As the workday winds down across New York, you can tune in to a clandestine world of unlicensed radio stations; a cacophonous sonic wonder of the city. As listeners begin to arrive home, dozens of secret transmitters switch on from rooftops in immigrant enclaves. These stations are often called ‘pirates’ for their practice of commandeering an already licensed frequency.
These rogue stations evade detection and take to the air, blanketing their neighbourhoods with the sounds of ancestral lands blending into a new home. They broadcast music and messages to diverse communities – whether from Latin America or the Caribbean, to born-again Christians and Orthodox Jews.
Reporter David Goren has long followed these stations from his Brooklyn home. He paints an audio portrait of their world, drawn from the culture of the street. Vivid soundscapes emerge from tangled clouds of invisible signals, nurturing immigrant communities struggling for a foothold in the big city.
With thanks to KCRW and the Lost Notes Podcast episode Outlaws of the Airwaves: The Rise of Pirate Radio Station WBAD.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Hansgen, who shares the following documentary film about the evolution of broadcast radio. This film was actually created for a senior thesis presentation at St. Michael’s College. The film “includes interviews from BBC World Tonight & Joe Reilly (Former President NYS Broadcasters Assn), Empire Broadcasting The Jockey, Clear Channel, WEQX, ESPN, SirusXM, VPR, Skidmore College, & more.”
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, William Lee, who notes that the radio documentary Elettra is now available to rent (A$5.10) or download via Vimeo. Note that this program has geographic restrictions and may be limited to streaming in Australia:
Encouraged by her friendship with Australian broadcaster, Ben Starr, the Princess opens her home and her heart to recall and relive her family’s saga.
Her own story is counter-pointed by her memories of her father and all he achieved. As a girl, Elettra watched her father create magic. For her, the use of radio technology to save the?lives of the Titanic survivors and to track down criminals was just part of her father’s wizardry. He had started a revolution. Wireless became the most fabulous invention of the 19th century: the public thought it was miraculous, and leading scientists of the day could not understand how it worked.
Elettra inherited the Marconi empire when she was seven years old. Having spent her life travelling the world to promote her father’s legacy, the Princess now plans to turn her crumbling family palace in Bologna into a radiant academy for the arts and science.
From the gardens of enchanted villas, to the corridors of the Vatican, we peek into the cracks of a new “Dolce Vita”, where nothing is quite what it seems.
For all her joyful enthusiasm, the Princess has found little support for her plan in Italy’s dysfunctional ministries and is searching far beyond. Can she make her dream come true?
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