Friday, April 3, 2020
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Notes from Beyond the Sound Board

Laptop on. Playlist painstakingly curated. Headphones plugged in and perched comfortably around my head, an Audio-Technica crown. Press play. Fade up. Pause. Fade down. And,

“Hello, you’re tuned in to KUCI, 88.9FM in Irvine and this is Matching Separates with Savannah.”

More or less, this is what I say into an ice cream scoop-shaped microphone every Saturday afternoon, as I begin my weekly music show on KUCI, our campus radio station.

Growing up, I always knew I wanted to be a radio show host in college, thanks to Hot Donna’s inspiring radio personality on “That 70’s Show.” So, spring quarter of my first year, I signed up for the eight week training course and have been on-air for over a year now. Ever since, I’ve dedicated hours week after week to cultivating absurd, conceptual playlists that range in theme from music for an LA night drive to international female musicians. It’s time-consuming and, the quarter during which my show was from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m., at times exhausting. I don’t get paid or units or any sort of tangible compensation for this somewhat archaic dedication.

So, why do I do it?

People often ask me this when I explain the purely volunteer structure of KUCI, with a twitch of the face and crinkle of the brow. I feel the skepticism, the confusion. And I understand it.

What others outside KUCI may not understand is that making playlists every week and being a part of the KUCI community has made me a smarter, more thoughtful and interesting person. It forces me to listen to new music and as a result learn more about the particular culture or art movement that creates it. It’s made me think about music in an academic way, how sound works as an art medium, and why I am drawn to certain combinations of sounds over others. I’ve learned about the history of bluegrass as a medium of folklore storytelling in the Appalachian Mountains, how the “mbalax” is a special percussion instrument that fuses jazz and funk in Senegalese pop music, that angry art girls in the late 70s and early 80s pioneered modern male-dominated punk and alternative rock.

All these anecdotes are cool if you nerd out about music trivia but if that’s not your scene, you may read all this and just think, “Who cares?”

Stepping out of the more inaccessible world of underground weird music, KUCI has led to a heightened sense of self. It’s my weekly outlet of channeling however I’ve been feeling the last seven days into two hours of sonic escapism. I use my playlists not as a laborious, self-indulgent act of pretension but as a way of reminding myself and anyone who is listening that all the crap we’ve gone through the past week isn’t all that bad, that we have a new week to look forward to and a soundtrack for motivation. Matching Separates is a time to discuss art and culture and psychology, to use radio as an informative platform for artistic expression.

With my show coming to a close, I go on the mic one more time to say goodbye.

“Tune in next week for another wild two hours and as always, thanks for listening.”