Trumpets? Seriously?

The first striking thing about this story is that it starts with 30 seconds of trumpets.

The second striking thing is that suddenly James Franco is copping to it. “You’re probably saying to yourself, seriously? Is this for real? Trumpets? And I’m saying, yeah.”

But of course it only gets stranger from here. In no time at all, Franco is conjuring images of horses galloping through thunderstorms, and surreal dialogue happening in parking lots that might or might exist–all while extolling the virtues of the medium of radio.

And then Franco admits to you, “gentle listener,” that he is the Angel of Death.

This strange piece of radio fiction is part of The Organist, a new podcast from The Believer magazine and KCRW. The Organist is an odd mix of arts reporting, celebrity interviews, and other audio oddities, all told with the McSweeney’s moxie that we all know and love. Listen for The Organist on PRX Remix (stations, download it for your audiences here).

A Tortured Artist

When producer Laura Starecheski first visited Creedmoor, a psychiatric hospital in Queens, New York, she just wanted to interview to residents who were participating in an art program. Most of the residents she encountered were hard to connect with, except for one: a man named Issa Ibrahim.

Issa was an artist and a musician. He spoke eloquently and wore trendy clothes. He seemed normal. Laura didn’t know why he was being hospitalized, and why he had no release date.

That was back in 2004. It took Laura another six years of visits and interviews with Issa to find out what landed him at Creedmore–and another three years to find out why he was still there.

This is a documentary nearly a decade in the making. It’s a story about mental health, a neglectful healthcare industry, but mostly, it’s about one man’s struggle to hold onto his humanity. Don’t miss it.

“The Hospital Always Wins,” by Laura Starecheski for State of the Re:Union. Now on PRX Remix.

Pigs. Deal With It.

Nearly three minutes of uninterrupted squealing. It’s challenging. It’s painful. And it’s total genius.

HARK!, a documentary by Chris Brooks, Paolo Pietropaolo, and Alan Hall, “investigates the acoustic world of Early Modern England.” Even though the historical record may give us some clues as to what the Elizabethan era might have looked like, we have almost no inkling what it sounded like.

Almost. This stunning work takes us back 400 years into a long-extinct sonic world–a world absent of the noise of cell phones, car traffic, household appliances, and recorded music. A world where the “sonic event” of the day might be the livestock getting fed.

So when you start hearing pigs around the 22-minute mark–and you keep hearing pigs through 25-minute mark–don’t fast-forward. Let the pigs take you through a time warp. And then be glad that you don’t have to clean up after them.

Listen for HARK! on PRX Remix.

An Auditory Unghosting

How can one make sense of an untimely death? Especially the death of someone who spent his life working to make his country a more fair and compassionate place?

In 1963, NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Evers was assassinated by Byron De La Beckwith. Evers’ life and legacy has been commemorated in song, film, and TV. Now, author Frank X. Walker gives a new take on Medgar Evers’ story in poetry.

In this hour-long special, “The Unghosting of Medgar Evers,” Frank X. Walker and WUKY producer DeBraun Thomas present a stunning remix of poetry, music, and historical context.


Writer/comedian/mayor of social media Baratunde Thurston underwent a 25-day experiment in which he unplugged from all social media and most electronic entanglements. He wrote about it for FastCo. magazine, and now–because hey, why not?–he’s made his own audio version over at Soundcloud, replete with audio-only bonus content.

Listen for it on the PRX Remix app, unless you have also unplugged, in which case you hear it on Sirius XM 123 or these public radio stations.

Chicago Gets Curious

Have you ever wanted a radiophonic go-to source for info on legends, rumors, and lore about your city? If you live in or love Chicago, then you’re in luck.

Curious City, based at WBEZ, is a new project from AIR‘s Localore initiative. It invites listeners to ask questions about The Windy City. Upcoming episodes will have WBEZ staffers investigating queries such as, “What is it like to live on a minimum-wage job in Chicago?” “What economic impact do local colleges and universities have on the city’s economy?” “What is the average income of a street performer in Chicago per year?”

So far, my favorite stories have been about how Chicagoans speak. On a request from a listener, the Curious City team produced a story about the origin of the Chicago accent. But after hearing that story, another listener pointed out that Chicago is really home to more than just one accent–there’s also the Chicago “Blaccent” (as in, black accent). Take a listen.

If you’ve got some curiosity about Chicago, find out how your question can become a radio story over at

Episodes of Curious City are making their way onto PRX, and you can also catch them on PRX Remix.

Order Up! Last day to vote for your favorite ShortDoc

Earlier this year, the Third Coast International Audio Festival ordered up an auditory feast with their annual ShortDoc contest. The challenge was: make a two- to three-minute radio story on the idea of “appetite,” serve it up in three “courses” (i.e. chapters), and title it with one of the five tastes. (Yes, umami counts.)

Team Third Coast sorted through nearly 250 submissions and hand-picked eight superior ShortDocs. And they’re turning it over to We, The People to pick the best one for a “People’s Choice” award.

Check out the menu here, and then vote for your favorite here!

These ShortDocs will not be on the table for long. Voting closes today, July 31 — BUT, word on the street is that voting will stay open until 11:59pm Hawaii time, or 5:59am on August 1 on the east coast. Get your fill of ShortDocs while they last!

PRX Spotlight: Stylus Episode #1: Silence

This week, PRX saw the debut of Stylus, which producers Conor Gillies and Zack Ezor describe as a “host-less documentary show navigating ideas, artifacts, histories, cultures, and places along the mysterious terrain of sound and music.”

Episode one is meditation on the idea of silence. It drifts seamlessly from John Cage to Beethoven to Zen Buddhism to The Shining, creating a dreamy landscape of voices and ideas and music.

Stylus began as an academic project while Conor was studying history and journalism at Boston University. At the time, Conor was also interning at WBUR’s Here and Now, which is where he met Zack, the station’s Member Services Coordinator. The two collaborated on the show’s pilot episode with help from WBUR’s Innovation Lab.

Like many young producers, Conor points to This American Life and Radiolab as the shows that got him interested in radio. But it was the work of Canadian producer  Paolo Pietropaolo who helped Conor realize the kind of sound that he wanted for Stylus. “I really love the idea of an hour long show, with no host, to curate voices together with interesting music,” Conor told me over the phone.

Alas, this is but a teaser of what Stylus will become. The show will go on hiatus for a year while Conor and Zack create a six-episode  season. Conor says he’s excited. “This will be a first step into a longer journey of sound and music and listening cultures.”

Take a listen to the first episode: