Shake Marilyn Monroe

Brett & His Mother

Intro from Jay Allison: A musical lesson in love.

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Brent and His Mother
Brent and His Mother

One reason we chose this piece is that the presentation is a bit different. Here’s what Brent said about it: “I had originally planned to write a script and record it, but one night listening to the tape I was inspired to sort of make it up. I wound up really liking the quality, the sense of discovery that comes from improvising, but it is not the usual style for public radio.”

One question we hope to consider on Transom.org is the variety of voices and styles and tones that end up on public radio. What’s “acceptable”? What’s not? Why?

Brent Runyon

About
Brent Runyon

Brent Runyon is a radio producer in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. "Shake Marilyn Monroe" was produced entirely within his one bedroom apartment with a Beyer M-58 Microphone, a Sony TCD-D10 DAT Machine and ProTools LE. Brent began his radio career by being rejected from This American Life's internship program. Luckily, they liked one of his story ideas enough to encourage him to write it. "Fire and Ice Cream," was produced with Jay Allison and Christina Egloff and aired on the Hospital Diplomacy show in January of 2000. You can hear it at www.thisamericanlife.org. "It took me ten months to write, it should take you ten minutes to listen to." His work also appeared recently on All Things Considered's Lost & Found Sound. Brent is from Ithaca, New York.

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  • REPOST

    3.26.01

    Reply
    Shake Marilyn Monroe

    Author : Brent
    Date : 01-14-2001 on 13:11

    Since this is my piece I figure I should be able to have the first word on the matter, but because I’d rather not talk about my own work, I’ll just leave this message as is.

  • REPOST

    3.26.01

    Reply
    Re:Just a Test

    Author : larry
    Date : 01-27-2001 on 15:23

    I like this piece a lot, especially how it’s sort of faux-naieve– the narration is improvised, yeah, but the editing seems very careful and sophisticated. It’s the kind of "small" piece, intimate and unpretentious and personal, that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere in public radio now- except on This American Life, but then there would probably have to be more of a "point" to it.
    Wonder how you did the mix?
    Anyway, the piece was a great pleasure to hear…thank you….

    larry

  • REPOST

    3.26.01

    Reply
    Re:Just a Test

    Author : scarrier
    Date : 01-28-2001 on 22:30

    Dear Brent,
    This piece has a startlingly clean and intimate sound. Very simple and captivating, with a certain tension that makes me wonder what is going to happen next. So I’m hooked. I want to know why you were going to the hospital when you were young, and why you think your relationship with your mother has changed. Also, you got some good tape of playing the songs for your mother. That’s not easy to do.

    Scott Carrier

  • REPOST

    3.26.01

    Reply
    Re:Just a Test

    Author : larry
    Date : 01-31-2001 on 12:35

    Scott, I really like not knowing what the medical problems were, not knowing
    too much really about the relationship with his mother. Because normally that’s what the piece would be all about.
    Here it’s just kind of tease to keep you listening. Tres post-modern.

    larry

  • REPOST

    3.26.01

    Reply
    Re:Just a Test

    Author : Easley
    Date : 02-01-2001 on 09:43

    Brent,
    Scott said it perfectly: clean, intimate, captivating, hooked. And there were times when your narration and the rest of the sound were in and out of resonance…those were moments that I found absolutely delightful…either pure genius, a lucky bit of synchronicity, or some combination.

    I was SO sorry when I realized it was coming to an end. Oh no! Only 8 seconds left! He has beautifully led me somewhere and now I am about to be abandoned! I really wanted some kind of ending…either a resolution, or some point being made. On the other hand I did remain engaged even after you were finished…trying to figure it out for myself, and that’s worth a lot. So maybe all that "resolution" stuff is overrated.
    Very nice. I’m looking forward to hearing it again.

    Phil

  • REPOST

    3.26.01

    Reply
    Re:Just a Test

    Author : Brent
    Date : 02-01-2001 on 16:25

    Geez, thanks guys, I’m really flattered to have such great radio artists respond to my work.
    Let’s see if I can answer some of the questions.

    Mixing: I mixed in ProTools LE (which I love), a very simple mix with just two tracks going at a time, one narration, one Mom and Music, (although I did rerecord the Dylan because the sound was very distant at that point). The whole thing was recorded with one microphone (beyerdynamic M 58) in my living room.

    History: It’s very complicated. Very very complicated. And I considered giving more information or less, and I probably will have to if this ever gets on national air, but the way it is just seemed right to me. To drop the info and have it sit there for everyone to wonder about, like someone revealing they have cancer at a dinner party, I mean what do you say or do you say nothing?

    Resolution: I was honestly surprised by my reaction to my Mom doing well with the lyrics and I’m still not quite sure what it means. It would feel insincere to say, "And now I realize that because my Mom and I understand the same lyrics we understand each other." That just seems so forced and untrue. I’m not sure people really understand their own actions and reactions.

    Questions: I’m sending this to Ellen Weiss of All Things Considered tommorow. Anyone want to guess at how she’ll respond?
    Also, what do ya’ll think of the pauses in the opening section? Too long? Obnoxious? Ira Glassian? Just right?

  • REPOST

    3.26.01

    Reply
    Re:Just a Test

    Author : Phil
    Date : 02-02-2001 on 05:11

    Just listened again…and now want to retract everything I said about feeling abandoned at the end. Actually there was a beautiful wrap-up there.
    The pauses at the beginning (didn’t really notice them until you pointed them out) are just right. Not so much Ira Glassian as Brent Runyanian, I thought.

    ATC should take it just as it is.

  • REPOST

    3.26.01

    Reply
    gun 1 act one

    Author : beedge
    Date : 02-02-2001 on 12:10

    the affliction is lyricosis.
    that’s how one comedy skit referred to it.
    "a devastating disease that’s affects millions."
    my favorite is my wife as a young kid who thought
    slient night’s "’roun yon virgins" was "round young virgins."
    this is a very nice piece.
    but i had a coupla probs:
    i woulda started w/ the mom tape
    "we would listen to the radio together…"
    scrap all the intro narration, most of that is said by the mom,
    and what wasn’t could be injected after the mom tape.

    also, the intro narration had all these pauses
    implying a profundity that hadn’t been developed yet.
    the same narrative pauses that work so well later,
    once we know what the show is about, and can use the time for reflection,
    at the beginning just slow down my interest in piece.
    but once mom comes in (:30) i’m there for rest of story.

    there’s probably 1 or 2 more lyricosis examples than the piece needs.
    and just a little detail:
    doctors appt was kinda like the playwright’s rule:
    a gun that gets introduced in the 1st act, has to go off by the 3rd.
    the doctor thang never went off. didn’t bother me, but i did remember it.

    i do want to warn about the growing tendency
    to use scott-carrier reflective pauses everywhere
    as if the pause automatically installs meaning.
    and the concurrent trend for ira-glass mandatory revelations thruout a piece.
    scott and ira use both techniques to absolute perfection —
    it comes from who they are and how they think.
    but that doesn’t mean their device works for everyone else.
    use the right tool for the job.

    i guess that’s why i DO LIKE brent’s "Hmmm.." ending.
    no forced symbolic metaphoric overriding theme.
    just a nice end. sometimes stories are engaging
    but have no obvious meanings, so why force ’em.
    good job, brent.

  • REPOST

    3.26.01

    Reply
    Re:Just a Test

    Author : A Knight
    Date : 02-05-2001 on 13:28

    Brent (02-01-2001 16:25):
    Also, what do ya’ll think of the pauses in the opening section? Too long? Obnoxious? Ira Glassian? Just right?

    ————
    Too long, a little too deliberate (sounding), IMHO. The piece got much better once your mother was introduced and the pace quickened. Perhaps the pauses at the beginning would be better served with some scoring. I liked it alot, overall. Your mother would feel right at home at http://www.kissthisguy.com
    I also liked the story you did for TAL. I noticed that it’s been added to transom. If my memory serves me correctly, Ira introduced you and explained your injury on the full version. Didn’t he have a mini interview with you and/or the nurse after your story, too? I would go check, but I’m still feeling lazy after the holiday weekend.

  • REPOST

    3.26.01

    Reply
    Re:Just a Test

    Author : larry
    Date : 02-05-2001 on 13:40

    Well, those "scott-carrier reflective
    pauses" are not meant to be profound, I think. Scott simply has the habit of
    eatting crackers when he records narration, so he can’t help it. The early pauses in Brent’s piece struck me as just the guy trying to figure out what he was going to say next, or where he was going to go. At the same time, I knew they were planned, at least reflected on afterwards. And Barrett’s right, it’s a device that could wear out it’s welcome. For Barret, it seems it already has. But I don’t seem to have heard it so much, at least not this well done….

  • REPOST

    3.26.01

    Reply
    Re:Shake Marilyn Monroe

    Author : Jennifer
    Date : 02-06-2001 on 12:20

    Almost gave up just before 4min mark but then there was a turn in the piece that gave me the "nut" graph — why I should continue listening. So I did. Any longer wandering in the audio wilderness and I would have given up. liked it nonetheless.

  • REPOST

    3.26.01

    Reply
    Re:Shake Marilyn Monroe

    Author : scarrier
    Date : 02-11-2001 on 23:39

    As something of a moderator of this discussion I will ask that participants refrain from the use of the word crack-assed. Bad-assed or sorry-assed or feeble-assed are to be used instead. Thank you.

  • REPOST

    3.26.01

    Reply
    Re:Shake Marilyn Monroe

    Author : A Knight
    Date : 02-12-2001 on 13:35

    Sorry, Scott. I didn’t mean to offend. Is sad-assed ok? I noticed that those codes are on now, neat-o.

  • REPOST

    3.26.01

    Reply
    Re:Shake Marilyn Monroe

    Author : scarrier
    Date : 02-12-2001 on 15:31

    Yes, I suppose sad-assed will also be allowed.

  • REPOST

    3.26.01

    Reply
    Re:Shake Marilyn Monroe

    Author : Nannette
    Date : 02-18-2001 on 19:26

    Brent, this is gentle and sweet, and the pauses set that pace
    However, I was expecting a little more drama because of those early pauses. I think I would have stayed with you much more if the test part with several songs had been shorter. That is, if you’d used one or two fewer songs between your revelation that you were giving her easier songs and your insights that you really wanted her to succeed and thought that was weird.

    When there’s a contest of some sort going on, it’s hard not to be drawn in and distracted. Isn’tthat what those game show producers bank on?

    This is a minor criticism. It’s hard to write anything without inadvertently overstating it.

    –Anyway, I enjoyed this and your thoughtful work in general. I really like your on-air work, ESPECIALLY when you let out a little about your own experience and sentiments, however briefly.

  • REPOST

    3.26.01

    Reply
    Re:Shake Marilyn Monroe

    Author : Brent
    Date : 03-01-2001 on 17:10

    Below are Ellen Weiss’s, comments on my piece for your edification or amusement (posted with permission.) I’m working on a version based on these (and your) suggestions.
    Thanks everybody.
    ———————
    Hi Brent,

    Thanks for sending the piece. Here are my thoughts:

    There was something very compelling about this piece—so that even
    when I was being critical of a phrase or section, I found myself drawn to
    listen—that’s pretty good!

    I think the most frustrating thing was that it took a long time to get
    to the "aha" moment–the thing that might explain what this was all about.
    That seemed a little late for me and while I think we can sometimes it
    you over the head with insight, this one felt too obtuse. I kept wondering
    where the punchline was, why it hadn’t come yet—which means the piece
    went on for too long for me. Not way too long, but still too long.

    Also, your delivery style was wearing after a while—not sure why you
    keep in stumbles. There are references to illness but it is never
    explained—so maybe that is something to lose—it never goes anywhere.

    I’d opt for a slightly shorter, tighter piece.

    Hope this helps,

    Ellen

  • Richard Roth

    5.04.01

    Reply
    huh!

    I liked it just fine the way it is. Listening to a story can be a pain in the butt. The trouble is that while the listener is waiting for the pay off you don’t know if the listening and the waiting is going to deliver.

    A story that doesn’t allow time and opportunity for the listener to baile is not a story, it is an advertisement, which is part of why my tv isn’t on right now – I am sick of advertisements.

    So I invested, and when I got to "huh!" at the end, (silly me) I wiped my eyes with my shirt. Bull’s eye Brent.

    The only other thing I should mention is that I just discovered this site and had just spent more than a couple hours listening to other great stories before I got to yours.

  • Tim Elfenbein

    2.24.02

    Reply
    Thoughts about thoughts

    Brett,

    I know I am almost a year behind this discussion but thought I should leave a comment anyway.

    What struck me about your piece after my first listen was the changing relationship of your commentary to the recordings of your mother. At first, you the narrator, the person who seems to be speaking directly to me, are talking about events that happened in the past. There is a distinct separation between you the present narrator and the past events and people you are talking about (teenage Brett, Mom, car trips.)

    But once we get to the recordings of your mother trying to parse lyrics, the narrator/actuality relationship shifts. You initially say that your parents visited your apartment. This is keeping with the immedate telling relating past experience mode. But once you start interspersing you comments over your mother’s singing, the two different tracks loose their temporal distinction. It seemed I was witness to the actual event and your comments were more asides, talking to the listener behind your mothers back while she continued on. You and your mother were both in the present. I felt like I was watching an one of those old detective movies, where the protagonist engages with the other characters in the scene but then turns to look at the camera and proceeds to tell us what he is thinking. The other characters don’t get to hear this commentary. He is giving the audience priviledged access to his inner thoughts.

    By the end of your piece I felt like I was gaining the same kind of contemporaneous access to your thoughts, not that you were involved in a reflection on your past. I find this very compelling because it removes a barrier to my getting entangled and entrapped by the story. Perhaps this is akin to the difference between Cinema Verite and narrated documentaries. But the crazy effect of your piece is that you are getting the immediate direct feel of Cinema Verite even while narrating.

    This immediate quality is what allows the open ending to work, I believe. If you were narrating about the past I would want you to come to more of a conclusion (and you are right that the plausible conclusions you could have drawn from this story would have been trite and corny.) As contemporaneous toughts the ending is plausible as a sudden realization, the perception of some change in your feelings towards your mother. Here what is important is what has suddenly opened up.

    Tim

  • Alene

    10.21.02

    Reply
    interpretation

    I’m sitting here examining samples while listening to your piece and it was very sweet. You left the interpretation pretty open compared to similar pieces that would be on TAL and I was wondering if you did this on purpose? On the one hand I liked this because I could think through my own interpretation by transposing it to my own life. On the other hand, I was curious why this observation: that you were proud of your mother when she got it right, was significant to you. I think the former overided the latter and I was left wanting more.
    take care
    -lene

  • Maura

    10.16.03

    Reply

    I recently happened upon your piece–I was intrigued and I thought I would offer my interpretation in response to some of the critiques I read in the discussion. I loved it, precisely because it left many threads hanging. I understood your piece not only as a son’s love-letter to his mother, but as a kind of self-reproach as well. Not angry, but wistful. The game is, after all, all about the need to understand and to be understood.

    I don’t think you need to delete/modify your allusion to the doctors’ visits–gesturing towards but leaving a history of pain unspoken only emphasizes the uneasy but intimate bond existing between you and your mother. At any rate, it definitely complicates the listener’s desire to understand this piece as a kind of universal meditation on mothers and sons.

    I suppose I read your simplifying the songs and your happiness at your mother’s success not only as an expression of love, but as a type of indirect apology as well. . . .

    I know that I am definitely years late on the discussion, but I only came upon this now. Thank you for something beautiful and compelling.

    Maura

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