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Tuesday
Feb032004

Streamin' the Tunes

WMSEOne thing that I must have around while I work from my home office is music. As a designer, it can be even more critical for getting creativity flowing and keeping it at high levels. While my iTunes music collection is reasonably nice and large, there comes a point at which it's very nice to hear someone else spinning their favorites.

Fortunately, the web has provided many options for music listening via streaming stations. With such a variety out there, you can always find something to suit your mood any time of the day. This is a huge deal (for me at least) since I can bring up music from anywhere in the world right from my home computer system and tailor it to the work I'm doing (creative or technical), or my frame of mind, or to change my mood.

Usually I take this blessing for granted, but today while listening to one of my favorite streams at KEXP Seattle 90.3 FM and their on-air drive, I was reminded how wonderful streams can be. This got me thinking about how I came to independent stations -- the precursors to all of the streaming stations we have available today. I was so moved I decided to donate a few dollars to KEXP as a thank you. :-)

Now, Here in Milwaukee we're very fortunate. We've had a great college radio station that's non-commercial, called WMSE 91.7 FM, at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) since at least the early 80s. Back in my college days, I loved "MSE" because they were the place to hear "new wave" and "alternative" music all day long, without commercial interruption. I can still recall cruising around town with friends, jamming to The Cure or U2, R.E.M., They Might Be Giants, Talking Heads and many, many unusual artists I would have never heard otherwise.

I used to tape songs from live MSE broadcasts and build my own mix tapes from them, first for myself and then later in my college and early work career, for far-flung friends. Then I bought CDs of my favorite music (often heard on WMSE) and built tapes from them. It was great fun mixing music and doing a few voice overs... I almost felt like a DJ. But the foundation of these tapes was always the local WMSE low-power FM radio station, spinning odd, off the wall stuff. What great memories those are.

WMSE has a stream available now, though their format has changed a little since I used to listen all the time. The mix of music is much different now and more varied, which in some ways is good but in other ways means I never know what's on, unless I consult their schedule online. I have a very wide taste in music, but there are occasionally times when the music is just not that appealing on WMSE.

But with the net and streaming it's very easy to locate just what I might be looking for. If WMSE is playing stuff I may not be in the mood for, in iTunes, I can click on KEXP's stream and hear a very nice blend of new and old tunes. I especially like the morning people (John in the Morning, Stevie Zoom) but it seems they're always playing great stuff.

A few other favorites include SomaFM's Groove Salad, a nice down tempo techno stream for times when I don't want any talking. SomaFM has many other stations as well, all nicely done.

And there are others as well, all gathered in various places like Live365, through iTunes or as suggestions by friends of mine. I find it wonderfully amazing that these resources are out there... as a music lover who grew up with a station like WMSE, it's very good to see these kinds of stations available for people all around the world.

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