Intro from Jay Allison: This is a remarkable story. I won’t tell you much about it because the title should be intriguing enough, but it ends up covering the nature of consciousness and what matters in life, and does so with a strong hook and a light touch. For the students among you, we have included two versions (11 and 20 minutes), so you may see what is gained and lost in ruthless editing. This piece was made with help from Seattle’s Jack Straw Artist Support Program and is now available to stations at the Public Radio Exchange. Hannah Palin is a writer, performer and filmmaker. This is her first work for radio.
About the Piece
I’ve wanted to tell my mother’s story, and my own, for years now, but have struggled with form and structure. I’m a writer and producer with a background in theatre and documentary filmmaking. Despite all of the tools at my disposal, I just couldn’t get it right. Then, on a whim, I borrowed a mini-disc recorder and did an extended interview with my mother when she was on a visit to Seattle. A year later, Jack Straw Productions awarded me some studio time and the services of Scott Bartlett, an extraordinarily gifted and patient engineer, who helped me navigate a host of technical landmines so that I could find the true path to this particular story.
Hold a light on the path.
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“The Day My Mother’s Head Exploded” was first presented to the public as part of the Jack Straw Artist Support Program in April 2003. When the piece was over, my mother joined me on stage where we performed her signature song, “Goodbye My Coney Island Baby.” And yes, we wore Groucho Marx Glasses.
The interviews for “The Day My Mother’s Head Exploded” were recorded on mini-disc in Seattle on a muggy afternoon in July, 2001. [I borrowed the mini-disc and have no idea what brand it was or what kind of mic I used! Sorry!]
The piece was edited in Pro-Tools using the mini-disc recordings, narrative recorded in the Jack Straw studios, audio from VHS-C camcorder tapes, sound effects from Jack Straw’s extensive pre-recorded library, and the music of artists like Moby, Ry Cooder and the B-52’s. In one section, I wanted the perky music of “The Donna Reed Show” to slow down to nothing as a way to underscore my futile attempt to become my mother. In order to achieve this effect, Scott recorded the Donna Reed theme onto reel-to-reel tape and then, during playback, manually slowed it down until the old machine came to a stop. It worked like a charm.