Offbeat retreats and obscure tours thru the heart of Americana:
“Losing It at Universal Studios” (4:37) Mark Allen
Temporarily insanity during a tour of Universal Studios in southern California. So many cool things to see, to do, to tour. The writer is overwhelmed by the magnificence of it all, and pretty much loses his mind. Based an Mark Allen’s web essay “I Suffered Stendhal Syndrome At Universal Studios Hollywood!.”
Boonville is a small community in Northwest California, founded in 1862, a few hundred feet in elevation, with few hundred residents. And… the town has it’s own language, Boontling. We go sharkin’ and harpin’ thru Boonville with Charles C. Adams, author of Boontling: An American Lingo.
“David Lynch goes into clean neighborhoods and finds the germs and bugs beneath; I go into dirty neighborhoods and find the life.” That’s how filmmaker Tony Buba describes his twelve documentaries about his hometown of Braddock, Pennsylvania. Buba is the son of Italian immigrants, part of the wave of Europeans who came to America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to work in the steel mills of Braddock and other towns around Pittsburgh. Now the steel industry is almost dead, and Braddock is the prototypical post-industrial “‘rust belt” town, a town where a person either lives by his or her wits or lives in poverty. Buba tours through the streets of Braddock, past the old Croatian and Slovak social clubs and through streets, now empty, that once bristled with activity.
Bruce Davidson has been a member of the U.S. Equestrian Team since 1971. He’s a world class rider, trainer and breeder. NPR visited Chesterlands Farm, in Unionville, Pennsylvania, when Bruce Davidson and his horse JJ Babu were training for the 1984 L.A. Olympics (they won a Team Gold). David Molpus is now with Ideastream in Cleveland. The producer Carolyn Chadwick’s latest project is Conservation Sound.
Summer Bird, Rags to Riches, Empire Maker, Lemon Drop Kid, Colonial Affair, Thunder Gulch, those are some of the winners at the Belmont Stakes, the last leg of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing. In 1979, an army of NPR sound-recordists showed up trackside at Belmont Park, Long Island to document Spectacular Bid’s attempt to match Secretariat’s legend. Writer/Produced: Josh Darsa. Technical Director: Skip Pizzi, with Field Engineers: Paul Blackmore and Ceil Muller. Technical Assistance: John Widoff and Dave Glasser. Editorial Assistance: Neal Conan.
Reprinted by permission from the (private) AIRdaily:
Today is the 39th Anniversary of the first All Things Considered. The first program included a documentary of the largest anti-war demonstration in history (wikipedia). The demonstrators filled the roads, blocked the bridges and stalled the morning commuter traffic, all in an effort to shut down the government. The demonstrators were met with 10,000 federal troops, 5,000 D.C. police and 2,000 National Guard. By the end of the day, over 6,000 had been arrested, the largest mass arrest in U.S. history.
Reporters fanned out, from the Pentagon to the Mall, recording multiple perspectives of the events as they happened. I directed the program that first day, and we hustled to edit the multitude of voices into a cohesive documentary for the 5:00 ET start time.
What followed was an extraordinary 24-minute, sound portrait of the events as they happened, with the voices of protesters, police and office workers above the sirens and chopping of helicopters. Yes, there were flaws, and yet it stands as probably the best sound record of that historic day.
It also was a strong statement of the intention of NPR to get out of the studio, to use sound to effectively tell stories.
Surveying the sonic spectrum of musicians warming up for a performance. We hear old-time singer Abigail Washburn, concert pianist Lang Lang, Brazilian singer Flora Purim, mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli, Tuvan rocker Albert Kuvezin, singer songwriters Gillian Welch and Dar Williams, bel canto tenor Lawrence Brownlee, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Montage by David Schulman
Recently, as part of the US draw-down in Iraq, the US base in Tikrit, “JCC” or Joint Coordination Center, was handed back to the Iraqis. Sergeant First Class George Havel, a soldier with 232 Regiment spent four months in Tikrit, helping to coordinate emergency services. Sargeant Havel gave journalist Jake Warga a tour of Mahmoon Palace, originally built to celebrate Saddam Hussein’s birthdays. US forces had been occupying the palace up until the recent hand-over, living in its marbled halls under golden chandeliers.
“Weegee interview” (3:04 excerpt) Mary Margaret McBride
An archival interview with 1950s NYC crime scene photographer, Arthur Fellig (1899-1968), aka, Weegee. SoundPortraits has more of this July 1945 interview by nationally-syndicated talk show host Mary Margaret McBride (WEAF-New York City). (Music: “Angel of Solitude” by Alias.)
Casey (no first name ever revealed) was crime photographer for the fictional Morning Express newspaper. He and reporter Ann Williams snapped shots, tracked criminals, and solved crimes. This excerpt from episode 330 (of a total 431) of the popular half-hour mystery-adventure series aired 1950-03-02.
The first of our Soldier’s Soundtrack series: Embedded with the 3rd Infantry Division, US Army, Baghdad, the producer plugged into the soldier’s iPods, asking them what they were listening to, why they liked the song, and what their lives were like. To Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Major James Lockridge tells us, “The United States Army can go anywhere at anytime or anyplace. I learned that during the first war. I wouldn’t want to be anybody that had to face the United States.”
Hitchhiking was once common, These days it’s aquired an aura of danger and desperation. Who wants to take the risk — especially after all those gruesome stories about rapists and serial killers? But occasionally you can still spot some guy stranded on the side of a road, sign out, thumb up, hoping that your car will be his salvation. Is he dangerous? Insane? Or just plain dirty? Maybe we should stop and find out. (PRX)
The publshers of Reality Radio have allowed to post a bit of their book. From John Biewen’s Introduction:
The goal is to bring together producers with distinctive, powerful, and richly varied approaches to their craft. Some of our essayists call themselves audio artists. They push the boundaries of journalism to the breaking point—okay, beyond the breaking point—in the service of an aesthetic vision but also in pursuit of a different (higher?) sort of truth. Others describe themselves primarily as storytellers, drawing mainly on the narrative power of the spoken word. Still others see themselves as journalists; on the surface, at least, they emphasize information over formal innovation. But the journalistic documentarians, too, give careful attention to form and, in fact, employ plenty of (conventionally sanctioned) artifice along the way.
Here’s an excerpt of the essay “Coming Home,” by Katie Davis:
A boy rumbles by on his skateboard, says his name is Julio and asks to pet the dogs. Sure. Another twelve-year-old bellows like a carnival hawker, “Hey lady, you got a tire patch?” Sure. And I give Joaquin ten dollars to run to the bike store to buy three patch kits, one for him, and the rest I’ll keep for other kids. The super from the building down the street notices the cluster of kids and lugs up two old bikes he found in the alley. And this is how, without planning, I start a recycle-a-bicycle program on my front porch. Everything takes place on my front porch for a long while.
I become known as the “bike lady,” the lady who always has granola bars and time to sit and listen. After a year, I form a youth group called the Urban Rangers and begin raising money to pay for bike parts and snacks. Two teenagers ask me start a basketball team. Sure why not? And then as I explain my philosophy to the guys, that winning is not important on this team, and everybody will get to play in every game. “No, no,” the boys interrupt and begin coaching me on how to be a coach. The dialogue is funny and that night the rusty part of my radio brain begins chanting, Good tape. Good tape.
So, I call an old friend at NPR and float the idea of writing an “essay with tape” about my team. I warn the show producer that the story will be personal, like a diary, that I break the rules of journalism in every paragraph. I write in the first person and I have not kept any objective distance from these boys. I give money to two brothers because I know they are hungry. I hire another kid’s father because they are struggling on $12,000 a year. The boys hang out at my house, they come to tell me about problems. I no longer wanted any distance between me and these neighborhood kids. NPR solves the issue of my status by calling me a commentator. My transition from reporter to commentator took four years of neighborhood porch sitting and trouble shooting and is distilled into this one word.
The first all-girl radio station in the nation, WHER-Memphis, went on-air in 1955. It was the brainchild of sound legend Sam Phillips, who created the groundbreaking format with money he raised from selling Elvis Presley’s Sun Studios contract. Women almost exclusively ran the station. They read the news, interviewed local celebrities, and spun popular records. They sold and produced commercials, directed and engineered programming, and sat at the station’s control boards.
NPR’s Susan Stamberg hosts this one hour special on WHER, produced for the Kitchen Sisters’ series Lost and Found Sound. Mixed by Jim McKee of Earwax.
Protest may be new to some parts of the world, but in America, complaining about the government is a national pastime. We hear protest music and mashups; we go to protest marches, from Vietnam War era actions on the National Mall, to modern-day Tea Parties and Town Halls:
“Town Halls 2009” (2:05) Barrett Golding
Protest used to be mainly for the young and left-leaning, but recently older right-wingers have joined the party — the Tea Party. When Congressmen went home in 2009, this is what they heard from constituents. Music: Jeff Arntsen, mix: Robin Wise, audio: excerpted from YouTube videos.
The popular Burmese rock band Iron Cross is using music to challenge the nation’s infamously repressive regime. In the great tradition of rock and roll, Iron Cross is taking on Burma’s military government with song.
A classical composition, in three parts, for strings, winds, and an interview with Tom Martinet, who trained to be a priest, but, instead, started working Nevada dice tables. Premiered 1997 in Vegas, performed by Sierra Wind Quintet. Re-released on PKB’s 2006 Larkin Gifford’s Harmonica.
“Poker at the Ox” (9:54) Alex Chadwick
An NPR hosts pits his wits against the regulars at a downtown small-town casino. Guess who wins. Produced by Carolyn Jensen; sound engineer by Michael Schweppe.
“Old Gambler” (7:07) Joe Frank
An excerpt from Joe’s hour “Zen” in his series The Other Side. What happened in Vegas… definitely didn’t stay in Vegas. Getting on the wrong side of Sin City’s collection crew.
“Bass Keno” (8:18)
Jazz bassist Kelly Roberti (David Murray Quintet) lost his bass to the keno machines. He kicked the habit; the scars remain, but the bass is back. Kelly was a 2010 Governor’s Arts Awards winner.
“Lock It Up” (5:56) John Ridley
A radio drama written for Ridley’s 2001 LA Series on NPR Morning Edition. Performers are Bob Wisdom, Yang Chee, and Jim Wallace (script).
Above photo of the Las Vegas sign by Kcferret, June 2005.
President Johnson signs the Public Broadcasting Act, November 7, 1967
The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. “Independent producers” and “independent production” are mentioned sixteen times, including, “a substantial amount shall be distributed to independent producers and production entities…”
Some of my other favorite phrases:
The Congress hereby finds and declares that —
It is in the public interest to encourage the growth and development of public radio and television broadcasting, including the use of such media for instructional, educational, and cultural purposes;
Expansion and development of public telecommunications and of diversity of its programming depend on freedom, imagination, and initiative on both local and national levels;
It is in the public interest to encourage the development of programming that involves creative risks and that addresses the needs of unserved and underserved audiences, particularly children and minorities;
Did find a few entertaining morsels, like this (pg11) on the singularity and un-CG-ability of the human voice:
Just as a penguin can recognise another among thousands, since time immemorial we have been able to discern a wealth of incredible nuances and emotions in the human voice. We owe our survival to our brain’s ability to decipher the details of the voice, further heightening the effect of visual absence.
Pixar’s digital masterpieces such as Toy Story or Ratatouille reproduce the most complex visual experiences like wet fur or the shine of bodywork with a computer, while the characters express their emotions as well as human actors. Despite these wonders, for the voices the studio uses actors, such as Tom Hanks or Paul Newman. A voice is more complex than an image.
And this historical radio data (pg19) — unsourced, so can’t vouch for validity:
Radio experienced an auspicious period in the United States between 1980 and 2000. In 1995 radio represented a little over 10% of media advertising investments, or $12 billion. Prosperous radio stations generated results equivalent to 30% of their turnover. In 1995 regulations on ownership of several radio stations in the same market were relaxed. This 20 allowed the Clear Channel group to carry out a number of acquisitions; today, it owns about 900 stations with combined revenue of $3.5 billion in 2005.
The Clear Channel policy targeted profitability by standardising and homogenising programmes. Audiences considered risky and insolvent, such as adolescents, were abandoned. Further, morning shows, already attacked by influential puritanical groups and repeated fines from the authorities, were sanitised.
As a result, radio stations were reduced to simply playing lists of tried and tested hits aimed at an audience aged from 25 to 49 and hosted by DJ-robots. These flows were burdened with a maximum of advertising slots. Like a plane whose engine is shut off to save fuel and keeps flying for a few moments, the system seemed to work.
Then it began to show the first signs of weakness at the very moment when the younger generation was seizing the musical offer exploding on the Internet: the number of 18 to 24 year olds listening to the radio has dropped by 20% over the last ten years and 85% of adolescents now find their new music on the Internet.
In 2007 radio’s turnover was $20 billion and still represented about 10% of the media advertising market but it is a decreasing trend. For now, the years of generous cash flow are over.
However, despite everything, according to the Institut Arbitron radio audiences continue to grow (93% of the population listens to 18.5 hours a week on average!) but the length of listening time is dropping.
Finally, this possibility for targeted per-user radio ads based on IP address and other online info (pg24):
The half a million listeners who listen instantly to Difool’s morning show on Skyrock correspond to various characteristics. The same station can attract very different people which is how a large station becomes successful. The addressing process of IP radio means that people listening to the same programme can hear different adverts which correspond to their needs. Such multiple, simultaneous targeting is good news for advertisers which can concentrate their investments on suitable targets, for radio stations which can better serve their clients and are therefore more attractive, and for listeners who will hear adverts which are more relevant to what they are interested in.
IP radio combines radio’s power as a mass media with the advertising precision of the Internet.
How can an IP address be qualified, as it is occasionally random on some machines? Identification of the machine can be reinforced via a small file left on the hard disk (cookies) or through a code entered by the user at the start of the session (login) which identifies the individual. Moreover, the generalised spread of mobile terminals and their use for telecommunications will increase relevance between user and machine. This is currently the case with mobile telephones which are even more individual than PCs.
Even creepier targeted-ads could combine radio w/ the user’s web access data (pg26): “Someone listening to the radio just after looking at an automobile website could hear an ad
hoc advert via the radio.”
The final hour in our three hour-long retrospective of this first decade of the century, and the millennium:
Shortcut Thru the 21st Century, Part Three (52:00) Peter Bochan
We survey selected speech, song, and soundbites of the stories and celebs from 2006 thru 2009: Christ’s passion, planetary climate change, presidential contenders, Ponzi schemes, collapsing economies, Tiger, Michael, Sully, Britney, Bush, Obama, foreclosure, bailout, Bradgelina, Miss USA, You Tube, and the continuing decline of western civilization.
Shortcuts are assembled, mixed and mashed by audio wizard Peter Bochan, of All Mixed Up, WBAI-NYC and WPKN-Bridgeport CT. (All three 21C Shortcuts hours are at PRX.)
The first of a three hour-long retrospective of the first decade, of the century, of the millennium:
Shortcut Thru the 21st Century, Part One (52:00) Peter Bochan
After a quick 2009 intro, we survey selected speech, song, and soundbites from 2000 thru 2002; from the 2000 election and recounts, with Bush, Gore, Bill and Hill, thru 911, Homeland Security, and Afghanistan.
Shortcuts are assembled, mixed and mashed by audio wizard Peter Bochan, of All Mixed Up, WBAI-NYC and WPDK-Bridgeport CT. Next week, part two: 2003-2005 (all three at PRX).