When I was very young I had an imaginary friend, whose name was Tony Doink. For the first few years of my life, I was an only child; I suppose that was one of the reasons for having an imaginary friend. The other obvious one was to cast blame when I did something I was not supposed to have done. I could always point the finger and say “Tony did it.” His was a personality, in which I could hide and take comfort. When I was three, my parents had another child, my younger brother. Around that time my family moved from Illinois to California — and somewhere along the way I lost contact with my imaginary friend.
Innocence lost maybe as I became more aware, even as a four or five year old I felt like I was just to the side of the action, acting as an observer. I spent time alternately with one friend generally from school; and that friend changed every year, as I was moved from rented house to rented house and changed schools. When I was not with my one friend, I was alone with books, comic books, pencils, paper, and G.I. Joe dolls to act out superhero scenarios, staging grand battles in my bedroom and backyard. Although I left behind my absent imaginary friend, Tony Doink, I never left the imaginary.
Always on my radar though, was music. At first, my only source of music was a car radio. Riding with my parents was always a welcome adventure, as I loved AM radio at that time. There seemed to be a certain magic in moving the tuning knob to chase the frequency that broadcast your favorite song. The static surrounding the song on either side, right and left, it seemed that the song was blasting out that tiny speaker directly at me.
Music assists the imaginary, the sounds and the lyrics paint pictures in one’s mind. Or so it was for me. I could see what the music created, or so it seemed. And when things aligned, the music seemed to fill my body and I was floating. I felt a sensation like that when I was young and collecting music, and I have chased it ever since. Never being able to put my finger on the exact cause of the sensation, it is just a special certain combination of words, melody and guitar riffs that affects me in such a manner.
For me, the sensation can be found on albums by such folks as: The Velvet Underground, Love, Creedence Clearwater, Television, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Fall, and so many more — with no need of outside assistance or inebriation. I passed through a time of drug experimentation as a young adult, but the results were less than desirable in repetition. So much easier to drop a needle on the “Glider” twelve inch by My Bloody Valentine and get lost in the song “Soon.”
Every human culture has music, often used in ceremonies or rituals. Music has been there with mankind, step by step, as we explored the world around us, and encountered other cultures and other music and influences. Music is the single vibration on which our long history resounds. If I believed in a deity, I would have to say that music is his or her greatest gift to us.
We were brought together by music, in villages, that grew to be towns, that grew to be cities. And the music changed with us, as we grew and advanced, music reflected us and our social changes and our technologies. Sometimes music inspired those changes, and sometimes the strides we made were reflected in the music. Music might not be able to save the world as a whole, but I thoroughly believe it can affect and change one person. And that person can affect another person, and so on. In this way, music is shared and given as a gift, to ourselves, from one of us to the other.
It was the act of sharing music that brought me to radio, with the hope that I might unlock for other people that combination that set off that floating sensation for me. And selfishly, that I might also by a sequence of songs, segueing from one to the next, trigger that sensation in myself. And all these many years later, with hundreds upon hundreds of radio broadcasts to my credit, part of me is always aiming for that vibration.
Getting myself on the radio in Portland, I thought to adopt a DJ name, a separate identity I could inhabit and be a more bombastic version of myself. In practice, however, I never managed to be anything other than myself. Noah Fence is a mask I wear that reflects myself, better than my given name.
With Freeform Portland, I have spent four years being a part of the station, watching the proto-version of an idea become actual fact, empowered by dedicated volunteers into an expanding force of two frequencies, an internet stream and hundreds of DJ’s broadcasting music 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I have heard Freeform Portland described as “college radio for adults,” but for me Freeform is a place, where for two hours each week, during my broadcast, I can be my actual self.
Other times of the week, I am often wearing my work-face, my husband-face, my public transit-face, my yes I’m listening-face, my continually astounded by the unfolding beauty of nature-face, my misanthropic-face, my wallet is empty so fuck off-face… All of these faces come with restrictions, and an expected pattern of behavior. I sometimes feel I am an actor, portraying my own life for the benefit of no one in particular.
But in my imaginary face as Noah Fence — unlike my imaginary friend, Tony Doink, who existed to help me dodge consequences — I found a version of myself that I had casually forgotten. As Noah Fence, alone in the broadcasting studio, I can be the real me, and make music selections for my radio show, abiding by very few rules, aside from those which I have placed upon myself. Week after week in the broadcasting studio for the station, I can feel a palpable joyful sensation in the air. Thank goodness there are no cameras, as I tend to reflexively dance.
I have spent four years with Freeform Portland, through their kindness of allowing me to be on the air. And I am in good company, with my contemporaries and their long-running shows, such as “Guitar & Other Machines” with DJ Steena, “Esoteria” with Odd Monster, “Whoa This Is Heavy” with Zen Hound, “On The Porch” with DJ Brzy, “What’s This Called” with Ricardo Wang, “Bachelard’s Panty Drawer” with Mammal in Crime to name a few. These shows, like my own, have been staples on Freeform Portland, as the schedule has been changed and updated every six months. Each time the schedule has been opened up, new, interesting and highly enthusiastic individuals have applied to have a radio show. The influx of this energy and novel ideas for radio shows is one of the key reasons that Freeform Portland is a wonderful radio station. A station that stands apart from other stations, with which I have been involved. A station I truly love and wish to succeed, beyond my time and participation (although I can not imagine when that time will come).
Please join me in wishing Freeform Portland a very happy 4th Anniversary and keep your radio tuned to 90.3 FM / 98.3 FM to hear music brought to you by people who love music, and love sharing music in its infinite combinations.