We Return Triumphant

That’s the name of a really nice live piece by XISLE, the fabulous American synth trio from the 1980s, and they were very much on my mind last night as I made my own triumphant return to StillStream after a “short break” that stretched into several years. I had some preshow jitters and wasn’t sure my rig would work, and there was something weird with my IRC client that forced me to use the Mibbit-based webchat (and endure a constant stream of ad banners!), but everything came off without a hitch.

Several of my friends, in between compliments on my live improvised on-air set (what I call an “ambient rant”), asked me: “Why now? And why StillStream, again… why not your OWN network?” Those are fair questions, and the answers are pretty straightforward.

When my friend Darrell Burgan announced that his personal commitments were making it impossible for him to keep running the StillStream radio network — its automated DJ/server “Wally”, its podcast engine “Rufus”, its huge repository of ambient music (and the online licensing system that allowed it to legally play non-Creative Commons tracks by artists who believed in and supported the station, including me), and its website and chatroom — there was a lot of wailing among the faithful. StillStream was an amazing site: great music, a friendly and close-knit band of DJs, and a fabulous community of listeners around the world. But Darrell ran the station single-handed aside from DJing, and it was expensive and exhausting. He’d earned a rest.

The folks at electro-music.com stepped in and took over the site with Darrell’s blessing, but that switchover came at a good time for me to begin my hiatus from public musical life, what I like to call one of my “silent periods”. The transition period was rough in spots and saw a lot of the original DJs moving on, either temporarily or permanently… and then a lot of the E-M staff who’d helped with the transition moved on as well, leaving the station in the hands of a small, technically adept, committed, and gracious staff.

It was to that staff that I made a request for a Sunday time slot for my return last month, and they welcomed me and helped me through my technical hiccups and got me back on the air. No, it’s not quite the station I left years ago… many of my friends are gone, and listenership is down a few percent from its peak. But it’s stable, reliable, well-run, and most importantly, I don’t have to build and maintain it myself — to say nothing of building up an audience near what comes to StillStream every day!

Running a show online with the possibility of a live improv set once a week forces a tremendous discipline on me. I was never in better playing shape than I was when I was on StillStream, and I’ve slipped a bit… okay, a LOT… since leaving. This gives me a chance to get my chops back and re-establish a weekly routine for my music that I find enormously helpful. I was amused at the fact that even two years after leaving, I would still get twitchy on Sunday nights, feeling like something was missing that I was supposed to be doing…

So: to Joel, John, Harry, Rebekkah, Eric, Scott, and Joe — thanks for the warm welcome and I’ll do my best not to let you down.

And: to Allen, Brad, Gordon, Mark, and all the other DJs who have gone before… yes, and you too, Darrell… watch this space. I don’t mind being a bellwether… or, if you prefer, a canary in a coalmine.

My show, Spiral, airs Sunday nights, 9 PM to 11 PM Central Time (USA), which is StillStream time by tradition. I hope to see you online in chat, and even if you don’t feel like visiting, I hope you’ll enjoy my musical offerings.

mrSpiral

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