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I went to a marvelous party

July 31, 2007


Because of the research area that I’ve chosen, I spend a lot of time reading, thinking and writing about the radio, particular in the context of the first half of the twentieth century.  I was delighted, then, to listen to myself on the radio last night, especially given that so many of the sounds played on the same show were from art’s pre-rock ‘n’ roll era, connected loosely or otherwise to various threads in Popular Modernism.  Enormous thanks to the excellent Worried Waltz radio programme, broadcast from Princeton, New Jersey on Sunday nights from 10 til 1am.

After some contact with the host (who goes by a different name for each broadcast), I first tuned in to The Worried Waltz last week.  This is a radio programme that makes me feel like a spoilt child. I don’t know whether it’s to do with my own professional interests in the field of Radio Modernism, but The Worried Waltz seems to me to bring something of the magic back into the experience of radio: it reasserts the ability of broadcasting at its broadest to bring together voices from separate times and places and, more importantly, allowing them to speak to each other, before flinging them back out into an imagined community of listeners.  The kind of blunt dismissals of radio as a dying medium that you might hear today seem a bit silly, given how much of the ethical and imaginative growth of societies throughout the twentieth century was shaped by the possibilities of collective listening that radio brought about.

Although this is by no means the only thing that The Worried Waltz is good for, last night’s show was full of Brecht and Weill (including some of the finest ever recordings of Weill songs, by the astonishing Lotte Lenya), cabaret from Greta Keller, music hall turns from Leslie Sarony, Jacques Brel in all his vulnerable pomp, as well as Art Bears, John Betjeman, Bjork, Noel Coward… all of which was far more interesting than hearing me going on about fridges and hedges and porcelain.  I felt very privileged to be at such a marvelous party. George Formby was there, and so was Anna Russell, and Scott Walker, and Albert Finney singing I Hate People.  How gratifying to hear all these voices put in coversation with each other.  I couldn’t have liked it more.

For the love of all that’s good, listen to The Worried Waltz on WRPB’s website.  Admittedly, this might be rather difficult if you’re in Europe, in which case the programme won’t start until about 3 in the morning — but then that might be in your favour.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. veronica permalink
    July 31, 2007 8:16 am


    I am very interested in Scott Walker from the Walker Brothers.
    Has anyone got any info on Scott Walker from the Archives or from present time.
    Has anyone written a Biography on this great man ??
    Does anyone know any personal info abt him ie: did he get married etc etc..

    Your help is very much appreciated.


  2. July 31, 2007 2:15 pm

    There are a few musical biographies, such as this one, but I’ve no idea whether they’re any good or not.
    If you get the chance to watch the Walker documentary 30 Century Man, do! Nice studio meat-punching footage in this trailer here…

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