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.
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.
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.
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).
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’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
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 believermag.com/mikemills. (password: BELIEVER)
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.
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.
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.
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.