Latest Episode

Episode 24: An Interview with George Saunders

Fiction writer, humorist, and essayist, George Saunders talks with the Organist’s executive producer, Ross Simonini about the sonic aspects of his writing and reading. After reading aloud a passage from his most recent story collection, Saunders discuss his use of writerly voice as both a written and spoken device in his work.


Previous Episodes

The Glottal Break

This week’s show features an interview with composer and singer, Meredith Monk, who holds the 2014-2015 Composer’s Chair at Carnegie Hall. For 50 years, Monk has created music that bends the limits of the human voice, much of it connected to her own films, dance, opera, and site-specific performances. The Organist’s executive producer, Ross Simonini interviews her about Buddhism, her early days in New York, and her wide array of curious vocal techniques.

Episode 22: Breathing Exercises



This week the Organist explores sound design in two new documentaries, Irene Lusztig’s The Motherhood Archives and Matt Wolf’s Teenage. The films each use a combination of archival footage and original music to convey the cultural constructions of two very separate stages of human development–birth and adolescence.



Episode 21: The Piano Van

Photo by Jeff Feuerzeig

The story of Chris Stroffolino, who describes his journey from academia — writing Cliffs Notes to Shakespeare, teaching Creative Writing at NYU — to the downtown poetry scene of the 90s, to playing in the Silver Jews on their great 1998 album American Water, to a bicycle accident and eventual self-enforced homelessness – where he currently lives in a 1983 Ford Econoline van retrofitted with a piano in the back, performing for pedestrians.

Produced by David Weinberg.

Episode 20: Enter the Optigan


This week’s show features documentary filmmaker Rodney Ascher (Room 237) presenting an excerpt of an unreleased early film, called The Collectors. The excerpt centers on Pea Hicks, a collector of an obscure electronic instrument called the Optigan (and member of the great Optigan-driven band Optiganally Yours).

Enter The Optigan from Rodney Ascher on Vimeo.

Episode 19: Composing the Tinnitus Suites


Daniel Fishkin is a young musician who played in bands and studied composition at Bard College. When he was 22 he got a bad case of tinnitus, a continuous ringing in his ears that drowned out all the sounds around him, and even some of the music in his head. It was a pretty tough blow for an aspiring composer. It wasn’t the first time that a musician has had to deal with hearing loss, but what Fishkin did with this situation is remarkable.

Produced by Jascha Hoffman.

Daniel Fishkin
Photo by Samuel Lang Budin

Composing the Tinnitus Suites: 2014 (excerpts) from df on Vimeo.


Daniel Fishkin’s feedback system, where a piano string vibrates without being touched.
Fishkin used this to create the Tinnitus Suites.
Photo by Oliver Jones


Transducers attached to long strings that create a feedback loop when amplified.
Photo by Oliver Jones


Episode 18: A Mind Forever Voyaging


Mike Mills’ new film asks the kids of Silicon Valley workers (the sons of Google’s cafeteria line cooks; the daughters of engineers at Apple) about their relationship with technology and what the future looks like to them. The journalist and critic Gideon Lewis-Kraus sat down with Mills in San Francisco to discuss the film and the ways in which growing up in the corporate-technological landscape leads to a strange new worldview for these kids.

From now until July 1, Organist listeners get an exclusive sneak peek at the full version of A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought Alone at (password: BELIEVER)


Episode 17: Barely Not Shaking


This week’s show features actor, writer, and artist James Franco (Spring Breakers, Palo Alto) performing a radio play by playwright Will Eno (Thom Pain (based on nothing), The Realistic Joneses) written exclusively for the Organist. Filmmaker Harmony Korine discusses his novel, A Crackup at the Race Riots, and some unreleased songs he wrote and recorded as a child for the sole purpose of annoying his grandmother. 

Episode 16: The Horse Counselor


This week’s show features the premiere of an original radioplay written by Alena Smith (@TweenHobo; HBO’s The Newsroom) and performed by actor/director David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer, Wanderlust, Role Models) and Rachel Dratch (Saturday Night Live, Second City, 30 Rock). The play is followed by a casual conversation between the actors and writer on television binge-watching and the life-saving benefits of psychoanalysis.



Episode 15: The Frank Story

filmstill_frank at end

Before he became a journalist, writing hilarious and harrowing books of reportage like The Psychopath Test and The Men Who Stare at Goats, as well as contributing radio stories to This American Life and BBC 4, Jon Ronson had a brief career as a musician. He played keyboards in a group called the Frank Sidebottom Oh Blimey Big Band, which was a sort of experimental-comedy new-wave act. The group’s leader was the comedian Chris Sievey, who possessed a confounding absurdist charisma both on and offstage. He wore, for example, a giant papier mache head over his own head both on and off stage. Jon Ronson co-wrote a film, called Frank, that fictionalizes his time in the band. It stars Michael Fassbender and will be released in the US in August. Jon Ronson has this story of his experience driving around England in a van with a man in a huge papier-mache head. Ronson’s ebook, Frank: The True Story That Inspired the Movie, is published by Riverhead.

This episode is produced by Jenna Weiss-Berman and Andrew Leland. Thanks to Lucie Elven and Paul Ruest.




Episode 14: The Birthday Song

credit_ Greg Harrison

The Birthday Song, sung every day of the year at birthday parties across the land, is sweet, simple, and 120 years old this year. But it’s also a highly contested piece of intellectual property, pulling in millions of dollars for a large music conglomerate, Warner/Chappell, which charges films and TV shows who want to include the song, and pull the films from the shelves and file lawsuits if they don’t comply. Andrea Silenzi looks at the strange and somewhat tortured history of the song’s ownership, and offers a novel form of resistance to Warner’s hegemony.

This episode was produced by Andrea Silenzi. You can find more information on the Happy Birthday contest at, and listen to free birthday song entries.

This Month's Contributors


Subscribe on iTunes!

Don’t miss an episode of the Organist — subscribe to our podcast on iTunes now!

Episode Eight Extras!


Big thanks to Rob Walker for naming the Organist one of “the best podcasts you aren’t listening to but should be”! And apologies to those of you who have been listening to the Organist already who shouldn’t have been.

The Organist reviewed in the Onion’s AV Club

Terrific review of the Organist from the Onion’s AV Club: “Stellar…impressive…thoughtful and engaged…fascinating…remarkable depth and richness…an engrossing experience that leaves listeners with plenty to think about long after episodes have ended.” We discovered  most of our favorite podcasts from the AV Club’s podcast coverage, so this glowing notice feels extra special. Scroll down on this page to read the whole review.

The Organist in Current

The public-media newspaper Current published a nice notice about the Organist, including a semi-portentous quote from KCRW about our chances of ending up as a real-live on-air broadcast!

New and/or Noteworthy

We are mega-chuffed to report that we’re number two in iTunes’s vaunted “New & Noteworthy” listings! Who knows how long this will last? We are enjoying it while we can. Thank for subscribing to our podcast in iTunes, rating it, leaving prolix reviews, volunteering at your local youth center, etc!

iTunes is operational!

We’re now available in the iTunes store. Subscribe to the Organist in iTunes.

Episode One of the Organist is Here!

It’s over there to the left. Listen to it! Roll down the windows and blast it! Subscribe in iTunes (hang on a minute for this — almost there), follow us on Soundcloud, or get the KCRW mobile app and listen on demand. Thanks for checking it out.

Social Media

Engage in zesty public conversation with the Organist’s producers on Facebook, Twitter, and a barn. Someone just described Soundcloud as a social media site, so OK let’s include it in this list, too. Soundcloud.

Web Extras

Stream Mike Mills’s new film — exclusive!

losaltos_mills_film_still Organist listeners (and Believer readers) can stream Mike Mills’s new short documentary, A Mind Forever Wandering Through Strange Seas of Thought Alone, featured on episode 18 of the Organist (and the March/April 2014 Film Issue of the Believer) by visiting and entering the password BELIEVER. This will expire on July 1, so subscribe to our podcast in iTunes, subscribe to the Believer, and check out the film! Thanks, Marsha. (Who is Marsha?)

St. Vincent’s Mix Tape for the Believer/Organist

Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, made this mix of music she’s currently enjoying.

Lena Dunham’s Mixtape

Lena Dunham assembled this mix of songs by female musicians to accompany her interview with Judy Blume for the Organist, featuring Laura Marling, Nancy Sinatra, Laura Veirs, and others. Listen here.

Wooden Shjips’ Swedish progg playlist and interview

As promised in the December episode, Ripley Johnson from Wooden Shjips has put together a playlist of Swedish “progg” music that we festively strewed throughout episode 9, and is available in its unadulterated form below (or here). Also below, find a quick interview between Johnson and Oneida’s Kid Millions.

It’s kind of like the time in Fort Collins when the hippie jam band told my band Oneida not to worry, their set was short—they only had five songs—and proceeded to play for two hours. But there aren’t any direct correlations between that experience and the experience of listening to this Swedish mix besides duration… and perhaps this mix is shorter and stronger in almost every way.

I love the Wooden Shjips and I think you ought to as well—but I haven’t taken anyone’s advice on what to listen to in a long time. The Shjips take the basic building blocks of psychedelic rock and explode the expectations from there—and maybe you’re left confused, ecstatic, frustrated, exhilarated and wanting more at the end of one of their tremendous live shows or one of their equally tremendous albums. These tracks are exciting and emblematic and illuminating to his band’s aesthetic—and they can perhaps point in a direction of further listening if you find them as unique and compelling as I do.

This seems like the Wooden Shjips in a nutshell—the music can be strange, awkward and otherwise chaotic and not obsessed with technical considerations (thank god)—they seek a different path to those familiar feelings of dislocation, comfort and repetition—and the vehicle remains as strong as ever. I emailed the Shjips’ guitarist Ripley Johnson a few questions while he was on tour in Europe supporting their new record, Back to Land, out this month now from Thrill Jockey.

—Kid Millions


KID MILLIONS: How deeply do you care about physical manifestations of recorded music? Sometimes I walk into a record store and feel despair—mostly because it seems like in the midst of a deluge there’s no space for my own work. But when I leave the store I no longer feel this way. But after watching your Amoeba Records video I thought record stores might be inspiring to you. But God—do we have to romanticize places where the clerks are assholes?

RJ: Well, I like vinyl, but most of the vinyl I buy is old and used. So that’s part of my love for record stores. I buy new vinyl, and that’s great, but I really prefer the hunt. I carry around a list of records that I’m looking for at all times. When I go into a record store, even an Amoeba, I’m not usually overwhelmed because I have that list. I used to live just down the street from Amoeba in SF and I would go in there sometimes just to browse endlessly, to pass the time. Now I live in Portland and there are a whole bunch of smaller record stores. They’re funky and cheap. That’s key as well. I’ve shopped for records in NY and got sticker shock. I’m not paying $20 for a scratched copy of Growing Up in Public (r.i.p. Lou).

KM: Along similar lines—Neil Young, in his book Waging Heavy Peace, talks about his digital music service Pono—reattaching “soul” to the digital technology that got thrown away with overly compressed MP3s files. His argument is that MP3s remove the ineffable material that allows us to make deep emotional connections to music, but also we listened to shitty bootleg cassette copies of Neil at Massey Hall with at least twenty generations of warbles and tape decay, and we loved every minute of it.

RJ: Yeah, I listened to so many classic albums on cassette, vinyl dubs, that had skips in particular places, or were sequenced wrong because sides were dubbed in the wrong order. I still hear those imperfections in my mind when a particular song comes on the radio. Or bootlegs recorded at the wrong tape speed, so everything’s pitched up and fast. I don’t think that’s what Neil is talking about, though, and I don’t think higher quality digital is going to bring back that ineffable quality he’s after—it’s still just ones and zeros. But it’s got to be better than mp3s.

KM: Last time I saw you at the Knitting Factory you were killing it on guitar—just shredding. What’s your practice routine like?

RJ: I like to play along with records—that’s as close to practicing as I get. I like to experiment with playing wrong notes in interesting ways. Usually I’m trying to unlearn things. But mostly I just make it up as I go along.

Kid Millions is the founder and drummer of the bands Oneida, Man Forever and People of the North. He has played drums with Spiritualized, Boredoms, Yo La Tengo and Rhys Chatham. A new Man Forever album, called Ryonen, will be released in April 2014. 

Episode Eight Extras!

Videos of the Piano Van

Many more amazing videos on Stroffolino’s website,

Web Extras for March 2013

Throughout episode two of the Organist are snippets of songs selected by Devendra Banhart (interviewed in this episode by Ross Simonini). Listen to all of Banhart’s selections.


Bonus Items for February 2013

Listen to the full interview with George Saunders, stream the Matmos track, and find out more about the music discussed on episode one by browsing the February 2013 Bonus Items.