November 20's Ear Cave in Hartford

The other night I attended the Ear Cave, a monthly series of audio and video stories curated by Hartford-area media figures. Catie Talarski and Patrick Skahill, both of whom are producers at Hartford's WNPR curated the show, which was largely composed of pieces that they discovered at last month's Third Coast Audio Festival

Ms. Talarski opened the night by talking a little about the Third Coast Audio Festival []and she opened by playing a piece that she had produced for the Festival's ShortDoc challenge. The contest as open to anyone and the rules were that it had to be under three minutes, feature at least two neighbors, involve three seconds of narrative silence and include a color in the title. She was self-deprecating about her own entry titled "Blue Skies, Black Fences":

She then played for us the winning short entry, "The Red White and Blue Bus" which was produced by Luke Eldridge, which took the idea in a different direction and really used the three seconds of narrative silence in an excellent way. And also demonstrated that three seconds of silence can be an eternity:

"The Accidental Music of Imperfect Escalators" is the 43rd episode of the podcast 99 Percent Invisible, a show about design by Roman Mars and is a fun piece about the sound that escalators in the Washington, D.C. metro system make

Another piece was from producer Jonathan Mitchell, who was interviewed on Where We Live (the show where Talarski is the Senior Producer) and has a great show called The Truth, where this story originally appeared, about the death of Edgar Allen Poe: 

Mitchell also produced a piece for  Studio 360 by Mitchell about the photographer Michele Iversen titled "She Sees Your Every Move" which was an intensely creepy piece. And it's creepy because of what Iverson does. A few slides of her work were projected while we listened to the piece, which I think made an impression on us that I don't think would have been achieved without the imagery. Iverson photographs people through their windows and it is a gaze that invades people's privacy. What makes her an interesting interviewee is that she freely admits that–and that she wouldn't want to be captured in such a way. I don't think it's possible to look at a photograph of unsuspecting people through a window without feeling unease, but I couldn't help but think about whether it is possible to depict intimate moments in a way that is not voyeuristic.

Obviously there are degrees, and Iverson is at an extreme degree–these are the types of images you see in a movie about a serial killer right before the person being observed is found butchered–but is it possible to witness an intimate moment not as a voyeur? To participate in such a moment is something very different after all.

Adam Curtis is a producer at the BBC and he edited together two video clips of five minutes and then without changing a single frame, placed two very different soundtracks over the clips, and watching them side by side, they produce very different effects for viewers, and I have to admit that I loved both–possibly more than I should, I'll admit, just because I enjoyed the juxtaposition.

Jad Abumrad, the co-host and co-producer of RadioLab in addition to being a MacArthur Genius Grant winner and the recipient of numerous other awards and accolades which make one hate him while being forced to acknowledge his many, considerable talents. He gave a speech at the festival called "These Are a Few of My Favorite Things" and Ms. Talaraski and Mr. Skahill spoke about some of pieces he mentioned.

One of them is the opening scene of the movie "Birth," a movie of which I'm not particularly fond, but it is a stunning opening sequence.

Afterwards people talked a little about music, the juxtaposition of different elements and about how to use music or find a way to take the musicality of language and craft the story being told around these elements. One person asked if anyone knew about a radio story that was structured around music, which no one could quite think of an example.

WNPR host John Dankosky, who was there, mentioned the relatively lengthy piece by Robert Siegel which aired Monday night on All Things Considered about classical music–itself a rarity on radio–which was a great piece.

At the same time, I couldn't help but think of cinema. There are a handful of instances where the music has defined the editing of a film. It doesn't happen often–Alexander Nevsky, directed by the legendary Sergei Eisenstein with a score by Sergei Prokofiev, has a great battle sequence and is the result of the two working together. It's also one of the great musical scores ever written for a film.

As far as a radio piece that is structured or shaped around the music, I don't know of one either, though now of course I want to create one if only because if the immense challenge of creating such a thing. In film or in dance, two other art forms that have been very defined by music, creators are working with visual elements which are separate and distinct from the music. To create a radio piece driven by the music is possible but it would be unbelievably difficult. After all what would the other component be? In my head I'm thinking of a radio play defined by a classical piece of music but that would be intense, the rhythm and mood of the dialogue having to play off and be supported by the music. Something with lyrics would throw it off unless one sampled a few pieces and mixed it all together–one part Radiolab, one part Kayne West–though that's even more insane.

Also, I'm fairly certain that this is the only time that anyone will ever use the phrase "one part Radiolab, one part Kanye West"...

Well there's clearly something in the air because on Monday, the great show RadioWest from KUER in Salt Lake City spent an hour talking about the Third Coast Festival, interviewing some of the people involved and playing excerpts of some of the pieces that received awards there this year:

And 90.5 WNPR in Hartford will be playing two hours of work from the Third Coast Festival on Thanksgiving Day, which is worth a listen if you have a chance.

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