Curated by Alan Bishop
It all began for me in Saginaw, Michigan, where radio was the primary portal to instantaneous information in the world. A decade before satellite TV emerged and approximately thirty years before the internet transformed the way people receive their news and entertainment, my father bought me a cheap portable radio with shortwave, weather, police, and AM/FM bands. I was nine years old.
I had other radios to listen to, but this one was different. It offered me more than the standard AM medium-wave frequencies which dominated the device in the sixties (FM was insignificant at the time). I was captivated with the possibilities of shortwave reception and so began my obsession with the radio. For me it was an explosive, vital source of an almost endless variety of sounds. Combine this fact with the ever-changing reception possibilities of geographic movement and it could be argued that the radio is the most unique and resourceful electronic sound instrument ever devised.
By 1980, I was experimenting with sound collage, utilizing snippets of television and radio sounds incorporated with my original music and field recordings. In May of 1983, I traveled to Marbella, Spain, with my brother and a friend. The plan was to spend a few weeks in a flat owned by a cousin and then move south to Morocco. We spent the days busking the streets with guitars to support our food and drink. In the evenings I would scan the local radio.
I began to record snippets of music from Radio Tangier International from Morocco, which I was receiving in Spain on a portable cassette radio recorder. The variety of music they were programming was astounding: jazz and be-bop, Egyptian and Lebanese orchestral classics, Moroccan folk music, Indian film soundtracks, late sixties psychedelic rock, French chanteuse, etc. I had never heard anything so diverse transmitting from one source. After recording selected songs, I began capturing the commercials, bumper music spots, station IDs and news broadcasts. This process continued as I crossed the strait of Gibraltar and landed in Morocco where I spent the next two months.
Listening to local radio stations is a logical and effective way to immediately tap into the possibilities of what music styles exist in a country or region. My original intention of recording radio was to capture a snippet of a song so that I could play it for a clerk at a local record store to find out the artist name and song title and then purchase that album or cassette. As I began to record radio segments consecutively onto cassette, I noticed there was a strange, yet beautiful and informal sound collage being formed. Then I began manipulating the radio for this effect intentionally.
My aim was to create audio collage in real time, although I eventually became quite adept at editing segments together (Radio Algeria has more than 70 cuts, Radio Sumatra over 100 edits). Radio Morocco was the first collage I assembled in the regional/national radio source format.
After recording many hours of meticulously selected audio, I simply sequenced my favorite segments together to form an hour long mix which I felt represented the most satisfying listening experience for me. I had no idea that, 21 years later, it would become the first commercially released locale-specific radio collage. I employed a combination of AM, FM and shortwave broadcasts which featured everything from local Berber music to popular Moroccan and Egyptian songs and international news stations like the BBC, Radio France, and Radio China.