A retrospective of the past twelve months featuring Queen Elizabeth, Occupy Wall Street, The Arab Spring, the death of Osama Bin-Laden, the extreme weather conditions that caused nuclear accidents in Japan, flooding in the North East and fires across Texas, politicians like Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman, Ron Paul and Herman Cain making us proud, Michael Moore, Guido Sarducci, Charlie Sheen, Ali G, Newt Gingrich with music from PJ Harvey, Ry Cooder, Fleet Foxes, Bright Eyes, The Coasters, Bruce Springsteen, Gil Scott-Heron, Ashford & Simpson, John Barry, Tosca, Maceo Plex, Mickie & Sylvia, The Drifters, Amy Winehouse, Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell and many others.
Tributes to Steve Jobs, Jerry Leiber, Nick Ashford, Andy Rooney, Joe Frasier, Gil Scott Heron, Hubert Sumlin, Wild Man Fischer, Amy Winehouse, Clarence Clemons, Harry Morgan, Sylvia Robinson, Carl Gardner, Wildman Fischer, Phoebe Snow, Jack Lalane, and others
Some of the music in the hour:
“The Glorious Land” PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
“No Banker Left Behind” Ry Cooder – Pull Up Some dust and Sit Down
“Firewall” Bright Eyes – Firewall
“My First” Tosca – No Hassle
“Helplessness Blues” Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
“Poetry Man” Phoebe Snow (Phoebe Ann Laub, July 17, 1950 – April 26, 2011) – Phoebe Snow
“Jungleland (live)” Bruce Springsteen- Born to Run
(Clarence Anicholas Clemons, Jr., January 11, 1942 – June 18, 2011)
“You Know I’m No Good (live)” Amy Winehouse (14 September 1983 – 23 July 2011)
“Love is Strange” Mickey & Sylvia (Sylvia Robinson, March 6, 1936 – September 29, 2011)
“I’m New Here” Gil Scott-Heron (April 1, 1949 – May 27, 2011) – I’m New Here
Songs by Jerry Leiber (April 25, 1933 – August 22, 2011) and Mike Stoller:
“Three Cool Cats” The Coasters
“Kansas City” Wilbert Harrison
“Smokey Joe’s Cafe” – The Robins (Coasters)
“Spanish Harlem” Ben E. King (Jerry Leiber and Phil Spector)
Songs by Nickolas Ashford (May 4, 1941 – August 22, 2011) & Valerie Simpson:
“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell
“Solid” Ashford & Simpson – Solid
Public Historian Joey Plaster spent a year gathering 70+ interviews from people experiencing Polk Street’s transition from a working class queer neighborhood to an upscale entertainment district. Polk Street’s scene predates the modern gay rights movement. It was a world unto itself, ten blocks of low rent hotels, bars and liquor stores, all sandwiched in between the gritty Tenderloin, City Hall, and the ritzy Nob Hill: a home invented by people who had no other home.
For decades, the street had been a national destination for queer youth and transgender women, many of them fleeing abusive or unwelcoming homes. But by the mid-1990s, the last of the working class bars that formed the backbone of the Polk community were being replaced by a new bloc of mid-income businesses and residents.
Long-term Polk residents were incredibly emotional about these changes. Many considered the neighborhood to be their first real home. Now they saw their family’s gathering places evaporating. The conflict was sometimes dramatic: owners of one gay bar claimed that the new business association forced them off the street. A gay activist group made national news when they plastered the street with “wanted” posters featuring a photo of the new association’s president.
These intense reactions suggested a rich history, but I found that it had not been recorded. I feared it would be lost with the scene. I had prior experience as an oral historian. This was my first effort to find overlap with radio, which I’ve long felt is the best medium for broadcasting intimate, personal stories from “marginal” populations. —Joey Plaster
Mixes and mashes and seasonal samples, and song stories:
“Christmas Eve In Afghanistan, Again” (2010 / 3:30) Quil Lawrence
NPR talks to troops in a U.S. military hospital at Bagram Air Base, outside of Kabul. Quil Lawrence interviewed Sergeant Wallace Trahan, Sergeant Aaron Kelly, Sergeant Zachary Scoskie, and Colonel Diane Huey. Mix: Jim Wildman. Music: W.G. Snuffy Walden “The First Noel” Windham Hill Holiday Guitar Collection.
From Musicians in their own words, an NPR series produced by David Schulman: The French singer Camille Dalmais, better known as Camille, has many voices inside her. She makes her music by overlaying everything from a sniffle to a growl to an operatic F-sharp. She speaks about the intimacy of the French language, spirituality and finding a natural music in the sound of everyday speech.
From Hidden Kitchens, an NPR series by the The Kitchen Sisters (Davia Nelson & NIkki Silva): Imagine a Mozart Festival without a note of Mozart. Instead, more than 60 artists from around the world were invited to Vienna by director Peter Sellars and asked to pick up where the musical and social visionary left off, to create new works of art. Called “New Crowned Hope,” for the free-thinking Masonic Lodge in Vienna of which Mozart was a member, it was a month-long, genre-spanning event linking agriculture and culture, with food at its heart. It featured a Maori dance troupe; a Venezuelan street chorus singing a new opera by John Adams; new films from Chad, Iran and Paraguay; Mark Morris’ dance company; Chez Panisse founder and culinary activist Alice Waters; lunch ladies from across Europe; and farmers, chefs and seed-savers from throughout Austria. Aired on NPR Morning Edition. Mixed by Jim McKee of Earwax Productions. Music: John Adams, David Williamson, Frances Nelson, Sarah Folger & harmonia mundi, and Wieslaw Pogorzelski.
From Musicians in their own words: Beyond-Brazilian musician Cyro Baptista is fluent in the musical languages of samba, cabela, and yoyoma. Also, squirrel. He proves it in this piece, and demonstrates how he narrowly averted disaster during a recording session with the fearsome-to-some-people soprano Kathleen Battle. Cyro’s secret weapon? A vacuum cleaner hose. (More at PRX).
Sam is a talented and articulate young jazz musician, brought to the United States at age 5 by his Mexican parents. He stayed out of trouble, was drum major of his high school’s marching band, fell in love with playing jazz on the tenor sax, and got his diploma with honors — only to find that for an “illegal,” graduation marks a dead end. Though Sam dreams of attending college to study jazz performance, he hides his status from even his closest friends. He can’t legally work, drive, get financial aid, or even gain admission to some colleges. “American Dreamer” follows him from his high school graduation, through the following summer, as he struggles to raise money to continue his education and weighs the risks of working and driving illegally against his own desire to achieve his American dream. Aired on NPR Latino USA and All Things Considered.. A one-hour version is at PRX and Long Haul Productions (Dan Collison & Elizabeth Meister). Produced with help from the Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media and the National Endowment for the Arts.
W.H.O. World AIDS Day
The 1st of December A Day Without Art
Sister Agnes Ramashiga makes her rounds at Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto; 2000 patients check in daily, half are HIV positive. It’s “Just Another Day At the Biggest Hospital In the World,” a Radio Diaries by Joe Richman & Sue Johnson (Picture-Projects).
HIV-Positive teenagers, Tanya, Mark, and Tenisha, record audio diaries about living “The Positive Life”; produced by by Stephen Smith & Stephanie Curtis for American RadioWorks (photos and journals at ARW).)
And Trouble Came: An African AIDS Diary (CD at Arkiv Music) by Laura Kaminsky is a compositon for viola, cello, piano, and for a narrator, reciting poems, biblical verse, and stories of Tamakloe, a warrior, tailor, and AIDS victim.
AIDS once meant death. Now improved treatments keep HIV-positive people alive for decides. So what’s that like, being brought back from the dead; as when Jesus revived his dead friend “Lazarus;” by Krandall Kraus from his book Book: It’s Never About What It’s About.
“Letters to Butchie” are a dying mother’s writings to a son she’ll never see, produced by Dave Isay Sound Portraits (music: Nick Drake).
Voices from all sides of adoption. Stories about living with questions and searching for answers. We hear from birth families (mothers, siblings and a father), adoptees (both kids and adults), and various adoptive families including open adoption and international adoption (China).
This former National Guard Specialist has “surrendered the force that I carry, the weapon to those elected officials chosen by the American people.” She hopes the people inform themselves and choose wisely.
“Arabic Interrogator” (1:30) Sergeant John McCary
A U.S. Army soldier reports: “When you speak Arabic, you become the interface with the local population — which is 99% of the work in a counter-insurgency.” (McCary is a Truman National Security Project fellow; his January 2009 article in the Washington Quarterly was “The Anbar Awakening: An Alliance of Incentives” –pdf.)
US and Iraqi Special Operations Forces conduct a combat operation inside Sadr city, Baghdad in order to capture known insurgents and terrorists. The operation was conducted on an undisclosed date/time in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. US Army video by: SSG Ryan C. Creel.
From an HV/NPR series: Retired Navy Captain Ed Nicholson is an avid fly-fishermen. He realized fishing would be good therapy for disabled veterans. So he hooked up with Trout Unlimited and the Federation of Fly Fishers, and with private donations and volunteer guides, they began teaching wounded vets, including many amputees, how to fly-fish. Project Healing Waters, now regularly takes vets on these therapeutic fishing outings. These interviews were recorded in 2007 on Virginia’s Rose River Farm.
“Operation Homecoming: Among These Ruins” (3:30) Sergeant Helen Gerhardt
From an HV/NPR series: A Specialist in the Missouri Army National Guard reads from her email to family and friends about her first few days in Iraq, part of the NEA book/writing project Operation Homecoming. Guitar by Jess Atkins. (Read Ms. Gerhardt’s NYTimes article “Modern Love; Back From the Front, With Honor, a Warrior’s Truth”.)
We’re occupying the streets of Los Angeles; our demands: bring us stories…
“Pilgrim Land” (2005 / 0:43 excerpt) Tom Russell
“Old America” (3:32 excerpt)
“Bukowski #2 on the Hustle=” (2:08 excerpt)
“Honky Jazz” (4:14)
“Swap Meet Jesus” (4:21)
From the album Hotwalker: Charles Bukowski & A Ballad for Gone. An Americana ode to old L.A., the music, the culture, from beat outsiders to religious revivals to long gone radio sounds; with stuntman, circus midget, and actor Little Jack Horton.
“Hotwalker is the best Sam Peckinpah movie since Peckinpah died. It’s a ghostly jubilee, an audacious slab of Blue America. Narrated aby noir cowboy, Tom Russell, it is a singular recording, bound to be controversial — it’s not only going to ruffle feathers, but leave feathers scattered on the ground.”
—novelist-poet Luis Urrea
Based on a conversation with Edna Wofford about ESP, dreams and intuition. From the 2003 CD, Mayor of the Tennessee River. Artist David Greenberger of Duplex Planet has been collecting the thoughts, memories and stories from elderly Americans for more than a quarter century.
From birth, a young Native American has been bleeding from his chest. The government keeps him locked in a cell, refusing to heed his uncle’s warnings. A 3D ZBS adaptation of Cherokee writer Craig Strete’s short story from The Bleeding Man and Other Science Fiction Stories.
La Llorona — the weeping woman — is the Mexican equivalent of the bogeyman. The man she loved rejected her, in madness she drowned her children, then herself. Now she roams the night wailing “Aaay, Mis Hijos;” a scary story that keeps children from wandering at night: “La Llorona will get you.”
“I Want to Bite Your Hand” (2:03 excerpt) Gene Moss (MP3J mashup)
Gene Moss’s 1964 Beatles parody mixed w/ SFX by MP3J. Full vers at Mashuptown, “I Want to Bite Your Hand”” (2:50 mp3):
From the series Neighborhood Stories– Park Life, profiling the daily life of a community’s urban oasis: “Country Bobby” Lowry is the guardian of Walter Pierce Community Park in Washington, D.C. He’s been keeping an eye on the park for almost three decades, and knows more about how it than any city official — he knows the trees, the plants and the kids. In the first of four stories about the park, we meet this transplanted farm boy who never takes shortcuts in his work. See NPR’s has great photo gallery.
Utah’s Zion National Park draws 2.7 million visitors a year, and a major attraction for hearty hikers is a trek along the Grotto trailhead to Angel’s Landing. From the banks of the Virgin River, the yellow-and-red sandstone sides of Zion Canyon rise 2,000 feet. It feels like being inside a huge body. The canyon walls are the rib cage spread open and Angel’s Landing is like the heart.
The sounds of a St. Louis Cardinals’ baseball game are combined with the echoes of Scott Joplin’s ragtime and the distinctive calls of Bushy Wushy the Beer Man. This 39-year veteran beer vendor at Busch Stadium, he shares his love for the game, the crowd, and the communal spirit of St. Louis. Commissioned by Continental Harmony, a partnership of America Composers Forum, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the White House Millennium Council. Performed by Equinox Chamber Players, who premiered the work in their hometown of St. Louis.
“National Anthem” (1990 5:01) Gwen Macsai of Re:sound
Our “Home Team” guest host goes to games at her local minor league stadium, in Prince William, Virginia. After hearing the a host of different folk try to sing the Star-Spangled Banner there, she figures she could do better. That’s where the trouble begins.
“Rookie League” (1989 9:41) Barrett Golding
At the Helena Brewers ballpark in Montana, teens and early twenty-somethings get their first, and for most their only, taste of playing of pro baseball.
“Dug-Out” (1993 27:15) Terry Allen
The fictionalized history of two people: a man born in the late 1800s who runs away from home to play baseball, and a woman born in the early 1900s in a half-dugout (a small house partially built into the side of a slope or hill), who grows up to be a piano player and a beautician. Told by Terry Allen, Jo Harvey Allen, and Katie Koontz, with music by Terry Allen. Commissioned in 1993 by New American Radio. (“Radio Memories” self-interview with Terry Allen.)
Audio diaries document a decade of life with CF, a chronic, often deadly, genetic disease:
“Radio Diaries: My So-Called Lungs”” (2001 / 21:13) Joe Richman
A classic Radio Diaries: When this program premiered, Laura Rothenberg was 21 years old, or, as she likes to say, she already had her mid-life crisis a couple of years ago, and even then it was a few years late. Laura has cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that affects the lungs and other organs. People with CF lived an average of 30 years then (now it’s 37). Radio Diaries gave Laura a tape recorder and, for two years, she kept an audio diary of her battle with the disease and her attempts to lead a normal life with lungs than often betray her.
“My So-Called Lungs” was reported by Laura Rothenberg and produced by Joe Richman, for Radio-Diaries-dot-org, with support from the Open Society Institute and Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Deborah George was the Editor. Laura Rothenberg died in March 2003. Her memoir, Breathing For a Living was published a few months later. And Joe Richman had this Laura Rothenberg Remembrance on NPR.
In 2010, there were 1,770 lung transplants performed in the United States — the most ever in a single year. For a person with Cystic Fibrosis, the transplant may extend life by years — or it could lead to continued suffering and rejection of the new organ. This documentary follows two young people struggling with end-stage Cystic Fibrosis, and struggling with a decision about transplant. While most of us are just hitting our stride in our late 20s, Beth Peters and Brian Sercus are medicating, massaging and coaxing their lungs into lasting as long as possible. Producer Catie Talarski documented Beth and Brian for a year to understand what its like to live with this chronic disease.
The Quiet American (Aaron Ximm) sound-captures the forbidding warning signs rattling in a harsh wind and “Desert Sun” outside the nuclear Nevada Test Site north of Las Vegas.
Back in the early 1990s, SLC producer Scott Carrier found the Basin & Range, near Nevada”s “Battle Mountain,” beautiful, lonely, dreary, and full of sagebrush, solace and stories. And more Desert Solitudes.
Photos by David Matherly’s of deserts in the American West:
Leo Grillo locates lost pets in Los Angeles. He cares for animals, thousands of them. Today, his organization, D.E.L.T.A Rescue (Dedication and Everlasting Love to Animals), is the world’s largest animal rescue shelter.
A mid-90s visit to Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. Everyone knows this one of the places where the government developed the first atom bomb during World War II. But our host was interested in Chaos Theory, an elaborate mathematical description of turbulent systems like the weather, and possibly the stock market, and who knows what all else. Chaos Theory was all the rage in Los Alamos then. Along with the theory, it turned out there was also real chaos in Los Alamos. It was slinking up and down the streets late at night in the form of a feral dog. Produced for the radio series SoundPrint.
Beatrice is a white toy poodle, a neighbor, and “the most evil entity, force, energy known to man. Death to humans is a mere plop of a pebble in the ocean that is the evil that you are Beatrice. Evil Beatrice the white poodle.”
From Sonic Scenery, an exhibit I worked on at the natural history museum in Los Angeles a couple years ago. Composers were invited to record music specifically to be heard in wings of the museum. The visitor wears a headset, which plays the compositions when triggered by remote signals in the galleries. Experimental duo Matmos took it all the way by making audio environments for each of the seventeen dioramas in the North American Mammals hall. The timechart (above) was intended to cue the visitor to move from one window to the next, but you can read along for a similar effect.
In general, our work starts by taking an object, making sounds with that object, and working outward from those sounds in a free-associative manner, without a preconceived result or specifically targeted genre in mind.
In this case, we have had to reverse this process and have tried to think about the precise specifics of the North American Mammals hall and work to gather sounds that will evoke both the natural locale and the specific behaviors of the animals in the room. We decided to anchor our piece around the sounds of animals eating, breathing, and sniffing their environment, and to locate these noises of animal life against a backdrop of plateaulike drones generated with musical instruments associated with “Americana”: pedal steel, acoustic guitar, banjo, harmonica, and autoharp. Feeding peanut butter to a friend’s dog, we built up a basic library of mammalian lip-smacking, huffing, barking, whining, sniffling, and breathing noises, and combined this with a percussive battery of antler noises made by smacking deer antlers against each other and some softer rustling textures harvested by stroking and rubbing the pelt of a wolf.
The work is divided into miniature ‘cells,’ which stand in for the seventeen distinct dioramas/environments and animal species represented in the room, and this is split down the middle by a central section that corresponds to the large bison display at the far end of the room. Our work is intended to be a sound map of a walk through this room and is paced to coincide with a five-to-seven-minute counterclockwise walk through its contents
“17 Species of North American Mammals” (2:22 excerpt) Matmos
LA’s The Natural History Museum commissioned original music compositions to accompany their 2006 exhibit Sonic Scenery: Music for Collections. Matmos’ music used the vocal sounds of North American mammals.
One of America’s oldest roadside attractions is the Linesville Spillway in northwest Pennsylvania. Tourists toss bread; carp amass at the spillway’s edges: The fish are so thick that mallard ducks hop, skip and jump on the fish’s backs to compete for a slice of bread. Original music by Tim Fite, part of LHP’s song/story series.
Writer (Amazon), hunter, angler, outdoorsman, Norman Strung demonstrates the shrill sound and thrill found in calling for elk. (Miss ya, Norm: “Labradors [are] lousy watchdogs. They usually bark when there is a stranger about, but it is an expression of unmitigated joy at the chance to meet somebody new, not a warning.” –Norman Strung)
Father Rupe LaRock and son Joe provide a hunter’s perspective of the annual deer breeding cycle. “You can just smell the heat and smell the rut right in the air.” Another of the Deer Stories , produced with Gregory Sharrow at the Vermont Folk Life Center.
Shortly after the World Trade Center fell in autumn 2001, it became clear the United States would invade Afghanistan. Producer Scott Carrier decided he ought to go there too. Why? To see for himself: that’s what writers do. Who are these fanatics, these fundamentalists, the Taliban and the like? And what do they want?
For the weekend of 9/11/11, Hearing Voices from NPR presents Prisoner of Zion. Carrier narrates his trip to Afghanistan. With his young guide and translator, Najibulla, they tour the horrors of war.
Years later Naji tells Scott he must leave his homeland — the dangers for a translator have become extreme. Scott gets Najibulla accepted at Utah Valley University. Naji, it turns out, handles the Mormons quite well, while Scott, teaching at the same school, has a hard time with them. At the end Naji is graduating, about to get married, and start a new job; while Scott wonders whether he can stand teaching another year — or if he’ll wind up on the street like Naji.
→ From Afghanistan: A photo-audio-essay by Scott Carrier; with sounds, images, songs and prayers of the Afghan people.
Pasquale Spensieri spends his days driving around Brooklyn looking for dull blades. When he rings the bell on his truck, the owners of upholstery shops, restaurants and pizza parlors come out with knives and scissors to sharpen. Pasquale’s father first started sharpening knives during the Depression, with a pedal-operated grinding machine strapped to his back. At that time, there were hundreds of door-to-door grinders in New York. Today, at the age of 71, Pasquale is one of the last. Produced by Joe Richman and Emily Botein (WNYC) for their series New York Works.
Since the 1880s, Mohawk Indian ironworkers have been known for their ability to work high steel. From the Empire State Building to the the World Trade Center, generations of Mohawks have helped shape New York City’s skyline. Each week, they commute to Manhattan from their reservation in Canada, framing the city’s skyscrapers and bridges. In September 2001, after the fall of the Trade Center Towers, the sons and nephews of these men returned to the site to dismantle what their elders had helped to build.
A short symphony in pistons and rings, made from tractors recorded at the Reidsville, NC Antique Engine Show. All sounds are actual engines; the piece has no instruments or effects. Paul Overton is at: Dude Craft | Every Day is Awesome | PRX.
The ethanol-injected noise of cars, drivers, and fans at the annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, an ocean-side street race with top pro race-car drivers from around the globe. One-hundred-and-eighty thousand aficionados gather around a two mile course of Fast & Loud in downtown LB — 186mph avg, 200+ on the straightaways. Co-recorded by Joe Skyward.