Thursday, July 04, 2013


c. 2013 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

One of the most curious things about having an iPhone is that I notice it has caused me to nearly abandon my home office. I used to spend leisure hours doing research or catching up on messages from friends around the country. But having a top-of-the-line mobile device seems to have altered my perceptions. Communication comes in real time, instead of through moments devoted to reflection. I tend to leave traditional correspondence for later.
Still, the habit of pausing to read e-mail has its place.
Recently, I sorted through a few pages of leftover messages in my Yahoo! mailbox. There amid the clutter of news, guitar ads, record offerings and political posts was a solicitation from Radio Wonderland, the ongoing music project headed by my old friend Joshua Fried.
Joshua and I first crossed paths in Ithaca, New York, in 1979. I was studying television broadcasting, and he was a young college student with incredible artistic visions. He performed live while mixing audio from tape loops on reel-to-reel recorders. The rest of us were busy recycling ideas offered by the ‘Punk Rock’ explosion. But he had a creative viewpoint unlike anyone in our circle of friends. Only later, after moving back to Ohio, would I comprehend that his work was literally ‘the music of tomorrow.’
Joshua’s message was on behalf of a crowdfunding effort through USA Projects. The idea was simple, to raise funds by having fans donate financial support. In this case, the result would be a vinyl recording of Radio Wonderland material:

“Two years ago I set aside performing to figure out how to share RADIO WONDERLAND in recorded form. DVD? Web video? Interactive game? The answer: all of the above—but a music album comes first. Because at the heart of this mashup of performance, props, theory, media and tech is the MUSIC.”

The crowdfunding idea to achieve this goal was revolutionary, yet not completely new. Indeed, the tradition has roots in antiquity. Authors from centuries ago used a similar method to finance the publication of books. More recently, music groups like Marillion and Rhino Bucket have used the strategy to fund new recordings.
A mutual friend who still lives in Ithaca sent his own message about the project. With excitement, he observed that Joshua’s work was more ambitious than anything we could have imagined in those yonder days. So it was appropriate to produce a recording through a process that transcended the stale business model of old-style, record label releases.
I contacted Joshua and pledged my support. On the USA Projects website, I chose a donation level that would yield not only a digital download of the album, but also a signed, vinyl copy as well, with complete cover graphics. As a lifelong record collector, I could do no less.
But along with my note, in typical ‘Thoughts At Large’ style, I added a question about the boom box he used in live performances. It looked very similar to my own, a vintage Sanyo M9935K. Was it possible, I wondered, that we both had the same retro device?
My Sanyo was an artifact from the era when such large, multi-speaker units were popular. Most consumers desired these excessive creations because of their ability to blast high-volume sound from radio sources, or cassette tapes. In personal terms, I chose that particular model because it had shortwave radio bands in addition to AM and FM reception.
Joshua responded to my question with a perceptible hint of amusement. He revealed that his own device was a close relative, the M9927K.
In order to help promote his crowdfunding campaign, I sent a link for his page to friends including those at Davie Allan’s ‘King of the Fuzz’ fan forum.
A bit of research clarified the nature of the crowdfunding group Joshua was using:

“USA Projects is a program created by United States Artists (USA), a nonprofit grantmaking and artist advocacy organization that has awarded over $17 million to America’s finest artists in the last six years. USA Projects hosts an online community where artists can post projects for funding and connect with those who love and support artists. At USA Projects, our goal is to help artists successfully navigate the challenging world of online fundraising for their projects. Our expert team provides educational services, from fundraising 101 to case studies and best practices to project development and outreach support. A total of 75% of all artists who have turned to USA Projects have succeeded in funding their projects. USA Projects offers a patent-pending matching fund program, the only one of its kind, which encourages and leverages contributions to help artists succeed faster. All donations are tax deductible because they simultaneously support artists’ projects and the nonprofit mission of United States Artists: to invest in America's finest artists and to illuminate the value of artists to society.”  

I was surprised to note that the roster of ‘disciplines’ cited by the group included architecture & design, crafts & traditional arts, dance, literature, media, music, theater arts and visual arts.

Note: As of this writing, the Radio Wonderland project was successful.

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