The Importance of your Community Broadcaster

Posted on 02 August 2022

When Mildlife winning the ARIA best Jazz album 2021, heckles were raised in the community. Was Mildlife jazz? We are called to define what our musical perspectives are. Is the Jazz we make here a broad church? Are we inclusive of diverse musical contexts, diverse peoples, diverse cultures, etc? Does ARIA get Au Jazz? What parameters do we consciously and subconsciously place around the music we listen to? To what extent do we decide what we listen to? Why do we like the things we like? Are you consciously choosing what you listen to? 

Are the algorithms deciding?

Personally, I really dig Mildlife. My definition of Jazz doesn’t fit neatly into rigid parameters or neat pigeon holes. The edges are fuzzy. Actually it’s more like multiple interacting and overlapping venn diagrams. It’s messy. The term “Jazz Adjacent” sounds awkward, but appropriate. Maybe it’s focussing on the branches of The Tree rather than the trunk itself. Maybe we need to be thinking that much of the music created today is “Post Jazz”. Jazz inspired, diverse, but indefinable and not-quite-sure-what-it-is-yet. Freshness and innovation can come from blurring the boundaries, pushing the parameters, diluting the rigid borders. Arguably, the jazz many are nostalgic for now was redefining these ideas and boundaries when it was first released.

“Art is never created from scratch: it is impossible to ignore one’s own experiences that influence the creation of “new” work. The filter is omnipresent”

If you’ve been reading Dingo for a few editions now you’ve probably noticed my other writings on adventurous and fresh Australian Jazz, Jazz Adjacent and Post Jazz music: Boomskully, Gian Slater, Stu Hunter, The Necks. 

I probably discovered Mildlife through the diverse listening offered at my local favourite community broadcaster in Melbourne, PBS 106.7fm. Every 2 hours there’s another show, offering a different presenter, and an offering of a different musical world; all equally interesting and diverse. You might get Homebrew (locally made music) followed by Indian beats, followed by a hip-hop show, followed by Electronica and then Free Jazz. It’s all good.

I was probably introduced to Harvey Sutherland via PBS too, in the overlapping Venn diagram of the “handball pass” from Friday afternoon’s “Tomorrowland” program with Edd Fischer to DJ Manchild presenting “The Breakdown”.

We cannot underestimate the significant role that our community broadcasters play in the development, encouragement and representation of the diverse, interesting, difficult to pigeon hole and often challenging music we make. 

They turn us onto the music we don’t know yet we love. 

This human curation differs fundamentally from the digital algorithms we are subjected to. Often these presenters are worldwide experts in their chosen field and people listen online from around the world. It is the human curation of their programs that turn us onto the things we don’t know yet that we like. Care and Context come through strongly. For me, I developed my “mind’s ear” of what sound context from Steve Robertson’s presentation of Jazz on Saturday. The details are important - who played on the session? When was it recorded? After a while; you know what Rudy Van Gelder’s parents’ lounge room sounds like, and Francis Wolff’s iconic photography becomes alive. But, the human curation was important too - “Why is this thing great?” It turned me onto the things I did not know yet I loved.

For me, PBS, RRR, Eastside and others are specifically the skeleton of our music scene. They are the rebar of our structural concrete. They provide the structure, the form. Without this robust (yet mostly invisible) representation, we would be just an ugly lump of water, fats and proteins. Yet bones are fragile and brittle if not cared for correctly. So yes, conscious listeners, I’m advocating you take some calcium tablets for your ears……