Students may not realize they have the ability to use the power of the airwaves. The Campus Broadcasting Network, otherwise known as WCBN 88.3, is the University’s very own student-run radio station. Operating out of the basement of the Student Activities Building, WCBN has been in operation for more than 50 years, starting with its inauguration in 1952. Boasting some of Ann Arbor’s most eccentric musical minds, WCBN has been a leader in allowing its DJs to explore different artistic avenues through free form radio.
John Notarianni, LSA junior and president of WCBN, describes free form radio as an approach to radio broadcasting that started in the 1960s. The concept behind free form radio, he says, is that the station’s management gives the DJ freedom to develop character during the broadcast and become one with themselves.
Different in style from the strict programming of mainstream radio, free form radio is designed to allow DJs to use their own unique blend of music and brand of interview, allotting them the freedom to roam into experimental techniques exclusive to the individual.
“This style of radio opens the door to a unique variety of programming that differs from show to show. When it comes contributing to the overall WCBN experience, we encourage DJs to explore different music they don’t know much about,” Notarianni said.
“We might play a song you might not like, but stick with the station because there might be ten more songs that you do like” he added. By playing a wide variety of genres, Notarianni feels that it may benefit a listener if they are open to hearing a type of music that isn’t typically familiar to them.
Shows operated by free form DJs range from New Age to African folk music. Every weekday morning from 9 a.m. to noon, jazz is broadcast on the network.
On Wednesday night, listeners can tune in and hear local musicians come in and perform live on the air. Thursday night showcases a show called “Crush Collision,” which features electronic music with live DJs spinning records.
For the weekend enthusiast, Saturday night is filled with two hip-hop shows. One is called “Prop Shop”, where DJ Chill Will spins records live on the air and has MCs come in and rap. After that, Underground Reciprocal takes listeners deep into the evening.
The WCBN schedule also boasts numerous talk shows that touch on a wide variety of diverse issues and interests. “Game Geeks,” a show devoted exclusively to video games, airs on Monday at 4:30 p.m. with “The Sports Report” following after its conclusion.
On Wednesdays at 5 p.m., “Closets Are for Clothes” talks about issues in the LGTA community.
Starting at 6 p.m. on Thursdays, “Renegade Solutions” is a current events show that focuses on Native American issues.
WCBN is a starting a show called Black Box Radio. Members of the Michigan Independent Media Center, a local group of amateur journalists, are trying to provide an alternative to mainstream media services, and will produce Black Box Radio.
Some DJs are considered local cult heroes by members of the Ann Arbor community. One of those in particular is Arwulf Arwulf, whose last name is pronounced ‘arf’. Arwulf has been around Ann Arbor for over a decade as a local poet and community figure giving speeches at the community fair in years past.
His show, “Face the Music,” is a search for alternative national anthems. A typical hour with Arwulf can involve anything from German opera music to the sound of a fight scene from a Russian film.
Taking great pride in his fellow co-workers, Notarianni affirms this about his fellow DJs.
“Our DJ’s work to dig songs out from obscurity. They take their records home and experiment with new ways of broadcasting. This brings out brilliance in the collage of their work using recorded sound. The whole point is to let DJ’s find a style unique to them,” Notarianni said.
All this creativity wouldn’t be possible without WCBN’s fundraising activities. Notarianni explains that fundraising is needed to keep the station’s license renewed and the equipment up to date.
Most of the money that WCBN operates on comes from their annual fundraiser in February. The goal of the ten-day event is to raise $25,000, which is the amount needed for the station to operate for the entire year, according to Notarianni.
The fundraiser showcases every DJ putting on their “Sunday best,” as Notarianni describes it, petitioning their audience to help contribute to the cause. Broadcasted live over the air, DJs give the audience their best efforts to try and help raise money. Money can be donated either to a phone bank set up where listeners call in, or pledged online at WCBN’s website.
Not only does WCBN boast an exceptional free form style of radio, they are also getting out into the community, providing cultural forms of musical enrichment. Tonight at 8 p.m., WCBN is putting on its first installment of a film series at Natural Canvas Galleries. The series includes the film “Gandek on Corwood,” which is focused on a musician who has been releasing records for decades and no one knows who he is. The showing is free.
WCBN is also excited about a second installment of a free concert series in March at the University Museum of Art. They are trying to model it after the concert series they have at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The goal is to bring free music to Ann Arbor through an alternative venue, said Notaranni.
People interested in becoming a DJ can drop by anyone of the training sessions held Sunday’s at 4 p.m.. To listen to the radio station online, go to www.wcbn.org and click Listen Live. The website also provides a full schedule of showtimes, along with fundraiser information and additional station know-how.