something of a tradition in the city, where Cinnamon Bear Christmas river cruises run to this day.)

With Christmas over, the children of 1937 had no choice but to wait almost an entire year before they could hear The Cinnamon Bear again. Growing up myself about half a century later, I had the show as a box set of cassette tapes to which I binged-listened on a few different holiday seasons. But now, with seemingly the entire golden age of radio freely available on the internet, kids and anyone else besides can listen however and whenever they like. You'll find all 26 episodes of The Cinnamon Bear on the Internet Archive, as a Youtube playlist, and even as a podcast on iTunes. (You can stream them all above.) This year, on the 80th anniversary of the original broadcast, why not "air" it for you and yours as those first listeners heard it, once an evening except Saturdays, until December 25th? Though each episode may be in doubt as to whether Judy and Jimmy will ever recover the silver star, it's no spoiler to say that, with the assistance of Paddy O'Cinnamon, they d0 find their way to a memorable Christmas indeed.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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