By Mark Jenkins, May 27, 2021 at 11:16 a.m. PDT
When I spent a few days in Ubud, Bali’s cultural-tourism capital, gamelan music was rarely out of earshot.
The intricate percussive music — the principal thing that drew me to the island — clanged from shops, restaurants and abundant open-air performance spaces.
I expected to experience that ubiquity again when I returned recently, some 20 years later.
Instead, as I glided over the Indonesian archipelago, I heard thumping EDM, treacly pop and whole foundries of shrieking heavy metal.
Of course, I didn’t travel to Bali in person this time. The island and the rest of Indonesia are closed to international travelers because of covid-19, according to the latest State Department advisory. Neither could I have physically floated above the South Pacific. It was my cursor that did the hovering as it navigated Radio.garden, a website that portrays more than 33,000 streaming radio stations as individual green dots on a spinnable virtual globe that charts oceans, deserts and mountains but not national borders.
Radio Garden is a banquet for anyone who enjoys maps, international music and travel, and self-guided cultural studies. It began in 2016 as a temporary project of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, devised by interactive design firms Studio Puckey and Moniker. The site was such a sensation that co-designer Jonathan Puckey decided to keep it in operation after its initial run. The website, also available as an app, became an independent company in 2019 — just in time for the pandemic, which boosted usage by as much as 750 percent in some periods.