The Internet in Sepia and Other Short Docs

Helena De Groot lives in Brussels and makes great radio like The Internet in Sepia, a composition which Helena submitted to this year’s Third Coast Festival Short Docs competition. In the piece, Helena meditates on distance in two dimensions: space, and time. Her narrative clips are supported by music composed by friends’ of hers, which you can find here.

The Third Coast Festival curates audio storytelling, and hosts an annual audio conference and competition. Every year they give a “short docs” challenge, inviting producers of all kinds to explore sound within a few paremeters. Here was this year’s prompt:

Produce a short audio story (2 -3 minutes) that features at least two of your neighbors, includes a color in the title, and contains three consecutive seconds of narrative silence. Stories of all styles are welcome – from documentary to drama – and everything in between.

Remix has a number of Third Coast’s Short Doc sumbissions in our mix. Have a listen:

How Far Would You Go for Health Insurance?

While the Supreme Court heard arguments today over the health insurance mandate, Radio Netherlands, of all shops, sent this story our way. CODE RED is an essay written and read by Kairol Rosenthal, a dancer and choreographer from Chicago. Kairol was diagnosed with a complex case of thyroid cancer when she was 27. In this piece — now in rotation on Public Radio Remix — Kairol describes the 100 hours she spent lying to the government and insurance agencies in order to cover her treatment.

Check out her story:

image from Radio Netherlands

Southern Stories Spinning on Remix

Storytelling… it’s like the new rock n’ roll. Following on the success of The Moth (whose podcasts are also on Public Radio Remix), storytelling events are popping up all over the country — and they’re getting more and more local. In Boston, where PRX is located, MassMouth features local storytellers at venues around the city, and gives workshops for newbies. London has a new storytelling series called The Spark, also on PRX.

The one I’m excited about this week is Tales from the South. Tales from the South is a live storytelling event featuring authors and storytellers exclusively from Southern states — Arkansas, Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama to be specific. There’s something special about hearing Southern accents on public radio, maybe because so many popular public radio personalities are trained to use the most neutral-sounding intonation they can. Don’t be put off by the lengthy introductions (I usually just fast-forward), these southern stories are really delightful. In this one, Judith Waller Carol sees her austere father dance for the first time. And in another, a writer finds herself (along with all the neighborhood children) searching for her neighbor’s finger in his backyard, while he waits for it at the hospital.

Cuteness Wins (It Always Does)

Jeffrey Cohen is the capitol region reporter at WNPR, Connecticut’s public radio station in Hartford, CT. Evidently the poor guy has a hard time putting down his recording gear when he’s at home. “Most of the time,” he says, “it turns into the kind of stuff suited for a family nostalgia night.” However, when Jeffrey decided to interview his 5 and 3-year-old daughters about why the elder cut of the younger’s hair, he ended up with something meant for the masses. I’ve listened to this at least 5 times since I discovered it on PRX last week — I can’t get enough.

Spinning Now:

Jonathan Mitchell’s Sound Design from Hell is a favorite, produced ten years ago. Here’s what Jonathan has to say about it:

“Steve Boeddeker has been a film sound designer for ten years. His work has been heard in films like ‘The Village,’ ‘Seven,’ and the re-release of ‘The Exorcist.’ This segment was recorded in 2001, around the time Boeddeker was working on the film ‘From Hell,’ directed by the Hughes brothers. In this piece, he demonstrates how sound can be used to enhance the emotional impact of a scene. This segment was originally produced for Studio 360, and first aired in June, 2002. It has also been heard on: KQED’s Hot Soup (2003) WBEZ’s re:Sound (2004) Third Coast Festival website (2003)”

Check out Jonathan Mitchell’s website, and listen to Sound Design from Hell, right here:

exorcist image

Hello Election Year!

Melissa Robbins Allison

It was 2005. Melissa Robbins Allison was producing a story about games — the game of being a drug dealer, a high school student, a matchmaker — when she interviewed Todd. “Todd Elmer was a new Facebook friend of a friend….  All I knew when I sat down to do the interview was that he was a lawyer, willing to talk about the game of being a lawyer.” But Melissa ended up scrapping hours of tape — the high school student, the exotic dancer, the drug dealer. Todd’s story was just too powerful.

Todd Elmer

In the 2000 presidential election, Todd had been a lawyer for the Gore campaign, and represented the Democratic party in the eventual recount of ballots in Florida. “It seemed like he was ready to tell this story, like he was in a real moment of personal transition.  And it just poured out of him.” Allison interwove his personal story from that contested election with clips from James Carse reading his book, “Finite and Infinite Games,” creating a sound collage which illuminates the emotional and theoretical complexities of political elections.

Now in rotation: this highly recommended listen!

A Channel from Brain to Heart.

Earlier this week all of we had the wonderful experience of reading this email:

“Here I am, trying, during my workday, to NOT think about remix radio, but I’m hooked. Somewhere I read an article referring to the programming as “driveway moments” and I thought that meant, perhaps, that everyone was sitting in their cars in their driveways, as I do, with the radio on after work because they couldn’t interrupt their PRX listening and go home. The stories and voices you bring to your listeners are inspiring, enlightening, touching, and so full of truth, or I guess I mean honesty. I am a bundle of resonance. I plan to retire next June and now I think I know what I want to do when I grow up. Love you guys. Thanks for opening a new channel between my brain and my heart.”


We were like whoa. Opening a new channel between the brain and the heart? That is the nicest things anyone has ever said to us! But it’s hardly us programmers who deserve these kudos. It’s the incredible talent we showcase on Remix. Whether it’s one of New Hampshire Public Radio’s expert hosts interviewing an NPR music critic unknown details of John Lennon’s life, or producer Jason Samilski creating a new kind of poetic landscape with his own voice, thoughts, and original banjo and accordian music — good radio does, somehow, put our brains in touch with our hearts.

Hear two new pieces, remixed in just last week:

And WALE, a radio poem supported by original music, produced by new PRX producer, Jason Samilski. Jason is a Toronto-based writer and sound producer who works in radio plays, music, and short stories. Listen:

Wale image

Bath image by Emanuela Franchini, Desert image by Jason Samilski.

Guest blogpost from Catie Talarski!

Catie Talarski is Senior Producer for “Where We Live” at WNPR in Connecticut. She is also a graduate of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Catie recently produced a documentary that pulls you straight into the everyday, emotional, and existential realities of two adults with Cystic Fibrosis. Have a listen, and read about her journey making this piece.

Before I worked in radio, I worked at the pulmonary clinic at Children’s Hospital Boston. That was where I met Brian Sercus, who was an adult CF patient. He was funny and had a lot of tattoos. Naturally, we became friends. Two years ago, his CF took a turn for the worse, forcing him to move home to New Jersey. I planned to visit him and wanted to record some of our conversations – about his life, living with the disease, and his decision not to pursue a lung transplant. At that point I had no idea what direction this would go, it just seemed important to do. And Brian agreed to be interviewed.

Beth Peters

When I talked to one of the pulmonary doctors at CHB about my conversations with Brian, he suggested I also interview another one of his patients. “They both have such incredible insight into their plight and both are prolific writers,” he wrote in an email. “I think you should consider interviewing both of them to better understand their thought process.” And so I met Beth Peters. At the time, both Beth and Brian had blogs: Cystic Gal and A Sercus Life.

From there, the story started taking shape. Two 29-year-olds, both at the end stage of a chronic disease. One choosing transplant, one not. I wanted to explore this decision process. I spent more than a year documenting Beth and Brian through personal interviews and audio diaries. After Beth’s transplant, I interviewed her and her doctor together. Because Beth and Brian have CF, they couldn’t meet in person. I set up and recorded a “meeting” over the phone. I interviewed Brian’s mom, and his physical therapist. I was envisioning a very personal, non-narrated piece, so I wanted to have as much tape as possible. The reason I didn’t narrate was because I didn’t want my friendship with Brian to get in the way of the story. Beth and Brian are incredibly thoughtful and eloquent. I wanted to let them talk.

This was my first long-form documentary incorporating music. The production was very experimental. I created a story arc, cut up my transcriptions, organized them into themes, and did a lot of sitting on the floor surrounded by strips of paper.

This was an emotional project for me, partly because it was hard to document Brian’s failing health. As a 29-year-old myself, I spent a lot of time thinking about my own mortality. I was continuously inspired by Beth and Brian, and so grateful they were willing to share their stories.

Brian Sercus

Throughout my conversations with Brian, he was clear about not wanting to gamble on a transplant. As I was finishing up the documentary, Beth had her new lungs and was optimistic about her future. Brian’s health was continuing to decline. I thought the story would end with a question mark for Brian. But at his 30th birthday party, he announced that he had changed his mind. He wanted new lungs. Along with everyone else there, I was shocked, and ecstatic for him. His decision changed how the story would end. There was no longer a question mark. I went back to New Jersey for a final interview.

“Four Failing Lungs” aired on WNPR on Beth’s one year “transplant anniversary.”Brian passed away three weeks later, in the hospital waiting for new lungs.

I have to mention the documentary “My So-Called Lungs” produced by Radio Diaries. It’s about Laura Rothenberg, a college student with CF who gets a lung transplant. It is intimate and powerful and was always in the back of my mind as I was putting this together. I questioned whether what I was trying to do had sort of already been done. This past weekend I visited Brian’s mom, and we were talking about the episode of “Hearing Voices” that paired my documentary with “My So-Called Lungs.” She told me the show had special meaning for her because Brian and Laura had been friends. They had the same doctor in New York City, and would spend time together in the hospital (back when CF kids could do that.) I love that they knew each other. It is a small world we live in, and there are so many stories that deserve to be told.

Listens to Look Out For

Lots of luscious new listens are rotating their way through the Remix stream this week, including two doozies you just can’t miss.

1. In honor of the late Norman Corwin, a documentary about his One World Flight by his long-time colleague, Mary Beth Kirchner.

2. When Annie Correal was 19, her Colombian father was kidnapped by the FARC and kept in 38 places, for a long time alone with only guards and a radio. In this piece, Annie goes to Colombia to interview her father, and to visit the radio station where her family broadcast messages to their missing loved one.

Read Book Write Song

When bassist Geoff Larson moved to Brooklyn, NY he discovered the Bushwick Book Club, a monthly gathering for songwriters and their admirers to share songs inspired by books. When Geoff moved to Seattle, he recreated the thing he loved with the Bushwick Book Club Seattle. Lucky for you and me, Geoff is also producing this delightful bookclub podcast, which ties together a singer’s music and musings on a particular piece of literature. As of this month, the Bushwick Book Club Seattle Presents can now be heard on Public Radio Remix. Have a listen!