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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thruout the hour, we hear excerpts from the tracks “Zhangmu: Crossing A Landslide Area” (2300 meters above sea level), “Palung: A Yak Caravan is Coming (5400m), “Cho Oyo Basecamp: Morning” (5700m), “Jobo Rabzang: A 6666 metre peak in the Cho Oyu Himal”, “Camp 3: Neighbours On Oxygen” (7500m), “Summit: Only slight breeze on the summit at 8201m.” Also this piece “sampled and processed from a cassette of Tibetan music.”
For twenty years, Reverend Robert Shields, of Dayton, Washington, kept a written record of absolutely everything that happened to him, day and night. For four hours each day, Shields holes himself up in the small office in his home, turns on his stereo, and types. His diary, at 35 million words, is believed the world’s longest. A Sound Portraits production, on the CD Holding On: Dreamers, Visionaries, Eccentrics And Other American Heroes (and companion book)
“Nick in SLC: Home School to High School” (1999 / 16:39) Radio Diaries
For RD’s Teenage Diaries project, they gave “tape recorders to young people around the country to report on their own lives. They conduct interviews, keep an audio journal and record the sounds of daily life — usually collecting more than 40 hours of raw tape over the course of a year. Nick Epperson of Salt Lake City began his audio diary when he was 13. The talented singer/cellist music, but has a hard time making friends.
Erica was a private investigator; now she’s a radio producer. The skills overlap: you ask questions, try to figure what happened, and make a report. (None of the interviewees were clients when she recorded them.) Produced by Larry Massett.
A good neighbor goes bad in the producer’s DC block. Dozens of rats are infesting her yard and attacking other houses. Produced for This American Life, “Neighbors,” and part of Katie’s Neighborhood Stories series. End music: Music: “Cheval Noir” Fug, Ready For Us..
“I can break the law because… I am the law.” Sleepless in Tbilisi. A twenty-four hour tour, from Turkish baths to Batumi beaches, through the country of Georgia, in Southwest Asia. High-speed sight-seeing, driven by the accidental tourguide: “a ‘detective,’ or ‘special police,’ or ‘security force.’ It’s not clear. Sometimes he even says ‘KGB,’ though that no longer exists… does it?” Music: “Dachrilis Simgera (Song for Wounded)” Tbilisi Vocal Ensemble, Georgian Folk and Sacred Songs (2002). (Annotated transcript.)
Part 1: A bike trip through Yellowstone and Teton National Parks, into windstorms, between snowbanks, and in the middle of a bison herd. Interviewees: Rick McAdam, Yellowstone Park Ranger; Geyser Gazers at Old Failthful; Kathy Urbigkit of Spin a Yarn, Dubois WY; Wolves in West Yellowstone MT.
Part 2: Finishing seven hundred miles of miking and mic-ing in Wyoming, riding north on the east side of Yellowstone,. encounting killers, hunters, special forces, and trips to Heaven. Interviewees: Dan Herring, Herring & Sons Taxidermy, Thermopolis WY; Special Forces members Buck Wilkerson (US Army retired) and David Owens (Tech Sergeant, US Air Force) at Honor Our Special Operations Forces Weekend, Memorial Day, Cody WY; Pastor William Hardrick, Kingdom of Heaven Embassy visiting his kids in Riverton WY (photo gallery).
The paving of America as seen from the shoulders and sidewalks of our country’s roads. Musings-in-motion recorded during a 5000 trek from Arizona to Georgia to Maine. “It is becoming illegal to travel this country by foot.” Music by Jeff Arntsen. (A longer version of this story is at Third Coast International Audio Festival.)
Bhutan is a land of prayer flags, Buddhism, and, like everywhere else: poverty, poor health, and domestic violence, Queen Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuk believes her job is to increase the Gross National Happiness. To do that she treks into the most remote corners of the country, meeting people she’d otherwise never see, asking about their lives, helping them with health care issues, and working to end mistreatment of woman. Outer Voices accompanied her into an unmapped corner of the high Himalayas — they are the first foreign journalists invited to accompany a Bhutanese monarch on a trek, and to interview the Queen.
The Queen of Bhutan, Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuck, with her people (photo: Jack Chance)
Special thanks to Her Majesty Queen Ashi Sangay Choden Wangchuk, the staff and clients of RENEW Bhutan, Tshering Uden Penjor, Françoise Pommaret, Ariana Maki, the Royal Body Guard and the Royal Bhutan Army, the Zulikha Nunnery, Hotel Zhi Waling, and the people of Daifam, Zamtari, and Shinka Lauri villages.
RENEW = Respect Educate, Nurture and Empower Women, “an organization dedicated to the empowerment of vulnerable women of our society so that they can emerge as socially and economically independent members of their communities.”
From the British prime minister’s speech to the House of Commons, June 4 1940, preceding the Battle of Britain:
We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
From the benefit CD Path To Zero – A Prayer Cycle I(video below). Proceeds go to Global Zero, an international organization dedicated to nuclear disarmament. Some voices on the album: Sting (on “Atomic Mother”), Robert Downey Jr., Sinead O’Connor, Jonathan Davis of Korn, Jon Anderson of Yes, Angelique Kidjo, and Pakistan’s Rahat Fateh Ali Khan; along with archival tape, including a previously unreleased recording of Jim Morrison, performing a poem on the plight of Native Americans in Los Alamos, New Mexico. (Face: Prayer Cycle | Space: Jonathan Elias.), and J. Robert Oppenheimer, “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”
The recollections of Hiroshima survivor Kaz Suyeishi, rendered by two young Japanese woman, Kazuka and Kiyo. Alvin Huntsman performed the improvisational music by banging, scraping, and bowing several large sculptures by Gary Bates, including the “Wind Wagon,” a 35-foot multi-stringed banjo-like structure.
Land of 10K Homeless is a Minneapolis music-audio documentary project by Voices of the Streets, “An Artistic Portrayal of Homelessness in Minnesota.” Thier “website of artistic activism provides a space for the disadvantaged to share their stories.” Producer Danny Burke created this mix of the main theme, blended with interviews with individuals staying at a family shelter in Minneapolis.
After leaving the Marines, George Hill became addicted to drugs and alcohol. He soon found himself on the streets of Los Angeles, homeless for 12 years. But the kindness of another homeless man changed everything. Hill is now off the streets, working for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and pursuing a computer information systems degree at Cal State University. Recorded in Santa Monica, CA; part of StoryCorps’Griot Initiative.
A portrait of the self-named, Crazy John, who lives on the streets of Austin, Texas. He tells writer Carmen Delzell about his life. Carmen was homeless for a couple of years in the early 1990s. This piece was made after she got on her feet and was living in Austin. Produced by Jay Allison (PRX).
From One Thing: The producers spent a year talking to refugees living in USA about why they had to leave their country, how they got here, and what “One Thing” they brought with that reminds them of home. In this first of several stories from the series, the Sher Ali family, a mother and nine children, was the first Afghan family to be resettled in Amarillo, Texas in 2000. They fled the Taliban in the middle of the night with only the clothes they wore. Their one thing was a photo of their father. (Produced for Weekend America w/ photo gallery.)
The stories of Burmese refugees, the Karen people, recorded in the camps on the Thailand-Burma border, and in their new American homes. Thru it all their music preserves their culture. Part of The Mountain Music Project.
The One Thing for the Augustin family was their home movies. Their religious beliefs forced them out of Iraq: Mom Nujood is a Chaldean Christian and Dad Abdullahad is a Latin Catholic. The Augustins left a comfortable life in Baghdad for Jordan, where limited opportunities siphoned much of their savings. They arrived in Detroit, where son Arkan takes pre-med courses at the local community college, while working part-time at a grocery store. (Produced for Weekend America: From Iraq to Detroit.)
Starting with the fall of Saigon in April 1975, refugees from Vietnam awaited approval to move to the US and other countries. By 1979, there were almost 62,000 Vietnamese in refugee camps, with more than 140,000 people displaced from Cambodia and Laos. Portland, Oregon, was one of the medium-sized US cities that dealt with the relatively sudden influx of every major ethnic group (Vietnamese, Lao, Hmong, Mein and Cambodian) from Southeast Asia. More than 25 former refugees were interviewed for radio piece, and movie below.
A quest for amnesia victims — it happens a lot more in movies, books and TV shows than real life. An attempt to find someone who has really had amnesia, to give someone amnesia, and to get it. Aired on This American Life “Get Over It!” and “The Friendly Man.”
A sonic journey documenting one woman’s loss of reality and descent into mental breakdown; a first-person account, with the voices of her friends who witnessed her collapse. Available as an audiobook: “Breakdown and Back.”
Interviews with Merry Pranksters Mountain Girl (Carolyn Garcia) and Hardly Visible (George Walker); mixed with audio from the Prankster archives and other 60s esoterica. Produced for PRI Weekend America. (Above photo: courtesy of Zane Kesey.)
The legend is of a shadowy soul traveling the countryside as singer, preacher, outlaw, teacher, of a hard boozin’, brawlin’, womanizin’ Blues Man. Well, that man had a name: Charley Patton, born around 1890 in the heart of the delta.
Mormons believe Native Americans are descendants of the ancient House of Israel. It’s a Mormon mission to bring them back to the Kingdom of God. So they brought children, mostly Navajo, from their reservation homes, and placed them in Mormon foster families across the West. From 1954 to 1996, more than 20,000 kids went through the Indian Student Placement Program. Producer Kate Davidson spent a year interviewing people about their experiences. Her story, edited by Deb George, ran on the Worlds of Difference series from Homeland Productions.
“Take the road toward the top secret army base. Go past Muskrat Spring until you get near Salt Mountain.” A statue of a Hawaiian chief overlooks the Utah desert, with a plaque reading: “Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono. Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono,” the motto of the kingdom of Hawaii: “The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness.” A tale of two states, lost tribes, and the Polynesians of Skull Valley who named their town, Iosepa, after Joseph Smith III.
Song & Memory: Rebel Chef Anthony Bourdain is known for his raucous ways in the world of the professional kitchen, detailed in his book “Kitchen Confidential.” We asked him to put away his pans and think back to when he was a kid — is there a song from childhood that brings it all back? Bourdain can pinpoint his desire sex-drug-rock n’ roll start to a single song: “96 Tears” by ? and the Mysterians. (The Song & Memory series was produced for PRI Weekend America.)
Musicians in their own words:Trudy Pitts and her husband, drummer Bill “Mr C.” Carney do a first-person duet. Trudy is an unsung hero of the Hammond B-3 electric organ. With her husband, Mr C, they’ve played with the Lionel Hampton, Clark Terry and Pat Martino. Their 50s R&B band, the Hi-Tones, featured a young sax player: name of John Coltrane. Their most rewarding musical partnership, though, is the one they share with each other. (MITOW stories were produced for NPR and are archived at PRX)
The Maddox Bros. & Rose were America’s Most Colorful Hillbilly Band. In the 1930s, 40s & 50s, the four brothers and sister/singer Rose paraded thru America in their colorful Cadillacs and cowboy outfits. “Their costumes make Liberace look like a plucked chicken,” said Tennisee Ernie Ford.
Born to sharecroppers in Boaz, Alabama, they rode the rails and hitch hiked to California in 1933, where they formed the band. Their sound was both old-timey and western swing; their rhythms helped plant the roots of rockabilly. Ginna Allison’s sound-portrait features interviews with Rose Maddox, Tennesse Ernie Ford, Cliffie Stone, and her co-prodcuer on this piece, TJ Meekins of KVMR-Nevada City CA. (Images: Maddox Bros. & Rose: Myspace, Rockin’ County Style)
A preacher’s son, met in a North Carolina thrift shop, comes over the house to play guitar, and talk Jesus, G chords, and Gilligan’s Island. Carmen’s grandmother would not approve. Produced by Jay Allison for This American Life (PRX).