Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Mezzanine Level

Word comes this week that WXPN’s David Dye will spend less time on the air in order to spend more time preparing to be on the air. This might not exactly seem like news, but it gives us an opportunity to offer an appreciation for a singular figure in the world of contemporary radio.

Those of you in Philadelphia may go back much further with Mr. Dye, but his voice first drifted into my life about a dozen years ago when my local public radio station picked up the
World Café, David’s brainchild, a nationally syndicated radio show devoted to popular music that was often anything but popular. As I listened, it became clear that the show’s sole theme week in and week out (and I only got it once a week) was to present great music in a format informed by Dye’s vast knowledge and unimpeachable taste. Here was a show that reflected my own ideal, a place where punk rock could co-exist with west African music and funk and country blues, and where any sort of segregation would seem pointless. I remember an early episode of Frasier, in which someone asked Dr. Crane why the items of furniture in his home didn’t match one another. He replied that he subscribed to the eclectic notion of design, believing that if you collect pieces of uniformly high quality no matter the style, they will simply go together. That’s the World Café in a nutshell. Eclectic music, of high quality, making for seamless listening.

But the music has been only half of it. The Café has given David a forum to probe the artists who make good music, to give insight into the creative process that can’t be found anywhere else (could it be that David Dye is the spiritual forefather of Inside the Actors Studio and Sit Down Comedy?). When David Dye gets someone like Tom Waits to explain how a song like “Tom Traubert’s Blues” came into being, it only enhances the listening experience for those of us who care about such things.

Thanks to the Internet (and a new local NPR affiliate), I can listen to the World Café every day, which feels like a blessing in an age of radio mediocrity. It’s good to be able to make a regular appointment with someone who cares about music like I do, someone to whom I can relate even more than the musicians themselves. Like Trip and me, David Dye’s talent isn’t for making music, it’s for hearing it. And he hears it – and shares it – better than anyone I know.


Hookfinger said...

Ok, I'm busted. So I read this. And i enjoy it. And I echo your sentiments re:DFD

Jaap said...

Your notice is a doppleganger of how I found Mr. Dye through my Local's Daily Airing of the Cafe. As such, I have paused from posting to the Appreciation Day thread as it is more for those who hear the 4 to 7 show, which I do not.

Mr. Dye helped me expand my musical melieu. He presented the music, and the story behind it, without caring about whereof it came, and his only qualification was it be good and heartfelt. The usage of the Frazier episode is quite appropriate.

Thank you for a most enjoyeable read, as I have enjoyed many of your early posts.

So I raise a Cheer to the Cafe,
long may it play