Transom Inspiration

Here is a fond idea: Public radio carries the stories of a nation; it is open enough to let all sorts of voices pass through, to let poets and observers and citizen storytellers talk about life as they know it.

IN FACT, this is not just an idealistic notion. It actually works sometimes, and it is pretty much the driving principle behind Transom.org.

Here on this page, we have gathered some evidence, work that came before that proves the point. We’ll be gathering more.

 


Scott Carrier

The Hitchhiker

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Listen to “The Hitchhiker”

Scott hitchhiked across the transom the 1983. It is something of a public radio legend. He left a failed marriage in Salt Lake City and spent several weeks thumbing his way east, carrying a tape recorder and a microphone, until he arrived at National Public Radio in Washington, DC and, with the help of Weekend All Things Considered, made a piece about his journey.

Lafayette Square Park

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Listen to “Lafayette Square Park”

Here’s a piece Scott made soon after he got to Washington. He spent several months hanging with the mostly homeless protesters living across from the White House in Lafayette Square Park.

 


Carol Wasserman

After Labor Day

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Listen to “After Labor Day”

In the fall of 1999, Carol showed up at the doorstep of Atlantic Public Media and WCAI/WNAN with a couple pages of writing. Her writing was lovely, and we got her work to national air on NPR’s All Things Considered. She is now a regular contributor to ATC and has a nice book contract. Amen.

Love Letter

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Listen to “Love Letter”

One year later, Carol wrote a love letter about public radio. Anything is possible. Amen.

 


Brent Runyon

Fire And Ice Cream

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Listen to “Fire and Ice Cream”

Brent, like many, was inspired by true stories on public radio, the kind that often appear on This American Life. He brought this one to us, and it became his first contribution to public radio, airing, in fact, on This American Life.

 


Many Artists

Rejection

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Listen to “Rejection”

This should offer consolation. It is a collage assembled by Jay Allison in the early 80s containing the voices of artists trying to be heard, relentlessly.

Jay Allison

About
Jay Allison

Jay Allison has been an independent public radio producer, journalist, and teacher since the 1970s. His work has won most of the major broadcasting awards, including six Peabodys. He produces The Moth Radio Hour and was the curator of This I Believe on NPR. He has also worked in print for the New York Times Magazine and as a solo-crew reporter for ABC News Nightline, and is a longtime proponent of building community through story. Through his non-profit organization, Atlantic Public Media, he is a founder of The Public Radio Exchange, PRX.org, and WCAI, the public radio service for Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. More about Jay, more than you'd reasonably need to know, is available at www.jayallison.org.

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  • REPOST

    3.26.01

    Reply
    Transom Inspiration

    Author : bryn
    Date : 02-16-2001 on 09:54

    Alex (another transom visitor) and I have a few questions for Jay about his rejection piece.
    At what point in the process did you decide on the collage format, as opposed to other formats? What drove that decision? Any comment on making a piece with that format in mind?

    And to the community in general, any comments on this piece as an example of collage?

    We like "Rejection" (so to speak), but I’ll leave it at that for now.

  • REPOST

    3.26.01

    Reply
    Re:Transom Inspiration

    Author : jay allison
    Date : 02-16-2001 on 19:44

    Bryn, that thing is about 20 years old, so honestly, I don’t remember what I was thinking.
    I know that back then I was nervous about using my own voice, and, in fact, probably got into radio partly so I could use other people’s voices to substitute for mine.

    Plus, that sort of collage was a somewhat "new" technique for public radio I was playing with at the time. And I had just taken out a loan to buy a Teac four-track. God, that was exciting.

    I haven’t listened to it in a while, but I’m sure Rejection is dated in its production, though I recall some really nice elements in the things people say (Gillian Jagger: "For people to KEEP GOING, with NOTHING coming back, is the one validation of art."). I’m sure the use of music is more obviously manipulative than I’d try to get away with now, for instance.

    Over in Scott Carrier’s topic in the "Special Guest" Board, they’re talking about narrating or not; one thing I’m sure of is that this piece would be even more dated had I narrated it.

  • Tony Kahn

    3.29.01

    Reply
    What’s dated?

    Jay, maybe I’m branding myself a dinosaur, but what’s dated about the collage technique you used? Traditional, maybe, time-tested, but "dated" to me implies "no longer able to address present needs" as effectively as something else. Nothing’s made human speech and self-reflection dated yet, and the collage technique is just a way of juxtaposing individual voices reflecting on individual experiences so that the whole is even greater the parts. Every minute of every hour we’re editing our direct experience of the world and our memories of our experience. It something fundamentally human — it’s not just a "fashion" of the mind. An artful use of collage, like your piece, is to my mind, equally timeless.

    Tony Kahn

  • Jay Allison

    3.29.01

    Reply
    Not all of it’s dated

    Hi Tony. I’m just getting back on since the boards have been down, so I don’t know if you posted this today, or back when the dinosaurs roamed.

    What’s dated to me is not the collage technique, but some of the music, the cuts that are too clearly for emotional effect, i.e. when someone says something sad, the music is sad. I wouldn’t do it like that now. I’d leave it more open, leave more room for listeners to form their own responses.

    So, really, what feels dated is my own sensibility.

  • Tony Kahn

    3.30.01

    Reply

    Right, Jay. I agree — the more a listener gets to hear his own mind, the more the piece he’s hearing is going to mean. I’ve always felt the best pieces that get broadcast should be repeated more often for that reason, though that’s always an uphill battle. When you know you have only one crack at being heard, how do you build in that time for reflection for the listener? What kind of thought do you put into the pacing, the pauses, the language? Tony

  • Griff Wigley

    3.30.01

    Reply

    >I’ve always felt the best pieces that get broadcast should be repeated more often for that reason, though that’s always an uphill battle. When you know you have only one crack at being heard, how do you build in that time for reflection for the listener?

    As a newcomer to the radio medium, I’ve been wondering this myself, Tony. Do you see any realistic possibilities for technology to help with this, eg, hearing a piece again via audio streaming, or capturing it with an Audible or MP3 player, or with some of the promised features of digital radio?

  • Tony Kahn

    3.30.01

    Reply
    Stream away

    Hi, Griff. Usually the only time I get to hear my favorite shows (like This American Life, The Connection, Fresh Air) is after they air, so I’m totally dependent on what I can pull together from available technologies. I go to the websites, download and/or stream the realaudio files, convert them to MP3 and transfer them to a little rave:mp player I’ve got that I carry around with me. Spot-welded to me is more like it. I listen whenever I can, in the car driving to and from work, while carrying out the trash my son is supposed to take care of, even drifting off to sleep. Before I got the mp3 player, I used my laptop as recorder and playback. This is probably certifiable behavior, but I have saintly friends. Whether there are enough zealots like me out there to create a market for easier ways of putting broadcasts in your pocket is anybody’s guess. My guess is that radio will continue to exist primarily as a broadcast medium for a long time. Everyone’s already got six or seven of the damn things in the house and there’s no real money to be made anytime soon using a different technology or distribution system. Tony

  • Griff Wigley

    3.30.01

    Reply
    Audible.com

    Whether there are enough zealots like me out there to create a market for easier ways of putting broadcasts in your pocket is anybody’s guess…. there’s no real money to be made anytime soon using a different technology or distribution system

    What about Audible.com, Tony?

    I was surprised to see that they have a considerable offering of public radio content to subscribe to. Not to mention The Collected Audio Works of Jay Allison. [Sheesh, I had no idea.]

  • Tony Kahn

    3.30.01

    Reply
    Audible

    Audible’s worked hard to build up a great inventory of public radio material and a bunch of different models for making it available to subscribers. You can also order from them through amazon.com. My experience with audible.com is mostly "upstream." They distribute "Says You," a weekly NPR distributed quiz show I’m a panelist on and "Blacklisted," a six part docu-drama I produced a few years ago on NPR and PRI. I have not become a subscriber to the service — most of the shows I want to hear I can still get free — and their proprietary format can’t play on all mp3 devices. (Part of my feeling there’s no money to be made from distributing public radio — even through such a well thought out operation as audible.com — comes from being one of their content providers. Not that I turned to them to make money; I just thought they’d do a better job of promoting the material than I could.)

  • Jay Allison

    3.31.01

    Reply

    Public radio has forever been trying to find a successful way to keep their material alive after broadcast. I have a folder full of old cassette catalogs from NPR and others, remember those? No profit to be had.

    I like Audible’s idea and they’re nice people there. It’s still not Mac-compatible, so I’m not a user. I still wonder if there are enough people who really want to go to the trouble to time-shift Fresh Air rather than just turn on the radio to see what’s on in that instant.

    ——-

    I like this line of Tony’s (I finally had to read it aloud… reminscent of R.D. Lang’s "Knots") referring to the use of emotionally manipulative music, and I nominate it for quote of the day:

    the more a listener gets to hear his own mind, the more the piece he’s hearing is going to mean.

  • Tony Kahn

    3.31.01

    Reply
    VCR-RCR

    Jay —

    Years ago I suggested to someone at WBUr they put together the radio equivalent of a VCR for a premium — an "rcr" you could park on top of your radio that would time shift your favorite shows. Hell, it could even have a tiny little "12:00" blinking repeatedly on it. To nobody’s surprise, it never caught on. With all the new technology, it still hasn’t caught on as an idea. I happen to be a born time shifter, but that’s just me. (I also think dead air is a program element listener’s love and that shows should use more often for dramatic effect.) That said (notice how popular that phrase has become lately?) I was delighted to come across the "bitbop tuner" site this morning. Free software for recording internet radio broadcasts. Not quite an RCR, but getting there . . .

    Tony

  • Jay Allison

    3.31.01

    Reply

    An RCR exists. The Sangean ATS 818ACS…

    Do you not have one yet? From the sound of it, someone should put it on your birthday list. $225 from C. Crane Company…

    what’s the Bitbop Tuner?

  • Tony Kahn

    3.31.01

    Reply

    I’ll check it out, thanks. Info on Bitbop is at http://www.audiomill.com

    Tony

  • cw

    5.22.01

    Reply
    love letter to public radio

    thanks for putting the mp3 file format up. got to hear love letter to public radio. liked it a lot.

  • cw

    7.12.01

    Reply
    i like this npr ramones piece where the narrator digs up his old punk rock cronies who now have day jobs

    http://www.npr.org/programs/theride/index.html

  • Sarah Morrill

    12.16.01

    Reply
    Opinions

    Here are some opinions (which happen to be mine.)

    Tony Khan. Has a perfect radio voice. Warm, intelligent, interesting.

    Scott Carrier. Too good to be true.

    Sarah Vowell could make a stone laugh.

    Barbara Bogaev’s is the voice you’ll hear on the loudspeaker welcoming you to Limbo if you happen to go there. Soundprint is the most boring program I’ve ever heard.

    Joe Frank, formerly of NPR and now with KCRW, is past his prime, but still has his amazing work archieved on the net. A pioneer and a risk taker and a perfectionist. One of my favorites of all time. A true inspiration.

    Jay Allison. Shouldn’t he be president or something?

    Coyle and Sharpe. They were on every night on KGO in San Francisco years ago. Of all the radio I’ve ever heard, their work is my favorite.

    Ira Glass. His effeminate voice annoys me. He annoys me. When I hear people say nice things about him, it annoys me. But I have to say that This American Life has done good things for public radio and I never miss it.

    Scott Simon. He doesn’t do it often, but he can cross the line into sentimentality. He has a nice laugh. I wish he wasn’t quite so fond of Daniel Pinkwater.

    Liane Hansen. That woman puts me in a good mood. She’s a little too kind to the puzzle contestants but that’s OK. I love Liane. She’s magic. Maybe the best person in radio today. If all my teachers had been like her, I’d have advanced degrees.

    Terry Gross. I listen to every program. She’s not perfect but you have to keep in mind she does that 5 days a week. I’m not homophobic but I could be getting kind of homofatigued with her guest selections. TAL is bad enough. (Maybe worse.)

    Bailey White. One of the best story tellers I’ve ever heard.

    Juan Williams. Too cheerful.

    Sarah Morrill. Too opinionated– but great radio is just around the corner.

  • Sarah Morrill.

    12.16.01

    Reply
    one more opinion

    I forgot to mention To The Best of Our Knowledge. It’s good enough to take up two hours of my life every week. Fleming is tad bit earnest sometimes, but we know better than to smirk. What impresses us most is the style of his interviewers. They talk like regular people. When they stumble on their words, they don’t edit it out. Who else does that? Nobody I know. I love it. It gives the interviews an authentic, immediate feel. I wonder if they stumble on purpose? (That’s what we might do in California.)

    Because I don’t own an RCR, I’d miss some of the shows. They used to be availabe on Audible.com, but oh, that company has problems. I just learned that TTBOOK programs are now available on their own website which is good news.

    (I wonder if Audible will ever get up and fly right? The $1000 worth of stock I invested is now worth less than a small pizza with free delivery.)

  • Sarah Morrill

    6.06.02

    Reply
    Why am I here?

    Perhaps I’m drawn to radio production out of the need for humility.

  • Nick Allen

    7.10.07

    Reply
    link test

    Evan Johnson

    Evan Johnson

  • Raymond

    2.10.16

    Reply

    This is so good. I hope this stays up forever, and that it continues to grow all the time.

    By the way, there’s space missing in this sentence: “It actually works sometimes,and it is pretty much the driving principle behind Transom.org.” Fix it.

    • Samantha Broun

      2.10.16

      Reply

      Fixed! Thanks for pointing that out.

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