Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pleasures for your way of Texas and Canada

The other morning while taking our dog for his daily 2-mile walk, a song came up on my MP3 player that I certainly had heard before, but never really listened to. The song was "Pilot's Last Broadcast" from Hundred Year Storm and their latest album, Hello From the Children of Planet Earth. The quietness and peacefulness of the early hour (6:00 a.m. and still not quite light out) allowed the song to make a dramatic impression on me. This group of guys from Austin, TX doesn’t just create music. They create aural experiences. Many of their songs are layered with samples of speaking, film clips, and assorted pieces of spoken word recordings that serve to enhance the theme and emotion of each song. No, not just songs; they are artistic soundscapes. The song I heard that morning was primarily a moving and emotional instrumental piece interspersed with recordings of a conversation between a pilot and a control tower, and it was evident that the pilot was headed for a wreck. I don’t know whether these were recordings of actual pilot conversations or whether they were created for the purpose of this piece, but the effect was rather remarkable. The interplay between the music and the recordings was amazing and I found myself very moved by the piece. You can hear the song on their MySpace.

I think I’m particularly attracted to this type of art because of my years of experience working with radio, particularly my work as the Radio Curator at the Museum of Television & Radio for 13 years. During that time I was given the chance to hear some amazing works of radio art. But as I listened to this song, I’m not sure why, but one particular radio piece came to mind. Near the end of my tenure at MT&R I was involved in putting together an exhibition celebrating the work of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. As I listened to a variety of pieces from the entire history of the CBC, there was one audio piece that just grabbed me. It was a piece that mixed music with the spoken word, and over the years I had completely forgotten all about it. It bears no resemblance to the Hundred Year Storm song, but I suddenly remembered it and came back home, got on the Internet, and without remembering much about it, set about to find it online. And it didn’t take long.

The piece I remembered was called “More About Henry” and was the work of a young Canadian musician by the name of Adam Goddard. Adam had apparently sat down and recorded his grandfather, Henry Haws, talking about life in the “good old days.” I may not have my story completely straight here, but as Adam interviewed his grandfather about farming and other issues, he recognized the musical quality of his grandfather’s voice, and then wrote some music and lyrics and laid down samples of his grandfather speaking over the music. The first time I heard the piece I fell in love with it and played it for others, all of who greatly appreciated the work of art they were hearing. I know very little about Mr. Goddard or about anything else that he has done, but I do know good radio when I hear it. I hope you feel the same way. And again, remember, there is no real relationship between these two musical compositions other than the fact that one jarred my memory in some strange way and made me think of the other.

This has gotten me in the mood to revisit my days at the Museum and listen to some more great radio. I’ll let you know what some of my other favorites are over the next few days. In the meantime, enjoy Hundred Year Storm and the work of Adam Goddard.

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