Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Yankel Radio

I've got Mordechai Schiller to thank for introducing me to Five Towns Radio (FTR) and Nachum Segal's online radio. I've been listening to both, or more accurately using them as background noise in my quiet office, for some time.

I recently read about a relatively new technology called Jack Radio (article, click through the ad). It is a fully automated radio station that randomly selects songs from a large library of top 40 songs from the last forty years. The style of songs is totally random.

"If [consecutive songs] sound like they should go together, then we've done something wrong," says Robert Lewis, program director at KBPA/Bob-FM, a Jack clone. The unlikely pairings are called "train wrecks" in Jack's lingo because that's what it sometimes sounds like to listeners. The mixed hits go against the grain and can invite a wider demographic (25-to-54-year-old white listeners) to tune in. "Even if you don't like a song, the next song you'll probably love," says Perry.
That's what I think of every time I listen to these Jewish stations. You can go from a song with a dance beat to a Carlebach tune to a boys choir in minutes. I assume that it is because of the limited quantity of selection but large variety of style within the Jewish music scene.

While both FTR and Nachum Segal are online streams of Jewish music and there is a good deal of overlap in the music they play, there are some differences that I've noticed.

1. FTR is more yeshivish. Nachum Segal plays some Israeli music and has on his rotation a song that uses the lyrics to the prayer for the welfare of the state of Israel (not that there's anything wrong with that). FTR sticks to more black hat music -- the kind that gets onto the cover of Country Yossi Magazine.

2. Nachum Segal includes songs from the 1970s through today. You'll hear quite a few "classics" from Miami Boys Choir, Mordechai Ben David and Avraham Fried that will either warm your heart or make you nauseous. FTR is contemporary (which might also make me you nauseous).

3. Nachum Segal sometimes plays cantorial music (hazzanus). No kidding. Also, some really old-sounding big band songs that seem like they're from Modzitz songs from fifty years ago.

4. FTR has this weird thing where the talk is much louder than the songs. That makes me jump every time they transition to talk.

5. FTR has a much poorer internet connection and I frequently have problems connecting. I rarely if ever have a problem with Nachum Segal.

UPDATE: FTR has informed me that they are currently in the process of upgrading their servers to handle the increased traffic they have been experiencing, and that is probably what has been causing the connectivity issues.

With both stations, the Jack-like format makes it so that even if I can't stand the song playing now, the next one might be my favorite. So I keep listening. The only drawback is when someone walks into my office and I'm embarrassed by the song playing. That's why I have to be quick in my ability to Alt-Tab to the volume control and click "mute all." But my clear favorite is FTR, although because of connectivity issues I listen to Nachum Segal more often.

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