061 The Lively Air

THIS EPISODE (original air date 07/03/2007):

PZ0673.061 From the Vault: The Lively Air MORE INFO


Trust KPFK to do the unexpected. You’ll play this record, both sides. Unless I am far wrong you will play it again and again. It is a sampler, an anthology of sounds from KPFK, the FM station which won the Peabody Award for “superior locally produced programming.” We call this album “The Lively Air” and it is gathered from the cache of rich material in the tapes of KPFK, Los Angeles and a selection from each of our sister stations KPFA, Berkeley and WBAI, New York, all of which comprise the Pacifica Foundation and are non-commercial, listener-sponsored FM radio stations.

When you play this record, you will decide what you like and what you don’t like, what moves you, what entertains you, what enhances our life. That will make you, if you are not already, a KPFA listener. For the whole point of this remarkable FM station is that it is directed to an audience of individual human beings, people who resist being part of the Madison Avenue target, people who have faces, ideas, tastes and critical judgment. This doesn’t mean they are snobs, eccentric, cranks or phony culture chasers. On KPFK you can be exposed, as you are on this record in a necessarily limited sense, to the whole spectrum of the entertainment experience, reaching from the intellect down to the guts, from the topical to the timeless from laughter to politics, from nonsense to art.

KPFK’s function is to reach out to the individuals who want to be challenged. They are not afraid to think. They want to know. They want to laugh. They want to hear the voices of their time and the sounds of the past. Nobody speaks up to them or down to them. They want to hear from those whose views are unpopular and challenges as well as from those who speak with authority and wisdom. They want to give people a chance to say what they think, sing what they like, read what they care to read, out loud; to overhear, as you will on this record, conversations, the real voices of real people; to listen to music the disc jockey’s won’t play; to heard poetry and drama the ratings won’t sustain; to speak to children in ways which call forth a response which is something more than the staring hypnosis electronic devices often inflict on our young. They are people who think that non-profit KPFK is something worth paying for. There is no meter, no coin box by the side of the FM tuner; nobody comes around every month to collect a fee. KPFK appeals to a free audience. Free in every sense of the word as IT is free in every sense of the word. Subscribers pay the modest $12.60 yearly subscription for the program Folio, which is the major source of the station income. And many donate freely as well as give of their time, effort and abilities freely because they want provocative, independent, creative programming, uninterrupted by commercials and jingles.

This record is one way, the Friends of KPFK (the station’s supporting volunteer organization, who have no more to say about the programming of the station than anybody else) are trying to bring the worth of the station to the attention of others. KPFK belies everything the critics say about Southern California – its cultural bankruptcy and its intellectual aridity.

What have we here? Some of the things which go on day in, day out on 90.7 MC FM.

Side One starts with Carl Sandburg reading his poem “Little Girl, be careful what you say.” In that old-young voice he hays “words are strong too, stronger thank rocks or steel/and soft as the music of hummingbird wings.” And suddenly in juxtaposition from a Pacifica documentary, “Sometimes You Work a Day,” the voices of migrant workers in California, the flat, rhythmic, living voices with a dignity and poetry of their own. And again the voice of Sandburg, singing, like an old song of the West.

Then an Alabama minister, The Reverend Abernathy, a voice like a foot-organ at a camp meeting, speaking with humor, wry as it may be, and power, preaching out freedom.

And Bruno Walter in conversation with Dr. Robert Trotter on the subject of recording, reminiscing, fielding the questions of the interviewer who was trying to get him to talk about the imperfections of the recording process. “I accept gladly the imperfections,” Dr. Walter says, “I am grateful. My life has not ended when I die. That last tone lives on in some way. I can live on.”

Herschel Bernardi, then, reading a moving little story about the motivation of a Jewish immigrant mother who finds a way to overcome her illiteracy, and Marcia Berman singing songs with children. The pure, untutored, undisciplined voices of children.

Side 2

It starts out with jazz improvisation by Buddy Collette and a group of superb musicians who create in that special area (which is a Southern California form and development of progressive jazz) which a lot of people call “far out”. Paul Horn and Richie Kamuca on the saxophones; Terry Gibbs, vibes: Pete Jolly, piano; Leroy Vinegar, bass; and Mel Lewis on the drums. The piece is fittingly called “A Taste of Fresh Air”. It was specially done for KPFK. These musicians, who are experimenters, innovators in their art, know the worth to them of the station. It is cool and fresh and great.

Celeste Holm reads a fragment from Thurber’s university reminiscences. It belongs. Where else could you hear it?

The man with the German Herr Professor’s voice is the remarkable Mr. Peter Ustinov, who walked into the studio of WBAI in New York and asked, “What shall I do for you?” Can you imagine this happening in any other studio? Somebody said, kidding, perhaps, “Do us a Bach Cantata.” Don’t ever underestimate Ustinov. He not only did the Cantata but it was the undiscovered piece (so undiscovered that it never existed before) by Bach at the age of three or maybe it was two.

And finally Hermione Gingold, reading nonsense pieces. Why? Because she wanted to read something which she wanted to read. If that sounds like Gertrude Stein. Fine. Just reflect on her words. Now relax. As Carl Sandburg’s friend Harry Golden, says, “Enjoy. Enjoy. Enjoy.”

Note: Robert Kirsch is a novelist and teacher of creative writing at UCLA. He is literary editor of the Los Angeles Times.

The Cover album is designed by Cal Freedman, whose award-winning designs for such diverse products as toys, motion pictures and leading publishing housed, have been exhibited in virtually every art center of importance in the world. The funny drawings are by another award-winning Californian Gene Holtan.

Compact disc duplicates of the recordings listed above may be purchased online with a credit card or PayPal account by clicking on ‘BUY NOW’ next to the title.

To order by phone, call Pacifica Radio Archives at 800.735.0230 x 262. To learn more about these programs, visit Pacifica Radio Archives Home Page and click “Search Our Collection.”

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