Features and Reviews
Ragtime on Internet Radio
By Fred Hoeptner
Ragtime devotees who have computers with a sound card now have available a variety of sources for accessing their favored music. Three radio broadcasting stations that stream their signals over the internet feature ragtime programs. Two internet only stations play ragtime and related music 24 hours daily. Although streaming technology has become much more reliable in the past few years, occasional disconnects for no obvious reason continue to occur. Now most stations offer two (sometimes more) streams, one for broadband and one for dial-up access. For those of you with broadband connectivity, which is fast becoming the norm, fidelity is usually equivalent to CD stereo quality (100 kilobits per second or greater). Unfortunately this is not true for dial-up connectivity, which, depending on the individual station's stream, often yields quality barely exceeding that of AM radio. However, access to a particular station's stream at a given time is never assured, because each station has a maximum number of connections that it can serve concurrently.
We'll start with Sunday and "Syncopation Station" hosted by Vann Ford from 2:00 until 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time (PT) on KDHX St. Louis, MO (www.kdhx.org). Ford mixes contemporary and vintage performances of ragtime with band and show music, some of it acoustically recorded. Jeff Stone's "The Ragtime Show," which played for eleven years Sunday evenings on KSBR, Mission Viejo, CA has unfortunately been cancelled.
On Sunday evening Rich Conaty's "The Big Broadcast" treats listeners to four hours of 1920s and 30s pre-swing popular music that ragtime devotees often favor. One can hear compositions by such luminaries as Walter Donaldson, Isham Jones, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, and Ira Gershwin performed by such orchestras as those of Paul Whiteman, Ted Weems, Gus Arnheim, Fletcher Henderson, and Coon-Sanders Nighthawks; vocalists such as Russ Columbo, Bing Crosby, and The Boswell Sisters; and instrumentalists such as Django Reinhart, Jess Stacy, and Thomas "Fats" Waller on WFUV New York (www.wfuv.org) Sundays from 5:00 until 9:00 p.m. PT. An archive of past programs is also available at the WFUV web site for listening anytime.
Each Monday evening ragtime violinist David Reffkin assumes the airwaves at KUSF San Francisco, CA. with "The Ragtime Machine." Never hesitant to express his own perspicacious opinions about the performances and the direction that contemporary ragtime is heading, David plays more recent recordings and contemporary ragtime-including computer files-as well as much obscure earlier material. He also programs interviews with performers, often taped during the Scott Joplin Ragtime Festival in Sedalia. If you have broadband connectivity, visit www.kusf.org Monday nights from 9:00 until 10:00 p.m. PT.
Jack Rummel, composer, pianist, inimitable emcee of concerts at Sedalia, and tireless promoter of rag, hosts "Ragtime America" Thursdays (except the second Thursday) of each month 7:00 to 8:00 p.m. PT on KGNU, Boulder, CO (www.kgnu.org). Jack plays a wide variety of ragtime usually focusing on a specific theme. For example, recent programs featured ragtime waltzes and the compositions of Hal Isbitz. He supplements the music from an extensive store of knowledge about the ragtime scene during each program.
Ragtime and related music lives 24 hours a day at the Live 365 website via two streams: Elite Syncopations Radio (www.ragtimeradio.org) and the Rocky Mountain Ragtime Festival (www.ragtimers.org). Both sites are automated to play continuously without verbal interruption except for Live 365's obnoxious commercials (which can be silenced by subscribing to their pay stream). A window informs listeners of the titles and performers. Two university students—music majors Brian Wright and Rob Schwieger who met at the College of William and Mary—operate Elite Syncopations whereas the Rocky Mountain site was established as an adjunct to the annual festival, now unfortunately defunct. Both sites program similar mixes of ragtime, stride, and related syncopated music, although the Rocky Mountain site emphasizes Terra Verde and Latin rhythms a bit more. Another difference is Elite Syncopation's superior fidelity (32 kbps, versus Rocky Mountain's 24 kbps). Elite Syncopations has recently established a ragtime discussion group which seems to be attracting a contingent of younger enthusiasts, a promising trend.