I lived with Simon Geller. I never met him, but I feel as if I know him. And maybe I do, in some ways, as well as anyone still around. For the last five months, Simon has greeted me very early every day: “WVCA Gloucester Massachusetts” has been his way of saying good morning. His voice would come floating from my studio monitors. Yet another ancient reel of tape would be spinning on the deck and from it his unique announcing style and playlist would return from the stasis of over 30 years and flow into my hard drive in incomprehensibly tiny bits. What would he say if he were here and could witness what we were doing? Would he approve of our project to bring his hard work back from the grave and give it new life on a new format he never could have imagined? He said he wanted to be forgotten.
It was well known that he left town and never looked back. Gloucester never warmed his heart. So why did he spend so many years playing his music here? Was it just a job? That’s hard to fathom. He barely scraped by, mostly on donations. Simon was a well-educated radio engineer with valuable skills. It must have been about the music. How did he come to this playlist? Anyone who has ever programmed classical music for radio knows that the pieces you choose for broadcast reflect a personal part of you. What was he trying to say through his selections? Was he really broadcasting his passion? Sharing an intimate part of himself? Speaking with an eloquence his vocally-challenged and sometimes colorful on air persona could not?
Later, I pull up the files from reel 12 that was loaded earlier in the day onto the drive. I have some tough decisions to make. The fragile 30-year-old tape has seen better days. The audio is so badly damaged on several tracks that I may have to edit them out. Simon is looking over my shoulder. How dare I mess with his selections? These tracks were there for a good reason. Maybe I should just leave them be even though the music is hard to listen to. What would Simon do? I listen to the other undamaged parts of the program. The audio is sweet and mostly free from noise or distortion. Simon took great care in this transcription. The levels. The stylus tracking. The signal to noise. All done with such attention to engineering detail. Is he telling me to sacrifice the damaged tracks? I can’t spend any more time on this with another 50 some programs yet to digitize and process. So I do what I think is best. Listeners will not appreciate music they can’t enjoy. I edit. Sorry, Simon.
After dinner I run the final product. Program 12 plays from the speakers on my computer. My two-year old grand daughter Ella comes running in from the next room. Simon says: “WVCA Gloucester Massachusetts” and announces the next piece. Ella points to the speakers and says “Simon!” The music plays. She listens. Ella knows Simon, too. I think maybe he would approve.