Featured Show: Natalia & Craig (Voice Box)

For this week’s feature, we spoke to Natalia and Craig, current hosts of Voice Box and the team behind Charles River Variety in previous seasons. Voice Box is an exploration of the human voice, and often features live artists or recordings of live performances!

You can hear Voice Box every Friday at 9pm on WMBR.

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* How did you get involved in WMBR? Did you know each other prior to WMBR?

NATALIA: My first show at WMBR was Girl in Space in 2014. It was my senior year at MIT and I wanted to try producing a live radio drama. I wrote a five-epsiode story about two teams of rival exoplanet explorers and coaxed three of my friends to come to the station at 7:30 am on alternating Monday mornings to read it. When I came back to MIT for grad school, I wanted to do something like that again and came up with Charles River Variety, a vaudeville-style live music variety show. Craig signed up to be the engineer because it was right after his time slot for Rocks, Pops, Kilts, and Alternatives, but little did he (or I) know that Charles River Variety was going to be an incredibly technically challenging show. More than once, we used all three control rooms and both studios to do a broadcast. Craig does live sound engineering for a cappella groups on campus, including the one he is in, the Cross Products, and I was so lucky to have his enthusiasm (especially for reverb) and experience to make Charles River Variety happen.

* What’s the inspiration behind your show?

N: Charles River Variety ran for three seasons before I decided to change tack and instead of hosting two or three bands from widely different genres every show, I wanted to focus more deeply on vocal music. As alluded to in our program guide description, Voice Box came out of our mutual interest in sounds the human voice makes. Craig is a huge a cappella nerd and his enthusiasm for his major, linguistics, bleeds into a lot of our on-air conversations about speech and language. I love writing for performance and learned a lot from the wide range of vocal artists we hosted on Charles River Variety, everything from art rock to klezmer. We play more CDs and recordings than we did on Charles River Variety, but still try to challenge ourselves technically from time to time—playing with vocaloids, doing remote broadcasts, and producing short radio theater pieces. We’ve even done a couple foreign language shows! I speak Spanish and Craig learned German at MIT. I wanted to try doing an entire show in Spanish, but the night we were planning to do it, I wasn’t going to be able to be at the station. I wrote and prerecorded a radionovela (a radio soap opera) with some friends and made Craig a phrase list with the Spanish translation for saying things like “You’re listening to WMBR” and “The next song is…” A few weeks later, he was out of town, so we put together a playlist of German-language vocal music and he handed me a similar radio phrase list in German, as is only fair.

* What is it like to coordinate so many live performances, recordings and broadcasts?

N: Craig and I love thinking up new technical challenges for ourselves. Our best projects have come from conversations that began with asking “What if we tried…” Our first episode of Charles River Variety had four musical acts, one of which had three vocalists and six musicians. We were running around the station right up until the minute we had to go on the air (and did a fair amount of scrambling during the show as well), but embraced the rush of making this exuberant, over-the-top production happen. There have been a lot of hectic moments since then, but it’s also an exhilarating experience to take on these ambitious ideas and have these unique, personal encounters with amazing musicians and performers. Also, having a station full of enthusiastic tech people makes it really easy to try new things on the radio and surprise ourselves with what’s possible.

* Favourite listener interaction?

N: Craig may disagree on whether this is his favorite listener interaction, but it’s definitely one of the most memorable. He brought a DJ rig to the station one night to demonstrate how one person can build up a whole a cappella song from loops of individual vocal tracks providing different parts of the harmony and percussion. I suggested he sing words for each track, rather than “doo”s or “dah”s, and proposed he use a list of ingredients for a burrito. He agreed and we did the “Burrito Song” on the air with Craig exclaiming “guac!” and crooning “bur-ri-to” into the microphone. Shortly after the show ended, he got an amused text from his parents in Scotland that they’d been hosting a dinner party that night and turned on WMBR, just in time for all their guests to hear the Burrito Song! You can hear it for yourself at this link.

[Craig and Natalia are also featured on the cover of WMBR’s Summer 2017 Program Guide! Check it out to see all of our sunny summer shows.]

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