The Wandering Microphone
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The Wandering Microphone
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The Wandering Microphone is a project about adventurous music from all over the world introduced in the Netherlands through the PHILIPS record label between the 1950s and 1970s. An ode to diversity, an ode to vinyl.

PLANNING: research in 2022 / production in 2023 / book launch in 2024

The wandering microphone tells how Philips responded to the possibilities offered by the discovery of the electric record player and grew into an important distributor of ethnomusic in the 1950s and 1960s. With the advent of the gramophone, music from all over the world could be heard in every home. This gave an enormous impulse to the development and dissemination of this music from far-flung corners of the world. Philips saw great business opportunities and decides to record and produce music under its own label and to open recording studios in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Initially it was only about records for the local market, later recordings were made specifically for the western market.

The Wandering Microphone traces back to Philips record studios in Colombia, Ghana, Nigeria and Singapore. How did Philips operate in those countries? What did it mean for the development of world music that the record business in the countries concerned was in the hands of Western record companies such as Philips? Was there still a colonial-based relationship? Which music and musicians were selected? What changed when the production shifted from the local market to an international market? Did that influence the identity of the music and the musicians?

Meetings take place with (descendants of) local legends and (forgotten) music heroes who were involved in recording sessions in the Philips studio’s at the time.

The project also includes meetings with musicians from the current Dutch world music scene, who comment on the Philips records and developments in world music in the Netherlands. Musicians and bands that considered the music on the Philips record as a precursor, example and source of inspiration. 

The title ‘ the wandering microphone’ refers to a series of records that Phillips produced for UNESCO. ‘SONG AND SOUND THE WORLD AROUND. A series of sounds picked up by a wandering microphone in various parts of the world’ . This series was produced from UNESCO’s philosophy of equality and the pursuit of “mutual understanding” between cultures and the prevention of war arising from “the ignorance of each other’s ways and lives”. 

In the view of UNESCO, ‘The wandering microphone’ was the symbol of the curious person, who traced and captured the music of people from different cultures, and shows that influx from outside offers an opportunity to nourish and enrich yourself. The curious microphone offers the chance to get to know beautiful local musical treasures never heard before. Traditional and modern music from far away. Music that you could listen to over and over again, which makes you appreciate the music more and more, if you have an open mind.

The research will result in a book linked to a series of short films that can be viewed online, via QR_Codes. Films are ideally suited to bring a subject such as music to life. The combination of written and audiovisual information offers the opportunity to experience and absorb the subject in various ways, and to decide for yourself how to navigate through the book and the films.