“Deep-Down Irishness” (NPR 1989)

A survey look at what being Irish is all about deep down –from the “fairy faith” to its music, to Celtic myth, to sean nos and storytelling. Collected entirely in the West of Ireland down some very very back roads.

See also “Visions and Beliefs in the West Ireland,” which focuses on the spirituality and folkways of the Irish Gaeltacht.


Posted in History, Holidays-Season Specific, Immigrants and Ethnic Life, Music, Religion, Spirituality, Travel outside the USA Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mister Spoons: Big Apple Flatware Virtuoso

There are hundreds of musicians, good and bad, tooting and strumming and bowing and belting in the New York subway system, but Mr. Spoons is sui generis. Not only is he fantastic at playing the spoons, he has an outsize character to match. I spent some serious time with him, and filed this report for VOA.


Posted in Americana, Music, New York, Profile Tags: , , , , , ,

New (serious) Music for Toys

Avant-garde musical artists have always liked to stretch the limits of what traditional musical instruments can do. But some artists have gone even farther and explored the less orthodox music of familiar objects.  This story explores the experimental music written especially for toys as performed in a concert in hipster Brooklyn.  Features toy piano virtuouso Margaret Leng Tan, a balloon composer and instrumentalist, and Isabel Negron, among others.


Posted in Arts, Music Tags: , , , , , ,

Profile: Pamelia Kursten and the Art of the Theremin

Pamelia Kursten is the 21st century’s greatest theremin virtuosa, who has turned an instrument most associate with creepy sci-fi “woo-woo” music into an art form. Hear what she has to say and how she does it in this sound-rich piece, originally produced for the Voice of America’s “Our World” science program.


Posted in Americana, Arts, Music, Profile, Science Tags: , , , , , , ,

Profile: Yo-Yo Ma, Peaceful Virtuoso (VOA 2009)

A profile of the great (and eminently personable) cellist Yo-Yo Ma based on personal interviews and archival recordings.


Posted in Arts, Music, Profile Tags: , , , , ,

The Doo Wop Revival

Oyez oyez ooh bop she-bop ooh bop she BAM!   Doo wop was a great musical form that teens loved and parents often detested. In any case. its melodiousness has resurfaced big time on the revival circuit.  This story here is one from one I attended at a cheesy (grand) venue in Atlantic City.


Posted in Americana, History, Music, New York, Uncategorized

The Loopy Art of English “Changeringing” (NPR 1989?)

English eccentricity, tradition, esthetics, mathematics, and a bit of obsessive-compulsiveness combine in the English art of changeringing or bellringing. I traveled to County Somerset in the heart of King Arthur country to get the lowdown and had a blast.


Posted in Arts, Music, Travel outside the USA Tags: , , , , , ,

The Loopy English Art of Changeringing

The English are one of the most endearingly eccentric group of people in earth.  This story, which I collected in Country Somerset, looks at changeringing, a world that combines math, music, churchgoing, village fellowship and the elusive “other dimension.” Lots of fun! NPR


Posted in Immigrants and Ethnic Life, Music, Travel outside the USA Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

The Spiritual Music of Hawaii

Even given its colonial past and present day kitsch, Hawaii remains both an earthly paradise and a place of natural numinous power.  This is evident in its variety of spiritual musical idioms. Here is a taste of some of them,culled from a Smithsonian Festival a few years back.  Aloha!


Posted in Americana, Arts, History, Immigrants and Ethnic Life, Music, Religion, Spirituality

Traditional Spiritual Music of Hawaii (Radio Smithsonian)

A look at the beautiful and diverse spiritual musical traditions of Hawaii, from chanting to slack-key guitar to unaccompanied a capella singing. Interviews and music recorded at the Folklife Festival in Washington DC for the late and much lamented Radio Smithsonian.


Posted in Music Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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