My entire life has been affected by radio. When I was a kid, my parents would tune in an AM station on my Charlie Tuna radio and tiptoe out of the room. I’m convinced that falling asleep to the rhythm of people speaking on the radio worked kinda like those Baby Mozart tapes purport to: The whole thing somehow subliminally made me good at hearing and capturing and reproducing the various rhythms of dialogue spoken aloud. (And incapable of watching ten minutes of C-SPAN without nodding off.)
Ever since, almost everything I’ve written my entire life has revolved around “words meant to be spoken.” Straight out of college, I had a pretty nice little career writing radio ads for Coca-Cola, Southwest Airlines and the like. Then, for a brief while, I was a radio journalist. Meanwhile, I was writing plays that were particularly notable for the rhythm of the dialogue. One was even a radio play that was a riff on the early days of radio.
All of which is to say: I’ve been programmed from birth to recognize some brilliant, wonderfully- produced radio when I hear it. And this is it. Radio Lab on WNYC. You may already be a fan; it’s been on for a few years. But if you aren’t, do yourself a favor and download an episode or two. The stories themselves are amazing, delving into neuroscience and anthropology and cosmology and musical language and memory and forgetting. But equally amazing are the production values: the seamless integration of narration and interview and sound effects to create something fresh and arresting and entirely unlike most public radio.
This American Life changed the sound of public radio ten years ago. Radio Lab is changing the sound of public radio right now. Grab one of the podcasts; they got me through a week of lying in bed waiting for antibiotics to kick in.