At various times in my life, I have been involved in creating radio and writing about radio. I love to do both. I believe in radio. And yet I have never been all that much for listening to radio. The first time I was on National Public Radio (US), in the fall of 2002, I remember that I got calls from friends all over the country who’d heard it. And I remember being surprised that they were all listening to NPR.
But of course it makes perfect sense, and my NPR listening friends often assumed I did too. As in, “did you hear such and such an item on NPR the other morning?” I’ve never been a big “talk radio” person, and so no, I never did hear it. But as a member of the intelligencia (1), I was part of the NPR-listening classes. And I grew up with it, since my parents liked it. There was always a radio going in the kitchen with classical music or “All Things Considered” or some other talky program. With those warm, firm, slightly breathy FM voices. There’s nothing like the sound of a broadcast compressor.
Rarely in my adult life have I had a working radio setup in my home. I haven’t bothered hooking up an antenna to my bulky stereo receiver/amplifier since (I think) moving out of a bedroom in my parents’ house. This has occasionally bothered Carrie since there is sometimes something she’d like to hear on the radio. I can’t blame her. I’m responsible for that sort of thing in our gendered division of labo(u)r in our household, and I’ve been slacking on the job. Of course our cars have had working radios, but whenever they’ve had working tape decks or CD players, we’ve listened to those instead — almost exclusively.
Yesterday I bought a radio for the kitchen and dining room area. As part of our attenpt to learn French, we are trying to up our consumption of media in French. So Carrie and I talked about it and hatched a plan to listen to Radio-Canada each day. That way, every day we’ll get about an hour’s dose of spoken French listening in the morning as we eat breakfast and prepare for work. I tried it today and it was nice (it’s me buying, so of course I went and got a good-sounding radio). I heard those familiar pillowy FM voices, though I was only to get a sense of what the people were talking about as opposed to what they were saying. But I guess that’s the point. I’ll develop my ear for French that way.
But here’s the rub: the radio is not a mere means to an end. We know that much if we know anything from the history of technology. So, will I become one of those radio people, talking about this or that thing I heard on Radio-Canada the other morning?
Once I understand it, probably. Except that my radio-listening Anglophone friends are probably tuned into CBC, rather than Radio-Canada.
1. As an aside, it’s interesting to note that very few of my undergraduate students in the US listened to public radio, whereas when I asked my 200 student intro course how many of them listened to the CBC, well over half the hands went up. I guess that’s what a stronger commitment to public broadcasting in a smaller country will get you.