Singing Wi-Fi Radio's Praises David Was has been taking a radio to bed with him for years. But his new Wi-Fi radio, which transmits music from French, Algerian, and Indian stations, has him singing the praises of infinite choice.
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Singing Wi-Fi Radio's Praises

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Singing Wi-Fi Radio's Praises

Singing Wi-Fi Radio's Praises

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DAVID WAS: Ever since I was a young teenager in music-mad Detroit, I've taken a radio to bed with me more consistently than another person, which is as much of a boast as it is a shamefaced confession.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

It's our resident musician David Was.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: There is something comforting in knowing that my body is bathed in violins or blues songs, and not just the random noises of the night. I have always slept well, and I have Mozart and Muddy Waters to thank for it.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: My love affair with the radio began with the under-blanket transistor AM portable, and now has quantum-leaped to the stand-alone Phoenix Wi-Fi Internet Radio, which pulls in every station from Algeria to Japan.

(Soundbite of radio broadcast)

Unidentified Woman: This is MandarinRadio.com.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: Anything that streams via a Web browser, but without the need for a computer.

(Soundbite of radio broadcast)

WAS: Like satellite radio, this is an invention I dreamed up in high school: a radio you could tune to anything from Indian ragas to Hank Williams, any time of day or night.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: Well, the future is upon us, and it's impossible to imagine turning or tuning back. Right now a spin of the Wi-Fi dial takes me from France's Oui FM...

(Soundbite of radio broadcast)

Unidentified Man #1: (Speaking French)

WAS: ...to Germany's Darkerradio...

(Soundbite of radio broadcast)

WAS: ...and Pashto Radio out of India is blowing some garish Bollywood soundtrack noise. You can listen to podcasts or comedy routines, all without loading a Web page or installing a player. Wait a few seconds for the station to buffer, and you're on your way to a brave new world of content on demand - from talk radio to techno, mariachis to Mantovani.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: I suppose a French existentialist like Jean-Paul Sartre would frown upon such an expansive menu, choice being our undoing as moderns. But was it better to have been hemmed in by the hegemony of program directors and DJs back in the medium's so-called golden age?

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: Back then, the records that made the airplay charts were often as not subject to the back-alley influence of mob-connected bagmen who delivered TV sets and envelopes full of $100 bills along with the latest candidate for a hit single.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: That system is still alive and well in commercial radio, despite Eliot Spitzer's attempts to reign in the payola Game in New York State.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: The late '60s in a great cultural melting pot like Detroit did give rise to what was known as free-form radio, with old hippie DJs playing anything they dang well pleased, from the endless drum-bashing of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" to Dylan's prolix poetics on a song like "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands."

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: Genre mattered less than vibe, even if that meant playing Miles Davis and Captain Beefheart back-to-back.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: There was a new democracy afoot in what had been an advertising-driven, corruption-influenced medium. Now the diametrically opposite trend has taken hold. With the seemingly infinite real estate of broadband, one can tune in a station called Beethoven Only and prove that man can indeed live on Ludwig alone.

BRAND: David Was is a radio devotee and half of the musical duo Was (Not Was).

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