You're Hearing Echoes
By: John Shepler
It's a warm clear summer evening with the glow of nearly a full moon silhouetting the trees. The house is open to catch the fresh breezes as they flutter through the curtains and down the hall to exit out the patio screen door. In the rustling of the breeze, crickets chirp and a Pan flute fades in and out. It's a most relaxing blend of sound. Some is nature just outside the window, some is provided by artists from half a world away. It's hard to tell where one element ends and another begins. Then a soothing voice interjects to anchor us. He says simply "You're hearing Echoes and I'm John Diliberto."
Echoes is described as a nightly music soundscape, airing in the quiet times between the hustle of the day's work and evening chores and just before we retire for the night. Chances are that it is available on your local public radio station, as it airs on 145 of them through Public Radio International. You'll know when you have Echoes tuned in. It is as much mood as music. It's neither classical, nor jazz. Not reggae, not what was once called instrumental music. New Age might be a closer description. At times it seems to have that ethereal element of space music. Other times, the sound is that of a single musician with an acoustic guitar or a choir of monks chanting in the distance.
One of the featured artists on Echoes is Brian Eno, who popularized a term called ambient music to describe music without a traditional song structure that can exist in the foreground or background. This goes back as far as the late 1970's. Interestingly, ambient music is employed to create a calming space in techno dance clubs as a way to recover from the frenetic techno dancing. Perhaps this is why Echoes is so welcome after a frenetic techno work day, when you crave a way to shift into lower and lower gears, perhaps even to meditate a bit before calling it a night.
John Diliberto might have become a musician and composer himself. He began playing the flute in ninth grade, inspired partly by Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull. But he gave it up at year's end in favor of playing football. That tranquilizing voice you hear resonating just above the music belongs to an all-conference defensive center who went on to win a football scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia. But music still called him. In his sophomore year John joined the campus radio station, WXPN, and began hosting a show of space music, jazz, new wave and avant-garde music.
In 1975, he created a soundscape of ethereal music called "Star's End." It aired Sunday mornings from 1 am to 5 am and was billed as a "journey to the outer limits of your aural universe." That show still airs today, almost 25 years later, in exactly the same time slot.
After college, John started writing music reviews for an alternative paper, the Drummer, and also for Audio magazine. He programmed KALX, the university station in Berkeley, California, but found himself returning to WXPN in 1981. There he met Kimberly Haas, and together they started producing musical documentaries for national distribution. These shows, called Totally Wireds, won many national awards and set the stage for a collaboration that has produced 10 years of nightly soundscapes on Echoes.
Kimberly Haas planned to become a marine biologist when she came to the University of Pennsylvania from Mountainside, New Jersey. Her high school interest in jazz drew her to WXPN, and soon she found herself hosting jazz shows and producing on-air concerts. She was music director of the station when John Diliberto returned from Berkeley.
Kimberly and John were married in 1984. They live in Chester County, Pennsylvania, with two daughters, one dog, one cat, and a unique radio show that calms the nerves of stressed-out listeners worldwide.
If you enjoy the music you find on the Windham Hill or Hearts of Space labels, or artists like Will Ackerman, Andreas Vollenweider, Mike Oldfield and Vangelis, then you'll enjoy hearing Echoes each night. It creates an environment, a background to catch up on reading, surf a bit on the computer, work on a craft project or just lay back and enjoy. There's something almost mystical about Echoes reverberating through a dimly lit room or even your car at night. But there are times that I wish I could tune it in during rush hour traffic. For then, I'm glad to have some of those same artists on CD.
Oh, by the way, you are also invited to submit music of your own composition for review and possible inclusion on the program. If your music resonates with the format, you might even be hearing your own Echoes on public radio.
Also visit these related sites:
Echoes - The Internet home of Echoes features play lists, stations and times, more on the people behind the programs and how to submit your music for consideration.
Hearts of Space Radio - Space and travel music: celestial, cosmic & terrestrial. This form of new age music is often heard on Echoes and has a program of its own on Hearts of Space.
Copyright 1999 - 2018 by John E. Shepler. Contact me at: John (at) JohnShepler.com
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First Published: July 5, 1999 as part of A Positive Light