Redux: Whose United States?

One of my favorite bands at this year's South by Southwest never made it on the coffee stained schedule I kept digging out of my back pocket. I happened to catch These United States very early (aka noon) on day one. With beer in hand, I listened with wide eyes to their playful on-stage banter and beguiling tunes. Unlike many SXSW bands, they seemed to actually be having fun. That attitude prevails on this WOXY Lounge Act, so crack open your PBR and take a listen.

Blog: Tell Your Gun Story

The best way to understand someone's life is to simply listen. If you ask the right questions and really listen to the answers, people from all walks of life will tell you everything you need to know.

Take the Second Amendment. Most people have strong opinions about guns, but for the most part, they keep it to themselves. Like religion and politics, gun control is not polite dinner conversation.

But there is a place where you can find how how people really feel about guns. It's a new site called Gun Stories. Take a few minutes to read what it's like on either side of the barrel and maybe even share your own gun story.

Props to Salt's Rob Rosenthal for the tip.

Redux: Not Everything Happens for a Reason

This is an incredibly moving piece by youth producer Krystle Murray of Radio Rookies. She takes us along as she grapples with her cousin's death, talking to everyone from a funeral director to her mother in an attempt to get some answers. She's in search of a way to understand what -- as anyone who has experienced a friend or family member's death -- often can't really be understood.

Krystle weaves in between her narration and interview and active tape in a way that is seamless and thought provoking. More than anything, though, she taps into what it feels like to mourn the loss of a loved one--the lengths we go to in order to get some closure, to get some solace.

Redux: Hey, I Know That Whistle

The name Peter Moren might not ring a bell, but if you had ears last summer, you likely whistled along to Peter Bjorn and John's tune Young Folks. This year Peter Moren is on his own, singing his little Swedish heart out. I can't say I'm a huge fan of his new solo album The Last Tycoon, but it was still fun to see him at South by Southwest this year. It sounds like the folks at WOXY enjoyed it too.

Blog: Fun with Short Lists, part two

Each track at Salt is asked to make some kind of presentation at the graduation. These two short lists were the radio group's contribution (with the majority of the editing done by rock stars Jen Nathan and Steven Emmons).

Blog: An Ear Made for Radio

Every once in a while, I'll be sitting in the car, clicking through the ipod when a song jumps out screaming, "This must be on the radio." Not in a cheesy Top 40 kind of way, but whispering in the background of an audio documentary or interview. Former Kamikaze Heart's mandolin player Matthew Loiacono's new album Kentucky sounds like it was made with radio production in mind. Its haunting melodies and repetitive, textured complexity make it a perfect match for a radio piece about... anything.

In that vein, here are a few more artists that have This American Life written all over them:

- Melodium: French electronica for every mood.
- Beirut: Balkan-by-way of New Mexico, with a lilting old-world feel.
- Ratatat: Immensely popular Brooklyn guitar and synth.
- Plaid: Spacey Brit electronica. Surprisingly perfect dinner-making music.

What's your favorite radio soundtrack?

Redux: Back to the Future

No, this post isn't about Michael J. Fox or a lighting fast Delorean. But close - it's about the trail blazing public radio of the 1980s.

Back in the late '70s and early '80s, organizations like the National Endowment for the Arts would send independent radio producers out into the world with little more than a microphone and some spare change. It gave folks like Scott Carrier and the Kitchen Sisters a chance to drive around the country, stumble upon fascinating people, and take time to record their stories.

It's a little tougher to get funding these days, but if you listen to their long, spiraling audio creations (so much more experimental than what we hear on NPR today), maybe we'll hear the future of radio too.

Redux: Compassionate Journalism

Anyone can interview a celebrity or even a politician. To some extent, you just wind 'em up and let 'em go (okay, it's much harder to interview a celebrity or politician *well*, but that's another story). I think a true measure of an interviewer is how they talk to regular people, folks who have never been in front of a microphone or might even be hard to understand in real life.

This is one of the reasons that so few people with disabilities end up on the radio (with the notable exception of the time This American Life featured How's Your News). It can be hard to understand people with Downs Syndrome or severe Autism on the radio, without all of the visual cues that help us decipher the words of people who speak differently than we do. It also takes a lot of work to come up with questions that will strike a nerve and remind people with disabilities, who so often have trouble communicating, of a compelling story they want to share. But that's what makes The Story's Dick Gordon's interview with Allison Wright, a young business owner with Downs Syndrome, so inspiring.

Because I'm a regular editor for the show, I got to hear the raw tape - all 95 minutes of it. Dick was patient and flexible and most importantly kind the entire time. When Allison didn't understand what Dick was asking, he found a new way to phrase the question, always with a calm, sensitive voice and genuine curiosity. If Dick felt a whisper of frustration after nearly 30 minutes of rephrasing the same questions, no one in the studio could have detected it. I realized what a feat this was after my 9th hour of editing the audio. I'll admit, I was ready to tear my hair out. Maybe Dick felt the same way, but he never let Allison know it. That is the true definition of compassion.

Redux: Girls (and Boys) Just Wanna Have Fun

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Art about gender can get pretty wonky (if you don't cringe when you think back to your women's studies projects from freshman year, you're not thinking hard enough). Images of Vagina Monologue clips and Elle Magazine interviews danced through my head when I saw that the subject of this week's Studio 360 was girl culture. Boy, was I wrong.

Every minute of this week's episode was fascinating. First off, host Kurt Anderson invites his high school daughter Lucy to join him for some witty quips about life as a modern American girl. To her credit, I could imagine the same conversation whirling around the dinner table - kudos for not devolving into sticky sweet sound bites.

Later, Kurt tracks down the author of those ubiquitous American Girl dolls (yes, I'll admit to dressing up Samantha for many a Victorian tea party). Turns out, the woman who writes about the incredibly proper misadventures of these fictional historical characters decided not to have any children of her own. Was it something Felicity said?

But the highlight of this week's episode (with the exception Salt grad Andrea Silenzi's voice reading Are You There God, It's Me Margaret) was a story about a simple dress. As anyone who's ever tried on a wedding dress knows, it's not that easy to zip up something beautiful. The thoughtful and hilarious Elna Baker cut to the quick of what it means to be a modern young woman. My words won't do this piece justice. You'll just have to listen for yourself.

Blog: Audio Map of the Big Easy

I've never been to the creative, steamy New Orleans of NPR contributor Andrei Codrescu, but thanks to Open Sound New Orleans my ears have walked those streets.

Open Sound New Orleans is a new audio project which encourages people (including Salt alum Julia Botero) to record the sounds of their own New Orleans and post them to a Google map. Now people all over the city and the world can hear anything from Louisiana crickets to the sweet breezy sound of river steam boats. So pull up some headphones and take an audio tour of the Big Easy.