Radio and the Experience of Everyday Life in New York City

In reading the casual comments people make online in reaction to a local New York news story (on the NYT website, if I can remember correctly), I've noticed that on a few occasions someone will write something like the following: "I just want everything to get back to normal so I can enjoy my coffee and bagel and listen to the .....fill-in-the-blank WNYC radio program." I understand this. The radio program could be the Brian Lehrer Show or the Leonard Lopate Show, Soundcheck, or Studio 360, but the point is that voices of the radio provide a reassuring reinforcement of one's personally meaningful daily rituals. In my case, for example, I need to hear the voice of WNYC's Soterios Johnson, the host of Morning Edition, shortly upon waking in order to properly start my day.

I've also filled my iPod with songs I have heard on Jonathan Schwartz's weekend programs (WNYC 12 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays on 93.3 FM). Listening to the American songbook gives me a sense of living in the best city in the world for piano bars, Broadway show tunes and cabaret. I'm not the greatest housekeeper in the world, but I've managed to tidy up the place on weekend afternoons because I've got the radio tuned to Schwartz's program. When I hear something wonderful, like the recording of John Bucchino's "In a Restaurant By the Sea" sung by Ann Hampton Callaway, I'll put down the broom and make a note of it. Now I have the whole album, Grateful -The Songs of John Bucchino, loaded on the iPod, and I know all the words for many of the songs by heart. I like to sing along with "Better Than I." Another recording that sends me into orbit is Brian Stokes Mitchell's interpretation of "Pretty Women" from Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. All this on top of my usual obsessions with all things Raul Esparza and Adam Guettel.

Walking through the city and looking at its streets and buildings gives me a good sense of place, but listening to the voices and music of New York radio makes the city seem a place of wonder. It feels like home, I think, and yes, I know that's a John Bucchino song.

For my music, I'm also a big fan of Jersey City-based WFMU, broadcast at 91.1 FM in New York, and, as a matter of fact, I'm listening to Tony Coulter's cool eclectic selections (Tuesdays, noon-3 p.m.) as we speak. Broadway, in all its meanings, is only one street in a very big city.

Image: In terms of this website, is there not a better New York radio station than this one? Photo Credit: Radio station WALK, East Patchogue, Long Island. Entrance detail. Gottscho-Schleisner, Inc., photographer. Created/Published 1952 June 6. American Memory Collection, Library of Congress. Note: WALK, still going strong as the No. 1 radio station (Arbitron ratings) on Long Island, is up for sale, a result of a divestiture by San Antonio-based Clear Channel Communications.

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