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Playlist: News Station Picks for September '10

Compiled By: PRX Curators

 Credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ilriccio/149393462/sizes/m/in/photostream/">ilriccio</a>
Image by: ilriccio 
Curated Playlist

Here are September picks for news stations from PRX News Format Curator Naomi Starobin.

What Naomi listens for in news programming.

This month we hear, I mean really hear, the sound of instruments. The theremin, the memm, the accordion, kids' instruments re-purposed.

Public radio reporters and producers are clearly attracted to unusual sounds and their origins. Your listeners will enjoy how these features bring out the creativity of people who invent new instruments out of old parts, or who play instruments in new, creative ways. These are all sound-rich and well-produced. The characters are as compelling as the instruments they play.

Save the Endangered Didgeridoo

From Vermont Public | 04:49

This narrator-less piece is produced by Vermont Public Radio host and producer Jane Lindholm. The first few seconds are a wall of didgeridoo music, which catches the ear unlike any instrument (except maybe a musical saw). Musician Pitz Quattrone does a great job of describing the Australian instrument's personality and quirks and demonstrating its range.

The twist in the piece, if the sound of the didgeridoo is not enough, is Quattrone's description of his relationship with the instrument...it gave him a lift in his life when his life "was going in a bad direction." He says it gives him a buzz, and takes him places. Sounds like good radio...

Default-piece-image-0 Pitz Quattrone, a musician from East Montpelier, Vermont, is on a mission: to "save the endangered didgeridoo in the USA." He has planned and financed three events in Montpelier this fall to spread the message. He says the didgeridoo is not only the oldest instrument in the world, but it also saved his life. In this self-narrated piece, produced by Vermont Public Radio host and producer Jane Lindholm, Quattrone explains some of the history of the instrument, how it's played, and why it's so important to him.

The Unlikely Story of A Thousand-Year-Old Instrument in Cambodia

From Rachel Louise Snyder | Part of the Global Guru Radio series | 02:56

After listening to this piece, I was surprised to see it comes in under 3 minutes. It packs a lot in, as we go in the journey of a Cambodian man describing his search for someone who can play the ancient instrument, the memm. Finally, at the end of the piece, we hear it.

Rachel Louise Snyder is the host and producer of the series "The Global Guru," a consistently well-produced and focused series that "seeks to celebrate global culture."

Picture_1_small The Global Guru is a weekly public radio interstitial that seeks to celebrate global culture, particularly in countries where Americans have either single narrative story lines, like Afghanistan (war), Thailand (sex tourism), Rwanda, (genocide), or perhaps no story lines at all, like East Timor, Moldova, Malta, Lesotho, etc. Engaging and rich in sound, the 3:00 interstitial seeks to enrich our collective understanding of the vastness of human experience. Presenting station is WAMU in Washington, DC and sponsored by American University in DC. Some of our favorite past shows include: How do Cambodians predict the harvest each year? How did Tanzania become the capitol of barbershops? How and why does Thailand categorize food? What is Iceland’s most feared culinary delight? How do you track a Tasmanian devil? What are the hidden messages in Zulu beadwork? 

King of Instruments

From Salt Institute for Documentary Studies | 05:41

Over the months I've selected a lot of pieces from the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Maine. They are consistently beautifully produced and compelling, Even when it's about the consistently under-respected accordion. Can you beat the name of the group of 4 accordionists and a percussionist, "The Maine Squeeze?"

The piece is narrator-less and introduces each player and his or her playing, but more to the point, the player's enthusiasm and joy.

This is produced by Catie Talarski, who is now with WNPR in Connecticut.

Default-piece-image-1 Question: What's better than one accordion player? Answer: Four accordion players and a percussionist. Meet The Maine Squeeze, an accordion ensemble based on Peaks Island, Maine. Have some fun, tap your feet, and let the band share with you their love for all things accordion. Produced by Catie Talarski.

Hell Bent

From Matthew Kordonowy | 11:09

Lots of fun sound here, mingled in with the narration that describes just what "circuit bending" is. It takes a bit of time to understand just what circuit benders do (they take discarded toys that make sound and recycle them into unique instruments), and how these sounds get created, but it's worth the wait.

This is by independent producer Matthew Kordonowy out of Chicago. He describes himself as a "freelance musician, producer, writer, chef, eater, fixer/breaker, biker."

Default-piece-image-1 Circuit bending is a branch of electronic music that uses rewired kids toys and old instruments. Musicians find these props often in corners of forgotten times: garage sales, dumpsters, thrift stores... This documentary looks at the musicians and their bent instruments in Chicago, from a workshop at the Old Town School of Folk Music to a concert in a West side warehouse. As we increasingly view old electronic technology as trash, there is a movement to recycle these under-appreciated gadgets: Circuit Benders!

Making Music with Solar Power

From Emma Jacobs | 04:09

Another piece about the crossroads of environmentalism and music...about using solar power to make music. We hear from people who think merging the power of the sun and the power of music is a great thing. More important, we hear the beats of the clinking and buzzing music powered by the sun.

It's by Emma Jacobs, a multimedia journalist in Binghamton, New York.

Xylobot_small Chris Cerrito liked making gadgets and Mike Rosenthal liked to make music. Together, these two graduate students created a team of musical instruments-- things like xylobots and shaky-plates--that all run on solar energy.

Cerrito and Rosenthal introduce their creations and explain the basics of how their solar engines collect and release energy, producing sound. These two aren't counting  on solving the energy crisis, but they think holding one of their palm-size musical bots can help bring solar energy home in a new way.

Music from the Ether

From Amber Edwards | 05:05

Get ready...the theremin is an instrument that you either love or hate. Should you have a cat, better to shoo it to another room when you listen. Love or hate the sound of the theremin, this piece, by Amber Edwards in Newtown, Connecticut, will captivate your listeners. Edwards does a nice job of weaving the sound of the instrument with its history, a Beach Boys song, and even a scene from a Jerry Lewis movie where it appears.

Theremin_small Evergreen feature about the Theremin--the world's first electronic musical instrument--and some of the people who love it. SUGGESTED INTRO: Why would any one want to study a musical instrument that is obscure, nearly impossible to play, and associated with danger, insanity, and aliens from outer space? Nevertheless, the Theremin–-the world’s first electronic musical instrument–does have its afficionados. There’s Scott Marshall, for example, who lives in New Jersey, the state where theremins were once manufactured by the hundreds. And while Marshall believes himself to be New Jersey’s only thereminist, he is hardly a voice in the wilderness–as Amber Edwards reports. *This piece originally aired on the WBGO Journal (88.3, Newark, all jazz station that does not carry NPR newsmagazines) in February, 2004.

Manufacturing Melodies

From Zak Rosen | 06:22

Frank Pahl makes hybrid instruments out of kids instruments. This piece is a visit to his workshop and a good look at his creative brain. "Delightful" is how I'd describe the sounds he creates and the piece itself. We hear the music and Pahl's creative process, but also hear how his exposure to the auto industry in Detroit led to his unique job. He says "I feel very lucky."

It's by Zak Rosen, a producer of State of the Re:Union out of Brooklyn, New York.

Img_1682_small Frank Pahl grew up in a Wyandotte, MI.  A town outside of Detroit, where most people work in a factory, making cars or something having to do with them.   But Pahl defied his family's expectations of him, and has for the past 20-years tinkered with toys and tools for the sheer enjoyment of the process, rather than a pre-determined end result, and he's been able to etch a living out of his sound experiments.  He's specifiaclly interested in the sound of youth and childhood, and has been collecting toy instrments for years and years.