I don’t feel I would be doing DJ AudreyII, myself, or you as reader/listener justice if I decided to write this article any other time than right now. It is 1:43am here in New York City, and I just tuned in to DJ AudreyII’s “The Night Show” on BTR. A soft hip-hop beat rolls up slowly before we hear a voice of any kind. It is a pulse chosen wisely for late night radio, as it seems to accompany the hushed sounds of any bivouac environment. From my position, even the sirens running down 9th Avenue here in Hell’s Kitchen serve as a proper accompaniment to Flying Lotus’s remix intro of Dabrye’s “Game Over.” And then comes the soothing of a late night radio DJs voice—there is nothing like it in the world—a mysterious relationship between speaker and listener, almost medicinal in effect. Whether you find yourself alone at the wheel on Interstate 65, pulling the graveyard shift at the production plant, or seeking any companionship you can find in the middle of a lonely night at home, nighttime radio has always been in a class of its own.
Are we more susceptible to music late at night? Or is it just that nighttime is reserved for the group of inhuman beings who stroll side-by-side with the conformed majority of the human race, but choose to dance instead of march? The late jazz trombonist Dicky Wells said it best: “The world is divided into two kinds of people; day people, and night people. The only difference is that all day people wish they were night people.”
I would argue that listeners are more “tuned in” at night. Perhaps this is what helps DJs feel increased freedom to stretch the boundaries of listener expectations. DJ Audrey II subconsciously admits genre-based immunity, opening her show with “It’s another eclectic show this week,” emphasizing the liberty she has taken in “mixing Electronic, Rap, and Experimental.” The relaxed atmosphere threaded into the small hours on the clock has a profound effect on both our discovery and objectivity for music. We are able to hear new melodies and instrumental combinations without the pressures of desiring it to take us some place. Music as a function for mood loses that inhibition and becomes a vehicle to an unknown, and more importantly, insouciant destination.
Listen to the way DJ AudreyII moves from “Fire of Birds” to “Excessive Moonlight” for example. What may be annoying at any other point of the day becomes unnoticed and strangely coherent. “At night, people aren’t really looking to listen to the same things they hear during the day,” notes DJ AudreyII when I ask her about playlist intentions. “They want something a little different, or something they haven’t heard before. It’s a great chance to broaden listeners’ musical taste, and even if what I’m playing is a little too weird, at least they’ve experienced it.”
As the radio medium moves from the dial to the media-player, I can’t help but wonder what effect this evolution is having on listener’s tastes. While I do believe that music is in a constant state of flux, the ambience of night radio is something that may or may not change. What I don’t think will ever change is the relationship between our love for music and the dark side of the earth. As much as we love to think our species superior to all other beings, we are still a part of a complex kingdom of animals. Crickets rub their legs in song at dawn, frogs vibrate their throats at midnight, and wolves howl at the moon. There is something very primitive about the night-song.
At night, music taps into our most primitive self—that layer in each of us that remains oppressed under the sun. Let us not forget our German folklore: Rumpelstiltskin would only reveal his true identity in song, alone, around a bonfire, in the middle of the night.
The night show airs every Wednesday at 12am here on BreakThru Radio. Check out the latest edition by clicking HERE.
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– Kory French