Sunday, October 17, 2010

Reality Check pt. 2

Along the lines of that Aug. 29 post, I'm finding it near impossible to update LISSENUP with any semblance of regularity. But I am managing to keep up with Gallopinging v2 - the condensed version of my CHIRP radio show. (Condensed from three hours of DJing to one song selection per week.) So for now...I give in. Please enjoy one song/photograph a week there, and check back here for semi-occasionally-sometimes thoughts about other thingees aural, sonic, radio-y, noisy, musical, etc. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

black and white

Watched Genius Within last night - the 2009 documentary about Glenn Gould, who I've thought, read about, and listened to maybe more than anyone else in the past 10 years. 
Especially memorable:

1. Footage from concerts in Russia (1963) where he unleashed his unforgettable versions of Bach, who most had never heard. He was 29.

2. Watching him direct/conduct CBC engineer Lorne Tulk while producing his seminal radio documentaries, the Solitude Trilogy. Watching Tulke take a razor blade to the tape, and make some of the thousands upon thousands of edits that introduced a totally new radio creature to all of Canada. And to me.

3. Ridiculously wonderful tape of Gould singing to elephants, (watch til the end of this link) who seem slightly aggravated by his musical selection. 

4. Gould's prediction that one day we'd all have "kits", and would disassemble and rearrange popular music. He knew!

5. His funeral. Never imagined I'd see footage from Glenn Gould's funeral. Was floored, saddened, thankful, crushed.

Still feeling some of all of that...and enjoying a little Well-Tempered Clavier while writing this - which, by the way, is traveling at great speed away from us into the depths of interstellar space, and always will be.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Light Goes Away

Another Sunday, another musical suggestion. Plus a picture from the Richfield Public Library, where I spent a few magical hours with my niece when back in Ohio, a few weeks ago. It's not 'my library' but I do love it. And I love it.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Loose Horse in the Valley

I may be able to pull off this one song a week impulse, after all. 

Know how sometimes you just stumble across something and 
immediately just... knowPosted a new suggestion to gallopinging v.2 on Sunday - Sam Amidon's "How Come That Blood." It's from his new record "I See the Sign" - which I feel like I've been listening to for decades. It references Bessie Jones, and to mears borrows from Nick Drake and Palace Bros and Carter Family, and somethings way older, and somethings brand new. [Though they may have all borrowed from the same place.]

It's repetitive, and dark with occasional sparkle, and seemingly simple, and sometimes religious and mostly reworkings of traditional songs. It's much easier to listen to this record, than write about it. You can find it

Hey Chicagoans: Sam Amidon is
playing this Friday at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Yes, I will be there, and yes, afterwards we will walk down the block for delicious frozen treat.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

reality check

So it turns out that eight months later - I don't really have time for a hobby like a three-hour, weekly, early morning radio shift.  (kind of like how I don't have time to update this blog often enough.) This past Wednesday's gallopinging show on was my last. I'm not surprised, but yeh, disappointed it didn't work out. But because I can't quite let all the way experiment: gallopinging v.2. Choosing a weekly song must be manageable....right? Enjoy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Way into The Way Out

Q: You know how sometimes you hear a record, and you've been waiting a long time for it (along with a lot of other people), and you know you'll eventually be familiar with every single second of that record, and that listening will be like wearing your favorite v-neck sweater and cords on a brisk fall evening walk WITH steaming hot cocoa in one hand and your beloved's hand in the other, and that in the meantime you're just enjoying the accumulation of listens, the getting to know the record, the learning the songs in your ears and fingertips (for tapping along) and there's that one track that almost makes you cry, and the other that just makes you laugh - wait there are a few of those - and you know the musicians have given it their all (and we're talking about some generous people here), and it's just something you'd like to share with everyone you encounter?

A: Thanks, the Books!

P.S. I may have mentioned at some point during the past - oh - seven months, the TCF's collaboration with the Books, and our 2010 ShortDocs Challenge - Book Odds. Well the deadline's passed, the final tally is tallied, and a whopping 143 submissions were sent from 14 countries. Success! Beyond our hopes and expectations, to be honest. Have a listen - believe me you there are some GEMS in there. For real.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Well now. There's barely time to think and write and eat and breathe and pedal and rest and read and correspond and explore and relax and remember and extend and accept and wish-hope, still, and prepare and dig and smooth and clear and slice and carry and translate and and puzzle and scrub and cringe and laugh.

This is constant now, this barely time. But today, of all days - find time for listening, please? I'll do the same.

(Puzzle pieces spotted in alley behind friend's apartment in Pilsen. The kind of thing you stumble upon, and everything changes. Click for a good look, and to spot the lucky paperclip.)

Friday, July 02, 2010

appreciating appreciation

Am inspired sometimes by gesture, and sincerity, and clarity of purpose - all of which flows in abundance, in Rick Moody's recent blog post about Jolie Holland's song "Mexican Blue" which he's declared the best song of the millennium. I can only agree it's kind of a miracle song, and am grateful to have been taken deeper in, and for his making the case for making the case for something that resonates so very, very deeply. I hear the song differently now, and may hear every song differently now. Thanks, RM.

Was also charmed just yesterday, sitting and watching my fella's band play at a city festival, when the young kid next to me politely tapped me on the shoulder, and asked if I had a pen he could buy for $1. Genuinely curious, I asked him what it was for, as I began digging around in my bag. "I love this band so much, and I brought a CD for them all to sign. But I don't have anything to write with." I declined the dollar despite his best attempts to lay it on me,  handed over the pen, and turned attention back to the band. Kid started snacking on some Cheerios, we both continued to thoroughly enjoy the set. It was the sweetest moment.

All of this by way of's so good, so restorative, to collide with people / moments that express an abiding connection to someone, or something, or somehow. All of this by way of saying the appreciation is appreciated.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Steppin' Out in Ireland

Last week I had the great honor of spending a few days with Irish artists and radio producers.  I'd been invited over to Dublin by the independent Irish producer organization AIRPI, to talk about my own background in radio, the Third Coast Festival, the American radio landscape, and to hear some of their work. While I was there I got to meet with a bunch of Fringe Festival artists too. It was a short trip, but a full one. A very full one. A very short, full, and excellent trip. Read on for proof/highlights:

1. Talking to the 70 aforementioned Fringe Festival artists who came out to learn about the Dublin Fringe Festival's RADIOACTIVE collaboration with RTE (sort of like Ireland's NPR,'s actually supported by the government.) Basically non-radio folks will try their hand at making short radio stories, which will then air on RTE's digital channel. I was asked to play some interesting work / inspire them to give it a go. I DO love playing radio for a captive audience!

2. Spending nearly 15 hours over the course of two days yakking, listening, debating, and deconstructing radio docs and features in every which way, with  around 25 Irish producers. Hearing docs about potatoes (!), traditional songs of the traveling people, a horse-racing dynasty, a street musician, a woman who communicates with the dead (and bellydances), and more. Learning more about life as an independent Irish producer - the challenges, the opportunities, and the importance of community.

3. Saturday night out at the Patriots Inn, where the discussions continued over many beers. And where a nice woman walked around with a tray of sandwiches around her neck. And where I made it clear that no, I wouldn't be joining the karaoke activities - that I "don't karaoke." Or wouldn't, unless there was the opportunity to sing one particular song - a pledge I'd made years ago. Was quite certain the Patriots Inn would not, in a million years, cough up the song. (You see where this is going, don't you?) Cut to a few drinks + a tequila shot later, when I heard something that sounded like..."Shapiro" and..."windy city" coming from the other room. By which I mean the room where people were taking turns belting out song after song after song into the sweaty microphone controlled by the venerable karaoke emcee who was patiently repeating my name and city of origin, and scanning the audience, ready to cue up the next song. Have you ever noticed how much people enjoy saying "Chicago?"

Yes, my excellent Irish hosts had done the favor of signing me up, and requesting THAT song. Lo and behold - anything is possible in this great age, every song is findable on the internet, karaoke-ready. I should have known/figured. By then it was too late to refuse, and it didn't seem like that bad an idea to sing Joe Jackson's "Steppin' Out" to a room full of jolly, intoxicated, encouraging Irishmen and women. In fact, it seemed like a great idea. A really great idea. Apparently I didn't do half bad, and was especially good at drumming up audience participation. Who knew?

4. The after-Patriots Inn adventure, bravely embarked upon by myself and two others, and involving a guy named Kevin who lived nearby,  a stuffed cat, Zimbabwean currency pinned to the wall, and American classic rock. Those are about all of the details you need. Or don't need.

5. Watching Zenyatta swoop in from last place to win her seventeenth straight race, via the live streaming feed on my laptop. (1:30 am Dublin-time.) Nathaniel was watching too, back in Chicago. We were typing at each other the whole time. Romantic, I know!

6. Stopping in at Road Records before heading out to the airport on my last morning, and picking up some new music - This Is the Kit's Krulle Bol, and a beautiful, Rachel's-esque record by a band called Sending Letters to the Sea.

7. Watching Temple Grandin on the flight back home. And weeping, which I think made the sweet Irish man sitting next to me, who was heading home to Idaho,  a little bit uncomfortable. He was very gracious about this, and told me it "looked like a very good movie." I wept because it's a touching film, and because I'm emotionally vulnerable when 35,000 feet up in the air, and because I'd gotten very little sleep in the past four days. But this seemed like too much to explain.

So that's my trip to Dublin, more or less. Keep an eye on the Third Coast website for some feisty Irish documentary work, and keep an eye right here to find out whether or not my Patriots Inn karaoke experience was a one-off, drunken anomaly, or the beginning of a new era in my life. I'd put money  on the former...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Believe you me, there's an epic blog entry in the 23 hour flight delay I encountered on my way to Dublin last week. But c'mon - heard one travel delay story, heard 'em all. And we really didn't have anything on the volcanic ash-delay victims...ours was a small problem with an engine generator. A fine reason to ground the plane, sure, but it didn't stop me from feeling supremely annoyed about spending an entire day as a "distressed traveller," spending "disruption vouchers" on free crappy airport food, and killing time by comparing fellow passengers' clothing choices from the first to next day. This was an experience better moved on from, than rehashed here in excruciating detail.

Except for the one listening-relevant observation: the guy in the row behind me, traveling with his wife, who wore two stunning-ly bad t-shirts over the course of those 23 hours. The one he wore on the day we were supposed to fly to Dublin featured a stick figure plugging its ears (?) with the caption "Funny how you think I'm listening to you." No...not funny. On the day we actually flew to Dublin, the same guy showed up in a beige t-shirt, sporting this gallant sentence: "SHE SAYS I NEVER LISTEN. OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT."

Does this man wear a different awful t-shirt every day? I'm glad I'll never know.

And why am I sharing this non-story with you? Because it's like he was using the word [listen] in vain, somehow. Or in gratuitous stupidity. And so I took great offense, admittedly partially inspired by frustration with the situation we were in, stuck at O'Hare, distressing out further as the hours crept by. And because travel horror stories inspire an aching compulsion to share the details with whoever will listen. Or something like that.

Next up - actually interesting stuffs about my new radio friends in Ireland. Stay tuned...

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Third Ear Sessions

As mentioned, I've been in Copenhagen collaborating with the Third Ear - an independent pod/vid/rad(io)/culturecast that's making beautiful work about all sorts of things. The site and podcast are mostly in Danish so it's a bit hard (ok, impossible) to fully appreciate each episode - there are seven so far. But there's a lot to _look_ at already, and the plan is to incorporate more English in upcoming episodes, including a Third Coast-centric episode soon. We're honored.

Besides the storytelling, TE is also busy recording single-song performances by musicians - the "Sessions." (One mic, one camera, one take.) So far they're working in two locations - a submarine (!) and the historically astonishing Vega club in KBH. I've been sharing some of these songs on, back in Chicago, but had the good luck to actually tag along for the most recent Sessions recording at Vega, featuring the Danish band Twins Twins. After about 30 minutes of fussing, testing levels, moving lights around and the re-positioning of rocker boys, the recording started and everything went quiet, intimate, mesmerizing. By the end I was already hooked on the song - Catherine Leaves - and so must certainly point you straight to the Session to check it out yourself.

More about these Third Ear peeps, and Adventures in Finland, coming up.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

best idea ever

Greetings from Copenhagen. It's been a whirlwind few days (more about that soon) hanging out with the Third Ear folks, including meeting five amazing iranian women, finding 'the' vegetarian restaurant in town, clocking a few hours at the Royal Library (aka the Black Diamond), being blinded by color, and drinking several many delicious coffees at  this record store / coffee shop. How do we get one in Chicago?

Oh yeah. Plotting the future of radio, too.

If you happen to be in / near Copenhagen next Friday (5/14) come on out to hear some documentaries, ok? Drop me a line and I'll tell you where to come.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


In case you haven't heard (forgiven) there's a race horse out there who has captured the hearts of racing fans and racing non-fans (that's me) alike. Firstly - she's a she. Also - Zenyatta is taller and broader than most race horses, older than usual (just turned 6 on 4/01), and more to the point - has won every race she's run - all 16. Sixteen! Remarkable!

Plus Zenyatta's evidently somewhat of a goofball - which makes her that much more crush-worthy. You can easily find hundreds of videos of her - drinking Guinness, "dancing", coming behind from dead last to win a big race and my new favorite - a Zenyatta / Lady GaGa mash-up.
Well, it's my second favorite. It's actually this video that I can't stop watching - especially from around 3:52 to 6:34. And in fact I enjoy just listening to it, as much as watching. Wind + hoofbeats + occasional murmuring from jockey = music to my ears.

So I recommend you start the video and then shrink the screen, and just listen. A few times.  Every day. (And watch every once in awhile - it's music to my eyes, too.)

Sunday, April 04, 2010

late to the beautiful music party

I've been grumpy for years about OH's state motto (possibly in the very pages of this blog) "So Much to Discover!" I much preferred the former motto, "The Heart of it All." Just say them both out loud and you'll hear what I mean. One is full of tenderness, sincerity, and hope. The other is full of...nothing. It's totally empty. Generic. Meaningless.

But after this past trip home to Akron for Passover, I have to admit - there was so much to discover. Not only did I find a wad of cash (14 single dollar bills!) in the pocket of a raincoat at the Village Discount Outlet in Cuyahoga Falls...I discovered a most amazing experimental music label/distributor/designer at Square Records, where I stop in every time I'm back for some or other holiday, birthday celebration, family gathering.

At the far end of the cds were two bins of beautifully packaged, delicately designed objects, and a small handwritten (important!) cardboard sign explaining the label responsible for them - Experimedia - is OH-based, and specializes in ambient, minimalist, noise, folk, americana, get the idea. All the good stuff. After I was done barely believing my eyes, I bought a couple cds (Small Color / Minamo (the cover's up there on the left) - both on the 12k label) that I enjoyed all the way back to Chicago (and still do) and will be exploring much more of Experimedia's site/catalog in due time.

So Experimedia is full of radiant, striking, independent music - reason enough to be thrilled with the project. But it's also from Akron, which seems nearly impossible and makes this discovery nothing short of a miracle. Experimedia has been around for nearly ten years and while I'm a little perplexed / disappointed I'd never heard of it until now, it was a perfect universe to stumble into almost by accident, while actually in Akron. For Passover, no less. Perfect.

So now I'll think twice about rolling my eyes every time I cross the border from Indiana into my home state, and read that silly phrase (with much underlined, and a weak exclamation point at the end.) But I'm also more convinced, than ever, that Ohio IS the heart of it all.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Words of Sounds (3) - Wroblewski

Apparently there's been a lot of controversy over The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, David Wroblewski's first novel, published in 2008. I had no idea about that when mom and I picked it to read together (we do this, regularly) - it just seemed to promise a good story, and I was drawn to the distant red barn on the cover. And while I'm not about to review the book here - you can read plenty about it elsewhere - I did like it (though didn't expect so much darkness) and especially liked this passage on page 404.

The set up: Edgar, a runaway at this point - mute and fleeing his family's farm with three dogs - is befriended by a lonely man in a small town in northern Wisconsin who is trying to show the world (and a certain woman) he's not 'ordinary.' The two slowly form a friendship, as a silent trust builds between them.

"That night it was a workingman's dinner. Henry sat at the kitchen table and read the newspaper and ate reheated brats and potato salad. He motioned for Edgar to help himself and eyed the dogs as though expecting them to lunge for the food. He started to ask Edgar to put them outside, then seemed to reconsider. Instead, he folded the paper into quarters and pored over the crossword, tapping his pencil on the table and picking off the easy clues. Then he said, "Oh!" and walked into the living room. There was a warm pop from the phonograph speakers. Piano music began to drift through the house.

"They call this one The Goldberg Variation," he said when he returned. He was holding a battered album cover in one hand. He looked at it again and, with self-conscious precision, corrected himself: "Variations." He took up the crossword puzzle again, shifting and fidgeting and touching his forehead as if perturbed by the sound of the piano. He emptied his glass of beer and leaned over to the refrigerator and extracted another, pouring it down the inside curve of the glass while streamers of bubbles upward.

It's nothing earth-shattering, just unexpected to find a vinyl copy of The Goldberg Variations in this story. Stuck with me.

P.S. Of course this is the version of TGV I know and love.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


That's me. Because i've been pointing, inviting, linking, insisting, reminding, introducing and yes, obssessing, everywhere/when/how else except here.

But hey! No time like the present to make amends. The Third Coast f launched a new website last weekend. Have a look, will ya? But keep in mind we're in beta mode - still working on several many things. So feel free to offer some feedback. And be sure to release the pigeons...

Monday, February 22, 2010

one groove

Take a guess at what you're looking at.

No, it's not the moon and no, it's not some 4th grader's attempt to recreate the Grand Canyon, in miniature, via elaborate sand sculpture. Here we have a photograph of one single groove of a vinyl record (remember those?) magnified 1000 times. Beautiful, no? Feast your eyes on a few other close-up shots of records, at various magnification, including one in 3-D. (if you have some glasses laying around.)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

megapolis seeks new blood

Have an audio-y performance, presentation, installation, workshop or spectacle up your sleeve that's ready for the world? You're in luck. The fine folks over at Megapolis are accepting proposals until Feburary 14th (very romantic!) for the 2010 MegapoHappening, scheduled for May 14-16 in Baltimore. Extra points for all ideas that jive with this year's theme of transport.

[Maybe it's finally time for me to resurrect the Pony Express and stash a recorder in my mail pouch. I'd hit these guys up for sponsorship, straightaway.]

Sunday, January 31, 2010

special bunny named bunny

"See the world through third grade ears."

Have been hooked, recently, on
Third Grade Audio works. Whether it's collaborative farewell poetry, imaginary interviews with Martin Luther King Jr., or ruminations on stuffed animal names, these kids have got it going ON, radio-wise. The honesty! The imagination! The lack of self-consciousness, and absent desire to sound like All Things Considered hosts! (Though the 'special bunny named bunny' contributor may be a young Brooke Gladstone in the making...public radio listeners should be so lucky?)

Big props to their teacher David Green, for guiding these wee producers so skillfully toward future careers in radio/audio production. Now let's just hope they get a few years of solid sonic storytelling in, before their economics teacher dashes all hopes of actually making a living in this field...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

here baby

no image for this post.

still glued to internet, reading, reading, reading, watching videos, trying to keep up. the vids are all starting to blend in my mind - the shambles, the dust, the bodies - arms frozen in death, reaching, the wide-eyes, the absolute wreck of everything.

but i can't stop thinking about
one particular video, where an australian reporter covers the miraculous recovery of a an 18 month-ish old girl who'd been trapped for three days underneath a building. i know a lot of such videos are circulating, but somehow this one's still very distinct for me (despite the kind of awful, cliche narration produced around the live footage) and i think it's because of the sound, as much as the images.

first - you hear this little girl shriek in response to voices outside the building [a shriek you will never, ever forget] and then when they extract her, the reporter - who up until that moment has retained the calm, cool, collected (and somewhat condescending) professional veneer - pulls her up into his arms and is so fucking freaked and incredulous he just keeps repeating, for nearly 30 seconds: 'here, baby. here, baby. here, baby.' someone hands him a bottle of water, he pours it over her head and into her mouth, 'here baby. here baby. here baby.'

the rest of the video unfolds like so many others - a blend of french/creole/english broken communication about the situation, surrounding people shell-shocked, trying to understand what's just happened, a quote or two from the heroes, acknowledgment of this miracle in the context of thousands of others dying at that very moment. but i was just bawling by the end of this one and can still hear that reporter: 'here baby. here baby. here baby' in my head.

we're all connecting with/slamming into what's happening in haiti at different moments and for different reasons. please, after reading this, make a donation to your organization of choice. and then make another one when you can. and maybe another one next month. and the month after.

Friday, January 15, 2010

sound for haiti

Like the rest of the world I've spent the last few days glued to the radio and Internet (or tv. or newspapers. or twitter feeds.) trying to grasp what's happened in Haiti. And, like most, I've been wondering what I can do to help. Send money, yes. But what else?

Here's another way: Sound artist Glenn Weyant has mobilized a dozen experimental/electronic/improvisational musicians to donate songs to a record [ New Music Haitian Relief ] that's available for download at whatever price you choose. 100% of proceeds will go to Food for the Poor - an organization Glenn has researched and believes will most efficiently turn donations into tangible help / food / support for the thousands and thousands of people who are dying in Haiti.

I've downloaded the album, and will be thinking about other ways - fiscal and creative - to continue supporting the awful situation there. Please do what you can, ok? Like, now.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New year - new list

Inspiration struck this weekend, aided by my new favorite snack - graham crackers + nutella, and a whole lot of time in which to let it, thanks to the most amazing Ragdale Foundation. This burst of click has resulted in many things, including an urge to share a few things at once, in this first post of 2010.

1. gallopinging
I've begun 'spinning' (as if) all sorts of music from 6-9am on wednesday mornings on - a new Chicago radio project about (January 17th) to launch online. You can listen all this week if you wish to be a Beta Listener by signing up for the email list. Or you can wait a few weeks and tune in / click on then. There are a lot of neat people involved, and while we may sound a little shaky at first...well just keep listening. P.S. Gallopinging's the name of my show. Why not?!

2. too much information
My good pal and esteemed radio colleague Benjamen Walker is back to his old (and occasionally offensive) tricks - thank the stars. You can podcast his
new show TMI, via WFMU, now my second favorite independent, community radio station out there. (see #1.)

3. live music
Am over the moon to see/hear three bands/musicians i like a lot playing in Chicago in the next month or so.
Mountains, the Necks, and James Blackshaw...all en route. So look out for some thoughts post-those shows.

4. a parting thought/quote
Just finished Bicycle Diaries, by David Byrne - a collection of essays about cities he's visited over time, largely framed through the lens of having ridden a bicycle through them. Except for all of the parts that have nothing to do with pedaling through these cities. I'm not super-overwhelmed by the book I like DB well enough, and it does have its great moments, and a beautiful cover. And then there's this single sentence that very nearly leapt off the page at me, and which I'll share with you now.

The world isn't logical, it's a song.

- D. Byrne

It's kind of almost too...something. But I like it.

5. more soon.