Archives for category: Docs

The Nerve
A few years ago, Chris Brookes, Jowi Taylor and I produced a six-part series for CBC Radio called The Nerve: Music and the Human Experience. It was a follow-up to our Peabody-Award-winning series The Wire: The Impact of Electricity on Music, and it takes a look at how music is a facet of every part of our lives, from human evolution, to war and peace, to religion and personal identity.

This month, Radio New Zealand National is rebroadcasting The Nerve in its entirety, on Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm New Zealand time. (That’s 5pm Pacific time and 8pm Eastern time in North America on Fridays and Saturdays.) You can listen at those times HERE.

Music is found in every culture worldwide. It’s our constant companion, from birth through childhood, love, marriage and death. It has a starring role on every stage of the great human drama – whether we are at war or at prayer, by ourselves or with others, happy or sad – music is there. But does it really have a purpose? Where does it come from? And why does it have such power over our hearts and minds?

The Nerve asks those questions, featuring the voices and thoughts of top musicians and thinkers, from Zakir Hussain to Howard Shore to Richard Dawkins and more.

Episodes 1 and 2 aired last weekend – but you can listen to Episode 1, “Wired for Sound: Music and the Brain” right here:

In 2009, Episode 1 of The Nerve was Shortlisted for the Prix Italia in the Work on Music category. The Nerve as a series was awarded two Silver Medals at the 2009 New York Festivals of Radio Programming in the Culture & the Arts and Best Editing categories.

For the next little while, I’m excited to be sharing a project I’ve been working on called The Signature Series.

Here’s how it works:

1. Select a musical key.
2. Gather together the most famous melodies composed in that key.
3. Mash up.
4. Meet the person behind the key.

To get to know G minor, click on the orange play button. Follow along with the pop-up comments to find out what composition is playing.

G minor: The Contrarian

Also known as:
The Moody Teenager.
The Complicated Man.

G minors you might know:
Captain Ahab from Moby Dick.
Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye.
Pete Campbell from Mad Men.

The notes: G – A – B♭ – C – D – E♭ – F♯ – G.

Number of flats: two.

Relative major: B-flat major.

What they said about G minor in the 18th century:
“Discontent, uneasiness, worry about a failed scheme; bad-tempered gnashing of teeth; in a word: resentment and dislike.” – Christian Schubart, 1784

“It is suited to frenzy, despair, agitation.” – Francesco Galeazzi, 1796

More G minor listening:
Dido’s Lament from Dido and Aeneas by Henry Purcell.

Der Erlkönig by Franz Schubert.

The Canadian connection:
“Your Rocky Spine” by Great Lake Swimmers.

Note: Historical quotes and translations from A History of Key Characteristics in the 18th and Early 19th Centuries, by Rita Steblin, UMI Research Press (1983).

 

The Vancouver area is a bhangra hotbed. It’s one of the world’s capitals of bhangra, thanks to the large Punjabi community that has already lived here for several generations. Some of the world’s biggest bhangra stars call Surrey, BC home. And each year Vancouver hosts the City of Bhangra Festival, a celebration featuring performances, symposia, and an international bhangra dance competition.

The 2009 edition of City of Bhangra – or, as it was then known, the Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration – takes centre stage in this documentary I produced and directed for CBC Radio & ABC Radio National, which was rebroadcast today on CBC’s Inside the Music.

If you missed it, you can listen to it in full right here:

I must confess I didn’t really know anything about the Ancient Greek author and historian Thucydides until a marvellous opportunity to learn all about him landed in my lap.

Nicola Luksic is a fantastic journalist and producer with CBC Radio in Toronto, and a wonderful person with whom to collaborate. Nicola’s produced some of the finest programs to hit the airwaves in the past few years, including And Sometimes Y, The Bottom Line, the double Gabriel-Award-winning 2010-11 season of Tapestry, and many more.

This past season Nicola also wrote & produced a documentary for CBC’s Ideas about Thucydides, and I was thrilled when she asked me to select scoring music and do the sound mix. With the help of the APM music production library, I tried to create an atmosphere that would immerse listeners in the world of Ancient Athens, Sparta, and the Peloponnesian War.

LISTEN HERE to Nicola’s excellent doc, Thucydides: The First Journalist.

A couple of years ago I produced & directed two audio documentaries on the music of the Indian Subcontinent for CBC Radio in Canada and ABC Radio National in Australia.

Episode 1, about the music of Bollywood, was rebroadcast today on CBC Radio across Canada. But if you missed it, fret not! You can listen to it in its entirety right here, below. Episode 2: Bhangra airs next Sunday on Inside the Music.

CLICK HERE to listen to Gros Morne: The Bones of the Earth – my feature documentary about how the theory of plate tectonics found firm footing in Gros Morne National Park, in Western Newfoundland.

UPDATE: Bones of the Earth wins Gold Medal at New York Festivals!

2011 marks the 100th anniversary of Parks Canada.

In Western Newfoundland, there’s a national park that holds the key to one of the most important scientific ideas of our times.

Gros Morne National Park is kind of like the Galápagos of geology – you might go to the Galápagos to experience first-hand the wonder of biology and the theory of evolution. In Gros Morne, you can experience first-hand the wonder of geology and the theory of plate tectonics.

Instead of looking out for Darwin’s finches and giant tortoises you’ll come face-to-face with vistas and rock formations that will take your breath away.

About a year ago, I was lucky enough to go to Gros Morne with my microphones to capture the echo of a continental dance that happened 500 million years ago.

My colleague (and great friend) Chris Brookes and I sought out that echo in the words of geologists, artists, musicians and poets, and in the sounds of the park itself.

We composed music based on the field recordings, too. (Listen to excerpts from the original soundtrack.)

Then we wove it all together, along with poetry by Don McKay and traditional Newfoundland music performed by Daniel Payne, Jean Hewson and Christina Smith.

The result is a documentary called Gros Morne: The Bones of the Earth, and you can listen on-demand, whenever you like, HERE.

This documentary was produced with the support of Parks Canada, and sometime this summer, a longer version, presented by Shelagh Rogers, will be available in Gros Morne National Park and online.

Read the rest of this entry »

For years now, I’ve been experiencing the onset of a slow love affair with cricket. Maybe it’s because I love puzzles (especially the cryptic kind), and here in North America, cricket is usually shrouded in mystery.  It’s viewed as baseball’s exotic, off-kilter cousin whose rules are just a bit too cryptic to figure out, thank you very much, especially if there’s a baseball game on.

As it turns out, just as with cryptic crosswords, puzzling through the rules of cricket offers great satisfaction.  Now that I have a clue what’s happening on the pitch, I can hardly tear myself away.  And the language!  Can any other sport compete with googlies, doosras, yorkers, maiden overs and ducks?

There’s a kind of poetry to cricket.  In honour of the 2011 Cricket World Cup, about to begin in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, here’s my mini-doc on how I came to love the sport:

And my guide to Team Canada appears in this week’s edition of Eye Weekly in Toronto.

Read the rest of this entry »

The good folks over at The Banff Centre have been publishing a gorgeous multimedia journal for the past couple of years called BoulderPavement.  The latest issue is based around the idea of Body & Dance and features fabulous original artwork and compelling literary non-fiction, among other things.

I’ve been lucky enough to contribute regularly to BoulderPavement and I’m thrilled to be a part of this issue as well.  For this original audio composition I decided I wanted to get at the question of the origins of rhythm, and the close relationship between music and our bodies that we sometimes take for granted.

Thinking about this, I remembered a great story told by Ustad Zakir Hussain when my colleagues and I interviewed him for a project called The Nerve. That became the basis for this mini-doc, a kind of “scored story” with original music and sound design.

Read more – and visit Boulder Pavement

2010 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of the great Romantic-era composer Robert Schumann. Schumann was perhaps the archetypal moody artist, alternating between blazing bouts of creativity and periods of antisocial depression. It’s a common cliché that has, all too often, been sustained by sad life stories punctuated by tragic endings. Schumann died a broken man in an insane asylum.

More recently, we’ve seen gifted musicians like Kurt Cobain and Elliott Smith take their own lives after struggling with depression.

There are many, many others who fit the cliché (Tchaikovsky, Billie Holiday, Joy Division’s Ian Curtis…the list goes on and on). Why are there so many artists and musicians that struggle with depression and other forms of mental illness?

Anthony Storr was a British psychiatrist who wrote about music and mental illness in his book Music and the Mind. He suggested that there might be a link between mental illness and creativity – he wrote: “The ability to think creatively, to make new links between concepts, is more often found in families which include a member who is diagnosable as mentally ill.”

I can’t be absolutely certain, but I’d be surprised if Schumann, Cobain and Smith weren’t at their happiest when they were writing and playing music. We’ve all experienced a moment in our lives when music has helped us get through a rough patch; when listening to or singing a particular song has just seemed to simultaneously hurt so good and help mitigate the pain.

Is it also possible that, for Schumann, Cobain and Smith, music was almost like self-medication, a treatment for their mental ailments?

I put together a short musical essay about music and mental illness that first aired on CBC Radio 2′s In Concert on Sunday October 24th, 2010. For info on all the music I used in the piece, please look here and scroll down to the list of musical works.

I’m thrilled to announce that my documentary The Sound and the Sea has won a Silver Medal for Best Sound at the 2010 New York Festivals Radio Program and Promotion Awards.

I produced it last year for CBC Radio’s The Current. It was based on my original audio artwork Ode to the Salish Sea. Producing it in documentary format allowed me to explore more deeply the story of the Salish Sea and its various proponents and opponents as a new name for the inland waters stretching from Olympia, WA to Campbell River, BC.

The Salish Sea became an official geographic name in July, 2010, overlaying but not replacing existing place names like the Strait of Georgia and Puget Sound, which also remain official.

The sound design of The Sound and the Sea was inspired by the diversity and beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

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