Thursday, December 28, 2006

the time is nigh

maybe over the past few years you've heard about the low-power fm radio movement, but have never really quite gotten the gist of it? well here's a force for good that will not only help you understand more, but may even get you thinking about how you, yes you, can get tangled up in the airwaves. the radio for people coalition is made up of prometheus radio, the national federation of community broadcasters, pacifica radio and public radio capital.

there's an especially good reason to learn more about LPFM right now: the FCC is opening a ONE WEEK LONG licensing window for new public radio stations in early 2007, which it hasn't done since 2000. this is major! this is historical! this means that interested parties will have just one week to submit applications in support of their stations. even if you're not sure about getting directly involved, radio for people can use your help in other ways - with donations, by sending emails to media organizations and other potential allies, and by helping organize an effort already under way near you.

what better way to start off the new year than by helping bring a new radio station on-air?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

she's listening

ok it's seeming like all i had to do was whine a little bit about radio/audio not being taken seriously by the media and the next thing i know, news about sound and radio is popping up all over the place. so be it!

recently the chicago tribune ran an involved feature story about audio zealot jesse seay, and the project she's been organizing over the past few months, which i wrote about a while ago: your favorite chicago sounds.

there's also a flash slide show which scrolls through a few photos of jesse and a variety of noisy creatures she encountered in a day's recording session around chicago, as the actual recordings offer a soundtrack behind the images. it's kind of ironic - the fancy visual accompaniment to the story about an audiophile. but all of the respect and attention paid to jesse and her project is well-deserved, and very satisfying to see so prominently displayed in the tribune.

by the way, if you have a favorite chicago sound to share, or are dying to know which sounds others find so pleasing (as you might imagine there are a lot of mentions of the el, and the ice cream trucks, and lake-related noises, but some less predictable choices too: 'millions of different pronounciations of the word Goethe' and 'the howling man at damen/north/division' ) you can take care of all of these things right here.

progress, already?

apropos to the previous post, it may be that a great leap, or at least small step has been made in the 'radio valued as an art form' category.

united states artists
, a brand new grant-giving organization that impressively and IMPORTANTLY gives monies annually to actual individual artists, announced the recipients of their first ever USA fellows, including two public radio producers. congratulations to dmae roberts and dave isay, who will each receive $50,000 to support their future creative efforts. AND they've been now deemed artists, whether they like it or not. additionally, visual artist nick cave, who builds these amazing sound suits, also received the prize.

this firm and very public recognition of radio as an art form seems a good enough note to end the work day on. it's 10 degrees in chicago.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

watch then listen

we've been talking a lot around TCF HQ about the lamentable lack of media coverage of radio as an artistic medium. in the US radio's not regularly reviewed or critiqued as films and books are, and it's seldom covered, say...on the radio. [when was the last time you heard terry gross interview a radio producer about a radio story? when was the last time you heard her talk to a HBO tv series producer, or film producer? or author? or comedian?]

so we've basically been contemplating how to bring more attention to radio culture. in the meantime, dutch producer wim vandenbussche's hit upon a timely way to do just this, and has undoubtedly drawn thousands of extra ears to a recent production of his that aired on a sunday night on
radio 1.

check out this
youtube video he posted recently, which features a particularly charismatic belgian toilet attendant. be sure to watch until the end, and in case you don't speak dutch here's a tip from Wim: "What you read at the end of the clip is: YOU DON'T WANT TO SEE MORE OF THIS? WELL, THEN LISTEN! and then we lead the viewer to our programme and website. "

not only is the video somewhat disturbing, unforgettable AND brilliant, IT'S AN AD FOR A RADIO DOCUMENTARY!! and while the video's a far cry from a radio review section in the back of
harpers magazine, it makes me realize there there are some new ways to think about how to turn more people on to the great wide world of radio storytelling.

we'll get right on that.
(suggestions welcome)

Thursday, November 30, 2006

shortbread and inquiry

two noteworthy discoveries to report, thanks to some downtime at work and the magic of the internet.

firstly: earlier this morning i happened upon a small snack-pack of lorna doone shortbread cookies, which i'd never tried before (and found to be a tasty accompaniment to my green tea breakfast, despite the off-putting packaging and nabisco certification.)

this prompted some musing (so why are they named lorna doone, anyway?) which prompted some "research," which led to finding this question listed as the first subject line in my google search: " Who was Lorna Doone and why does she have a cookie named after her?" astounding, no? i will not reveal the answer here, but if you'd like to know, be my guest. and thanks to cheryl, from fredericksburg, for asking.

secondly: was catching up on old big shed podcasts and listened to one that consisted of field recordings from a very cold camping trip backed by an unobtrusive but helpful guitar melody. followed a bunch of links and ended up at question_the_podcast which offers a perfect mix of experiment, improvisation, melody and noise, with the occasional mud-pit frog, john fahey tribute or unintelligible answering machine message thrown into the mix. turns out that layne garrett's up to all sorts of things, maybe you'd like to know/hear more.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


since november 15 i've been in the process of moving, so there hasn't been much time for musing about audio. though i have been enjoying the sound of my boyfriend walking and/or the cat sprinting from one end of the apartment to the other, down the enormously long hallway that runs through our new place. the past two and a half years were spent in a fine but very compact, hall-less living space, and i hadn't realized what i was missing.

have you hugged your hallway today?

and with that, i hope to be back with semi-regular posts starting again in december...

Thursday, November 09, 2006


got a ticket for music for tomorrow's world: a dedication to sun ra, lifting off tomorrow night at the hideout and featuring none other than the man i named my beloved dearly departed dog after, almost sixteen years ago.

in fact there's a whole lot of
sun ra love floating around chicago right now, thanks to the traveling the spaceways program. including a free program of events and 2 day symposium at the hyde park arts center this weekend.

i'll see if i can dig up that polaroid of me and TM standing in the back room at the ozone record store, where i worked forever ago. i'm looking extremely mortified in the shot, and can remember FEELING extremely mortified in the moment. it's hard work, coming face to face with your rock'n'roll hero...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

the sound of bodies dropping - later, nov 11

...from exhaustion, that is. come out to hear/watch/participate as dozens of intrepid and fearless danceaholics gun for the winners' circle at the they shoot shorts, don't they dance marathon this weekend. the evening's a benefit to raise funds for the premier season of the chicago short film brigade, which is new to chicago, promises to deliver quarterly doses of 'uncommon short films for regular people,' and is bound for legendary status (given the natural fire and grace of its founder) soon enough. why not tell your grandchildren you were there at the beginning?

the benefit also includes a silent auction, with such treasures as a bundle of small press goodness from
featherproof books, a dozen bottles of fancy olive oil and vinegars from o olive oil and a certificate for southern-style banana pudding lovingly cooked by the captivating chanteuse kelly hogan. i'm offering one-time services as an oral historian / audio documentarian to anyone who thinks this is missing from his/her life, but have no idea what the actual worth of such an item might be. starting bid, anyone?

so grab your most durable dancing shoes and make your way on over to the hideout (1354 w. wabansia, chicago) this saturday (november 11) to show your love for short film, good taste and endurance sports. registration for the dance derby is from 8 - 8:45; the dancing starts at 9 pm sharp.

(i'll meet you on the dance floor for the rumsfeld resignation rhumba.)

Thursday, November 02, 2006

more about versus - nov 11

next weekend the third coast festival is presenting a listening event in conjunction with the 17th annual chicago humanities festival. the CHF has programmed over two weeks of pretty amazing presentations, ranging from films to speakers to debates to musicals, all revolving around this year's theme: "peace and war: facing the human conflict." lucky for us, this is JUST the sort of topic that radio producers like to tackle and we've selected a handful of stories that tell the story of opposition* - from the smallest to the gargantuan - in some fairly atypical ways. in other words: this isn't your average collection** of war stories. but you'll just have to come out to hear exactly what i mean.

- "the sounds of conflict"
- saturday, november 11th / 3:30 - 4:30 pm

- chicago cultural center - claudia cassidy theater / 77 E. Randolph
- i think the cost is $5

* now that i think about it, we're not sharing any stories of peace. just conflict. hm...
** i'm actually not sure what YOUR average collection of war stories sounds like.


the beautiful tree photo is by joel meyerowitz.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

audio pugilism

it feels later than the clock shows, thanks to falling back this past weekend. at the moment my ears are duking it out over two distinct sounds. one is the irregular delivery of high-pitched squeals coming through the floorboards from my eighteen-month old neighbor downstairs which, frankly, sound a lot like the wailing of a very agitated teenager in the throes of desperate sex. i was first awoken by these cries about a week ago and am hoping that the kiddo soon learns a new way to vocalize her wants and needs to the entire neighborhood.

the other sound is coming from my stereo - violin and cello and guitars and percussion combined on a record by
the clogs called 'stick music.' what i keep telling myself: it does no good to fret about not having learned of a band years earlier when everyone else was enthralled. most of the time the right music will find you in due time, sometimes with a little external guidance, and the best part is that all that time you had no idea what you were missing. isn't it time you shared some recordings that you think are special with a friend?

i'm happy to report that as this post comes to a close all baby noises have abated and i'm left with the some beautiful music to listen to, as little monsters, witches, devils and maybe a hand-me-down shrek traipse around the block, hauling away treasure troves of fun-sized candies. here comes november.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

speaking of festivals...

i'd be remiss not to mention the obvious... next week brings the
third coast festival conference to town. it's too late to register for the gathering (very sorry but we've run out of space) but there's a whole mess of related audio hoopla you can enjoy in evanston and chicago. and the good folks over at transom and open source will be keeping a steady blog about what's going on throughout the conference. including photos in case you're interested in seeing what 350 radioheads gathered to talk shop actually look like. and how they dance.

favorite chicago sounds redux

the word 'redux' brings immediate memories of browsing the huge bookcase in the basement of my parents' house and seeing 'rabbit redux' by john updike, and always wondering what sort of book about bunnies a Grown Up would write. i can still picture the font along the spine perfectly. VERY seventies.

ahem. to the post.

a while back i mentioned a project called 'your chicago favorite sounds,' which, obviously enough, is collecting people's favorite chicago sounds. here's an update - there's now a website where you can submit yr thoughts. the project's also part of the upcoming Outer Ear Festival, which i'll write more about soon.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

all the live long day

get some rest, there's a 24 hour arts festival closing in on chicago, including plenty of sound-based performances, from the listening queen pauline oliveros to jazz king fred anderson.

chicago calling takes place from 12:01 am - 11:59 pm, wednesday, october 25th. that's CST, people, AND it's picasso's birthday*. throughout the day chicago-based artists will showcase work that involves collaboration with artists from all over the world. performances will take place in venues all over the city and through live feeds from faraway places too. if you're NOT attending the third coast festival conference i suspect this would be a fine way to spend some of your wednesday, october 25th, 2006.

*in honor of the day, maybe you'd like to play mr. picassohead?

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

the trill

no, i never really thought i'd blog about my cat. but it's been awhile since i've written about anything, and it snowed today in chicago and the trill is ON right now, and we are.

i just picked a splinter out of my hand, which was acquired while reaching deeply back between the piano and the wall to extricate not one, not two, but THREE mousies from the darkness where pony (the cat) swatted them all in the last couple weeks. actually i suspect one's been nesting in there for over a year.

each cat toy was filthy, coated with a combination of cat hair, dust and whatever else lives behind the piano. pony was ecstatic to see her long lost friends and immediately began pacing nervously as soon as they were liberated. i stashed two away and put one on the floor, where she could have at it. as soon as i left the room - the trilling began.

if you have a cat you may know the sound i'm talking about. it's deeply high pitched, is sung regularly and comes out like a frustrated, rhetorical question. the trilling carries a half dozen tones at once. think bleating lamb. think devastated creature. think ancient. it's a prophetic voice, warning of inconceivable horrors, upcoming. even though it's courting a small package of fabric and stuffing meant to resemble (apparently) a mouse.

so that's how things sound over here tonight. until pony swats her dear friends back behind the piano or under the couch, or somewhere else i'll probably hurt myself retrieving them from,
where they'll soon after attain 'out of sight, out of mind' status.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


i'm not exactly sure how to spell this yiddish word my mom taught me a long time ago, which means, roughly, 'things happen as they should.' anyway...turns out that hauschka (see previous post) is playing a house concert in chicago tomorrow night, at frank abbinanti's (radical chicago composer / musical philosopher) place.

you should definitely come out for this. apparently mr. abbinanti may be taking a seat at the (piano) bench too.

thursday, september 28
starts at 8:30 pm
124 w. kinzie

it's going to be very excellent.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

feeling it

a couple days ago i listened to an excellent episode of one of my favorite radio shows, radio lab, which was all about the musicality of language, and one woman mentioned that sound is like touch...from a distance. i thought about that statement for a long time, and tucked it away, but nearby.

having just experienced a live show at the
elastic venue (which continues to offer incredible live music experiences in an intimate, orange-walled room above a chinese restaurant that's a ten minute walk from my house) by hauschka i'm beginning to think that i understand what she was getting at.

hauschka is: volker bertelmann on the piano and a variety of noisemakers - bottlecaps, scrunched up pieces of plastic wrap, tin foil, duct tape - accompanying him in the band.
bertelmann plays hypnotic, repetitive songs that sometimes jag off course in the blink of an ear. but as striking as the melodies he performs are the additional sounds coaxed from his piano thanks to the obstructions nesting on (and IN) its strings that resonate around, under and through every key that's struck. the sounds that materialized were physical and active - you could almost taste the vibrations and disrupted airwaves. you could feel them, tapping nerves and knocking on veins, nudging cells. i felt coated by the end of the performance - with simply a thin layer of piano covering my arms. for an aspiring (slowly, and without direction) pianist, this was about the most welcome lotion imaginable.

i have no idea if this is the sort of thing the woman from radio lab was talking about. but i think she's spot on: sound is like touch...from a distance.

think of all the fingerprints out there. then
treat yourself to some hauschka.

i'd be interested to know of other musics - live or recorded - that anyone reading this post has felt, in her/his bones...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


audio artist brenda hutchinson recently set out on a cross-country drive with a large cast-iron bell in tow. no, really. ms hutchinson (who some years ago made a radio documentary about driving her piano across the country, in a u-haul) is en route from brooklyn, MI to new york to san francisco. along the way she'll ring the bell, allow it to ring as she drives, stop in variously sized towns and invite others to ring the bell, and collect bell-related stories and associations from whoever wishes to tell them. she'll arrive in SF just in time for the opening of an exhibit at the exploratorium called "listen: making sense of sound", and the bell will then take up permanent residence there, where it will ring as the exploratorium opens and closes each day.

this is the kind of project that makes my heart shake. i'd give anything to drive across america, (or new zealand) making a lot of beautiful noise and engaging people in conversations about sound, or anything else for that matter. best of luck to brenda, and i hope you'll keep an eye/ear out for her and the bell, which may be rolling down your street when you least expect it.

keep track of brenda's adventures
here. and in the spirit of her endeavors, who's got a good bell story to share?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

lampo fall season

craving some memorable live music performances in chicago to keep your brain occupied and ears busy? lampo just announced its upcoming fall season, and will have plenty to share over the next few months. musicians include: skull defekts on september 30, florian hecker on oct 21, mark trayle and david behrman on Nov 4 and jessica rylan on Nov 18. haven't heard of any of them? what better reason to catch a show?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


i don't usually plan to talk about tv shows or other visual arts in this space (not when there are a bajillion other places to read about such things. though if you've been with me for awhile you may recall a certain mention of 'the office' when i'd finally watched it about ten years after everyone else on the planet had.) but last night i watched one that was as much about sound and music as anything else i've mentioned 'in these pages.

'lomax the songhunter' is a one-hour tribute to and sketch of alan lomax, folklorist and song collector extraordinaire, who believed so deeply in the connection between music and cultures. lomax spent most of his life documenting the stories that music tells about different societies, and brought this information to the attention of - well everybody - academics, politicians, students, musicians...the list is endless. in doing so he also brought thousands of stunning recordings into the world, from dustbowl ballads to the folks songs of great britain and spain.

in the documentary dutch filmmaker rogier kappers re-traces many of lomax's ventures into some of the most isolated communites in europe, and visits with people who lomax had recorded maybe fifty years ago, or the relatives of those he had taped. i'm not sure what was more incredible to watch - a fiesty looking old irish man tear up while listening to the recording of his father singing a mournful mining song, or hearing the aged dulcimer player describe what it was like to work with alan back in the day. or maybe it was most powerful to watch lomax himself sitting on his couch, wearing huge headphones and listening along to one of his own cds, trying to tap along with his foot and so oblivious to the world around him. he'd suffered a brain hemorrhage a year before this scene was shot, and at this point in his life while not completely debilitated, he could barely express himself verbally or get around without help in the world. but the extent to which the music moved him, kept him alive, even, was tangible. you think i'm exaggerating, but you'll see.

check out your local PBS listings - it may not be too late for you to catch the documentary, or a repeat screening at 3:30 am later this week. and then get yourself to the record store to pick up a few of lomax's classic recordings, which you'll inevitably need to have after watching. here's a good one to start with - biblical songs and spirituals from the georgia sea island singers.

Friday, August 11, 2006

electronic goodness

chicago's in for a treat over the next week. japanese electronic musician (and activist. and documentarian. and explorer of many bright hair colors.) yuko nexus6 will be performing both on wluw's something else, sunday august 13th around 10 pm, and then on august 18th at the elastic space. (you can check out the logan square blue wall/audio installation mentioned a few posts ago on your way over there.)

i saw and listened to yuko give a slide show / music performance last year, based mostly on travels she'd made around the US. it was a memorable experience for ears, eyes and brain, and her enthusiasm / energy was contagious.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

salon perm?

help a few good producers from the UK tell Glasgow about hair:


WANTED: Radio, sound works & audio recordings on the theme of hair & hairdressing of any duration. Hair themed playlists & musical dedications to hairstyles loved and loathed also welcomed.

DETAIL: this FM radio project will broadcast live from Glasgow for one day only. Transmitting to hair workers and their customers - barbers, hairdressers, salons stylists, wigmakers and other coiffed Glasgow listeners.

WHEN: deadline for receipt of work is Sep 29th 2006. The broadcast will take place in the Autumn.

FORMATS: Audio CD is the preferred format. But Dat, Mini Disc, MP3 (please do not send by email) Tape also accepted.

SEND TO: Hairwaves
Flat 2/2, 1088 Argyle Street,
Glasgow G3 8LY


the radio stylists at work on this project are mark vernon and zoe irvine, and both are involved with other fine audio projects:

rescued bits of cassette tape
feature on mark vernon from the third coast festival website


perhaps you've left a comment in the past, oh, year...and are wondering why it never showed up. wonder no more (thnx sus) and please don't be shy from this post forth - comment away.

p.s. for the record i strongly dislike the font used for "feedback" in this image.

Friday, August 04, 2006

the banana-eating bunny

not an audio post, but something i must share with whoever will take the time to download and watch.

if i've seen you in the past week you've probably already watched it, but then you probably have been wanting to see it again.

for others:
have you ever seen a frolicking bunny that is so happy about the banana he's about to eat that he can't stop running around in circles? thought not.

watch hermione eat a banana.

one year later...

in honor of LISSENUP's just-over-one-year anniversary, and thanks to the most generous and patient aaron ximm (of, i'm pretty happy to finally start posting audio on the blog, and you may get a few little movies too. we'll see. i'll start with a piece about competitive model horse collecting that i made last july. you can read about it back in the archives, and now listen to it here. just imagine a church basement or generic hotel meeting room full of women, girls and model horses, and you'll be rightly prepared to hear this.

update! just added a small movie to the post before this one about the blue wall near the logan square el station. go listen! (if you want to.)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

neighborhood sound

it wasn't, and then one day the wall behind the el station nearest my home was painted blue. this didn't seem too surprising, considering the stop's on the blue line, (logan square) but the mesh metal silhouettes of different logan square residents, painted yellow and mounted to the wall, were definitely unexpected. and to then hear some audio coming from a couple of the yellow figures on my way home from a long, hot day at work was nearly shocking. in a good way.

when i got h
ome i remembered the newsletter from my alderman, with a small story on the station's new artful look, that arrived in the mail last week and was laying conveniently near the top of the pile in my recycling container.

so here's the deal:
the installation's called 'Cuentos en la Pared / Story on the Wall and is a collaboration between six senior citizens from nearby apartments and six high school students, with assistance from the logan square neighborhood association and archi-treasures. the project includes the silhouettes, a timeline of community events and multilingual interviews with more than 130 residents of logan square.

sounds cool enough as is, but what's even more impressive to me is that the audio coming out of a speaker
hung behind one of the silhouettes was pretty creatively produced - with repetition, collage, careful rhythm and well-chosen excerpts. it doesn't tell one person's story in a linear fashion, as you might expect from an oral history -type public project mounted in a highly-trafficked pedestrian area.

no, the audio installation hanging out side the logan square blue line station qualifies as Real Audio Art. how do i know? by the confused looks on the people who stopped for a few seconds (seldom longer) to check out what was up with all that noise, then continued on their way, clearly perplexed.

but don't just take my word for it. watch and listen for yourself.

good job, logan square!!

Friday, July 28, 2006


the most memorable sound of the 2006 GRC for me:
a cell phone ringtone that played 'take on me.'


ok, the conference.
within the first 10 minutes of being at the GRC i was approached by a headphoned, microphone-wielding young woman from KBOO in portland who asked: "what can radio do for the world?" what indeed! - i'll let you ponder that one yourself.

shortly after that, made my way to a conflict resolution session because whether you work with a pirate, low-power, community, college or public radio station...(or just happen to be a living, breathing human being) yr gonna face conflict, either as participant or mediator or catalyst. we spent 75 minutes introducing ourselves, then explaining a particular conflict that had arisen at our stations/organizations. that left 15 mintues for resolution. click on this image to witness the mess of conflicts shared.

in those 15 minutes marty durlin from KGNU shared a few excellent, simple reminders about handling conflict. [be open. be direct. make sure there are rules in place to eject (my word, not hers) particularly crazy or destructive volunteers, staff or board members who for whatever reason may be harmful to the health (or lifespan) of your station. etc.]

it wasn't a conversation that necessarily brought any new or revelatory information to the table, but it was certainly interesting to hear (and commiserate about) some universally-relevant stories regarding power, personality and authority-driven issues that others are facing. marty also brought up an interesting point: contrary to popular belief, community stations don't NEED to be dsyfunctional to flourish. no, in fact, playing well with others can indeed be healthy for a radical media environment. an interesting, self-relective note to end the session on...

[more to follow]

madison action

two thirds into the first day of the GRC there's already plenty to reflect upon. which is a good thing, since unfortunately i have to leave tomorrow morning. but before i get into conference / radio stuffs, here's a report of the events leading up to the conference.
this post has nothing to do with audio or radio, it's true.

finally escaped chicago traffic and drove under a variety of stunning skies to arrive in madison just after sunset. joined some old and new friends for dinner (have you ever tasted (or even conceived of) an afghan vegetarin strudel? nor had i, until last night) and then strolled a few blocks to the lake where we witnessed a young couple being arrested for having sex in public (! ). then we walked further to where several dozen ducks were floating nearby forming constellations across the lake's surface. a few hundred yards away some metal band played on a Campus Terrace and i really wonder how the ducks felt about the ruckus. later we stumbled upon a fine old bar called micky's, replete with irish setter heads silhoutted in neon, hanging behind the bar, and ceramic ibexes (ibexi?) lining random shelves around the room.

eventually i made it back to the house where i'd been offered a spare room for the weekend, and where i met a hermione the bunny who roamed freely around the screened-in front porch. he was sitting on the couch when i arrived around 1:30 am, wrinkling up his nose and being VERY cute.

woke up this morning and made it to the conference at a respectable hour and in time to sit lakeside finishing a coffee and blueberry muffin, which i shared with my new duck pal.

as you can see, the trip is already off to a fine start. next up: conference observations.

Monday, July 24, 2006

radio with heart

the annual grassroots radio conference is coming up this weekend, july 27 - 30, in madison, WI. basically a bunch of radioheads from community, grassroots, volunteer run and low-power stations across the country will descend upon the town and spend a few days "figuring out more and new ways of social action, making new friendships and renewing old ones, and creating great radio." Sessions will include: "public journalism: philosophy and ethics," "activism around FCC, censorship and obscenity issues," and of course the ever-present "gender/womens' programming" topic will be covered as well.

i've been to a couple GRCs in the past and i have to say - while i may be considered a more conservative attendee (no, i don't actually think that 'democracy now' is our only hope for salvation. humor! people! a sense of humor can be revolutionary and edifying too!) - i can also vouch for the fact that something really special happens over the course of each gathering. the sheer passion that attendees have for their stations and colleagues is tangible, and contagious, and restorative. and people really really really believe in the power of the radio to make change, and educate, and stimulate listeners to important action. it's heartening to witness and participate in, especially since i spend so much of my time with independent producers who are struggling to make a career out telling stories on the radio, but are doing so often without the firm support of stations or communities behind them. the producers i work with often don't have something to care fiercely about, or feel proud to be part of in the same way i can always sense is all around me at GRCs. and i happen to think it's important to care fiercely.

though i respect, not to mention adore the community of public radio producers i've come to know over the past six years, the public radio system at large feels pretty sterile, isolated and starched compared with the sometimes crazy, often manic and totally dedicated community station devotees. (and of course, it's whiter than white. but that's another discussion for another time.) there's a lot of overlap between the public and community radio worlds, and also a lot of mutually agreed upon separation, but in the end maybe the easiest way to put it is to say that while they both offer invaluable services to their respective audiences, listeners and practitioners, the community radio world proudly wears a certain sense of moxie that's unmatchable, in its own right. simply - it's refreshing.

so, uh, see you in madison?

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

paper towel (mis)adventure

if you happen to find yourself at target, needing a new supply of paper towels because the cat continues to vomit up her hairball maintenance food at least once a day, be forewarned: you can only buy them by the single roll...or by the dozen. or the dozen + three bonus rolls. who even has ROOM to store 15 rolls of paper towels? i know, there are other places to buy paper towels, like at neighborhood corner shops instead of gigantic, corporate big box stores. but there i was.

shopping at target gives me a headache. fuming about my lack of paper towel purchasing options was giving me a real headache, in the middle of which my ears all of a sudden picked up on the song "pyt" by michael jackson. but it wasn't coming out of the store speakers, it sounded like someone had pulled a string attached to a michael jackson doll or action figure, over in the laundry detergent aisle. i did not investigate further.

that's my audio story for today. to recap: i heard 'pyt' by michael jackson coming from a mysterious source while standing, frustrated, in the paper towel aisle at target.

the end.

Friday, July 14, 2006

monastery of the moon

this weekend, next up in the florasonic series opens at the remarkable lincoln park conservatory in chicago. take a stroll through the fern room while absorbing the sounds of michael zerang and mazen kerbaj's the fifth pythia of deir el qamar. the composition's inspired by a really really old lebanese village and features zerang and kerbaj exploring as many sounds as possible on their intsruments (percussion and trumpet) in response to an imaginary myth set in the village. the myth features oracles, multiple gods, angry villagers and a monastery, and i suspect the installation's better heard than read about here.

the fifth pythia of deir el qamar runs through september 30th. admission is free and the conservatory's open daily from 9am - 5pm, at 2391 north stockton drive. be forewarned if you're driving - parking kinda sucks around there.

p.s. mazen kerbaj's also a fine painter/cartoonist too, (as evidenced by the image above) who works on cardboard a lot.

UPDATE: it may not surprise you to learn that mazen kerbaj didn't make it over to chicago for the opening of this installation. it's hard to fly out of a country when all of the runways at the airport have been annihilated. kerbaj's keeping a blog about the situation, which you may want to follow.

regarding the installation... it's well worth the trip out to the conservatory even with the possible forty minute parking adventure beforehand if you opt for a sunday afternoon visit and need to drive for various reasons i won't go into here. interesting how in a setting that's lush and green and humid like a sauna, even a dialogue between a rangy trumpet and mad percussion can sound like chattering jungle animals and insects. most fun is definitely watching young kiddos stride through the fern room, trying to spot the monkeys which are surely hiding in the ferns...somewhere...

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


this has been out There for awhile, but i just heard of it today and feel morally obligated to share. prepare yourself for, finally, a definitive definition and most accurate description of podcasting.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

attention world cup devotees!

the brilliant folks over at
radio educacion have put out a call for the sounds of the final game of the 2006 world cup series. obviously you'll be watching in a loud, empassioned, excitable setting, right? well why not plan to record the event (mp3 format at 128kbps, mono or stereo) and contribute to in this collective, worldwide (football) field recording?

then give your audio over to the sound library that will be posted on line for anyone to peruse through and create their own audio mix of the spectacle. (imagine: the varied sounds of games recorded the world over [slovenia! iceland! peru! katmandu!] in every time zone out there, most likely under the influence of many beers.)
after putting together an original composition from the recordings in the sound library, then you (or anyone) can send your work to mexico where it might be broadcast and included in a compilation called "the ball of babel."

contact or to find out more about how to participate in the babel, either as a recordist or eventual producer.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

my apologies

a note from a friend living in the catskills reminded me that the steady sound of rain may not be so soothing to so many folks out east these past few weeks. with farms wiped out and radio stations threatened by crumbling dams and all sorts of other damage inflicted, i imagine it's one sound many are hoping _not_ to fall asleep to (or stay up, worrying to.)

sorry for the aural equivalent of a very myopic post.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

the real deal

i know there's an entire industry built on commercializing the sound of rain, but i'm sitting here this evening as a steady shower bathes the streets below outside, and on cue some thunder rumbles off in the distance every few minutes and lightening flashes across the sky. can't imagine a cd of recordings or fancy machine offering such anodyne, and can't think of a better way to fall asleep than lying in bed with windows open and just listening, until sleep overtakes.

may you hear a good rain yourself soon.

Friday, June 23, 2006

here is you are here

two women with memorable first names are about to embark on the next leg of their documentary project - the you are here project. they're driving across the country, recording interviews and snapping photos, documenting the lives and communities of different people. their subjects? well here's the especially cool part. everyone they talk to then recommends someone else for them to interview. the catch is - the next interviewee must live west of the person suggesting her/him, and preferably within one day's drive. the project started with an artist friend in brooklyn, who sent them on to a family in pennsylvania, and so on.

story by story, blue and flynn hope to cross the country, starting in brooklyn and ending somewhere in spitting distance of the pacific ocean.
so far they've made it about a third of the way across the country, but are about to spend two weeks driving, collecting stories and blogging all about the experience. keep track of their progress, and maybe you'll even get to hear all about it. the adventure lasts june 25th - july 8th.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

divinely inspired

ah, the magic of the internet. here's documentation of an audio installation by nate harrison about the most sampled drum beat in history. 'can i get an amen' caught my ear last year the first time i heard it as a radio piece. happy to be able to share it with others now - and while you're over there at nate's website take a peek at some of his other projects, most of which combine electronic media with cultural commentary.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

field recordings - real and imagined

this past saturday evening i stood in a field in tennessee with my fella and watched fireflies do their thing for the longest time. if only each little guy would make a sound everytime it lit up! and not just any sound, but one that was unique to that bug, kind of like each snowflake is different. one could walk around a field for hours then, getting countless cacophonous firefly songs stuck in her head. now there's a new and improved summer pastime.

on a different sort of field recordings note, if you're itching to learn some of the finer points of collecting sounds in nature, here's your chance:

Nature Sounds Society 22nd Annual Field Recording Workshop
June 23-25, 2006

"The Nature Sounds Society (NSS) in partnership with the California Library of Natural Sounds of the Oakland Museum of California present the Twenty-Second Annual Field Recording Workshop, June 23-25, 2006 at San Francisco State University's Yuba Pass Field Station, in the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains."

specifically, you'll learn about recording in nature and the best equipment for the job during four field recording sessions in diverse locations with experienced recordists. there'll be some evening lectures, build-it yourself sessions and other opportunities to polish your chops, not to mention meet other as interested in this stuff as you are. AND you get to stay in a tent cabin beside the yuba river.

after you attend the workshop and figure out how to make beautiful recordings of meadow-lingering fireflies, please do let me know.

Friday, June 02, 2006

bach on bach on bach...

ever wondered what all 24 preludes from j.s. bach's well - tempered clavier might sound like, played simultaneously? of course you have. thanks to ed herrmann's wake up and hear the roses podcast, you no longer have to wonder, and this revelatory experience is brought to you in under three minutes. (though i recommend you take the time to hear the composition in real time as well. gould's version is lovely.)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

sonic manicures

here's my latest bajillion dollar idea, inspired by having just received my very first manicure last weekend. (this is the sort of thing that happens when dear friends get married.)

what if you could choose a nail polish that omitted music, very softly, the entire time it coated your nails? this way you could sit at work or ride the train with your hand casually resting on the side of your head near your ear and be listening to beautiful music (or death metal) at the same time. as your nails started to chip you might hear noises like cd glitches or record skips. and it'd be a great pickup line, "hey, is that erik satie coming from your fingernails??" or you could write your OWN music and then wear it around on your hands. and holding hands could bring forth the purest harmonies, or even lovely dissonance. (if your partner wasn't into wearing a color on her/his nails, there's always the option for clear polish.)

i really think i'm on to something here. any backers out there?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

art + soccer = berlin

i know, i really mean football. but not for the title of the post, ok?

by way of the sonambiente 2006 festival berlin's about to become one giant art installation (as if it's not already). "the festival for seeing and hearing" will take place from june 1 - july 16 (or 1.6 - 16.7, for those of you over there already) and will incorporate just about every art form you can think of including lots of sound-based work. the festival spans the length of the world cup which is of course happening all over germany during that time. apparently much of the festival's artwork will be directly (or indirectly) involved with the games. sounds to me like a time to meet (artist) friends.

here's a fun
ny article about the relationship between music and the world cup.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

sewasdee, spot!

this is hardly breaking news, but seems worth noting in this space. a thai dog groomer has started Dog Radio Thailand - a web-based radio station for dogs. His reasoning - music puts dogs into better moods. and apparently contemporary thai pop music is especially soothing for our canine friends.

this doesn't really seem like rocket science - when i spent a lot of time with horses the same theory held true (though not about thai pop music. looking back though i'm not sure the classic rock station that was always playing at the barn where i rode was actually very beneficial. a horse can only hear 'hotel california' so many times before developing an attitude problem, i'd wager.) and there have been hundreds of studies at all levels of scientific research exploring the notion that classical music helps plants grow faster. and to go ahead and state the obvious - we humans tend to gravitate toward musical sources as well, and they often make us very happy.

so obviously DRT is hardly a ground-breaking new innovation in the world of pet psychology or social engineering. in fact for now it's basically a thai pop station on the web with the added benefit that around 9 am the thai word for hello, "sewasdee," is repeated over and over. other programs are in development, some of which will have djs talking to their dog-audience. for now, if you're curious about the pop scene in thailand here's as good a place as any to eavesdrop and hear for yourself. and you just imagine all the thai pooches out there who're listening at the same time. all those wagging tails...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

audio boot camp

feel like immersing yourself in a full-on "how to make audio documentaries" program this summer? then you're in luck; the hearing is believing summer institute program at the lovely center for documentary studies (pictured above, and where i spent a couple of very happy years as 'public programs coordinator' how ever many years ago) has a some vacancies they're looking for a few audio-hungry candidates to fill.

here's your chance to spend a week living, breathing and i bet even EATING documentary radio. you'll learn about recording, mixing and writing, engage in discussions ranging from ethics in doc. work to the future of radio (and probably the p-word too) and you'll even produce your own short audio doc over the course of the week. the course will be led by the inimitable john biewen, and a couple other guest producers (like one of my heros - chris brookes) will make appearances as well.

it's a leeeeeetle bit pricey, so start your bake sales now. but know that this opportunity is totally unique, will most likely help you get a job in public radio if this is the sort of thing you're hoping for, and i bet will reward you in further ways untold for now.

email april walton if you're interested, or call the CDS to register: 919.660.3670. (and tell them hello from me!)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


THINK: bohemian rhapsody lovingly deconstructed and radio that makes you FEEL things. like sick to your stomach. in other words... LISSENUPseven!

sunday may 21
corbett vs. dempsey (1120 n. ashland / 773.278.1664)
MORE WHEN: 8 pm until about 10 pm. listening starts around 8:30
feel free to bring a beverage / non-messy snacks provided
ALSO: you're also welcome to tell/bring your friends. and something comfortable to sit on, if this sort of thing concerns you.


i just spent a week in vienna, attending the international features conference and kicking around the city for a few extra days. during the conference i basically spent five days straight listening to radio features from all over (mostly europe) and my ears are still ringing from the experience. pleasantly, that is.

european radio features are a different breed altogther from much of what we listen to / think of as "documentary" in the
states. to begin with - they're long. usually 45 minutes or so (compared this with the longest you'll hear on NPR - 22 minutes) and they don't always, uh, move along at the swiftest pace. i happen to often love this exact aspect of these audio works, but they're definitely not for everyone's ears. what i mostly admire about these features is the respect and importance they give to the use of sound in a story - it's a crucial element of these productions in ways it's american radio. actually i wrote a lot about attending last year's conference in romania, so if you're interested to learn more about all of this (or see a few pix from romania) check out this essay.

this year's IFC was hosted by the (quite styley, see above)
ORF,which is in some ways austria's equivalent of NPR. except for the fact that the government actually supports ORF, totally. (take a second to ponder that one.) over the course of the conference i heard radio from countries including: norway, denmark, estonia, slovakia, russia, germany, finland, ireland, and at least a half dozen others. no, i'm not a crazed polyglot - english transcripts were provided for each piece. my favorite story might have been either the belgian one about a community of elderly men and women who gather in the zoo everyday to feed the ducks or the short polish soundscape/ history lesson about a now-deserted shipyard. but ask me tomorrow and maybe i'll say it was the french one about the psychotic ward. or the other belgian one, about the blind guy. or maybe the romanian one about the villagers who are resisting selling their land to the canadian corporation that's digging for gold in their backyards.

how many stories can one head hold, anyway?

p.s. during a session about podcasting/new technologies, i heard this kind of creepy but equally fascinating and spot-on advice:
forget control / learn social engineering

p.p.s. vienna has th
e best small shop window displays.
i don't actually remember what this shop was selling, but it's my favorite window

Thursday, April 27, 2006

cake rants

for the past ten years ubu-founder and collage poet kenny g. has been playing a short rant about cake during his weekly radio show on wfmu. at some point he invited listeners to create and send in their own versions of the cake rant. and they did, by the hundreds. imagine: the robot cake rant, the psychadelic cake rant, the non-rant by the guy who doesn't really like cake, the zen cake rant (wait. that doesn't sound quite right.), the theremin cake rant, remix cake rant, and so on. and so on.

browsing (what's the aural equivalent of browsing?) through the archive is really like no other listening experience you'll ever have.
are your ears ready for some cake?