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Playlist: Big Rocks For City Lights

Compiled By: WABE

Caption: PRX default Playlist image

Here are pieces to chop up for CITY LIGHTS

Billie Holiday (Ep. 8)

From Jeff Haas | Part of the The New Jazz Archive: Series 1 (2015) series | 59:00

Billie Holiday has one of jazz's most bittersweet voices, and the biography to match.

Billie-holiday-240px_medium_medium_small In this hour, it's the life and music of the great Billie Holiday. We’ll talk with biographer Robert O’Meally about Lady Day’s musical genius and travel the hard road she took on her way to becoming one of jazz’s most beloved voices. And we’ll chat with Jazz at Lincoln Center curator Phil Schaap about the great Louis Armstrong’s role in shaping her musical voice, and talk with the best-selling author who’s channeled Billie Holiday to create a brand new version of her autobiography for young people.

Programming Note: This is Episode 8 of 13 in Season One of The New Jazz Archive.

Middle Eastern and Native American Melodies

From With Good Reason | 29:38

Middle Eastern and Native American melodies explored by western musicians

Ud Middle Eastern Melodies Most Americans are only superficially acquainted with Middle Eastern music, as presented in movie soundtracks. However, music from the Arabic speaking countries is very diverse and is integral to the spiritual life of the people who listen to it. Anne Rasmussen (The College of William and Mary) leads an ensemble of music students who perform Middle Eastern melodies. On this show, she plays traditional instruments like the "Ud" (an 11-stringed lute) and the "Riqq" (a percussion instrument). Also: Craig Naylor (University of Mary Washington) conducts musical concerts by contemporary Native American composers and is himself a composer who is influenced by this country?s Native culture.

Beethoven at the Piano

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 58:37

"As volcanic was the man’s painful life and descent into deafness, so his musical production was miraculously steady, virtually flawless, endlessly various in form and surface, scale, sonority and feelings — furious, lyrical, melting, often humorous, on the way to a “God sound” in the unearthly late work. Improvisation and variations at the piano were the twin engines of his imagination, on an instrument whose sound he kept reinventing. Those sonatas, variations and bagatelles for piano alone, most of them conceived as private statements, unperformed in public in Beethoven’s time, were the springboard of the giant symphonic spectacles with orchestra. And those same piano pieces can be taken today – fresh thrills and chills on every hearing – as Beethoven’s short stories. Much as Henry James’s stories record the self-study of a great novelist, Beethoven’s piano pieces give us a journal of his inner life, a view into his laboratory and maybe his soul."

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We’re getting the Beethoven fundamentals, as never before, at my own piano. At a short safe distance from the keyboard, I’m learning, among other things:

As volcanic was the man’s painful life and descent into deafness, so his musical production was miraculously steady, virtually flawless, endlessly various in form and surface, scale, sonority and feelings — furious, lyrical, melting, often humorous, on the way to a “God sound” in the unearthly late work. Improvisation and variations at the piano were the twin engines of his imagination, on an instrument whose sound he kept reinventing. Those sonatas, variations and bagatelles for piano alone, most of them conceived as private statements, unperformed in public in Beethoven’s time, were the springboard of the giant symphonic spectacles with orchestra. And those same piano pieces can be taken today – fresh thrills and chills on every hearing – as Beethoven’s short stories. Much as Henry James’s stories record the self-study of a great novelist, Beethoven’s piano pieces give us a journal of his inner life, a view into his laboratory and maybe his soul.

The occasion is Jan Swafford’s acclaimed 1000-page biography: Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph, the biggest Beethoven book in a century. The opportunity is to engage around my piano with Andrew Rangell, who made his bones—as the great pianists all seem to do—by performing all 32 of the Beethoven Piano Sonatas. Years later, Andrew Rangell is still recording the late Beethoven masterpieces.

Jan Swafford, left, and Andrew Rangell.

Jan Swafford, left, and Andrew Rangell.

Throughout these piano works, we hear Beethoven the master of forms: sonata, fugue, and perhaps variations as his signature. The notion was to take a motif and re-imagine it, transfigure it, over and over. One thing is continually becoming many.

That big, shape-shifting idea in Beethoven’s own life comes from the German Enlightenment. It’s all in the Ode to Joy, Friedrich Schiller’s hugely popular poem from 1785, set to many tunes before Beethoven’s. The Ode declared the universal brotherhood of mankind through a sublime experience of art and the natural world. This becomes a north star motivating Beethoven through what we call his early, middle, and late periods. Irony, perhaps, that Beethoven himself became a kind of divine figure, worshipped long after his death in the great temples of music. In Boston Symphony Hall built in 1900, Beethoven is the one composer’s name in block letters on the giant medallion in the arch over the stage. He shaped the size and sonority of pianos and symphonies, the carrying capacity of LPs and CDs, also our expectations as listeners, for fire and depth and heroic fury in overwhelming music.

This hour, some of the rest of the story: the joy, the darkness, and the depth of Beethoven’s piano world. Three personal points are not incidental to this conversation: Jan Swafford was a composer before he was a biographer. He wrote the big life stories of Johannes Brahms and the American modernist Charles Ives before his Beethoven. And he’s still a composer. Andrew is an uncommonly reflective player, a reader, a writer, cartoonist as well. And finally, these guys are good friends. They have been hashing out their different takes on Beethoven over pizza and Patriots games for more than 20 years, and now blessedly for our mikes. Thank you, Jan and Andrew.

J.S. Bach’s Bitter-Sweet Passion

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 58:37

From the great Bach’s hand, two masterpieces of church theater survive. Both tell the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, one from the gospel of Matthew, the other from the later gospel of John.

This St. John Passion, first performed in 1724, is a “mis-shapen, personal and messy” piece, as one of Boston’s great Bach conductors Craig Smith used to say, in exactly the way the story is mis-shapen, personal and messy. It’s the musical account of a sadistic murder of a young visionary—to the howling mockery of a mob of his fellow Jews. Jesus’s sin was presenting himself as the Son of God. For Christians (like Bach) the death of Jesus becomes the redeeming moment in all of time, God’s sacrifice of his son for the sins of mankind.

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J.S. Bach’s Bitter-Sweet Passion

The music in this episode comes from Boston Baroque’s 2015 performance of the Saint John Passion, conducted by Martin Pearlman.

From the great Bach’s hand, two masterpieces of church theater survive. Both tell the trial and crucifixion of Jesus, one from the gospel of Matthew, the other from the later gospel of John.

This St. John Passion, first performed in 1724, is a “mis-shapen, personal and messy” piece, as one of Boston’s great Bach conductors Craig Smith used to say, in exactly the way the story is mis-shapen, personal and messy. It’s the musical account of a sadistic murder of a young visionary—to the howling mockery of a mob of his fellow Jews. Jesus’s sin was presenting himself as the Son of God. For Christians (like Bach) the death of Jesus becomes the redeeming moment in all of time, God’s sacrifice of his son for the sins of mankind.

But in the telling over the ages and especially after the 20th century, that merciless mob, yelling “crucify him, crucify him” in Bach’s oratorio made St. John Passion unlistenable even for many Bach lovers. This week we’re trying to make sense of a Western masterwork that has not just killer rage at the core, but also group labels on it.

The cast of this universal story is nearly all Jewish: Jesus, Mary, the apostles, the gospel writers, the elders of the temple–all but the viceroy Pontius Pilate are Jews in a Jewish outpost of the Roman empire. But in the text Bach set to music, the crowd mocking Jesus, screaming for his death, is identified–not as “the crowd,” or “the people” but as “the Jews.” And there’s the rub for modern minds.

If the Bach Passion is at all disturbing, is at all problematic, it’s only because the Gospels [themselves] are hugely problematic. It’s because, over centuries, medieval and early modern interpretations of that Gospel text added weight to an anti-Jewish core that couldn’t have been imagined by John when he wrote it… That doesn’t mean that these texts are necessarily tainted forever. The question is, how do you take traditions and evolve them? How do we get our contemporary values in sync without throwing out these traditions that are beautiful?… Deanna Klepper.

Martin Pearlman, who has led the Boston Baroque ensemble for 40 years but never put the St. John Passion on his program until this year, was the instigator of this conversation. It is his performance with the Boston Baroque players and singers (from February 27 and 28 late this winter) that runs throughout our radio hour. Our conversation draws also on the mezzo-sopranoPamela Dellal, who’s sung the great St. John arias and translated its words into English. Robert Marshall at Brandeis, andDeanna Klepper at Boston University are our historians of Bach’s music and the political and religious context of 18th-century Germany.

The ultimate villain of the piece is humanity in general… Everybody was playing a preordained role. [As a young man] I heard ‘the [Jews] shrieking’ and put it in the context of the Holocaust, the Nazis, Goebbels. The German language played a bad role, too. In those days you never heard the German language being spoken unless it sounded like it was being spoken by Nazis, if you go back to the 1960s… I like to think I’m more enlightened about it now. I think, in some sense, it’s something of an exoneration, because the Jews are part of the scenario, but the message being spoken… is a universal message, that we are all part of this crime, this deicide. Am I rationalizing too much?   Bob Marshall.

We’re listening not just for the hard feeling in and around this music but for the heart-rending beauty that’s more memorable in the end. The St. John Passion is a monument to eternal sadness and excruciating suffering rendered in musical language what no other language could. What do you hear in the music?

American Horror Stories

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 58:35

165 Halloweens on, we still call on Edgar Allan Poe when we want a disturbing kind of classic — all of the horror with none of the guilt. His most famous stories are taught and read and all but buried alive in the back of middle-school textbooks. But do we know what to do with Poe and his legacy as the poor, bitter, misfit genius of American letters? Boston (his unhappy birthplace) has finally commissioned a brilliant, virtually “walking” sidewalk statue of Poe by Stefanie Rocknak, cast by New England Sculpture Service in Chelsea. Are we on the way yet to the right respect?

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165 Halloweens on, we still call on Edgar Allan Poe when we want a disturbing kind of classic — all of the horror with none of the guilt. His most famous stories are taught and read and all but buried alive in the back of middle-school textbooks. But do we know what to do with Poe and his legacy as the poor, bitter, misfit genius of American letters? Boston (his unhappy birthplace) has finally commissioned a brilliant, virtually “walking” sidewalk statue of Poe by Stefanie Rocknak, cast by New England Sculpture Service in Chelsea. Are we on the way yet to the right respect?

From the beginning, Emerson called Poe the “jingle-man.” Aldous Huxley said his singsong poems reminded him of a man wearing a diamond ring on every finger. And Harold Bloom made no bones about it: he’s a third-rate poet and a second-rate storyteller.

Then again, everyone from Walter Benjamin to Joyce Carol Oates adores Poe and his writing. And in a short prolific career, starting in 1833, Poe gave us a lot of what we call “modern” literature — and not just the detective story and ‘speculative’ genres. He modeled a certain dark, ironic, experimental sensibility in time to inspire Baudelaire and John Barth. So we’re looking to place the man and his tales “of the grotesque and arabesque.”

What’s your favorite Poe story, poem, or essay? What do you make of the man? Write a comment, or click the microphone to leave us a voice message.  For starters, watch this moody James Mason rendering of “The Telltale Heart”, Poe’s most famous story, which we played during the show. But know: that’s just the beginning!

WWI: Remaking Music

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 58:31

How did composers react to the violence of The First World War? We're listening to musicians who defined a modern era.

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How did composers react to the violence of The First World War? In the last show in our series on the Great War, we’re listening to the sounds that emerged from its ashes.  In Vienna concert halls and New York jazz clubs, from Maurice Ravel’s piano elegies to Igor Stravinsky’s explosive symphonies, we’re coursing through the composers who defined a modern era, reacting to the terrible violence of total warfare through art.

It’s a twenty-year-long journey that begins in Paris in 1914—as bombs began to fall and mass media began to rise—with Ravel’s Le Tombeau, a swirling piano suite dedicated to friends of Ravel who died in the war. We’ll move across the Atlantic and hear George Antheil’s bombastic Ballet Mécanique, which brought the noise of war—a whir of plane propellers, sirens, and an army of player pianos—directly into the concert hall.  Finally, we’re making the great transatlantic jazz connection: how Duke Ellington, Josephine Baker, and others pointed a new way out of the darkness.

The John Updike Radio Files

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 58:36

We've discovered some old gems in our radio archives and sprinkled them through a conversation with John Updike's biographer, Adam Begley, for our show this week. Begley talks about Updike's Pennsylvania boyhood, his wives and lovers north of Boston, his children, his spiritual life, his voracious reading, his travels — and how he created the most graceful prose of our time by cannibalizing all of it for his art.

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We’ve discovered some old gems in our radio archives and sprinkled them through a conversation with John Updike’s biographer, Adam Begley, for our show this week.

Begley talks about Updike’s Pennsylvania boyhood, his wives and lovers north of Boston, his children, his spiritual life, his voracious reading, his travels  — and how he created the most graceful prose of our time by cannibalizing all of it for his art. Between lived experience and the pages of the New Yorker magazine, John Updike had the shortest digestive tract in the modern practice of serious literature, Begley says. How we miss him and wonder: what’s Updike thinking — as we did back in the day about the expanding universe, or Barack Obama on the rise, or the Red Sox in a pennant race? What would he say today about our obsession with our phones, or about the the jobless generation, or Google Glass?

David Foster Wallace on The Connection with Chris Lydon, February 1996

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 36:36

In February 1996, David Foster Wallace came to Boston. He was the not-quite recognized writer of the massive book, Infinite Jest, which was just beginning to capture the attention of reviewers, readers and a generation of writers. Chris interviewed David Foster Wallace on The Connection on WBUR in Boston, and told him he seemed to be living in between a moment of cultish obscurity and international artistic celebrity, perhaps even immortality.

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In February 1996, David Foster Wallace came to Boston. He was the not-quite recognized writer of the massive book, Infinite Jest, which was just beginning to capture the attention of reviewers, readers and a generation of writers. Chris interviewed David Foster Wallace on The Connection on WBUR in Boston, and told him he seemed to be living in between a moment of cultish obscurity and international artistic celebrity, perhaps even immortality.

We went to the WBUR archives yesterday to see if we could find the tape. We found it in the dusty basement, nestled between shows about the 1996 presidential primaries and escalating violence in the Middle East. The conversation is almost heartbreaking to hear now in light of Wallace’s suicide in 2008. Back then he was attempting to explain the sadness he saw among the twenty- and thirty-somethings around him; he admitted to feeling lost and lonely himself. But he also spoke of his hope to have children and the prospect of a long career.

All the same, Wallace was skirting the subject of his own alcoholism and marijuana addiction. Now we know that Wallace came to Alcoholics Anonymous and Granada House, a halfway house in Brighton, not as a researcher but as a patient. In our show “Infinite Boston,” we spoke to Deb Larson-Venable, Granada House’s den mother and executive director. Wallace based his character Pat Montesian, one of the novel’s rare angels, on Larson. She knew Wallace as a man who fought for his life in Boston, and won. 

David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Boston"

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 58:34

Here’s how to read David Foster Wallace’s thousand-page door stop and masterpiece Infinite Jest: it’s a Boston novel the way Ulysses is a Dublin novel, as Les Miserables is a Paris novel.

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Here’s how to read David Foster Wallace’s thousand-page door stop and masterpieceInfinite Jest: it’s a Boston novel the way Ulysses is a Dublin novel, as Les Miserables is a Paris novel. Infinite Jest is a novel about Wallace’s alcohol addiction and recovery on a route through Boston we all walk and drive and manage not to see into: the “clot and snarl of Prospect St in Cambridge,” those “Live” and “Fresh Killed” poultry signs in Inman Square, the clang and squeak of the B-Line trolleys along Comm Ave, Brighton past the halfway houses on the hill for catatonics and drunks where Wallace’s life turned around. Maybe it helps to read Infinite Jest as a tour map of one man’s battlefield.  Re-enactments every day.  We’re talking a walk through DFW’s Infinite Boston this hour.

We got 200-and-some contributions for this conversation posted on Reddit so far.  IJ, as they say, is about addiction, entertainment, compulsive consumption, emotional isolation, TV, the Internet, anxiety, panic attacks,  – and loneliness throughout.  One of the Reddit writers said: “Infinite Jest, it’s still where I go to understand the queer sadnesses of 21st-century life.”

Our guests include Bill Lattanzi, poet, playwright, and the original Infinite Boston tour guide; D.T. Max, staff writer at The New Yorker and author of the acclaimed Wallace biography, Every Love Story is a Ghost StorySven Birkerts, the writer, critic, andeditor who was a friend of Wallace’s; and Deb Larson-Venable, executive director ofGranada House, where Wallace began his road to recovery, and the extraordinary inspiration for the extraordinary Pat Montesian, a character in the novel.

Boston Noir

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 58:34

Noir heroes tend not to be gangsters of Whitey Bulger’s grandeur; not tough cops either: they’re punched-out boxers and junkies, little perps, prisoners, victims reduced to victimizing each other and themselves. It’s bad things happening to bad guys, giving and getting the punishment they think they deserve.

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Boston_noir_small Boston noir is an art of darkness, under an overcast sky and fishy salt-air smell of the  waterfront. It’s now a sort of signature of our city, in novels that became movies, like The TownThe Departed, and The Fighter

Dennis Lehane, who wrote Mystic River, says noir is working-class tragedy — different from other kinds. “In Shakespeare,” Lehane puts it, “tragic heroes fall from mountaintops; in noir, they fall from curbs.”  Noir heroes tend not to be gangsters of Whitey Bulger’s grandeur; not tough cops either: they’re punched-out boxers and junkies, little perps, prisoners, victims reduced to victimizing each other and themselves.  Noir is the bottom of underground capitalism, talking to itself.  It’s bad things happening to bad guys, giving and getting the punishment they think they deserve.

Guest List:

Rick Marinick, author of Boyos and In for a Pound, the state trooper turned gangster who served 18 years in prison for multiple armored-car robbery convictions;

Nick Flynn, a playwright, poet, and memoirist born and raised in Scituate, son of an alcoholic bank-robber, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City and The Reenactments; and

Anna Mundow, author of the “Crime and Punishment” column in the Barnes and Noble Review, contributor to The Boston Globe and longtime correspondent for The Irish Times. 

Vietnam Blues

From Tina Antolini | 28:31

Vince Gabriel is a Vietnam veteran who's written an album of songs chronicling his experience of the war. He takes listeners back to 1968, to the jungle of Vietnam.

Default-piece-image-0 Vince Gabriel is a Maine-based blues musician who's written an album of songs chronicling his experience in the Vietnam war. In the documentary, Vince takes listeners chronologically through his time in Vietnam, with his music leading us into stories about getting drafted, arriving in the jungle, what combat was like, the loss of his closest friend, the relief of finally returning home and his reflections on the legacy of Vietnam today. While news reports about the war in Iraq tend to focus on numbers and strategy, Vince's stories give listeners an almost visceral sense of what it's like for those on the front lines. Though it is an account of a war that took place years ago, the current situation in Iraq make Vince's observations feel disturbingly immediate and poignant. This piece aired nationally on the documentary program "Soundprint" in late January 2005.

A Conversation with 2011 MacArthur Fellow, Francisco Nunez

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 28:30

Francisco Nunez began the Youth Chorus of New York to together youth of all backgrounds. Together they create beautiful music and an inclusive community.

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Francisco Nunez is one of those forces of nature...a musician, composer, conductor, music educator and a 2011 MacArthur Fellow.  A musical prodigy who composed his first choral work at the age of fifteen, Francisco graduated from NYU with a degree in piano study and went to work at the Children's Aid Society.  Within a year, he began the Young People's Chorus of New York... an organization that provides children of all ethnic, religious, and economic backgrounds with a program of music education and choral performance.  

Francisco's  aim is to harnesses the power of music to fulfill the potential of every child.  The result has been phenomenal--an internationally recognized chorus that is renowned for its artistic excellence, virtuosity and its cross-cultural performances that build understanding and bridges both within this nation and with other cultures of the world.  In fact, in 2011 YPC was presented with nation’s highest award for youth programs—a National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award. 

A Conversation with Ellsworth Kelly

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 28:29

The great American artist talks about his lifelong fascination with color and form.

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Ellsworth Kelly is one of the most  celebrated and widely influential artist of the second half of the twentieth century.  he rose to acclaim in the 1950s with his bright multi colored and mono chromatic multipanel works.  His work explores the dynamic relationship among color, structure, and surroundings.  The wall itself becomes the canvass for the art.  he was one of the first artists to use irregularly shaped canvasses... this along with his layered reliefs, sculptures, and drawings consistently challenges the viewers conception of space. When he received the National medal of Arts from president obama, ellsworth Kelly's citation read, in part:  A careful observer of form, color, and the natural world, Mr. Kelly has shaped more than half a century of abstraction and remains a vital influence in American art. 

A Conversation with Irish Fiddler Seamus Connolly

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 28:29

It's a tuneful podcast as we go to the heart of Irish music with 2013 National Heritage Fellow Seamus Connolly.

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Seamus Connolly is a teacher, scholar, and, as you heard, a remarkable irish fiddler.  By his mid-twenties, Connolly had won the Irish National Fiddle Championship ten times, a feat that is still unequalled.   Since emigrating to the United States in the 1970s, Seamus has performed at numerous festivals throughout the country, including the National Folk Festival, Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and with three of phenomenonally successful Masters of the Folk Violin tours organized by the National Council for the Traditional Arts.

Connolly's  recordings including his two solo CDs, Notes from my Mind and Here and There, as well as The Boston Edge with 2004 NEA National Heritage Fellow Joe Derrane and John McGann.  Since 2004, Connolly has been the Sullivan Artist in Residence at Boston College's Center for Irish Programs where he had previously directed the  highly acclaimed Gaelic Roots Summer School and Festival.  Not surprisingly he is the recipient of many awards--and , he's added a national heritage fellowship--which is a lifetime honor presented to master folk and traditional artists by the national endowment for the arts.

I traveled to Maine to visit with Seamus when he was awarded the heritage fellowship.  I began by asking Seamus to explain what makes Irish fiddling, Irish Fiddling?

A Conversation with poet, theater artist and activist Shailja Patel

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 29:28

With a trunk full of her mother’s saris, Kenyan author and performer Shaija Patel reclaims a lost history.

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With Migritude, Shaila Patel has created  a 90 minute spoken-word tour de force. Migritude explores themes of heritage, war, liberation and, of course, migration. Shailja Patel was born and raised in Kenya  in a family of Indian descent. Her trousseau of saris, passed down by her mother, becomes the means by which she unfolds the hidden histories of women's lives from India to East Africa-- the same journey her grandparents took when both regions were under colonial rule.  

In Migritude, she weaves together  memoir, political history, and astute observations about the capriciousness of migration, creating an award-winning theater piece that has resonated with people on three continents.   In fact, it was so successful as a spoken word performance piece that Shailja Patel reworked Migritude into a book of poetry.

A Conversation with Sherrie Maricle

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 29:28

Sherrie Maricle has played with Jazz legends, leads an all-woman big band, and forges new roads for woman in jazz.

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We all know where women in jazz belong: behind the piano or the microphone...at least that's the popular stereotype. But that's changing, and one of the reasons why is drummer Sherrie Maricle.  She wanted to play drums and she wanted to play jazz, and so she did...in spite of many challenges along the way. I'll take a deep breath and try to give you a sense of the scope of her career:  here's a few of the jazz greats she's played with Slam Stewart, Johnny Mandel, Clark Terry and Dizzy Gillespie. She's a composer and arranger in both jazz and classical music.  She has a Ph.D in Jazz composition and performance. Since 1992, she's led her own the all-woman big band, the internationally renowned Diva, as well as the  quintent  FivePlay and the Diva Jazz Trio. She's a percussionist for the New York Pops and the New Jersey Symphony. And to no one's surprise, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2009 Mary Lou Williams Festival.

Sherrie Maricle and the Diva orchestra were in Washington DC recently  performing at Arena Stage with the show, Maurice Hines is Tapping Thru Life.  Sherrie Maricle and Maurice Hines are old friends, having collaborated frequently since 1990. As usual, Maricle was wearing many hats--musical director, conductor, and drummer; but, she also found time to talk to me. I caught up with Sherrie Maricle one evening at the Arena Stage before the show.  I wanted to begin with the business at hand: her work with Maurice Hines in Tappin' Thru Life.

A conversation with director Morgan Neville

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 29:30

Hot off his Academy Award win for "Twenty Feet from Stardom," Morgan Neville reflects on the singers, the film, and the ride they have shared.

Tffs_2_small They are the singers in the background--only "Twenty Feet from Stardom."  In his Academy Award winning film, director Morgan Neville shows us how far that walk to the front of the stage can be. "Twenty Feet from Stardom" is Morgan Neville's chronicle of rock and roll's back-up singers from the 1950s to the present.   Darlene LoveJudith HillMerry ClaytonLisa Fischer are just a few of the film's astounding singers that few of know by name, but they have graced the recordings and shared the stage with some of rock's icons like Sting, Mick Jagger, and Stevie Wonder-- all of whom  appear in the Twenty Feet from Stardom  to share their insights about the voices that back them.    Given his previous films like "Pearl Jam Twenty" and "Johnny Cash's America", It makes sense that director Morgan Neville would be intrigued by backup singers and see the compelling story they had to tell.   Neville has spent his career creating an award-winning documentary films about cultural figures and subjects with a frequent focus on music.   But it was twenty Feet from stardom that  earned Morgan Neville his first academy award. Morgan Neville.

A Conversation with Carol Fran

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 29:29

Louisiana Swamp blues singer, composer and pianist Carol Fran looks back at her sixty year career.

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Carol Fran's distinctive voice and piano-playing style has kept her in the limelight for more than six decades. She's known as a swamp blues singer.  Swamp blues   is characterized by slow laid back vocals combined with elements of Cajun and Zydeco . But as we just heard in "Emmitt Lee", she can belt out an r and b song with the best of them.

Carol Fran was born in Lafayette Louisiana in 1933 and she knew she was put on this earth to perform.  She was on the road as a teenager, eventually making her way to New Orleans where she became notable presence on Bourbon Street singing and composing  both in English and in Creole.

During the 1960s, she recorded and toured extensively until she decided to limit her career to singing on the Gulf Coast nightclub circuit.

She reconnected with the great blues guitarist Clarence Holliman, and the two formed a partnership on and off stage, marrying and relocating to his native Texas.  His guitar and her voice were perfect complements to each other and together they  toured throughout the US and Europe and recorded three outstanding discs.   Carol returned to Louisiana after Holliman's death, and in 2001 released a solo album, Fran-tastic,. In 2007, Fran suffered a stroke but just seven months later, she was back on stage at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. 

Carol Fran  has received many awards including the Slim Harpo Blues Award for Female Legend of the Year and just last year, she was named a National Heritage Fellow.

I spoke to Carol Fran in her dressing room backstage before her performance at the National Heritage Concert.  As you'll hear, it was an emotional time for her.

Memorial Day Weekend Podcast

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 28:29

Remembering War through Art

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This Memorial Day weekend, the National Endowment for the Arts is celebrating the launch of the fifth season of Blue Star Museums.  Blue Star Museums is a collaboration among the National Endowment for the Arts, the Department of Defense,  Blue Star Families,  a national network of military families, and more than 2,000 museums across America  that offer free admission to the nation’s service members  and their families from Memorial Day through Labor Day. 

First guest: senior director of Blue Star Families Sheri Robey-Lapan 

 New York City’s  Whitney Museum of American Art is participating in Blue Star Museums once again.  The Whitney is now exhibiting American Legends. It’s a rotating exhibit that focuses on 13 artists.  Jacob Lawrence is one of the featured artists and the Whitney chose to exhibit his masterpiece, War Series….14 paintings that depicts World War 2 soldiers from  their initial draft notice to the end of the war….   Barbara Haskell curated the exhibit…she talks about Jacob Lawrence’s place in American Legends  and his war series

 We  end with Lynn Hill, she was in the Air Force where she operated predator drones.  When her tour of duty ended, she became a key poet/performer in Holding It Down," Vijay Iyer's and Mike Ladd's extraordinary performance piece about the dreams of veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lynn recites her poem, "Dreams in Color" and shares her thoughts about Holding It Down’s attempts to portray the challenges of service members when the uniform comes off.  

2011 National Book Award Winner Jesmyn Ward finds the past is often present in rural Mississippi.

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 28:30

In her memoir Men We Reaped, Jesmyn Ward attempts to understand the links in the untimely deaths of her brother and four friends.

Jesmynwardcredittonycook_small Jesmyn Ward has made the Mississippi Gulf Coast and its bayous and rural communities her literary terrain where her two novels Where the Line Bleeds and  the 2011 National Book Award winner Salvage the Bones are set. Both gave texture and voice to poor rural black Mississippians struggling against the brutality of racism and poverty.
Jesmyn Ward takes up this exploration again in her third book--but perhaps with more stake --it's  a memoir called Men We Reap.  Men We Reap is Jesmyn's attempt to understand the deaths between 2000 and 2004 of five young men close to her, especially her beloved younger brother Joshua.  Interwoven with chapters about each young man is Jesmyn's own story--her growing up and coming of age as her family moved from their own house to their in-laws to a trailer--her parents' marriage collapsing; the family in poverty.  Once again, Jesmyn Ward uses her formidable literary skill to force us to confront the lives and the hearts of people who get trapped by circumstances and at times by their own bad choices. 

A Conversation Honoring Merce Cunningham

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 22:53

The archival voice of Merce himself defining the art of dance! Radiohead! Need we say more.

Cunningham110_small Okay, a little more. In this podcast, you'll also hear from three important figures in the modern dance world: choreographer Elizabeth Streb, critic Suzanne Carrbonneau, and current Executive Director of Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Trevor Carlson. 

Merce Cunningham: 
The dance is an art is space and time. The object of the dancer is to obliterate that. The fortunate thing in dancing is that space and time cannot be disconnected and everyone can see and understand that. A body still is taking up just as much space in time as a body moving. The result is that neither the one nor the other moving or being still is more or less important except it’s nice to see a dancer moving.

A Conversation with Veteran, Lynn Hill

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 26:45

Lynn Hill discusses her participation in "Holding It Down" -- Vijay Iyer's and Mike Ladd's performance piece based on the dreams of veterans of color. [26:44]

Hill110_0_small Lynn Hill participated in "Holding It Down," Vijay Iyer's and Mike Ladd's extraordinary performance piece about the dreams of veterans of color who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Based on actual conversations with veterans, "Holding It Down" is an often discordant, but always gripping mixture of poetry, music, video monologues by veterans, and visual images reflecting the hallucinatory nature of both dreams and war. Two poet veterans are key performers in "Holding It Down:" Maurice DeCaul and Lynn Hunt. Lynn Hunt’s passionate reading and charismatic presence underscored her unexpected story: her experience operating predator drones, firing missiles into Iraq remotely from a central station in Las Vegas, and the subsequent conflicts this duty caused within her.

A Conversation with Olivia de Havilland

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 27:53

One of America's most beloved stars spills some backstage secrets while discussing career highlights. Arguably most famous for her role as Melanie Wilkes in the film Gone With the Wind, Olivia de Havilland was given a 2008 National Medal of the Arts for her extraordinary body of work.

Dehavilland_small Winner of two Academy Awards for best actress, Olivia de Havilland is quite simply a Hollywood legend, and at the age of 93 she's also one of the few who remembers first hand Hollywood's golden age. A natural beauty with refined elegance, de Havilland was an accomplished actress who wasn't afraid to tackle roles that would make her look unattractive, from a woman struggling with insanity in the Snake Pit to a plain unassuming girl in The Heiress, for which she won an Academy Award. In 2008, de Havilland was presented with The National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed on an artist by the Federal Government. 

A Conversation with John Hickenlooper, Mayor of Denver

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 23:37

John Hickenlooper discusses his efforts to use the arts to revitalize Denver and promote economic development and increased livability.

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Mayor of Denver since 2003, Hickenlooper is an unstinting supportor of the arts, eager to demonstrate that it’s culture that makes a city vibrant. “Culture first, commerce follows” is his oft-quoted mantra and he knows this from the business side. He was a successful entrepreneur who established the first brewpub in the Rocky Mountains which eventually grew to seven restaurants in the Denver area. In the process of building his restaurants, he became involved with numerous downtown Denver renovation and development projects and is credited as one of the pioneers that helped revitalize Denver’s Lower Downtown historic district.

A Conversation with Translator, Natasha Wimmer

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 27:08

Natasha Wimmer was awarded an NEA Literature Fellowship in 2007 to translate Roberto Bolaño's epic novel 2666. In this interview, she discusses the complexities of translating Bolaño's work and other tribulations of working as a translato

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If you've read The Savage Detectives or 2666 in English, then you know the debt of gratitude that you owe Natasha Wimmer. The translation was a monumental task of monumental work. 2666, for example, clocks in at close to 900 pages. Bolano's characters range from an African-American journalist who's an ex-Black Panther, to a Mexican woman who is psychic, from street thugs to literary critics. And his language is equally broad from Mexican slang to flowery poetic musings. In an early part of 2666, one sentence runs for four and half pages without a full-stop.

But Natasha Wimmer more than rose to the challenge; although how she pulled off the translation with such fluidity and grace is nothing short of amazing, and it brings up the whole intriguing question of translation, of the intellectual acrobatics needed to move literature successfully from one language into another.

A Conversation with Richard Sherman

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 29:58

A world without Mary Poppins? No way. The two-time Oscar winner and 2008 National Medal winner lets us in on how great show tunes get written.

Sherman_small Richard Sherman is half of the tireless songwriting team, the Sherman Brothers, and he's a walking, talking American songbook. With his brother, Robert, he's turned out hundreds of memorable songs, for stage, screen, and even theme parks. "A Spoonful of Sugar," "It's a Small World After All," and the one you just heard, "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," are just three examples of why the Sherman Brothers were presented with a National Medal of Arts in 2008. The Sherman Brothers have won two Academy Awards, both of them for Mary Poppins, one for Best Song, "Chim Chim Mer-ee," and the other for Best Musical Score. 

A Conversation with Martina Arroyo

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 27:18

2010 NEA Opera Honoree and legendary soprano Martina Arroyo talks about her career in opera, including working with such luminaries as Leonard Bernstein, Plácido Domingo, and Luciano Pavarotti.

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Famous for her interpretations of Verdi, Puccini and Strauss, Martina Arroyo is admired by fans of opera everywhere. Leading soprano at the Metropolitan Opera from 1965 to 1978, she's also performed at major Opera Houses around the world.  She's made over 50 recordings of major operas with conductors such as Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Mehta, and James Levine. She was also a guest on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson over twenty times and made appearances on the television show, The Odd Couple.

Since her retirement from the stage, Martina Arroyo has become an established teacher of Opera and singing at leading universities and conservatories. She was a member of the National Council on the Arts and served as an opera panelist for the NEA. In 2003, she established the Martina Arroyo Foundation which prepares young singers in the interpretation of operatic roles. Given her career as an artist and as an educator, it's little wonder that she was named a recipient for the NEA's 2010 Opera Honors.

A Conversation with Christian McBride

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 27:49

Bassist Christian McBride talks about jazz.

Mcbride110_small For a 38-year-old, Christian McBride has packed a lot into his career: He’s an acclaimed acoustic bass player who’s performed with most of the jazz greats including Sonny Rollins, Freddie Hubbard, and Herbie Hanncock as well as regularly with Chick Corea. McBride refuses to bound by genre… he has performed with many different artists like Sting, Kathleen Battle, and James Brown in a variety of styles: rhythm and blues, classical, soul, hip hop, pop and funk. He’s fronted The Christian McBride Band: his own jazz, fusion, and funk ensemble.  And he now leads the jazz quintet, Inside Straight. Born and bred in Philadelphia, McBride credits that city for his musical roots.

A Conversation with Youngblood Theater Collective

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 22:27

Youngblood co-directors Graeme Gillis and R.J. Tolan talk about a unique organization for up-and-coming playwrights.

Youngblood110_small Worried that vibrant new voices were going unheard and unnurtured, and equally convinced that younger theater artists had their own particular needs, NYC Ensemble Studio Theater formed Youngblood. Now in its 18th year, Youngblood provides artistic guidance, peer support, regular feedback  and a way for playwrights to see their work mounted on a stage in front of an audience. The co-directors of Youngblood are Graeme Gillis and R.J. Tolan. 

A Conversation with John Maeda

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 29:43

John Maeda is the President of Rhode Island School of Design and he's passionate about the intersection of art and technology.

Maeda110_small Designer, artist, computer scientist, author, and educator, John Maeda has been a leader in integrating art, design, technology and science.  Born in 1966, Maeda studied software engineering at MIT and used his natural ability as an artist to design software and graphics that had an aesthetic appeal.  After completing his master's degree at MIT, he studied art in Japan where he received a Ph.D in design.  As computers became more sophisticated and the web made their technology more accessible, Maeda was perfectly positioned to influence computer-generated design.  His work is often at the crossroads of art and technology, where he has consistently pushed their boundaries to explore how these disciplines shape each other.  He is known for his innovative thinking; a belief that technology should be humanized, and that design in the digital age should be simple. Indeed, one of his books is titled, The laws of Simplicity. He is a pioneer in championing the creative economy in his insistence that a thriving 21 st century economy must find its leaders in artists and designers.  

A Conversation with Liz Lerman, Part One

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 23:42

Choreographer and author, Liz Lerman converses through dance on the stage and now the page.

Lerman110_small Liz Lerman is one of the revolutionaries of contemporary dance.  She is founder and artistic director of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, an artist driven company that looks to break the boundaries between stage and audience; theater and community. For Lerman, Dance is a way to think and everyone can dance.  Her subjects have ranged from pets to the death of her mother, to the origins of the universe. Her working process emphasizes intensive collaboration with dancers, communities, and thinkers from diverse disciplines. Liz Lerman is known for nurturing a multi-generational company of dancers  whose ages span six decades and creating site-specific work at places as diverse as  shipyards in New Hampshire and the Lincoln Memorial. Liz Lerman has been the recipient of numerous honors, including a 2002 MacArthur “Genius Grant,” while her company has received a number of notable awards for its pioneering work, including grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.  In the first of a two-part interview, Liz shares many aspects of her thinking about culture and dance as well as milestones in her work, including her book Hiking the Horizontal. 

A Conversation with Liz Lerman, Part Two

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 25:11

In part two of our conversation with Choreographer Liz Lerman, we explore false dichotomies, including the one that opposes art to science

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This is the second of a two-part interview with one of the great innovators of contemporary dance, Liz Lerman.  For Lerman, dance is a way to think and anyone can dance.  The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange is a multi-generational  company of dancers  whose ages span six decades.  She is known for breaking down boundaries between stage and audience, and theater and community often by creating  site-specific work in places like the Portsmouth shipyard in New Hampshire. In fact,  Liz lerman believes that The Shipyard Project of the late 1990sis probably one of the projects that really opened up the world for her, but it opened up the world to her ideas.   The purpose of the Shipyard Project was to explore the significance of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to the lives of people in Portsmouth. It is the country’s oldest naval base and had been downsized and at that time was slated to close.

Throughout the two-year residency, current and retired shipyard workers, and local citizens told their stories to Lerman and her dancers. Tihs became the raw material from which Liz developed a commissioned dance piece. The project culminated in a three weeks of dance events performed by the Liz Lerman dancers and community members. They performed on boats and on bridges, and in the shipyard.

The response from people in the community responded to The Shipyard Project was enormous. They were moved to see their own stories, their working lives, enacted by the dancers.

A Conversation with David Seidler

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 31:21

David Seidler talks about his film, The King's Speech, and his own struggle with stuttering.

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The King's Speech is based on the true story of Britain's George VI, who suffered from a debilitating stammer and who as a second son never expected to become king. But the Crown is thrust upon him when his brother abdicates in 1936.

 

The story of The King's Speech is one David Seidler grew up hearing, because he too suffered from a stammer.  In fact, when David was a child he turned to the King's wartime speeches as sources of inspiration.  The story of the King's struggle with his stammer stayed with him, even as he wrote other screenplays and TV movies. The film literally took a lifetime to make, but it was well worth the wait. In Seidler's knowing hands, the film retained the particularity of the physical and emotional effects of stammering and the variety of techniques employed to cure it.  Yet it's universal theme is also apparent as we traced one man's struggle to find his own voice. 

A Conversation with Jay Salinas of Wormfarm

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 25:35

Farmer and artist, Jay Salinas talks about Wormfarm, the inventive organization he co-founded where art, agriculture, community, and creativity blossom.

Jaysalinas110_small Jay Salinas:  Wormfarm, physically, emanates from 40 acres in Sauk County, Wisconsin on the northeast edge of the Driftless Zone where we raise organic vegetables but also host community arts programming, including a visiting artist program.  We are called the Wormfarm for a couple of reasons.  Number one, worms are the indicator of a healthy soil, indicator and builder of a healthy soil.  There’s a quote from Charles Darwin that, once we saw it, we knew that we would use it forever, and that is, “Every fertile grain of soil has passed at least once through the gut of an earthworm.”  So it’s an homage to this seemingly lowly creature upon which all of our fertility is dependent.  We are also called the Wormfarm to be slightly irreverent in the business that we began here with organic vegetables. But it turned out to be really a good choice because, first of all, people never forget it. People who’ve heard about it only once will always remember the place, the Wormfarm. But it has also really come to be emblematic of our work in developing healthy soils, whether it’s for vegetables, or fertile soils, whether it’s for vegetables or for the creative arts, for creativity

A Conversation with Morris Robinson

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 27:03

Meet Morris Robinson, who was an All-American at The Citadel, started studying voice at the age of 30, and sings at the great opera houses throughout the country.

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Let's face it, we don't often think about opera singers as being former football players or former corporate salesman, but as we heard that is exactly the background of Morris Robinson. Morris might have taken an untraditional path to opera ; but it's fair to say he has very definitely arrived, singing with the Metropolitan Opera, Boston's Lyric Opera, Opera Pacific, the Philadelphia Opera and on and on. He's become a sought-after singer with his resounding bass and commanding presence, he claims the stage as his own. I had the opportunity to speak with Morris Robinson at the Phoenicia international Festival of the Voice where he sang the role of Il Commendatore in Don Giovanni. 

A Conversation with Art Therapist, Melissa Walker

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 25:45

Melissa Walker discusses healing wounded service members through art at Walter Reed. [25:44]

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The National Endowment for the Arts is partnering with NICoE [The National Intrepid Center of Excellence] to investigate the impact that arts interventions may have on the psychological and cognitive health of these wounded veterans. Here, they offer a four week program for service members suffering from traumatic brain injury, PTSD and other psychological trauma. This state of the art facility on the Walter Reed campus provides an integrated approach to treatment in a holistic, patient-centered environment.  Along with psychotherapy and physical therapy, the Healing Arts Program which consists of the visual arts , music, and writing, plays a central role in the assessment and treatment of these veterans.   In fact, beginning this past January, NICoE has incorporated the NEA's writing program Operation Homecoming into therapeutic sessions with patients and their families.

We're following the progress of the Healing Arts program in all our social media and in our magazine NEA Arts. Later in the summer, there's a special issue of NEA Arts focusing on arts and the military, and I'll be talking to the Operation Homecoming writing instructor, Ron Capps. Today, Melissa Walker is going to give us an overview of the Healing Arts program, focusing on its visual art component. As the program's designer and coordinator as well as its sole visual arts' therapist, Melissa is an enthusiastic and thoughtful guide to the role that art can play in healing.

A Conversation with William Wegman

From National Endowment for the Arts | Part of the Art Works Podcast series | 28:56

You may know him as the guy who takes surreal pictures of his Weimaraners; but that's just one strand of William Wegman's long and varied career. [28:55]

Wegman110_small Moving fluently among drawing, painting, photography, and video, William Wegman is hard to categorize. A conceptual postmodernist artist with a funny bone, Wegman is probably best-known for the photographs and videos of his Weimaraners in unusual poses and in costumes that look like surreal sight-gags. Wegman's early video works, many of which star his dog, Man Ray, combine minimalist performance with low-tech video to create unlikely moments of absurdist comedy. Wegman and Man Ray caught hold in the popular imagination. In fact, The Village Voice named Man Ray 1982's "Man of the Year," which was fine with Wegman since he always thought of the dog as a collaborator anyway. But don't let Wegman's easy-going humor and sense of the absurd fool you. His list of accomplishments are legion. Always an innovator, William Wegman was one of the first artists to use video as an art form. Since the late 1970s, he has received international acclaim for his work in photography. Wegman exhibits in shows around the globe. His work is in the permanent collections of many museums, including the Walker Center, Minneapolis, The Whitney Museum of American Art in NYC, the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, and the Australian National Gallery. His photos and videos have also been a great popular success, and have appeared on television programs like Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live. He's branched out to create a series of children's books based on fairy tales and a number of books on dogs. In 2006, the Brooklyn Museum explored 40 years of Wegman's work in all media in the aptly titled retrospective William Wegman: Funny/Strange. In a review of the show, the art critic for the New York Times said of Wegman: "Dogs or no dogs, Mr. Wegman is one of the most important artists to emerge from the heady experiments of the 1970s."

America the Beautiful (Hour Long Version)

From With Good Reason | Part of the With Good Reason: Weekly Half Hour Long Episodes series | 53:56

This stirring hour show of American music and literature begins with
patriotic musical performances by the likes of Marian Anderson, Paul
Robeson, Marvin Gaye, and Jimi Hendrix, and concludes with in-depth discussions of the lives and literature of Walt Whitman and
Edgar Alan Poe.

America_the_beautiful_small From Marian Anderson’s 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial to Marvin Gaye’s singing of the National Anthem at the NBA Finals, the theme of patriotism can be heard throughout African American music. Benjamin Ross offers selections from this rich musical heritage. Also: Published in 1946, The Street by Ann Petry was the first million-selling novel by an African American author. Keith Clark says Petry deserves to be in the pantheon of other great American writers like James Baldwin and Toni Morrison. Plus: Luisa Igloria has written one poem a day, every day, for the last three years. She talks about finding inspiration from the Philippines, where she was raised; from her daughters; and from, of all places, Christopher Reeve.

Later in the show: In 1862, Poet Walt Whitman went to Fredericksburg, Virginia, searching for his brother George who had been wounded in a Civil War battle. Mara Scanlon and Brady Earnhart say Whitman was so moved by the carnage he found that he worked as a nurse for the rest of the war. Also featured: 19th -century poet and author Edgar Allan Poe is still considered the master of the macabre. Jerome McGann says Poe, whose influence is probably unmatched by any American author, was more charming and humorous than his famous dark fiction suggests.

America the Beautiful (Half Hour Version)

From With Good Reason | Part of the With Good Reason: Weekly Half Hour Long Episodes series | 28:58

In honor of Independence Day, a former radio DJ joins us to play a selection of patriotic songs sung by African Americans. (And more...)

America_the_beautiful_small From Marian Anderson’s 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial to Marvin Gaye’s singing of the National Anthem at the NBA Finals, the theme of patriotism can be heard throughout African American music. Benjamin Ross offers selections from this rich musical heritage. Also: Published in 1946, The Street by Ann Petry was the first million-selling novel by an African American author. Keith Clark says Petry deserves to be in the pantheon of other great American writers like James Baldwin and Toni Morrison. Plus: Luisa Igloria has written one poem a day, every day, for the last three years. She talks about finding inspiration from the Philippines, where she was raised; from her daughters; and from, of all places, Christopher Reeve.

What's the Word? W. E. B. Du Bois

From Modern Language Association | Part of the What's the Word? Two half-hour programs celebrating Black History Month series | 29:10

Considered by many the most important African American leader of the early twentieth century, sociologist, historian, author, teacher, and activist W. E. B. Du Bois had a profound effect on the way we talk about race.

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W.E.B. Du Bois

Many consider W.E.B. Du Bois the most important African American leader in the first half of the twentieth century.   A sociologist, historian, author, teacher, activist, and co- founder of the NAACP and its magazine The Crisis, his influence was profound.  His ground-breaking book, The Souls of Black Folk, has been called the foundational text of African American studies.  On this program, Pulitzer prize winner David Levering Lewis tells us about W.E.B. Du Bois’s early life and the years that led up to the publication of The Souls of Black Folk;   Marlon B. Ross explores some of the social and political factors that Du Bois responded to in the book; and Sheryl Townsend Gilkes discusses the book’s continuing influence.

Well-suited to Black History Month in February.
Fifteen- and thirty-second promos available.