Piece Comment

Review of At Home with Ani DiFranco

This hour-long program mixes interview segments, music, and host commentary to create an interesting and in-depth portrait of an unusual and interesting artist, singer/songwriter Ani DiFranco. Many hour-long interview programs don't work very well--they either devote too much time to a subject, aren't paced well, or don't frame the discussion in ways that works for listeners. This program demonstrates that a little production finesse and an attention-grabbing subject can create an interesting and engaging hour-long program.

The producers are very focused on keeping the program moving, keeping interview segments short and well edited (one of the strongest elements of the program is that the interviews were recorded in DiFranco's home). If they had been studio recordings, I'm sure they wouldn't be so dynamic. In between, there are reflections, written by the interview host, on DiFranco's career and the significance of her music and work. With the exception of the first few minutes, the program flows very well and it's easy to get lost in time while listening.

There are some small problems with the program that could be made better--but are not significant enough that they would negatively impact the usefulness of the program for stations.

First is the aforementioned first few minutes. The program takes too long to get started. There is six minutes of set-up before the interview starts. There are several teaser clips from later in the interview and a narrative history (from the host) about Ani's career. After several listens, I think this could probably be cut down to 2-3 minutes without sacrificing any depth. There are too many teaser clips and the history could be abbreviated or moved elsewhere. Listeners want to hear Ani--get to her quicker.

Also, the host is great with Ani, but a little too reverent. The host obviously has a great deal of respect for DiFranco, but there is never any conversational tension, no probing discussion, and no drilling down into answers. Not that an interview has to be contentious or uncomfortable, but this feels too polite.

Also, the host's delivery occasionally sounds stiff (she's reading) and the writing of her contextual/background narratives/commentary includes some unfortunate cliches and hyperbole. For example, when introducing one segment, the host reads:

"Buffalo--home of the Sabres and record setting snow falls--is probably as well known as being Ani DiFranco's home town as anything else."

Frankly, this statement is difficult to believe, because it simply isn't true. It may make for an easy segue, but it's too easy. These narrative missteps wouldn't be a problem if the rest of writing--as well as the entire program--weren't so promising.

This is a great effort--and with a type of programming that isn't easy to make sound this good.