More so than movies, television, or books, music often marks periods of our life more than any other art form. Whether it is a song of the summer, an album that is played on a loop, or a standout concert, music can also be a trip through time. The podcast The Memory Palace recently produced an episode that reminisced about a particular outlet for listening to music: radio station WBRU.
In the nearly eleven-minute episode A Brief Eulogy For A Commercial Radio Station, The Memory Palace narrator Nate DiMeo goes on a trip across time and relays multi-generational imagery that includes a description of a young girl being left alone with an old radio set and the magic that can occur as she plays with the dial. DiMeo uses that idea as a way to illustrate how the radio station can become a part of the girl as she grows older. He also wistfully recognizes that the girl could really be just anyone and that the music she listens to can come from any artist and occur at any moment as someone encounters different experiences.
An unlikely powerful moment occurs during the end credits, when he acknowledges music in the episode came from JD Samson (Le Tigre, MEN) and that “her music played on that station, now defunct.” It serves as a reminder that radio isn’t just a way to listen to music, but is also a medium for artists to find an audience.
The episode has interesting timing on a personal level. The recent death of Tom Petty, an artist whose career left an imprint on me, triggered an internal trip down memory lane. Listening to the narrator describe different aspects of listening to music on the radio brought to mind so many moments of my own life such as road trips, interactions with friends, and eight unforgettable shows.
WBRU broadcast from Providence, Rhode Island on the frequency 95.5 FM from 1966 through 2017. The station, which has origins dating back to 1936 as an AM station on Brown University’s campus, was sold to the Educational Media Foundation and is now the Christian Adult Contemporary station WLVO. The station has an interesting footnote in music history, it conducted the last radio interview with Kurt Cobain before the Nirvana singer’s death. The station is now an Internet-only station.
The non-fiction storytelling podcast The Memory Palace is hosted by DiMeo, who is the Artist In Residence for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 2016, the podcast was named as a finalist for the Peabody Award. The episode discussing WBRU and additional episodes of the podcast can be heard here: