SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Chemical Eye on Cyber-Jazz
by Preston MacDougall


October 09, 2006

Time for a coffee break. Close your eyes and take a virtual trip with me to your favorite café. (Just for a minute, then open them again so you can keep reading). Mine's in Milan, where's yours? We can close our eyes, but we can't close our ears. What did you "hear"?

In my mind's ear, I heard cappuccino machines hissing, beans grinding, and baristas banging. These sounds were sprinkled on top of a dull roar of Italian conversations, perhaps with the volume turned up to compensate for hands being occupied by cup and saucer. You see, during coffee hour, it is standing room only, and like sardines, we were shoulder to shoulder.

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I could hear instrumental music in the background as well. Like the Italian sing-song conversations, the music was enjoyable listening. Except for a few words, like "Ciao!", Italian is not familiar to me. But the music is; it was jazz - the quintessential American music.

This scene hasn't only played out in Milan. In my travels across the continent, I have found Europeans that love jazz. Gernot had a particularly large collection of jazz records, Riccardo too. The same was true down under in Australia, and even in China where it is kind of taboo.

After traveling halfway around the world, talking with an Aussie about Lee Ritenour makes the world seem a bit smaller. However, nothing shrinks our planet quite like the Internet does. Thanks to past support that listeners and institutions have given WMOT, where jazz vibrates at 89.5 megahertz on the public airwaves of Middle Tennessee, a virtually continuous stream of jazz music is also available in cyber-space.

I say "virtually" not because the jazz music that is played isn't real - if anything public radio stations like WMOT are keeping it real. "Virtually" is used in the sense of "almost, but not quite" continuous. And, with sufficient bandwidth, it isn't the streaming audio that isn't quite continuous. The audio download is smooth as silk on my Mac G5.

No, it's the jazz music that isn't quite continuous. There are no commercials, and I appreciate that. There are news and traffic updates, but since I like to stay informed and unjammed, I also appreciate these.

There are also feature stories that are often about jazz music and the musicians that make it - young and old. Who's the Dizzy-est in the horn scene? Who's the Billie-est when they sing the blues? Especially here on WMOT, other topics, such as chemistry, are not unheard of. Some people appreciate these, some people don't. I hope you do.

The interruptions that I could do without are the fundraising appeals, such as the one you are reading right now. Sorry about that, but I don't know how else the good folks at WMOT can keep doing all that they do for jazz music and jazz listeners, both here in Middle Tennessee, and out there in cyber-space.

WMOT just boosted its radio signal so that almost twice as many ears could enjoy virtually continuous jazz music, at home, at work, or in their car. The 100,000 Watt signal may radiate into thin air from their tower, but programming doesn't grow on trees. Listener support is essential to purchase the nationally distributed programs that many listeners enjoy. This is truer than ever as government support is being seriously curtailed.

One of the news stories you may have heard here concerns the grassroots effort to keep the Internet "free". I support these efforts, but I also understand that the Internet itself wasn't born free. The federal government paid for the research that invented it, and various governments and companies have paid to lay the infrastructure that connects us to it.

If you are listening to WMOT online, as I was when I wrote this commentary, then you and your computer are both multi-tasking. You may not know it (your computer does), but the streaming audio packets are actually being sent by a computer in Boston. And, you guessed it, this service isn't free either.

If you're already a member, you can renew your pledge by calling 898-2800, or 255-9071. WMOT has upgraded their services, why not consider upgrading your support?

If you are currently sitting in a Cybercafé, somewhere in the web-wired world of jazz, you can simply click on the "Pledge" button at the top of the screen at to securely support where jazz lives here in Middle Tennessee.


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More Chemical Eye On... by Preston MacDougall


Preston MacDougall is a chemistry professor at Middle Tennessee State University. His "Chemical Eye" commentaries are featured in the Arts and Public Affairs portion of the Nashville/Murfreesboro NPR station WMOT (

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