Night Tides: AV Talks with Renťe Blanche ©2017 Ambient Visions


Renťe Blanche

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AV:  People who run long term websites or radio shows about ambient music must really love what they do to keep something like that running for many years. When did you discover the joys of ambient/new age music and who were some of the artists that facilitated that discovery?

RB:  Ambient/new age music entered my life when I decided I wanted to give radio announcing a shot. It was a community radio station in El Paso and the format was Jazz Pop with some new age music mixed in. David Arkenstone and Yanni are my first loves in the genre. Hearts of Space was part of the programming but Iíd never really listened to it until I heard it while jogging which was never really my thing, but listening to HOS helped me feel calm and pace my breathing. I was intrigued. And so began my unexpected love affair with the genre. Iíve said many times over the years that had someone in my youth told me radio was in my future, I would have rolled my eyes at them in total disbelief. Had I been told it would be ambient/new age music, I would have doubled over in hysterical laughter.

AV:  Were you looking for something new or a new genre to listen to at the time that you discovered ambient?

RB:  I wasnít looking for new music to listen to but I wasnít opposed to new musical offerings.  Thereís music Iím not particularly fond of, but itís been a part of my life for as long as I can remember because of my love of the dance.

AV:  What is it about ambient/new age music that draws you to it?

RB:  The energy, vibration, the twists and turns that strike my curiosity, the way it moves my spirit and moves me emotionally when I sit with it and am mindful. Itís fun too, especially the electronic side of the house because the notes are manipulated in extraordinary ways which always peaks my interest.

AV:  So how did you and radio become acquainted in terms of you being a radio show host?

RB:  I was a volunteer ĎDJí for years at my first radio gig and I guess Iíd earned the privilege of being invited to assist the Program Director (PD) which helped me further familiarize myself with new age music. It also taught me how to build a play list. Fast forward to 1993. When KCUR hired me, I was responsible for running the board for other radio show hosts. This taught me how to work with others while simultaneously having to fulfill my announcing duties. A year later, I needed to find other employment outside of radio announcing. Night Tides caught my attention and was a shift I could fit in my schedule in case someone was needed. I told the PD of my interest and about a month later I was invited to host and produce Night Tides. The rest is herstory!

Renee Blanche at ZMR

AV:  Was Night Tide's your first radio show? If not what came before that?

RB:  Night Tides is actually the second show Iíve hosted. My first time as a radio show host happened with my first commercial radio gig.  K-LITE/KLTO 94.7 FM was a light adult contemporary station, and I was invited to produce a show that combined new age music with light adult contemporary tracks. I named it ďEl Paso After Dark.Ē I donít know how well the show did and I donít recall how long it lasted because the radio station was taken off the air from having run out of money.  

AV:  Do you create your own playlists for the show?

RB:  Yes, yes and yes! Night Tides is my baby, my labor of love from start to finish.

AV:  When you are choosing songs for each show what are you looking for in the music that ends up being played? Are there themes that run throughout a program or a mood that you are trying to achieve?

RB:  Over the years, Iíve found programming around a theme difficult. So I program to evoke a mood, create an atmosphere and form a listening experience the audience will be drawn to. I also want listeners to be as curious as I am about whatís going to happen from one song to the next in terms of tempo, style and flow. By generating curiosity, Iím hoping to engage the audience in a way theyíd rather keep the music in the forefront as opposed to using it mostly as background music.

AV:  When do you find the time to be able to listen to even a small portion of the many submissions that I'm sure you receive each week?

RB:  I make the time to do it and I listen to every song unless itís obvious from the outset that itís not a Night Tides fit or itís a song that
doesnít hit my Ďsweet spotíÖ that place inside of me that I canít find words to describe how the melody or non-melody feels to me.

AV:  What's the hardest part about choosing the music that will be on your show? When you are choosing songs for a program do you ever have any really hard choices about two equally good pieces of music but you don't have enough time left to include both?

Renee Blanche at mic

RB:  Choosing the music is fairly easy; itís having more music to play than I have time in the time slot to play it thatís the challenge. As the popularity of Night Tides has increased (something I donít think
Iíve ever said out loud before) the receipt of music for airplay consideration has increased as well which means airplay for the new releases are in rotation for weeks and months. So when choosing music, itís done with a clear understanding of how much time I have.

AV:  Do you ever see a time when the ambient/new age genres will expand further into the marketplace or will it forever be a smaller niche market for those who enjoy making and buying this genre?

RB:  I hope what Iím about to say will make sense because I think in subtle ways, this is already happening, the further expansion of the genre into the marketplace. I think itís just being marketed in ways that donít focus on the Ďnew ageí label but rather is sort of shuffled under a mainstream label to increase the appeal and make a little money.

Donít get me wrong, I recognize the importance of earning a living which is a conversation for a different forum. However, when money is the driving force behind creativity, thereís a risk the focus will shift from quality to quantity.

Over the years, Iíve noticed the majority of the musicians played on Night Tides release CDs sparingly. Thereís probably a bazillion reasons for that, but when there is a new release, it feels as if much was done to make it happen. With that said, Iím all for leaving the genre in the smaller niche market because the musicians/composers who identify with it seem to be doing so by choice. This should not preclude them from being paid their worth, a discussion for another time.  I just hope my reply makes sense!

AV:  I know you went to the last New Age Music awards in NOLA. Tell me about what it is like to be rubbing elbows with those who create the music that you play? What was most memorable about the time you spent there? And who did you most look forward to meeting that you hadn't met before?

RB:  Oh my goodness! Iíve attended this event every year since Daryl Portier and Ben Dugas made it live in 2013. Add to that, I was invited to attend and emcee concerts at the World Flute Society Convention (WFSC) in Eau Claire, Wisconsin! You talk about a kid in a candy store experience! When I get to NOLA, itís about reconnecting with the folks Iíve met over the years and meeting everybody else Iíve not met.

The WFSC was a new experience. I was super excited to finally meet Peter Phippen after having played multiple CDs of his over the years. I was also excited to meet Victoria Shoemaker whoíd released her first CD ever and World Flute Society Exec. Director, Kathleen Joyce-Grendahl. Social media is wonderful for connecting us, but thereís nothing like meeting in the flesh.

My list of memorable moments is a pretty long one so Iíll keep it brief. Meeting Hans Christian in NOLA was awesome! I spotted him in the theater the night of the performanceÖdidnít even know he was going to attend. We chatted briefly, took a selfie and before we parted, he asked me if Iíd do a congratulatory video message for Deuter who was the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. Deuter had fallen ill and Hans Christian was in NOLA to accept the award on Deuterís behalf. Iím a longtime fan of both these guys. In Eau Claire the memorable moments are plentiful also so the moment Iíll pick is the first time I blew into a Native American flute with the guidance of Joanne Lazarro. Wow! It had never crossed my mind to do such a thing! Ron Korb suggested I learn how to play as an addition to my meditation practice. The rest is history. Stay tuned!

Renee Blanche ambient music radio host

AV:  How long has Night Tides been on the air now?

RB:  I donít know the exact number of years Night Tides has been on the air and I donít know if there is anyone at KCUR who remembers the start date. If I had to guess, itís probably been upwards of 50 years and itís always been dedicated to ambient/new age music programming. I was contacted by the first host not long ago and for some reason I didnít remember to ask him the start date. Anyway, he contacted me to tell me he was pleased with the way Iím handling the show. That meant a lot to me.

AV:  What are you most proud about when it comes to your radio show?

RB:  The way the show is performed and presented is what I feel proud of, how Iím able to make the mixes work to tell a story. At least,
thatís my intention, to tell a long four hour story that my voice peeks into every half hour. Iíve received enough feedback over the years about how it feels to listen to Night Tides. Iíd say Iím getting the job done.

AV:  As a final question how do you see your role in ambient/new age music and what would you like to accomplish with Night Tides in the coming years?

RB:  I view my role as that of messenger and as one of the torchbearers for the genre. What Iíd like to accomplish in the coming years is continued exposure for Night Tides on a global level. When I started, Night Tides was just another public radio program. What I want is for it to be viewed as one of the major players of the genre.

AV:  Well we are certainly glad to have your voice out there bringing us such great music week after week. Wishing you much success and many more years of bringing great ambient music to the attention of all your listeners out there. Thanks for taking time out to talk to us here at Ambient Visions.


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