En Route to Timbuktu

Regional sounds and degraded signals via ShortWaveMusic


SoundCloud has gotten so massive, it can be forgiven that accounts as fascinating as ShortWaveMusic manage to have as few as 253 followers, as was its count this morning. ShortWaveMusic, as the name suggests, is a collection of recordings of regional music from around the world. Its self-description is as follows:

ShortWaveMusic is a global sound project dedicated to preserving the world’s musical traditions and folklore as heard on local, regional, and international radio. I started the project in 2005 from a basement in Cambridge, MA, and it has since grown into an annual expedition to various far-flung parts of the globe. Previous installments of ShortWaveMusic have been recorded in Socotra, Mali, Bulgaria, Ibiza, and the United Arab Emirates, and will continue in Somaliland in 2014.

Recordings are made “on location” and then serialized over the course of 8-10 months at my Web site. My long-term goal is to tell the story of international broadcasting in the 21st century by capturing the extraordinary and varied ways in which people continue to communicate by radio, despite the advent of newer technologies. All recordings are archived and catalogued for permanent preservation, so that this living library of radiophonic sound will be available to future generations.

This “living library of radiophonic sound” has over 170 track so far, including this one, “recorded en route to Timbuktu”:


To say that it is well beyond the recognition databases of Shazam is an understatement. The audio is presented as a freeform medley of snatches of sound recorded around the world, like someone spinning a radio dial, albeit from the vantage of a rapidly moving satellite. The pleasure is as much in the texture of degraded signals as it is in the music itself.

Track originally posted for free download at soundcloud.com/shortwavemusic. The project is by Myke Dodge Weiskopf, more from whom at myke.me.

4 thoughts on “En Route to Timbuktu

  1. Thanks for the shout-out, Marc. I should note that SoundCloud only hosts the most recent season of ShortWaveMusic; there are hundreds and hundreds of recordings from prior seasons (2005-2011) at my Web site, along with other field recordings, sonic artifacts, and exterior productions.

    As far as SoundCloud followers go … well, I’ve been doing this project for almost a decade and working with shortwave for almost 25 years. Those of us who are lucky enough to have a vision have an obligation to pursue it. The Internet is ephemeral, people are fickle. We’ll see who else remains standing.

    Thanks for shining a light.

  2. (Also, I should note that the track you previewed above is a composite generated from the many recordings featured in the 2012 season of ShortWaveMusic. It was meant as a sampler of what was to be presented during that year. Our regular postings aren’t edited or layered in any way except to present one song at a time.)

  3. Radius Episode 42: ShortWaveMusic

    ShortWaveMusic «ALL NIGHT FLIGHT» 01:10:58


    «ALL NIGHT FLIGHT» is an immersive nocturnal ambient sound excursion in honor of World Listening Day 2013. «ALL NIGHT FLIGHT» is a wide-ranging sonic odyssey which reflects ecologies of many kinds: environmental (ocean sounds, wildlife, atmospheres), religious (calls to prayer and ritual singing), radiophonic (data transmissions, Morse code, folkloric music), and beyond. The listener experiences “natural” sounds juxtaposed with “unnatural” sounds, robotic speech mixed with human speech, field recordings of electronic amplification carrying human sound across rural environments. Weiskopf’s hope is that the listener will be able to hear the world as he does: an endlessly recombinant sonic field where every noise, song, and sound, regardless of its source, takes its place in a perfect, haunting, and eternal arrangement.

    Performances start between 9 and 10 PM PST and run all night, mixed continuously, until 5 or 6 AM. Weiskopf rejects traditional concert settings in favor of remote, rural, desert, or undocumented areas.

    This edition, produced exclusively for Radius, is a 73-minute distillation of the inaugural «ALL NIGHT FLIGHT» performed, created, and mixed live by Myke Dodge Weiskopf in the desert of Joshua Tree, California, on 20 July 2013, 10 PM – 5 AM PST.


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