VIDEO: Faces of WNET

April 26th, 2010

by Rebecca Fasanello
Sr. Exec. Asst., Content / Producer

Do you remember what songs were sung to you when you were little? Where did those songs come from? Your grandfather the ice delivery-man? Your great-aunt Sadie? A distant in-law who was a bit of an outlaw? Who are the people in your family? How are you like them? How are you different?

Inspired by the four-part PBS series Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., that aired nationally this past February and March, we set out to listen to the stories of our colleagues here at WNET. Paralleling one of the queries of the Faces of America series: What made America? – our mission was to discover what kind of people make up WNET.

More …

I’d always felt that one of the perks of working at WNET is the range of interesting co-workers with which I interact every day; even without chatting around the water cooler, you can sense there’s something about our colleagues that’s out-of-the-ordinary. Indeed, every member of the human family is inherently interesting – and sure, everyone has a story — but what touched my heart was how the people in these short pieces appreciated and expressed their heritage.

Armed with a loose set of five or six questions and a full day of shooting with excellent shooter/finishing editor Kevin Alexander, I interviewed 29 candidates from our staff and volunteer pool – a true cross-section of the workplace here at WNET. Our goal: To discover the stories of the “non-celebrity”: These people with the warm smiles, intriguing looks and names — whether in production, membership services, law, or grant writing – they bring their heritage to our workplace. The four pieces you can see here aired on WNET as bookends to the nationally-aired series. We captured plenty of other fascinating stories that did not make air due, only, to time and composition constraints. We intend to add more stories to this site as we have time to edit.

We invite you to watch, and hope that these short pieces will spark your curiosity about your own family and heritage. And stay tuned for more stories.

Attend a Local Screening of Independent Lens: A Village Called Versailles

April 26th, 2010

village_calledTHIRTEEN is proud to support ITVS’s national Community Cinema screenings of the acclaimed documentary A Village Called Versailles, coming to over 50 cities across the U.S. in May 2010.

The film takes you to Versailles, New Orleans––home to the densest ethnic Vietnamese population outside of Vietnam. For over 30 years, its residents lived a quiet existence on the edge of New Orleans. Then came Hurricane Katrina, the immense garbage piles and the shocking discovery of a toxic landfill planned in their neighborhood. Watch as they fight back, turning a devastating disaster into a catalyst for change and a chance to build a better future.

Browse the schedule below to find a screening in your neighborhood.  Or, you can watch a preview of the film at Independent Lens online.

Monday, May 3, 2010 at 12:00 PM
Von King Recreation Center
670 Lafayette Ave.

Monday, May 3, 2010 at 7:00 PM
Von King Recreation Center
670 Lafayette Ave.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 7:30 PM
East 54th Street Recreation Center
348 East 54th St.

Friday, May 7, 2010 at 6:30 PM
Vic Hanson Recreation Center
133-39 Guy R. Brewer Blvd.

Thursday, May 13, 2010 at 6:30 PM
DKW Recreation Center
106-16 173rd St.

Image courtesy of Mary Queen of Vietnam Church/ITVS.

Sonic Groove 20-Year + Dasha Rush Interview

April 22nd, 2010

by Bijan Rezvani

sonicgrooveOn Saturday, Sonic Groove celebrated its 20-year anniversary.

The lasting names of Sonic Groove are Heather Heart, Adam X, and his brother Frankie Bones, often called “the godfather of rave culture.” Bones had successful releases as early as 1988, but it’s really in the culture of the music and its dissemination where Sonic Groove made its most significant mark. Their Sonic Groove record shop (1990-2004) and STORMRave events set the standards for a movement that would outlive its once overshadowing style. Today the name lives on as a record label, run by Adam X out of Berlin.

Although I anticipated a big Brooklyn warehouse, the show actually took place at the West Side Jewish Center, the synagogue with a heart… in the heart of the city.  I expected an overwhelming sound system to commemorate the occasion, but I was met with something less impressive (though it sounded just fine). With the crowd and DJs in the right frame of mind, the downstairs space becomes whatever it needs to be, and that’s what happened on Saturday.

Frankie Bones’ 2am celebratory hype had the greatest effect on the crowd, but the two women on the lineup had the most memorable sets. Heather Heart started the night with out-of-fashion throwbacks and aggressive, shuffle-less acid. The all-vinyl set was a celebration of the legacy she and her partners had crafted, and Heather exuded an infectious joy as she mixed.

Unlike Heather Heart, European visitor Dasha Rush betrayed little emotion during her performance, but she delivered the strongest set of the night. Dasha played a focused, controlled set of inorganic, electronic rhythms, minimal in the formal sense, “trance music” in the tradition of American minimalists and having nothing to do with the dance genre of the same name. Simultaneously cerebral and visceral, controlled releases of nameless sounds allowed a choice between close, deliberative listening to a kind of ecstatic unconsciousness, an other-worldly state beyond shuffling and nodding.

I conducted an email interview with Dasha Rush, winner of the prestigious Set of the Night Award. You can listen to one of her tracks while you read.

Es ist , was es ist by Dasha Rush

dashaBijan: What type of music do you make?
Dasha Rush: I make electronic music in various styles. Not really into defining it. But if I were to simplify, I would say techno, experimental, ambient and so on… It’s hard to describe your own sound. I think the listener can do it better. But I would say my sound describes a part of me and how I see through my “filter,” and how I react, in a way, to what surrounds me emotionally/intellectually…

B: How did you get into this music?
DR: I always loved music, since I was small. My way of coming to actually composing electronic music was that when I was a child I always wanted to play piano, so my parents brought me to music school. After approximately two months, they were splitting instruments among the kids. Piano was saturated with demands, and as my parents did not have close relations to school administrations, as the way it worked in Soviet times, I did not get a chance to play piano. So I got “Dombra,” a three string instrument which did not really inspire me. On the contrary I was shocked from the esthetic view of a little girl. So I ran away from that school. My Dad said that music’s not serious, that my grandma played piano, and it was useless in the end. So I did gymnastics and dance instead, but was listening to vinyl my parents had and dreaming with sounds and about sounds. One of the vinyl was particularly interesting, a band called “Zodiac.” It was electronic instrumental music, and the electronic part of it was intriguing me. I was very curious — where are those sounds coming from? Then my adolescent time came. It was the same time as techno/rave culture was coming up in Russia. Spent lots of time there. So I discovered an enormous world of different sounds, and of course was caught by it. Started digging more, learning how it was made, then began to DJ. And from my little frustration I think, it was a sort of revenge at bad luck with classical education, I started trying to make my own electronic sounds. It took some years before I found my way and got to where I am now.

B: Tell us about Fullpanda.
DR: Fullpanda it’s my small record label, going forward with me and people who are working with me. I created it when I was living in Japan. The name came from personal jokes with my friends. They use to call me panda, they found I looked like one. So far, Fullpanda is a techno label, and we say: “All you need is ears,” meaning that if you want to know more, the music speaks better. It’s a label among the others, but our point in it is not business, it’s passion first.

B: Describe your live setup and process from Saturday night. What was the blue box?
DR: Haha , My setup was pretty minimal , for reasons of long travel and customer service. In detail, I use Reaktor 5 standalone , 2 FLP studios running at the same time, couple of vsts. A Kaoss pad for external Fx , and my little baby “Blue box” that I built/soldered myself in a workshop in “Schneider’s Buero,” created by Manuel Richter from leaf-audio and Matthias, creator of Curetronic modular synth.

B: Your set exhibited a formal minimalism that stood apart from the other sets of the night. How do you restrain yourself to keep the pace and let elements out slowly?
DR: Ow, that’s a difficult question. Well, I don’t really analyze things when I am playing live. It’s more of a feeling and emotion which I want to transmit. I don’t know if it’s minimalism, that’s the way you perceived it.

B: You’re really quite serious-looking up there, not that the music is any less serious. Are you just focused, or what’s going on?
DR: Yes, it’s simply technical concentration. So many buttons to touch. Also, if I may say so, mostly I’m into head music more than fully body music, so my corporal or facial expression is sometimes disconnected, but trust me there’s a lot going on in the head and heart.

B: Any thoughts on the West Side Jewish Center?
DR: Well, I found it funny, the choice of the location. In a way it’s interesting because,if you think about it it’s two elements of completely different culture indirectly coming together for a night.

B: What’s your relationship with Sonic Groove? How did you end up playing this show?
DR: Musically, my relation to Sonic Groove is that I just released an EP on SG. Also personally, I and Adam X are friends and colleagues who share the same passion for music. We have already shared together, and enjoy each other’s production.

B: How did the show go for you? How did you feel about your set? Any sets in particular that stood out to you?
DR: I enjoyed playing and sharing those moments with people I don’t even know, really. About my set, well, we always critique ourselves. There were moments that I could do better, but that’s the thing — when you play live, you can be surprised in a good or bad way. About the other artists, I enjoyed the music, because most of the artists played old school records that I know, so it brings memories. I liked Abe very much, as well as Frankie, and Adam — and some artists upstairs as well. I have no particular highlight.

B: How was the New York crowd for you?
DR: New York crowd rocks. But seriously, New York, Berlin, Rome, London are slightly different in certain aspects, but people are people — with energy and beautiful and ugly moments. People are basically the same everywhere — they want to enjoy, dream, and so on.

B: Where else in the US have you performed?
DR: USA is pretty unknown for me, I have played Mexico so far…

B: People who have been away from electronic dance music for awhile might hear your set and say “This sounds like music I was listening to in the 90s.” How has techno in fact changed since then?
DR: Change in the music. Mmmm, well electronic music progresses, evolves, morphs all the time. There are always sounds coming back, like particular Detroit sounds, acid house, I could go on. It’s hard to invent something completely new, so old waves combine with new elements due to technology but not only that. An important element of it is the personal emotional memories attached to it. It’s very subjective. For some people they could hear one sound that reminds them of the time when they dreamed, were impressed in some way, touched in some way, and they associate those sounds with a certain period in time. So it’s relative, and not only in electronic music.

B: Your sound is particularly tough, somewhat of a resurgence of previous strains of techno that were more popular. Do you think that there’s a resurgence of this sound, or are you on your own thing?
DR: I think I am doing my own way, but others may hear it different and I don’t mind. I have several projects, not only pure techno, so I think I am just going my own way experimenting, discovering, learning, and making sounds based on what I feel now. As simple as that.

B: Do you make music with a particular sort of listener in mind? How would you characterize that listener (even if it’s just yourself)?
DR: Too much analyzing music or thinking about the listener is not how music has to be experienced, that’s what I think. Music, you feel it or don’t — [it] does not matter if it’s coming from the past or future, underground or out from space. It’s sensible matter; it has a minimum of logic and is more sincere expression.

B: What are you working on now?
DR: I am working on my third album, have not many words about it now. Alongside that are several EPs, remixes for different labels, as well as on Fullpanda and Hunger to create my other experimental label.

B: Anything else to add…
DR: A big smile…and much love.

Need to Know, an Innovative Approach to News Reporting

April 21st, 2010

THIRTEEN continues its tradition of providing groundbreaking news programming with Need to Know on PBS, a new weekly news & public affairs series premiering May 7 ET at 8:30 PM online and on-air. Co-anchored by acclaimed journalists Alison Stewart and Jon Meacham, it features stories on the economy, the environment and energy, health, security, and culture. Stephen Segaller, VP of Content at WNET.ORG, and Shelley Lewis, Executive Producer of Need to Know, spoke with THIRTEEN about this exciting new initiative.

Need to Know offers an innovative approach to news reporting, fully integrating the broadcast and website. What inspired you to create the series?
Stephen Segaller: We wanted to create a newsmagazine that is weekly, topical and inherits the depth and experience of our award-winning series like Wide Angle and Exposé, but also offers something entirely new in online journalism. The result is Need to Know, a broadcast and Web destination that reinforces the intelligence and substance expected from public media.

Describe the relationship between the TV show and the website.
Shelley Lewis: They’re one and the same. We don’t think of it as a website with a TV show or a TV show with a website. We hope and believe that fans of the website will join us on television and fans on television will check us out on the Web.

Will viewers be able to contribute story ideas to the series?
SS: They’ll be able to contribute story ideas, comment on stories, and suggest new directions to take stories we’ve already done.

SL: We’re also hoping to have an area of our website called “The Pitch Room” here Web users can pitch stories to our editorial staff.

What qualities will the two co-anchors, Alison Stewart and Jon Meacham, bring to the series?
SS: They’re both incredibly smart journalists with very different backgrounds. Alison won a Peabody Award for her political reporting on MTV and has become a celebrated multimedia journalist at NPR and MSNBC. And Jon Meacham is a Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer who, as the editor of Newsweek, has to decide what his readership needs to know every week. So they’re very complementary high-octane talent.

Shelley, you’ve enjoyed an eclectic career in network news. What attracted you to public media?
SL: The idea of creating a new kind of journalism that is both Web- and television-based simultaneously was  a challenge I’d never taken on, and the fact that it’s a PBS project is definitely a plus.  It’s exciting to be working with really smart people who value creative thinking.

What makes a story something your viewers and readers “need to know”?
SL: Sometimes the answer to that question is that the story is so incredibly interesting. The challenge is distinguishing between the “need to know” stories and those that only require a short take. I think on a Friday night people want a show that’s provocative, informative, and entertaining—not “ha-ha” entertaining, but entertaining in that it’s engaging and absorbing to the audience and readers.

How important are member dollars to programs like Need to Know?
SS: Member support for all our programming is critical. It often makes the difference between hoping to produce something and actually being able to produce something. In these tough times, we’re more dependent on viewer support than ever before.

THIRTEEN Education Department Hosts 103 Educators for Ellis Island Workshop

April 19th, 2010
Ellis Island Entrance

Ellis Island Entrance

By Chris Czajka, Senior Director, LAB@THIRTEEN

On Saturday, April 17, 103 tri-state area teachers embarked on ferries from both Battery Park in Lower Manhattan and Liberty State Park in New Jersey to attend an educational workshop at Ellis Island National Monument. At the workshop, teachers learned how to use Faces of America, a THIRTEEN production that traces famous Americans’ roots, as a tool to teach diversity and genealogy in the classroom.

Amazingly, the vast majority of the participants confessed they had never before been to Ellis Island. The venue was, of course, not only humbling and impressive, but also perhaps the most thematically-appropriate location in which we’ve ever held an outreach event. Several of the participating teachers said they had “no idea” how impressive the island and its museums are, and are planning to bring their students on field trips.

Since late January, the “Life After Broadcast” (LAB) team has provided direct, intensive professional development to nearly 1,200 teachers in collaboration with eleven PBS stations across the country. The ripple effects of this teacher training – as well as the supporting print and digital curriculum materials developed by our team – will be felt for months (and years) to come.

We are very pleased with the results of the Faces of America initiative, and look forward to bringing more events like this one to educators in New York City and beyond.

About THIRTEEN Education

Public Television leads the way in creating high quality content and professional development services for tri-state area schools. Online, on air and on-site, we create and deliver resources specifically aligned to state and national standards. Our resources are built around video from the best public television programs and distributed in digital format for easy use in classrooms.

The education department at THIRTEEN offers single-day workshops and 3-day intensives presenting strategies on how to create technology-rich, standards-based lesson plans utilizing public television created web resources and video that turn classrooms into exciting, interactive learning labs. THIRTEEN is an approved professional development provider for the NYC Department of Education and has a distinguished reputation for the highest quality work throughout the tri-state region.

Photo by Victoria Peckham via Flickr.

Music Review: Andriessen Times Two

April 19th, 2010

by Bijan Rezvani

Dutch superstar composer Louis Andriessen currently holds the Carnegie Hall Composer’s Chair, and a celebration of his music is taking place at the Stern Auditorium through May 10. I had a chance to check out two of these events, the first of which was the New York premier of Andriessen’s new opera (in concert form), “La Commedia.”

“La Commedia” is a five-part, multilingual retelling of the Italian classic. The libretto pulls from Dante and adds splashes of Dutch poetry, the Bible, and other textual sources. More than half the story takes place in the Inferno, which allows the lighter musical passages through purgatory and heaven to contrast more strongly.

The work showcases eclecticism all around: the text sources, the sung languages, the backgrounds and on-stage manner of the vocalists, the musicians (Asko | Schoenberg ensemble, Brooklyn Children’s Choir, Synergy Vocals), the fact that singers play multiple parts and parts are played by multiple singers, and most importantly the music itself.

“La Commedia” incorporates recorded electronic sounds and some distinct instrumentation including sonically fantastic moments shared between a contrabass clarinet and contrabassoon. Also present are Andriessen’s well-known stylistic excursions, particularly during the fourth section, The Garden of Earthly Delights. The section starts up with electric bass riffs and later includes explicit jazz/rock moments with a seemingly typical drum kit, of course atypical on the orchestral stage.

In the pre-performance conversation, Andriessen spoke of his his appreciation for dialectic/ironic tendencies, and I suppose these genre flashes are meant to fall in with this disposition. Although they do stand out enough to carry an out-of-place quality, these moments play more like safe, mastered tourism than profanations.  Well before the postmodern dissolution of everything, Adorno wrote rather extremely that “after the Magic Flute it was never again possible to force serious and light music together,” the point being that by 2010 the advertisement folks and artists themselves have done enough circular colonization for me to question the seriousness of this challenge. Are these playful ironies multi-dimensional ruptures or more fluid postmodern mix?

The work even has “romantic” passages that are as beautiful and un-sentimental as the composer intends. The libretto alone exhibits a depth warranting further exploration and is probably itself a showcase of meaningful contradictions.  The wide variety does make for a fresh and fascinating 100 minutes.

A trailer for the full video production is below.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdWSFcg22uM&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0]

– – – – – –

Last night, Le Poisson Rouge brought out its tables and chairs to host another Andriessen event.

The evening began with Eric Huebner performing a selection of Andriessen’s piano compositions, like a lesson in 20th century compositional history with atonalities, silences, clusters, and of course minimalism. Before the concert, Andriessen spoke with Robert Hurwitz of Nonesuch about the influence of Cage and Feldman, which showed clearly in the more contemplative pieces.

The centerpiece of the night was a return to programmatic music with live accompaniment to Peter Greenaway’s fabulous “M is for Man, Music, Mozart,” (1991) which I had wanted to see ever since hearing him describe it in a seminar after showing his much earlier work “H is for House.”

The very cool group of New York voices known as the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) played Andriessen’s glorious score as the film was projected on two screens behind them. This production reveled in the disruptive irony that Andriessen discussed the day before, and his music was a perfect match to Greenaway’s gratuitous smelter of rich cinematography, dance, typography, graphic design, bodies, and absurdity.

It’s great that Carnegie Hall agreed to this downtown engagement, as Le Poisson Rouge proved a perfect setting for enjoying this work.

Next: Sonic Groove 20-Year Anniversary + Interview with Dasha Rush

Jonathan Marmor at the Ontological Theater + Interview

April 15th, 2010

by Bijan Rezvani

Quentin Tolimieri, Devin Maxwell, Isabel Martin, Jonathan Marmor, and Michael Pisaro at Listen/Space, Brooklyn - February 3, 2008

Quentin Tolimieri, Devin Maxwell, Isabel Martin, Jonathan Marmor, and Michael Pisaro at Listen/Space, Brooklyn - February 3, 2008

On Saturday night I made it to the Ontological-Hysteric Theater at St. Mark’s Church for a new piece of music by computer-aided algorithmic composer Jonathan Marmor. Marmor conducted 10 human beings through a deceivingly lovely alien song cycle.  Without the romantic flourishes typical of our pledge-time heroes, the piece used shifting sound combinations patterned with long silences to warp the temporal experience.

To learn more about the composer and his unique piece, which is streamed below, I had Jonathan Marmor answer a few questions:

Bjian: What’s the name of the piece, and when did you write it?

Jonathan Marmor: The piece doesn’t have a name. You’re the first person to ask. I wrote it between December and a week before the concert. However both the construction of the piece and the software used to make it are just the latest variation in a string of related pieces.

B: How did you get into making computer music?

JM: Since I was a teenager I’ve been writing ‘algorithmic’ music, in which all or most of the events are governed by some simple systematic process. My musical training from age 14 was in North Indian Classical music, which frequently uses very clear logical patterns to construct phrases and forms. As a foreigner I didn’t have an intuitive understanding of the musical structures, learning process, or folk tunes that make up Hindustani music, so I think I had a tendency to over-emphasize the importance of systematic processes. I started writing music that consisted of one simple process. I’d set up some process just to hear what all the different combinations sounded like. The interesting part of listening to these experiments was hearing the unexpected results that came from uncommon combinations or sequences of otherwise pretty standard material. One liberating aspect of experimental music in the tradition of John Cage is that it encourages you to appreciate music by simply observing its unique shape. A common practice to make some music to observe is to make decisions about the content of a piece using some procedure with random results, such as flipping a coin. So when I started studying the music of John Cage, and the generations of musicians who were influenced by his music and ideas, I had a realization about my experience listening to algorithmic music: I didn’t need a clear logical process to get to the unusual combinations of material I was interested in, I could just use randomness. The next several pieces I wrote employed increasingly complex webs of decisions made with a random number generator. Following the advice of my brother, I started using the Python programming language to generate huge lists of all the possible combinations and permutations of little patterns of musical material. I was still making one decision at a time, making choices from the lists of options, then notating the music manually. A couple years ago I was asked to write some music for some friends coming to town to play a concert. Using this process I managed to generate the data for a piece that was about ten times bigger than I could notate before the concert. I missed my deadline and was totally embarrassed. So I decided I needed to build two tools: 1.) a standardized representation or model of a piece of music in Python data structures that could be customized to create a new piece, and 2.) a wrapper for the popular notation typesetting library Lilypond that could take my Python representation of a piece and automatically make beautiful sheet music. The piece performed last Saturday was the second piece I’ve written using these tools.

There is another path I took to electronic music. In 1997 I downloaded a free trial copy of Noteworthy Composer, music notation software that appeared to be written by people who had a very strange and seemingly faulty conception of how music behaves. It could be used as a sequencer triggering the amazing Roland Sound Canvas GM/GS Sound Set that came built in as a part of Windows (think pan flutes and steel pans). Noteworthy Composer had some unusual capabilities, which I exploited: the tempo could be set to dotted half note equals 750 beats per minute, you could write 128th notes, and you could change the tempo at any point abruptly or gradually; the pitch of each track could be tuned to 8192 divisions of a half step and could be changed on the fly; individual tracks could contain loops of any duration that did not affect the other tracks and loops could be nested. I made roughly 1000 little studies using this tool between 1997 and 2003, in the spirit of Conlon Nancarrow’s player piano studies. Check out track three of my old experimental pop album for a sample: http://www.archive.org/details/JonathanMarmor_FantasticDischarge.

B: Describe the creative process for this piece.

JM: It’s possible to think of musical genre as a set of rules and tendencies that govern how musical material is organized. The rules are defined by the sum of the genre’s body of work. Most genres are the accumulated contributions of hundreds or thousands of diverse musicians spanning decades or centuries. This has led most genres to obey a handful of nearly universal rules, such as pitch class equivalence at the octave (middle C is the same note as C in any other octave), or the idea that some element of the music must repeat. In all my recent music I have tried to create an original set of rules and tendencies based on a skewed or faulty conception of the nature of music. It embraces some collection of traditional or made up rules and relentlessly sticks to them. Other common rules are completely ignored. The hope is that this results in an internally consistent piece which is only related to other music by coincidence.

What’s the longest silence (length)?

Only about 2 and a half minutes. Surprising, right?

[note: I’m amazed.  I would have guessed 10 minutes.]

One of the purposes of putting periods of silence in a piece of music is to let the listener’s mind wander. However, the first 50 or so times a normal listener goes to a concert with a lot of silence in it, his mind is going to wander to rage! He’ll be really uncomfortable, trying not to breathe. He’ll be self conscious. He won’t know what he’s supposed to be doing or thinking or listening to. He might think he’s doing something wrong. He’ll certainly think that silence isn’t music, that there isn’t music happening during the silence, that the composer is a self-righteous idiot, and that the concert is bad. Some of the time, however, this is not the case. If the you are open to listening carefully and letting your mind wander, you may find all sorts of nice things to enjoy.

B: Tell me about the lyrics.

JM: I wrote a little program that makes nonsense poetry. You give it any arbitrary pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables and a rhyme scheme and it will grab random individual words from lyrics of Bob Dylan, Steely Dan, The Eagles, Elvis Costello, Billy Joel, The Band, Tom Waits, and Rufus Wainwright that match the meter and rhyme scheme.

For example, just now I gave it a rhyme scheme of AABBA and this

pattern of unstressed (u) and stressed (S) syllables:






and it spit out this limerick:

The Wrongfully Showdown Y’all Sounding

Reporters The Reading In Bounding

Ayatollah’s A Slot

Inconceivable Bought

A Callin’ Coincidence Pounding

It uses the Carnegie Mellon Pronouncing Dictionary to match rhymes and syllable stresses. It always ends up sounding like total nonsense but follows the meter and rhyme scheme very strictly. It doesn’t use any kind of natural language processing to make the order of words similar to English. For this piece, I made it tend to pick words with more syllables first then fill in the gaps with shorter words which gives it a certain sound.

In this piece, after a melody’s rhythm is selected a corresponding poem is made to match. Because the melody rhythms were written with no consideration for the lyrics rhythm the meter and rhyme scheme of the lyrics aren’t really apparent. I’ll probably write another vocal piece in the future that more deliberately exploits this tool.

B: One of the most unique things about your instrumentation was the weak sound coming out of the keyboards. What were those sounds?

JM: I love the sounds that come with consumer keyboards. They’re beautiful and funny. The choice to use layered synthesizer sounds along with an otherwise acoustic ensemble was made purely because I like how it sounds.

B: Did you know early on what your instruments would be, did the computer determine this, or did you decide after you had a composition?

JM: Picking the instruments was a back and forth between an idea I had for a sound and figuring out which of my very talented musician friends were available. The specific sounds used by the synthesizers were chosen randomly from a list that I ranked intuitively.

B: Describe the process of working with the musicians. Were there any challenges?

JM: We only had four rehearsals and never had the whole group together until the first note of the concert was played. It’s an hour and 20 minutes of pretty non-idiomatic music. I was very happy with the way the concert came out, but there were a few trainwrecks.

How did the performance end up at the ontologic-hysteric theater?

JM: Composer Travis Just curates a monthly experimental music series at the Ontological Theater. He is familiar with my music from the period when we were both graduate students at CalArts in Los Angeles.

Here’s a link to a recording of the performance [the same that’s streamed above]:


One hour 17 minutes

Erin Flannery – Voice,

Laura Bohn – Voice,

Quentin Tolimieri – Synthesizer/Voice,

Phil Rodriguez – Synthesizer/Voice,

Will Donnelly – Synthesizer,

Matt Wrobel – Acoustic Guitar/Voice,

Ian Wolff – Acoustic Guitar/Voice,

Katie Porter – Clarinet,

Beth Schenck – Alto Saxophone,

Jason Mears – Alto Saxophone

These are links to two pieces that were made using the same basic

approach and software:


9 minutes, featuring the fantastic New Zealander violinist Johnny Chang


45 minutes, featuring the incomparable clarinetist Katie Porter

Next/weekend: Double Andriessen, Sonic Groove 20-Year (!)

THIRTEEN Nominated for Webby Awards

April 15th, 2010

People's VoiceCongratulations to two THIRTEEN productions The City Concealed (Online Film & Video: Documentary Series) and Wide Angle: Focal Point (Online Film & Video: News & Politics Series) for their nominations in The 2010 Webby Awards.  Hailed as the “Internet’s highest honor” by The New York Times, the Webby Awards is the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet.

The City Concealed takes viewers to the unseen corners of New York, unearthing the city’s rich history.  Wide Angle: Focal Point offers a deeper understanding of the forces shaping the world today through compelling human stories.  View promo reels for both below.

Each nominee is also in the running for a Webby People’s Voice award.  Show your support for THIRTEEN’s online-exclusive content and in-depth reporting with your vote:
Vote For Us!Vote for The City ConcealedVote for Focal Point

Tweet – I voted for The City Concealed. | Tweet- I voted for Wide Angle: Focal Point.

Congratulations to all nominees, and also to Webby Official Honorees NATURE and The City Concealed for their episodes “Behind the Scenes: Kilauea Mountain of Fire” and “Up in the Fulton Ferry Hotel.”

The House Warming We’ve Been Waiting For

April 13th, 2010

By Neal Shapiro, President and CEO

As someone who has spent much of his life as a television producer, I know that a well-timed cut can truly bring a program to life. Today a perfectly timed cut brought new life to our institution.

At a lively ceremony on the corner of Broadway and 66th Street in Manhattan, we officially inaugurated  the WNET.ORG Studios at Lincoln Center, marking the beginning of an exciting new era in the history of public media in New York.

Our new, state-of-the-art glass-walled studio brings a new dimension and new public face to our work.  From this showcase studio on the prestigious campus of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, we will create innovative, contemporary programming in the arts, public affairs and more.  Programs produced at the WNET.ORG Studios at Lincoln Center will capture the energy of our city and deliver that excitement to our entire community and viewers nationwide.

For this morning’s official launch of the new facility, I was joined by WNET.ORG Board Chairman James Tisch, Chairman Emeritus Steven Rattner, Lincoln Center President Reynold Levy, New York City Comptroller John Liu and Councilwoman Gale Brewer.

Together we reflected on the nearly 50-year legacy of WNET.ORG, THIRTEEN and WLIW21 — our commitment to the arts, our vibrant and enduring partnership with Lincoln Center and our close ties to the community.

We also looked forward to the upcoming launch of our new current affairs series, Need to Know, which will be produced out of these studios, as will many of our programs – from SundayArts to Reel 13 and more.

With a flourish of trumpets performed by students from the Juilliard School, which is right next door, we grabbed hold of the largest pair of scissors I have ever seen, cut the ribbon.

Our new studios are a metaphor for who we are. We are public media.  Now we can finally look out and see the people who make our work happen every day.  And, finally, they can look in and see us at work making the programming they love so much.

Director Roberta Grossman on Blessed Is the Match

April 12th, 2010

Hannah Sanesh was only 22 years old when she parachuted into Nazi-occupied Europe in an effort to save the Jews of Hungary, but she had already left behind a body of literary work consisting of poems and diaries that would inspire readers for generations to come. “Blessed is the Match,” is the first feature documentary to bring to life this remarkable Holocaust heroine through interviews, eyewitness accounts, rare family photographs, dramatic re-creations, and the writings of Hannah and her mother Catherine Sanesh.

We had a chance to speak with director/producer Roberta Grossman about the making of “Blessed is the Match,” which airs Tueseday, April 13 at 10pm on THIRTEEN.

T: What were the biggest challenges of telling Hannah Senesh’s story?

RG: One of the biggest challenges was confronting a general perception among funders and critics that we’ve reached “Holocaust Fatigue,” that people no longer want to learn about the Holocaust.  Many times during the making of the film and upon its release, we had to decide to ignore that notion. In my mind, I was telling Hannah Senesh’s story — she is one of the great Jewish and great women heroines of history, and her story is nearly unknown outside of Israel. I wanted Hannah and her story to be know and the film is the way to enter the historical consciousness in our era.  I have often wondered, why is Anne Frank, who was a victim without the ability to act, so much better known than Hannah, who, because of her circumstances, was able to act, to resist and chose to do so?  I think of the film not as a Holocaust story, but as a mother-daughter love story set against the backdrop of the Holocaust.

T: You said you learned about Hannah Senesh when you were in middle school, but you were closer to Hannah’s mother’s age when you undertook the film. What perspective about Hannah did the process of making “Blessed is the Match” bring you?

RG: I think that heroes are quite boring, hard to relate to, one dimensional.  If I had told Hannah’s story when I first wanted to, right out of college, I think I probably would have made an ultimately boring film about a hero.  But, because of the passage of time, I think I made a film about a daughter, a girl, and her mother who had to watch her brilliant and strong-willed daughter make decisions that would ultimately cost her her life.  That’s interesting, that’s powerful, that’s something people can relate to.

T: This is a story about a singular mother-daughter relationship. What aspect of their relationship resonated with you the most?

RG: I guess, for me, the part that resonated most was the unbreakable bond between mother and daughter.  Catherine did not approve of Hannah emigrating to Palestine and certainly would not have approved of her going on such a perilous mission.Yet when confronted in the interrogator’s office with Hannah — when told, “make Hannah tell us her radio code or you’ll never see her again” — Catherine immediately decided if Hannah didn’t want to talk, she had good reason not to, and she would not try to influence her otherwise.  That’s trust, that’s respect.  Secondly, I think Hannah’s story is, in some ways, about trying to break away from her mother, to find her own life, her own path.  I suppose that resonated with me as well.

T: What about Hannah’s upbringing informed the gumption to parachute behind enemy lines during the War?

RG: Hannah came from a famous intellectual family in Budapest.  Her father was a playwright and newspaper columnist.  I think Hannah inherited a sense of self confidence in her own ideas and views.  In addition, Hannah grew up during a period of rising anti-Semitism — one choice was to fold under that pressure, the other choice was to embrace a Jewish identity and feel proud.  Hannah chose the later and that fueled her.  She had all the conviction of a recent convert when she embraced Zionism as the solution for the problems of the Jewish people in the 1930s.

T: Heroes and heroines often become oversimplified over time. What were the challenges of capturing Hannah’s heroism without sacrificing her complexity as a human being?

RG: The biggest challenge was fitting everything into a watchable film — I would have like to have included more passages from Hannah’s diary that reflect her self-doubt, her sense of humor, her self-deprecation.  If I could go back and change anything about the film, I’d change that.

Visit Independent Lens for more interviews and film segments.

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