A Wicked Idea or the Power of Radio

Let me start with a wicked idea. What if music could be played globally? What if through some amazing invention this artform, which we love and enjoy on a daily basis, were available for everyone at the same time. Delivered over the air.

Mankind would simply walk outside and hear music. Everybody in the whole wide world would be moving to the same rhythms, sharing the same frequencies. It’s a wicked, extreme and beautifully weird idea. I know.

Now you’re probably wondering what I’ve been taking. So let me give you a short history of this idea and tell you I’m not high while writing this. The idea first came to me when I was listening to Nosedrip’s NTS Christmas special from 12th December, ’16. I was listening to it on Christmas morning and it suddenly struck me.

‘Everybody should hear this.’
 And right after that. 
‘If everybody heard this. Everybody would chill the f*** out.’
 Holy… That’s pretty naïve right? And to top things off: it was on Christmas day. Jesus.

But hey, it was my idea and I’m not into hating myself so I gave it some more thought. I figured that if some sort of wicked machine were to be invented so that everybody could be made to listen to the same tunes at the same time globally, it would undeniably be a very powerful instrument.

In my mind nobody would drop a bomb or shoot a bullet while listening to that Nosedrip set. The show was so simply overwhelming in its beauty. The kind of selection that makes grown men cry. Tears of joy that is. Hence: world peace for all.

No world peace yet? Pull a universal song of freedom out of the universal record bag. Some Dada jazz at its finest; rejecting our modern capitalist society with the everlasting repetition of the phrase: ‘Somebody else’s idea of somebody else’s world, is not my idea of things as they are.’ With an arrangement that feels like the sort of freedom the lyrics of the track propose. Intuitive, humanistic and beautiful. I’m getting excited! This could really lead to something.

But wait a minute.. When you think about it. It’s already being done.

It’s called Radio.

With the right equipment we can grab otherwise inaudible strings of music from the air. Which seems perfectly normal for us as ‘modern mankind’, but is a pretty fucking incredible concept if you ask me. It’s more elegant than the Internet, which uses cumbrous cables across continents to deliver a broad range of shenanigans. Speaking of which…

Here’s something I’ve noticed: we make digital products overly complex. The Internet is a medium we can use to play music, view pictures from Buenos Aires to Moscow, read about the US elections and stream movies. It can be used to do a whole lot of stuff, and the quality is kind of decent but not always top-notch. It takes time and effort to find quality on the internet. Something not all of us put in. Maybe because we are still used to old-fashioned services where we’re presented with a limited amount of tv channels, a limited amount of newspapers, a library with photobooks, etc.

Amidst the chaos of online choices we have online radio stations.

You can enjoy music more intensely at live concerts or in clubs, find better (and bigger) photographs in photo books, read in-depth articles about the US elections in professional newspapers, watch a movie on high quality in the cinema, and listen live to high quality FM radio stations on a radio.

I do all the ‘better alternative’ options except one: listening to FM radio stations. Because, quite frankly: they suck. The audio quality is comparable to online broadcasting, but when you tune in to a random radio station nowadays there’s a 90 percent chance the first thing you’ll hear about is either A) a new device or service you can do without or already have, B) a song about the love drama of a teenage girl
, or C) a game that lets you win two tickets for a party you don’t want to attend.

Of course the ‘better alternative’ options I have proposed are neither as convenient nor as relatively cheap as the substitutes the internet provides. I still choose for the better though. And radio isn’t necessarily an exception.

But first I want to talk about another product that’s defying the rules of convenience and price. A product that is, at the moment, booming.

Vinyl records.

Currently, a growing number of consumers is choosing the physical presence of music on vulnerable flat discs that bend when you put them on your heater and lose quality if you spill even a single drop of water on them, over digital music files. On top of its vulnerability, vinyl is a pretty expensive product in comparison to its digital counterpart. I believe EPs double in price when artists want their music pressed rather than digitalised. I think there are two main reasons for the choice for vinyl.

Reason 1. Simplicity.
 We choose a product that doesn’t ‘ping’ when we receive a new e-mail. That ‘just’ plays our favorite track without showing the time. It’s a physical presence, not a digital code that needs to be processed before it reaches the state of music. Our minds can easily grasp the concept of ‘a record’.

Reason 2. Self-expression.
 Buying, which is a great form of expression in a capitalist society, is expressing yourself. And buying music on vinyl is a hedonistic form of self-expression. It’s saying ‘I like this, and so I’m willing to spend my money on it.’ After we’ve obtained them, we bond with our records. Having records is a bit nostalgic as well, and very authentic. For now at least.

Do your remember my list of ‘better alternatives?’. Let’s compare them to vinyl. Live concerts: simple and expressive.
 Photographs in photobooks: simple and expressive. 
Reading a printed newspaper: simple and expressive. Watching a movie in a cinema: simple and expressive.

I think you get my point. I want FM radio to be simple and expressive. That’s why I think online radio stations like Red Light Radio, Intergalactic FM and Stroom deserve FM frequencies. I am not aware of the financial aspects, nor the will of or the impact this would have on the ‘scene’. It could be huge and it could be bad. I don’t even know if they want it! But that’s not what I’m talking about right now. I’m talking about the fact that I think there is an opportunity to build something new. Something that makes the ‘good’ music scene more lively, because I hope it creates more and better selectors who can earn a decent living by doing FM radio.

The medium makes the message, and online we’re able to segregate our individualistic society even further, to the point where I’m listening to Voodoo Funk from a vault in God knows where, posted online by a mysterious figure called P Y R U V I C A C I D, with a view counter that says 4.733, which immediately gives me the rush of exploring a territory few have visited before. It’s great but it’s lonely. That’s why I share.

Sharing is caring but it’s also self-expression. I think online radio stations and festivals like SSFB, Lente Kabinet and Dekmantel are proving that non-mainstream music is influential, and that people want to share their interest in music whilst sharing a moment in space and time. Though perhaps I’m living in a perceptual bubble.

A global sound system, which remains – of course – a wicked idea, would ensure that there is no perceptual bubble. We would know what everybody was listening to. There would be a global vibe. It’s the most extreme counterpart of the individual music experience. And like most extreme things: they aren’t that good for you.

If we had a limited amount of simple and expressive FM radio stations, a new interest in FM radio could arise. This could lead to more understanding and thus compassion, and it could fulfil our need to share good music and experiences.

And what’s more, imagine an interdimensional spaceship about to enter earth’s atmosphere. Captain Rick measuring CO2 levels, scanning for lifeforms and checking out the radio frequencies. He might hear the A, B, C list from earlier. Or he could hear Live Low – O Sol

Which do you prefer?

 

Fun fact: The Sun Ra and the Live Low track I posted in this article I first heard on online radio shows by Robert Bergman and Izabel. When I play these tracks to my friends they fall in love with them. They haven’t started listening to the online radio shows but they do own and buy vinyl.

llustration by Rueben Millenaar