Trouble in this world--it'll be alright
"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 had been replaced by a birth announcement.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'.