Wednesday, May 28, 2008

airport voice

i'm at the airport, heading out to the west coast for yet more listening events. of course people-watching is a field day out here, but it's the people-LISTENING that's all the more fascinating. most memorable so far: 1/2 of bundle of girl twins strapped into a stroller larger than my car, bellowing the swine verse from that popular childhood favorite, (note related finger puppet set. 100% felt!) when mom leaned over and reminded, in quite the outdoor voice, about using her indoor voice. sounded indoor to me...inside a barn, that is.

so yes. more listening events. if you're in or near the portland, OR* or san francisco areas, please consider coming out for a night of pure audio love** this saturday (may 31) or sunday June 1) night. they're going to be fun.

* i always feel bad designating this portland as being in OR, when san francisco needs no further elaboration. but with the other portland featuring so prominently in the audio world these days, seems only fair to do so, rather than assume that folks will automatically think 'pacific northwest.'

** am not sure if this phrase helps or hurts my cause. but i mean it in a tolerable, low-key way.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

that was then

a good pal recently invited me to contribute to his simple, obvious and somehow perfect new project - a celebration of soundtracks to romances long since moved on from - so i dug around in the basement and came up with an appropriate source of inspiration. listening back after 15 or so years, it's amazing how vividly i remember most of the songs which i'm sure i haven't heard in...14.5 or so years. and astounding how these artifacts, conjuring deep, sound-cast memories - are intensely and irreversibly invaluable. the segueways come to mind automatically, the intentional misspellings in the enclosed note will be forever memorized, the designated 'most romantic song ever' still rings loud and true, and yes, superlatively romantic. or at least it seems that way. or at least it feels good to think it seems that way. (fifteen years ago. what?)

anyway. check out cassette from my ex for a guaranteed reminder of one (or a dozen) mix tapes from your own past, and the adventures/stories/tears they once conjured.

p.s. here's a hint just for YOU - that crimpshrine song comes in around 13:28.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


if lissenup seemed appropriate for sunday mornings, i'd invite folks over for cereal, and to listen to the kids upstairs galloping from one end of the hallway to the other. but it would have to be early to catch them at full tilt - between 7 and 8 am. so we're probably better off gathering on early sunday evenings, with a few of you bringing the audio treats each time. how about next sunday?

lissenup 9
sunday, may 4
6 - 9ish pm
listening starts 7:30ish.
email me for directions.

i'm dispensing with the 'limiting it to 25' awkwardness. just come if you want to, we'll find the room. as far as the potlucking (no meat, please) - let's go with my highly scientific, carefully developed, deeply mysterious formula, which worked serviceably well last time:

if your first name starts with a - e : bring a side dish / appetizer
if your first name starts with f - j : bring a dessert
if your first name starts with k - o : bring a salad
if your first name stars with p - z :bring some drinks

ok, it's not so mysterious.

[what's with the latch, you ask? found it on a fridge stocked with fresh eggs on a farm in north carolina. struck me then as beautiful, and every time i see the picture, i imagine the sound it makes when it closes. a two-part affair, securing closure as the right metal bits fall into place, one then the other, airtight connection sealed and crisp air contained inside, eggs quiet and happy.]

Monday, April 14, 2008


back from two days in new orleans - two dense, great, huge days in new orleans. somehow there was time to visit with friends, take a few long walks around the french quarter during the midnight hour, take pictures of plastic ponies galloping into the sky, ponder the fresh blood stains on the corner of the block where i was staying, ponder the city post-storm, meet the nicest electronics store man on the planet, enjoy my very first almond croissant, AND present radio stories to attentive ears at a cool old jazz club. (attracted our first mylar and boa-clothed listening room audience members, i do believe.)

i also encountered an impromptu etiquette lesson, very much sound-related. on the way back from that tasty croissant, katie and i wandered by one of countless junque shops in the french quarter. drawn in by the small, elaborately framed oil paintings of small barnyard animals in the window we entered the store to continue browsing. "those were painted by russian art students," i was told by an old-ish woman behind the counter. "they start at $55." too much for my budget, but i moved further into the crowded, dusty store and nearly unconsciously began quietly whistling a tune that had been stuck in my head all morning (by the bowerbirds, if you must know). almost immediately an even older woman sitting further back in the store in an ancient armchair, and wearing an enormous purple muumuu-type swath of fabric, launched into a tirade, "don't you be whistling in my house. there's a dog back here and you'll call him up to the front. and besides it's RUDE to whistle in someone's house." (huh? thought we were in a junque shop.)

the etiquette lesson didn't stop here. i kind of thought she was kidding at orleans is so filled with strange human behavior i couldn't imagine that someone who had obviously lived for decades in the thick of the french quarter was deeply offended by very quiet WHISTLING (what about the frat boys right outside her shop, er house, lugging around a case of miller light and shrieking about who knows what?) ...but she most certainly was, and continued to berate me as we exited the store/house, puzzled, slightly amused, a little bit indignant.

i've recovered enough to do some "research" and curiouly enough, found a few factoids
online which may explain where this grumpy old woman was coming from. could be i was standing there with my hands in my pocket, too. for shame! and let that be a lesson to anyone heading over to russia anytime soon, or anywhere else where such extreme behavior may get you into trouble. keep your whistles to yourself.

Monday, April 07, 2008

so much to do

it's a busy week for the third coast festival, with two listening rooms upcoming, and lots of radio to share with many ears at once.

the first - wait for the beep - is wednesday the 9th, in chicago at the steppenwolf garage. we'll play / you'll hear stories inspired by telephone culture ...which, for better or worse, is maddeningly inescapable - a notion we're exacerbating by presenting this very program. sorry?

the second - there isn't really a title - is friday the 11th, in new orleans at donna's bar and grill, which must be the first listening room location serving cornish hen stuffed with cornbread stuffing. there's live music afterward (a marsalis brother no less), it's all free...and conversely there'll be nary a tale concerning cell phones or voice mail...instead you'll hear about jazz (duh), ghosts, mousetrap sadists...and so much more. spread the word! tell your friends! c'mon down to the french quarter! (how often do i have the chance to entreat you thusly?)

thanks to nick for the flyer above / such heart

Monday, March 31, 2008

more reasons to get busy

in honor of almost-spring in chicago - here's a photo of some young red leaf lettuce from perry-winkle farm in nc. yum.

on to the sound: can you even believe all of the things going on out there? how many projects are vying for your energy, your ears, your productions? me neither. choose carefully (always) and please consider these:

bang bang
- noise becomes music
sound artist
steve piccolo seeks your noise! contributions (sound files and a sentence of descriptive text) sent throught this italian site, (fun) will be organized on a cd that'll be distributed at an encounter/ conference at the end of april in milan, where there'll also be a general chat about noise. (more fun.)

isle of imaginaire

over on this side of the ocean heather and emily
seek the sounds of imaginary places you've dreamt of, daydreamt of, invented or remembered. they're looking for a visual representation / snapshot too - here, let THEM tell you about it.

more to come soon...

Friday, March 21, 2008

radio ephemera

after months of planning, we've just announced this year's tcf audio challenge - radio ephemera. it's a collaboration with the mighty prelinger library and we have high hopes for hearing bucketfuls of sparkling new audio gems inspired by the project.

we're asking folks to produce short (2:30 - 3 min) audio stories inspired by two of five books pre-selected by the prelingers, and including the voice of a stranger. further info: you can see beautiful images of the books' covers and listen to a piece i made explaining more and pondering the question 'what exactly IS ephemera?'. [apologies for the less than pristine phone tape.]

if you're the type that needs an incentive to get you going... we'll pick our four favorite submissions and invite those producers, [cue echoey game show announcer voice] "all expenses paid," to chicago to present your radio ephemera at this year's TCF conference. we'll broadcast those four and others on our weekly show re:sound, and will present them at listening events around the world. we'll keep your work archived permanently on the TCF website. and if that's not enough to tip your scale, consider this... (and why not bring back that announcer voice....) you'll go down in the annals of Radio History!!!

did that get your heartrate up? good. we're looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

end sounds

in the mood for stories about the apocalypse? (who isn't?)

you're in luck. tomorrow night (march 5th) the rec room and are co-presenting an evening of stories inspired by the end of the world, at the black rock bar (corner of damen and addison, in chicago)

i've made a seven-ish minute audio work for the occasion, which will be presented along with some appropriate candy. (any guesses?) it's not so much about a/the coming apocalypse, as about collective memory of a 25-year old depiction of obliteration. and about the quirk of memory. and about the power of tv. and about cheese fondue.

fun starts at 8 pm. (b.y.o.skewer)

update: if you care to this an exercise?
(you'll have to sign up but it's free, and you probably should anyway.)

Friday, February 22, 2008

the only reason...

thanks to the magic of the internet (in a few ways) a piece i produced, er, four years ago (for the outer ear festival) recently aired on KFAI in minneapolis.

'the only reason you and i are here' is basically a sonic homage to the public parks of chicago, and the ubiquitous ice cream trucks that troll through them at all hours. it was broadcast on the listening lounge - a weekly half-hour show that features documentaries and such, and makes a case for surprises on the radio. (good on 'em.) you can stream the piece, along with the short interview that host todd melby conducted with me beforehand, and wherein i likened 'the only reason' to a mosh pit, here.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

phew / sniff

an article by charles mcgrath in this morning's new york times suggests that PBS's relevance in the world has steadily declined as public radio's has risen. good news for those of us chugging away in the radio trenches, but a sad truth that such a mighty Force For Good is ailing so. i imagine the article will especially tug on the heartstrings of those of those still obsessed with childhood favorites.


wait. isn't that all of us? the mention of the PBS's impact on and contribution to kiddo-tv is noticeably absent in mcgrath's argument. so while i agree with and can celebrate his observations about radio's resilience and ever-growing popularity, and it's true that i watch zero TV (besides catching up on wildly successful HBO series years after the fact) i'm irked by this omission.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

listen to the astrospies*

if you happen to be watching PBS tonight and happen to catch astrospies you may happen to notice how beautifully scored the program is. this is because radio producer / sound designer jonathan mitchell is responsible for all of what you're hearing.

let's hope this is the beginning of a new phase in television's history, in which talented radio peoples are oft-employed (and heartily compensated) to enhance viewers' watching experiences via their ears - enough so they come to understand the endless and lovely potential for audio salvation, and turn to the airwaves with renewed enthusiasm and vigor. let's hope.

*vague and impulsive reference to the title and refrain from a catchy but lesser-known monkees tune that's often roaming around in my head: listen to the band. a shining moment for michael nesmith.

i was quite a fan, back in seventh grade.

[listen to the song]

update of update!
[listen to cover of the song]
or at least note that it exists. then listen to the original again.

Thursday, January 31, 2008


it's been far too long since we last gathered around a table of excellently potlucked food and then listened to many diverse audio treats - like fishermen chanting as they haul in a gigantic net, from the gulf of guinea. agreed? remedy:

Sunday, Feb. 17, 6-8:30 pm
Bring some snacks or booze, and your ears.

email me if you're near chicagoland and would like to come.

awkward disclosure: there's only room for about 25 people, so please understand if i ask you, regrettably, to come next time.

lots more photos from ghana here.

Monday, January 21, 2008

marching on

back from ghana, and not sure how to begin processing all of what we experienced, including hundreds of photos, thousands of impressions, millions of sand grains still spilling out of luggage and towels...and lots of audio to sift through. here's a sneak preview of some sounds collected, via file names. actual audio to come soon in some way, shape or form. or a few:

alpha.mp3 / appiyah.mp3 / bats.mp3 / canopywalk.mp3 / fishermen.mp3 / fufu.mp3 / funko.mp3 / handclaps.mp3 / kak.monkeys.mp3 / kak.birds.mp3 / kak.insects.mp3 / kidhymns.mp3 / kpashkposh.mp3 / marchingon.mp3 / mindyrstep.mp3 / mysharona.mp3 / sadgoat.mp3 / seamstress.mp3 / soccerkids.mp3 / trotro.mp3 / whitechristmas.mp3

the ear photo was taken while walking around a struggling DIY animal sanctuary run by a dutch couple not far from kakum national park. there weren't so many animals onsite but we did see a few monkeys, porcupines, genets, baby civets, 57 turtles and a near-full elephant skeleton collapsed in a pile. the ear-wall is located right at the beginning of the tour. "it's there to remind people to listen to the sounds of nature," our rail-thin, tough as nails guide annetta explained. and why not?

here's annetta with her good friend nona.

these stories are going to come out slowly...