The Song Journal

Miscellaneous news and writing by Bob Franke, mostly about songs as a portable art form, and the process of creating them and enabling them to do their work in the world.

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Location: Peabody, Massachusetts, United States

from Bob Franke began his career as a singer-songwriter in 1965 while a student at the University of Michigan. Upon graduation in 1969 with an A.B. in English Literature, he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and has since made New England his home. Bob has appeared in concert at coffeehouses, colleges, festivals, bars, streets, homes and churches in 33 states, four Canadian provinces and England.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Trouble in this world--it'll be alright

I was just about to write a thoroughly curmudgeonly piece on the demise of two of my favorite internet music streams when I heard a familiar voice--my own--coming at me over WUMB-FM's stream. "Trouble In This World" has sort of dropped out of the repertoire, so I listened carefully to hear what I was telling myself:

"Trouble in this world will find you on your way,
But keep on walkin, you'll be home some day."

As it turns out, it was good advice. Radio Nonsense, operating out of St. Paul, Minnesota, seemed to be gone. It's the closest thing to truly free-form radio programming you're likely to hear over the internet. In the last hour, for instance it's played a version of "The Young Man Who Wouldn't Hoe Corn" from the Anthology of American Folk Music, and a comic version of "Stairway to Heaven" by Dread Zeppelin, as well cuts by Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Zappa. But in the middle of last night, its familiar cryptic web site (Our Mission, indeed!) had been replaced by a birth announcement. While I heartily congratulate the Sosna family on their new addition (a very cute and very well-documented little girl), I was afraid that Scott Sosna's brilliant music programming was a casualty to the practical concerns of new fatherhood (if Mr. Sosna's software programming is anywhere near as good, your business needs him). Not to worry, this morning both the site and the programming are back online. Mother and baby seem to be doing fine, too.

The news is not quite as sanguine at Radio Amber. For the past couple of years, Jeffrey Bottoms in Houston, TX has been digitizing obsolete recording media and in the process creating an astonishingly diverse compilation of music from the first half of the 20th century, everything from Sacred Harp to Deanna Durbin, Willie McTell to Bing Crosby, and many obscure but interesting artists as well. He just can't afford to stream any more, and like many of the most talented of our colleagues, needs a day job to keep body and soul together. If I remember correctly, Mr. Bottoms is just out of college and facing an uncertain job market. He asks for your prayers, and cash if you've got it to spare.

The history of interesting, meaningful songs and music is the history of obsessed individuals, people who see intense value in songs and music that don't register on the value scale of corporations. If music were truly sold in a free market, these individuals would be making a modest living doing what they do and love best. But we Americans no longer own the airwaves in common, and don't in the present political climate have much hope of holding those that do own them accountable. And so the millions who would be nourished, encouraged and delighted by our actual culture are distracted from it by a corporate music industry whose sole function seems to be to exclude artists, art and history, in order to serve stockholders.

And yet, artists will continue to create, and all humans will continue to need art. It seems to be hard-wired in us. The Internet still gives me hope as a means of distribution and a repository of our musical culture. Keep on walkin'.


Blogger BumpKin Pie said...

Congrats on the birth of your new baby blog, Bob! (Say *that* three times fast.) I'm sure I speak for many when I say we anxiously await the next missive. btw, this is a good day to start things. Today, April 12, my husband Michael and I celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary! Yes, sometimes the magic does work...

Are you planning to be at SummerSongs this year?

Suzanne Ives

2:37 PM  
Blogger Spitmk3 said...

HI Bob. This is a great idea. I hope to check in often. Suzanne is correct this is a good time to start things up. The turn in the seasons here in Canada always makes me want to write play and sing!!!

Rick Unruh

2:47 PM  
Blogger Bob Franke said...

Congratulations on your anniversary, Suzanne--it's an accomplishment in these days, and I'm glad to hear that it's a joyful one for you and your husband. Sad to say, it doesn't look like I'll be at Summersongs this year. I hope to post my summer teaching schedule on the web site within the next few days.

3:17 PM  

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