MOSS Manifesto

Besides being “a music blog, a micro monographic magazine and a compilation, all rolled into one” (from the project’s press release), MOSS aims to investigate a conceptual problem that I find very interesting: the relationship between Radio (in this case music radio) and the internet. It’s a topic on which many people, far more qualified than myself, have written and spoken about. Here’s my bit.

In the early days of movie downloading, I had a pressing architectural problem: I could only watch movies at my desktop computer, sitting in my office chair, with a keyboard and a mouse in front of me. That’s not how I watched movies: I sat on my couch, in front of the tv. The desk made me restless, the chair suggested action. If the movie was slow, I’d start browsing, checking my email, etc. Obviously I wasn’t alone because, shortly after, a lot of solutions appeared to take viewing back to the couch: WiFi TVs, VGA adapters, cheaper laptops, tablets, etc. The problem clearly was: how do we watch movies?
The question of how we listen to the Radio is, in my opinion, even more problematic, because it doesn’t just involve the way we listen to it (hint: in a far more complex way than we watch Tv), but questions the very nature of the medium. Let me explain. Radio has always been a stream, long before the internet. Traditionally, it has no remote control, and studies have shown that listeners rarely change station: if they don’t like something, they might turn it down, or off, instead. (This is true for home use: in cars, people tend to focus more on what they are listening to, and more likely to switch channel: hence, the preset buttons) So, provided that people have decent speakers for their PCs (and most people do now), streaming seems to be an excellent means to broadcast via the web. And it is: today you can easily tune to stations all over the world, sometimes a thrilling geo-cultural sonic experience. Of course it’s 20th century radio, just broadcasted differently.

As we all know, internet culture has produced its own kind of audio broadcast, the Podcast, web native and user generated. Yet it’s still good old time-based radio, with a temporal beginning, middle and end. Also, the formats are frequently those of classic radio: talk radio, music shows, comedy, etc. Unfortunately, I have heard very few truly innovative Podcasts (in terms of the lexicon of the medium). Some people experiment, but hey: I’ve been doing that long before the web, and Radio Art has been a genre for decades. It seems that the majority of Podcasts are just classic radio formats (often of the boring kind), converted to mp3 and distributed.

Recently, a new form of Internet Music Radio has appeared, the streaming service automated selection. Every online music provider (Spotify, Itunes, etc.) offers a “radio service”, based on your musical tastes inferred from your searches, or even compiled analyzing your whole music library. You get a 24/7 stream of music you haven’t heard, but you will certainly like. It sounds cool, if you don’t ever want to discover different music (an experience that often happens with radio, on or offline). Or you never want to hear anything that might challenge your beliefs. Or perhaps you think that serendipity doesn’t matter, or doesn’t apply to you. Pretty absurd, if you ask me. This is not radio: an endless stream of the same music does not fit any definition of broadcast. It’s a silence filler, a porn-like music experience (another field where people only watch what they will certainly like), sonic gratification, acoustic wallpaper – anything but radio.*

In MOSS, I tackle the subject from a different perspective. I take a very old and established radio language, words and music, and execute it using different media, in this case written text and song streaming, taking full advantage of online resources. Songs are grouped by theme, and often come from very distant musical styles. Each track has its own mini essay, that includes relevant links to other versions, live performances, videos, related websites and Wikipedia pages – plus a stream of the tune itself. One can read while listening, before or after; start from any point in the page, choose not to read and just listen – or viceversa. The songs can be browsed by theme or by genre, and searched by keyword and artist. Comments, and song suggestions, are open.

So yes, MOSS is a music blog, a micro monographic magazine and a compilation. But, the way I see it, it’s first and foremost a Radio Show, with a voice (hopefully original and informative) and a lot of music.
The present MOSS format is partly derived from Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour: “an eclectic, freeform mix of music, centered around a theme such as Weather, Money and Flowers”.

Sergio Messina

* The latest fad is the VIP curated playlist (in many cases hardly an improvement from the automated selection), and mega corporate global streaming radio stations. Really? Is this the best Apple or Spotify can come up with?