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Catskills Corner: WGXC comes into being


A couple of the events going on locally this weekend have a personal connection. (It should be said that the longer we live here the more we feel a personal connection to all manner of local events.) My older son, Campbell, is among the Onteora Middle School students featured in a new exhibition at the Woodstock Artists Association Museum on that village’s main drag, Tinker Street. Campbell doesn’t see it as much of a big deal but that’s because he’s usually too busy creating art to go view it. Anyway, to quote from his teacher’s invitation “students created mixed media collages of Woodstock, combining photos they took on (a field) trip with drawings and paintings they created in the classroom. The results were 3-dimensional reliefs and very unusual works of art.” The opening of this exhibition, in the YES! Gallery (the Youth Exhibition Space) will be Saturday March 7, from 4-6pm. We, of course, shall be there.

Earlier that day, the Public Library in Cairo, on the north-eastern tip of the Catskills, will host a workshop (at the Town Hall in the same building) regarding the new radio station WGXC which, according to its founders, “will be a community-run media project, re-envisioning radio as an innovative platform for local participation.” The personal connection to this development began a decade ago when someone called Tom Roe reviewed my Keith Moon book for the New York Post. Later that year, I met him at a Christmas party on my block; he turned out to be a young hipster actively involved in pirate radio, via a Williamsburg station called free103point9 that immersed itself in all kinds of avant-garde transmissions, more an exploration of the possibilities of sound within the electromagnetic spectrum than any kind of promotional outlet for the Brooklyn indie scene.

Fast-forward a few years. We had moved upstate and the same street neighbor from Brooklyn came to visit us, carrying her desire to attend an experimental music festival just a few miles north of our then-house in Hunter. To my shame, I knew nothing about it. Turned out that Roe and his partner had moved up to our neck of the forest, bought a large plot of land for very little money in neighboring Acra, called it Wave Farm and hung out their free103point9 radio shingle (now on the internet, of course) in a space where they could host workshops, artists-in-residence, a study center, a transmission sculpture garden, and the occasional avant-garde electro-magnetic music-style festival. We went to visit Wave Farm that day. Turns out we’d missed the festival by 24 hours, but at least I got to know Roe better – and his partner Galen Joseph-Hunter, and their new baby. Sadly, as far as that friendship went, we promptly moved down to Phoenicia/Mount Tremper, and the free103point9 base in Acra is just too far out of our way for a quick visit.


An aerial view of Wave Farm, free103point9’s country home in the Catskills

Still, I signed up to the station’s e-mail list that day and have been happy to see just how active the station has been. And although Wave Farm has been forced to suspend some of its public activities while awaiting approval from the local Planning Board (welcome to the country!), I was excited to see that when the FCC announced in 2007 that it was opening up some more space on the local airwaves, Roe set about with plans for a proper, legal, terrestrial community station. A few other interested parties also put forward proposals, but Roe and his team were awarded the licence. The initials WGXC reflect its listening area in Greene and Columbia counties (my own home, in Ulster County, is probably just outside the catchment area). “With studios envisioned in Cairo, Catskill, and Hudson,” stated the press release announcing the station’s FCC license, WGXC “will broadcast local musicians and artists, as well as community news, and programs about local schools, history, agriculture, the environment, and more.”

The meeting at the Town Hall in Cairo this Saturday will, says Roe, “be a chance to get involved with WGXC,” serving as “a workshop training future radio journalists and DJs.” While the FM station is over a year away from launch, an online version of the community station plans to be on air by May of ’09. Tom is actively looking for more volunteers to help get the radio station started, and can be contacted at tr@free103point9.org, or via 518-622-2598. The web site is at http://www.free103point9.org/communityradio/

And if the announcement about WGXC seems perhaps just a little too regional for iJamming! readers, too much like a radio version of a village newspaper, known that free103point9 continues down its path of experimental everything. A quick tune into the online station found a captivating rendition of “Come As You Are” by Brazilian maestro Caetano Velaso followed by 66 seconds of noise entitled “The Lion Eats the Sleep from the Jungle’s Eyes.” You can find out much more free103point9’s ongoing expeditions into sonic space at the web site. You will hopefully hear more about WGXC as it happens.

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