Rank #1: Episode 28: What We Hear When We Read
Peter Mendelsund is an award-winning book designer and the author of What We See When We Read, a phenomenological treatise on the visual art of reading. In this episode of the Organist, Mendelsund discusses the auditory side of reading and the sound of the classic orators of literature, including James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and Dylan Thomas. CONTAINS ADULT LANGUAGE.
CREDITS: Produced by Ross Simonini. The Organist is produced by Simonini along with Jenna Weiss-Berman and Andrew Leland.
Banner Image Credit: George Baier IV
Aug 26 2014
Rank #2: Episode 25: The Last Man on the Street
We take to the streets with Mal Sharpe, a man who, along with his partner James Coyle, was among the first wave of fake newsmen, paving the way from everyone from Borat to Colbert. Over the years Sharpe has conducted thousands of surrealist man on the street interviews, accosting random pedestrians and asking them a series of progressively strange and extreme questions, creating classic recordings of absurdist radio comedy. Reporter Ike Sriskandarajah found Sharpe in San Francisco and returned to the streets for a few new adventures in vox-pop.
CREDITSÂ Produced byÂ Ike Sriskandarajah.
Jul 29 2014
Rank #3: Episode 45: An Interview with Miranda July
The wildly, diversely prolific artist Miranda July discusses her earliest, rarely seen punk plays, her radio work in the 90s, and her brand-new novel. CONTAINS EXPLICIT LANGUAGE.
Banner Image Credit: Miranda July
Feb 03 2015
Rank #4: Episode 51: Orson on Wonderland
Robert Kensinger moved to L.A. in the late 70's. He was hoping to make it as a film director after graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design. He stumbled into a job as a personal assistant to the legendary actor, writer, and director Orson Welles. Kensinger worked for Welles off and on for several years before he left to write scripts for indie producer Roger Corman. Then he carved out a long career as a set decorator on many studio films.
People tend to think of Orson Welles as inactive or diminished during those final years â€“ living off Laurel Canyon on Wonderland Avenue, earning a living starring in wine commercials and making the rounds of TV talk shows. But Kensinger remembers the director of Citizen Kane as vital and alive, working hard as ever on projects including his last film, The Other Side of the Wind. It remains unfinished to this day.
Today's Organist features Bob Kensinger, remembering Orson on Wonderland.
Still from a TV magic show pilot Welles shot, in which Bob Kensinger appears as a waiter.
Documents from Bob Kensinger's tenure as Welles's assistant, including shopping lists and a personal note. Originally appeared in Grand Street.
Screen grab from Orson Welles's appearances in Paul Masson Wine TV spots from the early 80's
Screen grab from Orson Welles's appearances in Paul Masson Wine TV spots from the early 80's
Sep 25 2015
Rank #5: Episode 15: The Frank Story
Before he became a journalist, writing hilarious and harrowing books of reportage like The Psychopath Test and The Men Who Stare at Goats, as well as contributing radio stories to This American Life and BBC 4, Jon Ronson had a brief career as a musician. He played keyboards in a group called the Frank Sidebottom Oh Blimey Big Band, which was a sort of experimental-comedy new-wave act. The group's leader was the comedian Chris Sievey, who possessed a confounding absurdist charisma both on and offstage. He wore, for example, a giant papier mache head over his own head both on and off stage. Jon Ronson co-wrote a film, called Frank, that fictionalizes his time in the band. It stars Michael Fassbender and will be released in the US in August. Jon Ronson has this story of his experience driving around England in a van with a man in a huge papier-mache head. Ronson's book, Frank: The True Story That Inspired the Movie, is published by Riverhead.
This episode is produced by Jenna Weiss-Berman and Andrew Leland. Thanks to Lucie Elven and Paul Ruest.
Banner image: Film still from Frank. Photo courtesy Magnolia Pictures
May 06 2014
Rank #6: Episode 14: The Birthday Song
The Birthday Song, sung every day of the year at birthday parties across the land, is sweet, simple, and 120 years old this year. But it's also a highly contested piece of intellectual property, pulling in millions of dollars for a large music conglomerate, Warner/Chappell, which charges films and TV shows who want to include the song, and pull the films from the shelves and file lawsuits if they don't comply. Andrea Silenzi looks at the strange and somewhat tortured history of the song's ownership, and offers a novel form of resistance to Warner's hegemony.
Banner image: Greg Harrison
Apr 29 2014
Rank #7: Episode 56: Pop Philosophy
After more than two dozen books ranging from the history of philosophy to David Bowie, Simon Critchley has written his first novel, which connects the Renaissance mnemonic device called memory palace to, among other things, pop songs. For The Organist, Critchley provides a guided tour through the pop music that constructs his life’s memories, offering reflections on Nietzsche, krautrock, Obama, and Swedish synth-pop along the way.
Dec 11 2015
Rank #8: Angelyne
If you’ve lived in L.A. anytime in the last thirty years, you know Angelyne. She’s the blonde bombshell on the billboards that used to be studded like rhinestones all over the city. Angelyne rose to prominence in the ‘80s, and she was a mashup of elements from the pantheon of Hollywood starlets: platinum hair, an hourglass figure, and a breathy, cooing voice. But Instead of a movie or a TV show or an album, Angelyne’s billboards just advertised herself.
A ninth-grader named Kate Wolf interviewed Angelyne at the height of her popularity by pretending she was a reporter for her school newspaper. Twenty-five years later, Kate wins a raffle for a ride in Angelyne’s hot-pink Corvette and asks Angelyne the tough questions about truth, image, aging, and her career as a looming pink archetype of gender.
Jan 24 2019
Rank #9: Episode 17: Barely Not Shaking
NOTE: This show contains language that may not be appropriate for young audiences.
This week's show features two segments from the 2013 season of the Organist. Actor, writer, and artist James Franco (Spring Breakers, Palo Alto) performs a radio play by playwright Will Eno (Thom Pain (based on nothing), The Realistic Joneses) written exclusively for the Organist. Filmmaker Harmony Korine discusses his novel, A Crackup at the Race Riots, and some unreleased songs he wrote and recorded as a child for the sole purpose of annoying his grandmother.Â
The untitled radio play was written by Will Eno and performed by James Franco. This episode was produced by Ross Simonini, Jenna Weiss-BermanÂ and Andrew Leland.Â
Banner Image Credit: Harmony Korine
May 20 2014
Rank #10: Episode 21: The Piano Van
The story of Chris Stroffolino, who describes his journey from academia â€” writing Cliffs Notes to Shakespeare, teaching Creative Writing at NYU â€” to the downtown poetry scene of the 90s, to playing in the Silver Jews on their great 1998 album American Water, to a bicycle accident and eventual self-enforced homelessness â€“ where he currently lives in a 1983 Ford Econoline van retrofitted with a piano in the back, performing for pedestrians.Â CONTAINS LANGUAGE THAT MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES.Â Produced by David Weinberg.
Photos courtesy ofÂ David Weinberg
Jun 17 2014
Rank #11: Episode 18: A Mind Forever Voyaging
Mike Mills' new film asks the kids of Silicon Valley workers (the sons of Google's cafeteria line cooks; the daughters of engineers at Apple) about their relationship with technology and what the future looks like to them. The journalist and critic Gideon Lewis-Kraus sat down with Mills in San Francisco to discuss the film and the ways in which growing up in the corporate-technological landscape leads to a strange new worldview for these kids.
From now until July 1, Organist listeners get an exclusive sneak peek at the full version of A Mind Forever Voyaging Through Strange Seas of Thought Alone at Believermag.com/mikemills. (password: BELIEVER)
Banner image: Mike Mills, A Mind Forever Voyaging through Strange Seas of Thought Alone: Silicon Valley Project (still), 2013; commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, courtesy the artist; Â© Mike Mills
May 27 2014
Rank #12: Episode 16: The Horse Counselor
This week's show features the premiere of an original radio play written by Alena Smith (@TweenHobo; HBOs The Newsroom) and performed by actor/director David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer, Wanderlust, Role Models) and Rachel Dratch (@TheRealDratch; Saturday Night Live, Second City, 30 Rock). The play is followed by a casual conversation between the actors and writer on television binge-watching and the life-saving benefits of psychoanalysis.
Horse Counselor was written by Alena Smith, performed by David Wain and Rachel Dratch, produced by Ross Simonini, Jenna Weiss-Berman, and Andrew Leland.
Banner image: Dale Hichens
May 13 2014
Rank #13: The Dogfather
This week we bring you dogs, many of them. So many dogs that you can’t possibly scratch the soft fur behind all of their ears or gently caress the scruff of all of their necks or pat all of their bellies when they climb onto your lap and roll over prone for your affection. To investigate the connection between humans and canis familiaris, we talk with acclaimed character actor Bob Balaban, who you’ve seen in dozens of movies and TV shows including Best in Show, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Midnight Cowboy, Seinfeld, Waiting for Guffman, Capote, and Moonrise Kingdom. You also might have heard him as the voice of King in Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs. When he’s not acting in dog-related films, Balaban is also the author of a series of children’s books about McGrowl, a courageous, bionic dog.
We also talk with André Alexis, author of the novel Fifteen Dogs. Alexis got his start as a novelist while dog-sitting eleven huskies in rural Canada. As he sat at his desk trying to write, Alexis also tried to learn the dogs’ language. Could he howl so that they believed he was one of them? And what would the moral consequences of that howling be?
This episode also features a short, absurdist radio fiction by Graham Mason in which you, the listener, encounter a highly skilled dog masseuse whose dog-petting prowess will drive a wedge between you and your dog forever.
Jan 10 2019
Rank #14: Episode 19: Composing the Tinnitus Suites
Daniel Fishkin is a young musician who played in bands and studied composition at Bard College. When he was 22 he got a bad case of tinnitus, a continuous ringing in his ears that drowned out all the sounds around him, and even some of the music in his head. It was a pretty tough blow for an aspiring composer. It wasn't the first time that a musician has had to deal with hearing loss, but what Fishkin did with this situation is remarkable.
Produced by Jascha Hoffman.
Daniel Fishkin Photo by Samuel Lang BudinÂ Â
Daniel Fishkin's feedback system, where a piano string vibrates without being touched. Fishkin used this to create the Tinnitus Suites. Photo by Oliver JonesÂ Â
Transducers attached to long strings that create a feedback loop when amplified. Photo by Oliver Jones
Banner image byÂ Samuel Lang Budin
Jun 03 2014
Rank #15: Episode 50: The Happiest Accidents
The legendary polymath broadcaster Studs Terkel hosted a radio show on Chicago's WFMT for 45-years, interviewing an astonishing range of artists, thinkers, workers, and activists. The writer and publisher (and prolific interviewer in his own right) JC Gabel dips into Terkel's massive archive to highlight three moments where Terkel stumbles sidelong into moments of sublime illumination, including arm-wrestling with Zero Mostel, sparring with Muhammad Ali, and impromptu guerrilla street theater with the organizer Saul Alinsky.
Produced by JC Gabel and edited by Nick White.
Photo courtesy WFMT and the Studs Terkel Radio Archive
Mar 24 2015
Rank #16: Episode 36: Aural Fixation
Ilse Blansert (aka The WaterwhispersÂ on YouTube) discusses her experiences with ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, a curious, little understood physiological reaction to gentle sounds or "triggers" that provide relief from stress and insomnia. The videos of Blansert and her peers are hugely popular on YouTube and have helped to create a wide, digital community who can now sleep soundly as tingles dance up their spines.
Nov 25 2014
Rank #17: Episode 59: Wish You Were Here
Bina Rothblatt sat down at a computer and typed in her memories and thoughts and likes and dislikes for several days. Scientists at Hanson Robotics then took this “mind-file” she’d made and used it to create Bina48: a head-and-shoulders cyborg that appears to have many of the same memories and preferences as the “real” Bina, along with some unique fears and ideas of her own. The Organist sent Lois Parshley to the stifling garage in rural Vermont where Bina48 sits perched on a desk to talk with her and her full-time caretaker, Bruce Duncan, about the promise and the peril at the cutting edge of Artificial Intelligence.
Image Credit: Lois Parshley
Feb 12 2016
Rank #18: Episode 38: Play It Forward: An Interview with Greta Gerwig
This week, The Organist interviews the actress Greta Gerwig. Gerwig began acting in the New York film community of the 2000s with films such as Hannah Takes the Stairs and LOL. She has since worked with Woody Allen, Noah Baumbach, and Whit Stillman, and continues to lend her voice to the Adult Swim cartoon China, Illinois. On The Organist, Gerwig discusses acting with her voice, her body and how her love of fiction inspires her performances.
Dec 16 2014
Rank #19: Episode 42: The Oracle
Photo: Makkos Collection
David Weinberg brings us the story of Joseph Makkos, who made a once-in-a-lifetime discovery trolling Craigslist for free stuff.
Produced by David Weinberg
City on Shoulders New Orleans DNA
Mardi Gras, 1925 New Orleans DNA
Mardi Gras, 1927 New Orleans DNA
TV Radio Number New Orleans DNA
From the Chicago Tribune
From the NY Tribune
From the NY World
From the NY World
Dolly Dimples Comic, 1914 New Orleans Digital Newspaper Archive
Jan 13 2015
Rank #20: Episode 54: Hey Jonathan
In this original radio drama written by Lena Dunham and performed by Dunham with Jack Antonoff, going insane and going straight to voicemail are intimately linked.
NOTE: This episode contains explicit content.
CREDITS: Written by Lena Dunham. Performed by Lena Dunham and Jack Antonoff. Produced by Jenna Weiss- Berman. Music by Andrew Dost.
Nov 06 2015