Immersive Audio, Beercasts and Radio Nostalgia
This month, Chrissy Brand explores the – sometimes bewildering – range of podcasts and programmes on offer.
This month, Chrissy Brand explores the – sometimes bewildering – range of podcasts and programmes on offer. She also shares some readers’ tips to help you make the most of your time browsing the web.
Anyone who bemoans the lack of choice or variety on the radio needs only turn their attention to the range of online programmes and podcasts. Broadcast band radio offers us all plenty of material but it's the tip of the iceberg when compared to the online world of radio and audio. As well as a plethora of podcasts and streamed programmes, there are countless websites, which catalogue current and vintage radio material.
When you add into the mix the thousands of websites, which comment on programmes and technical aspects of radio, then no listener can ever again claim to be bored. Welcome to the golden age of audio!
There is a new UK podcast drama which sounds as if it is ground-breaking. Calais 2037 is a five-part series looking at contemporary issues (Fig. 1). With a cast of well-known actors, including Tanya Fear, Jenny Agutter and Samuel West, it tracks the story of a young woman caught between her convictions and her conscience.
The technology used for this programme was, arguably, just as exciting as its contents: In the words of the producers, Calais 2037 is a, "First Person Immersive (FPI) audio drama that gives listeners the most unique and immersive storytelling experience ever created for audio." FPI audio utilises binaural technology and requires the listener to use a pair of stereo headphones.
The organisation behind the podcast is London-based New Time. It is, "a content-driven technology and recording company based in London, specialising in immersive content for audio and beyond."
Another podcast from this group is Inside New Time. It was due to launch as I was writing this month's column. I can't wait to listen because it promises an honest commentary on the strains of starting a company and intimate exchanges between three friends and collaborators and their past, present and future lives.
The other project currently on New Time's books is titled, Welcome to Strange Town. This is a genre-defying piece of music by Freddy Cass, billed as a ‘sound-canvas for another world’.
Since moving to Hastings and St Leonards-On-Sea last year, I've enjoyed the live folk music put on by the Lantern Society. There is also a Lantern Society Radio Hour programme that is available to the wider world (Fig. 2). It captures live performances, fresh from the stage at the Hastings Candlelit Acoustic Club.
It is the recording and streaming of live music events such as this, along with the many speech-based programmes, that are the bedrock of the new world of audio and radio.
It means that regular radio listeners can branch out into all sorts of other programmes that interest them. For mainstream radio to thrive, radio stations must entice podcast and non-radio listeners alike, through the use of podcasts themselves and by means of apps such as Mixcloud, Soundcloud and Stitcher.
Another programme I've enjoyed in recent months comes from David Holmes at NTS (Fig. 3). God's Waiting Room is, according to NTS, “a round-about selection of the cinematic, library music, rock 'n' roll, psych, experimental, unclassifiable and independent." NTS is an online radio station with a wide range of eclectic music. It broadcasts live from Manchester (Fig. 4) London and Los Angeles and accepts programme ideas from potential presenters. I enjoy dipping into the shows and always come away with new bands to follow up on. I feel that many mainstream radio stations could take a leaf out of NTS' book when planning their programme content.
Here are some further examples of what NTS offers: Carolina Soul is a record shop in Durham, NC who have a programme specialising in rare soul, boogie and gospel. Maybe The Opera Show with Hannah Catherine Jones is more the bag you're into? Others, among the many options, include Swedish prog rock or Sounds of the Dawn, with relaxation music from the 1970s to the 1990s. New worlds of audio await you!
American Public Media (APM) podcasts are another gem I often turn to for some late-night listening. The breadth and quality of programmes on offer is truly exceptional. APM sum this up better than I can, "From food and culture to investigations and education, we go wherever the conversation takes us." Programmes you won't want to miss include Brains On, Too Beautiful to Live and The Uncertain Hour (Fig. 5).
A weekly podcast merging graphic design, freelance work and craft beer was more entertaining than I had imagined, "We’re here to help you unwind at the end of a long week of hermit-like devotion to your craft, with a jaunty Friday afternoon beercast!"
Graham Smith noted the launch of the BBC Korean service last autumn. Information, including frequencies and details of the other twelve new language services, is contained in a short press release on the BBC media centre pages. The languages in question are Afaan Oromo, Amharic, Gujarati, Igbo, Korean, Marathi, Pidgin, Punjabi, Serbian, Telugu, Tigrinya and Yoruba. Graham is looking forward to hearing Serbian from the BBC as that is the only one of these languages that he can (at least partially) understand.
The Media Centre web pages are a useful resource for BBC radio and television programmes. Whether or not you are a fan of Simon Reeve travelling in Burma or of Radio 4’s Book of the Week programme, I am often surprised and impressed by the range of items on offer here. There are links at the page to the BBC Picture Publicity and BBC Previews pages.
Regular correspondent Bob Houlston G4PVB was taken down memory lane when he saw a photo of a typical World War II utility radio, made by Richards. Bob wrote, "My family had one and I grew up with it. During rationing, the government commissioned this most basic medium wave radio via several manufacturers for the population to keep up with the news. The Cold War, with the threat of nuclear retaliation, still haunts me. Later, as a teenager, I stripped out the radio electronics and used the speaker and cabinet for my fledgling disco and electric guitar. If you backtrack the link to the homepage, you will be rewarded with copious amounts of information on vintage radios, both valve and transistor."
Bob considers the three most important items for short wave listening to be the aerial, the frequency at the receiver and knowing the time. The time? Bob commented, "Yes, knowing the time in different parts of the world is crucial so that you may optimise your efforts. DST, GMT, UTC, time zones. Help is at hand via this time difference calculator:"
The Vintage Radio YouTube channel is nice for a little dose of nostalgia. It contains videos of numerous radios, including makes and models unfamiliar to me, by the likes of Philco, Saba and Radio Knight.
It is now time to revisit The Shortwave (Radio Audio) Archive. I wrote about it when Thomas Witherspoon launched this great project a few years ago. It's been growing successfully ever since. It pretty much ‘does what it says on the tin’, with many DXers uploading programmes they have recorded off the air.
Recent station material is represented here, along with classic vintage short wave recordings (Fig. 6).
China Radio International appears here too. It may not seem of great interest at the moment, so ubiquitous is the station on short wave. However, one day, its output could be of historic interest to academics and could become nostalgia to old-time DXers.
Other recent contributions include the Voice of Korea's take on the visit by DPRK leader Kim Jung Un to South Korea and a 2011 recording of short wave station XVRB Europe: "The project was meant to entertain shortwave radio enthusiasts. Dutch radio host Mike Wilson was the originator of the project, which lasted until April 2013, when XVRB Europe ran out of money."
Other new uploads to the archive include three African short wave stations signing on in 1976: The Rhodesian Broadcasting Corporation on 3396kHz, the Zambian Broadcasting Corporation on 4911kHz and Swazi Music Radio on 4980kHz.
Before I sign off, how about some historic amateur radio material from 1974? In this clip, the late Jim Hayward W2PVF in New Jersey is making contact with two different ham radio stations in Antarctica.
This article was featured in the July 2018 issue of Radio User