For various reasons, I have found that my attention span tends to be quite scattered over the last year or so. I used to be able to binge watch TV shows and movies with no problem only moving from my sofa or bed for essential bodily functions and needs. With a constant list of things that need to be done in the short and long term, the urge to multi-task is incorrigible. I find myself using already seen TV shows as background music to have some noise and activity without having to fully commit myself to them. And then I discovered podcasts!
Okay, so I had know about podcasts before and had subscribed to a handful of them over the years such as This American Life, Radiolab, NPR Music and Modern Art Notes. I, again, felt like I was treading on familiar territory.
In concert with studio work this year, I started to branch out in my podcast universe with the bulk of the podcasts being radio dramas, science fiction, horror. My gateway podcast was Homecoming which features Catherine Keener, David Cross, Amy Sedaris, and David Schwimmer. From there, I became a podcast junkie.
The following is a list of podcasts that have helped me get through studio work during the first half of 2017.
Alice Isn’t Dead
The Black Tapes
Welcome to Night Vale
With long stretches of studio time this summer at Nakanojo, I burned through all the episodes from the list. The exceptions would the Welcome to Night Vale whose episode list numbers over 100, so I have plenty more time with Cecil. Lore is another podcast which I have picked and chosen from mostly because there is something particular somnambulent about the voice of host Aaron Mahnke.
As a result, I stepped even further out into the podcast universe and also listened to/have been listening to the following podcasts
Missing Richard Simmons
S-Town (which I could not finish)
*The NoSleep Podcast
Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History
Tides of History
*LeVar Burton Reads
Steal the Stars
The ones with a ‘*’ are the ones I am currently listening to with the most regularity. Whether because of the summer weather or for other psychological reasons, I have been swimming deep in horror movies and podcasts and the nine seasons of The NoSleep Podcast continues to satiated that desire.
The three other podcasts have touched different chords in me regarding my studio practice. Ear Hustle speaks to my involvement with the Prison Project at the Intersection for the Arts in 2008 organized by Kevin B. Chen. I was invited by Sonia McKenna to work collaborately on a project that responded to the situation in the California Correctional system. It was the first project of mine which had an aspect of social commentary and had an important impact on me. I think participating in the Prison Project opened my eyes to the possibilities of social commentary in my work and on occasion I do try to work on projects that go beyond the walls of my studio work project. And since then, I have had an ongoing interest in correctional systems and the impact on inmates and society at large. When I saw this podcast posted, I read the teaser and discovered that Nigel Poor, an artist in the Bay Area, whose work I followed and regularly sought out at Haines Gallery was part of this project. I started listening to it and it is fantastic and makes me think about related projects that I have discussed with a friend who worked with parolees as well as putting the Eastern State Penitentiary annual call for artists on my must do list for next June.
LeVar Burton Reads is a relatively new podcast in which LeVar Burton takes his love of reading and shares his favorite short stories with an adult audience. The list of authors that he has read so far is Daisy Johnson, Richard Parks, Lesley Nneka Arimah, Neil Gaiman, Haruki Murakami, and Laura Chow Reeve. “What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky” by Lesley Nneka Arimah introduced me to her amazing speculative fiction and seems especially relevant to current times. The most recent podcast with “1000 Year Old Ghosts” by Laura Chow Reeve was particularly inspiring to my interest in memory and opened up a new way of thinking about how memories are stored and remembered.
Finally, Song Exploder which was just recently introduced to me by a friend continues to blow and inspire my mind. It is a simple concept. Ask artists/producers to talk about the process of making one track. I have always been fascinated with writing music and was also part of band for several years in the Bay Area. During that time, I took to playing around on my keyboard and Garage Band to write songs. I never got to be good at it with the learning curve seeming to steep for me. Song Exploder is done really well and it is fascinating to hear the inspiration for a song as well as how the song is assembled from a series of tracks and ideas. I also love how it helps give meaning and a new point of view about songs that might just be considered earworms. I have a newfound respect and love for both Peter, Bjorn, and John’s “Young Folks” and KT Tunstall’s “Suddenly I See”. Everytime I listen to an episode I want to just back into music making. More importantly, it also gives me inspiration about my own studio practice and how the process of making is a cumulative process – each work/idea influencing the next with the history reaching all the way back in my studio practice history. The most recent one that I listened to was from The Books and he talks about making field recordings and about how they are sound sculptures which trigger memories. This idea was particular timely as I am currently thinking about developing a project with a Tokyo-based NPO to work with junior high school student using my studio practice and neuroscience research as a basis for thinking about everyday memories in new ways.