From the time of his arrival in Morocco in 1947 Paul Bowles wrote regularly to PGH of his discovery and appreciation of Moroccan musics. In 1951, for example, he wrote about an evening of Berber music accompanied by dancing, self-immolation, blood-letting and blood-drinking.
At the end of the description he expressed his astonishment that this ancient music was still being performed and had never yet been recorded commercially. He also expressed his fear that with the encroachment of European popular music Morocco’s time-honoured traditions would disappear. In the meantime, Glanville-Hicks was pursuing an interest in non-Western music and forging a mutually useful relationship with John Marshall and Chadbourne Gilpatric, staffers at the Rockefeller Foundation, an organisation that she knew offered funding for ethnomusicological projects. In 1956 Glanville-Hicks was pressing the Foundation to fund a visit to the US of the Indian musician and music administrator Narayana Menon.
Bowles that year reported to her that he had begun recording Berber music, bribing the performers with money and kif. “Your assurances as to the possibilities of getting it into more permanent form, on records, are very encouraging. What I should really like is to make a last-minute (and dramatic, very likely) attempt to get more myself in more distant spots where perhaps the Army of Liberation has not yet begun its campaign—if any still exist—and for that it would be essential to have outside financial assistance. Not a great deal, but enough to pay for gasoline, food, shelter and tape, as well as the inevitable and necessary emoluments one has to give”. When she suggested he obtain external funding he responded, “Had you not mentioned it I shouldn’t have thought of it, but I must say it seems a perfectly valid idea. … Like any fanatic I’m persuaded of the importance of getting down this music immediately, before it is destroyed by the furiously determined deculturizing bureau of the now so-called Revolution” (letter of 22 July 1956, in Miller, In Touch, 269). When she visited him in Tangier later that year they discussed the proposal and he decided to keep his car and chauffeur in the hope of using them on a recording trip. By the time he came to navigate the Rockefeller application process he had conceived a comprehensive collection of the art and folk music of Morocco and an accompanying book. His plans became increasingly urgent when he saw that folk musicians were being sent to concentration camps and that Berber music could no longer be heard on Moroccan radio.
In December 1956 he published an article titled “Letter from Morocco” in Nation, describing the variety of music in Morocco, its ancient traditions and complexity, and explaining that so far none of it was available on a commercial recording. At the same time Glanville-Hicks informed John Marshall at the Rockefeller Foundation that Bowles spoke the three languages prevalent in the country, that his chauffeur spoke the necessary dialects and that Bowles then had a contract with Random House for a book that could focus on Moroccan music. Over lunch and other meetings with Marshall she pursued that discussion and by early 1957 they had concluded that it was a project that the Library of Congress would support. Writing to Henry Cowell, who had just been in India lecturing on Oriental influences on American music, Glanville-Hicks confided that the Foundation was prepared to fund Bowles’s project if the Library of Congress could facilitate it. After a visit to Kenya in 1957 Bowles was even more keen, aware of the ironies that just as the technological facility to make the recordings had become available the music itself was rapidly disappearing. After Jane Bowles suffered a stroke that year, however, Glanville-Hicks advised Bowles to put the recording project aside, and by March 1958 he was so despondent about the political situation in Morocco that he told Glanville-Hicks he was considering recording in some other part of Africa.
Bowles was finally awarded the grant and in a visit to New York in February 1959 he was given instructions in the operation of the Ampex tape recorder supplied. Back in Morocco he became enmeshed in government bureaucracy but worked around it by getting the American consulate to supply a document with an impressive array of seals, stamps and signatures. His fellow travellers were Christopher Wanklyn, who spoke Maghrebi and owned the Volkswagen they were to travel in, and Mohammed Larbi, a Moroccan who had recently escorted a British expedition on a journey through the Sahara. Over the next five months and in four stages they travelled 25,000 miles throughout Morocco and recorded 60 hours and 250 episodes of music. In letters to Harold Spivacke at the Library of Congress Bowles reported that he had captured Jewish music, the muezzins of Fez, Soussi music from Marrakech and modern popular music. To Glanville-Hicks he reported on the extraordinary rhythms of the music of Tafraout and described an event in Essaouirra that lasted for ten nights. In 1972 the Library of Congress released a two-disc set of the recordings and a few years later when Glanville-Hicks asked him for a copy he replied that his own had her initials on them because in his mind they belonged to her and had been made for her benefit.