Podthoughts by Colin Marshall: Well-Rounded Radio

Posted by Maximum Fun on 15th February 2010

As someone currently forging a few parallel careers in media and the sound arts, your Podthinker is wearier than just about anyone of hand-wringing about the future. Is there a future for writers? Is there a future for musicians? Is there a future for broadcasters? Is there a future for world-traveling ambient field recordists? While he has of course pondered these questions, he hasn’t let them become mind-halting, confidence-destroying bêtes noires, unlike some high-profile commentators and outlets he could name.

While it at first appeared to be possibly consumed with this suite of issues, Well-Rounded Radio [iTunes] [RSS] more or less acquits itself on a few different fronts. Its most decisive victory comes in furthering that rare art, the genuine long-form interview. Host Charles McEnerney conducts 45-75 minute conversations, with music spliced in throughout, allowing him to dig substantially deeper than most pod-conversationalists (“podversatonalists”?), let alone most music pod-conversationalists. It’s clear he’s got a real enthusiasm for the nuts and bolts of his guests’ careers.

Its second is indicated right there in the name: there’s some decent variety going on here. If we’re just talking musicians, Well-Rounded offers experimental electronic pop pixie Yoko K [MP3], inexplicably-still-obscure Rick Berlin [MP3], CBGB veterans The Fleshtones [MP3] and “slowcore” stalwarts [MP3], all of whom are creating, distributing, or promoting their music in some creative, 2000s-y way. McEnerney also talks to those who think about, write about and work to develop a few of those 2000s-y ways, including social media dude Scott Kirsner [MP3] and publicist Ariel Hyatt [MP3]. The name still rings a tad misleading given that it manners a show that’s still pretty strictly to do with music, but within the realm of music podcasts, it’s spherical indeed.

This isn’t to say, alas, that the program goes untainted by the disease that plagues so much of musicians’ discourse these days. It’s that amorphous wet blanket of anxiety that breeds in its crevices the ceaseless chatter about “changing models” with which we have all, at some time or another, been battered. How musicians can extract money from stuff seems to have become the show’s dominant theme in recent months, sometimes — it must be said — to the detriment of focus on the music itself. True, today’s creators of organized sound are doing all manner of squirrely-seeming things for money: cobbling together 15,000 micropayments, giving concerts fans’ bathrooms, boiling stones for soup, etc. But that’s not what music is about — isn’t it?

A perhaps unhealthy fixation on this sort of thing is hardly unique to Well-Rounded Radio, or even more present than average in it; it just happens to be the ‘cast in your Podthinker’s crosshairs at the time this frustration has mounted. And it must be said that, during its conversations, many intriguing ideas are dropped about how best to sieze the minty new musical opportunities of the 21st century. That these fall between vague yet insistent implications that the musicians of tomorrow want to start spending seven hours of the day on Facebook remains troubling, but perhaps that’s just projection. With interviews of this depth, things tend to wind their way back to what really matters sooner or later.

Vital stats:
Format: “music + conversation”
Duration: 45m-1h15m
Frequency: monthly, if you’re quite lucky
Archive available on iTunes: last 25

[Got a podcast to suggest for Podthoughts coverage or any other sort of question and/or comment for Podthinker Colin Marshall? colinjmarshall at gmail.]