Anyone, Anywhere, Anywhen, Anysound: Embarking on a new project

Illustration by Rashad Assadullahi.

I’m pleased to announce that I’m now working on a new project—The AnySound Podcast. The podcast will feature new text and music written expressly for this project, one of few podcasts to do this. As a composer, performer and writer, this seems like a perfect medium for me, and I’m very excited. I’m planning to release the podcast in 2015, but AnyWhen Ensemble will be performing selected pieces from the podcast in live performances with guest narrators throughout this season. See our calendar for more details.

The first season, Ok, I’ll Call You Ishmael; or, investigating Moby Dick in words and music, will focus on Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, looking at the issues in the novel that are still relevant to today’s audiences—the ambition for money at the cost of environmental degradation, racism, conflict between scientific and religious knowledge, and more. Melville’s masterpiece is such a pervasive part of our culture—most Americans haven’t actually read the novel, but we still know what it means to call someone a “Captain Ahab.” I want to see how we can capitalize on that wealth of significance.

What each episode will look like

Each episode will respond specifically to one chapter of the novel, relating the issues brought up in that chapter to a larger, contemporary context. The text will come first, then the music. I’m hoping for the music to grow from the texts, to act like another character that sometimes amplifies the ideas in the writing, or adds a subtle layer of additional interpretation that might clarify or deepen the writing in some way.

I had a first try at this with “Ishmael and the Whale,” which responds to Chapter 9 of Moby Dick and was commissioned by Spark and Echo Arts. (See it here: http://vimeo.com/89358849.)

This first foray into Moby Dick feels a bit like a sermon, but the character of the writing will vary widely over the whole season. In some cases we’ll have a personal memoir, in others the script of a dialogue between one person who has read the book and one who hasn’t, and in others it will feel more like investigative journalism. But, in each episode my collaborators and I will try to bring out the drama in the text in an unexpected yet memorable way.

Confirmed guest authors at this point include Terry Hummer, professor of English at Arizona State University; Ellen McSweeney, violinist, co-founder of the record label Parlour Tapes+, and Chicago editor of New Music Box; Emily Ruth Hazel, poet and author of Body & Soul with Finishing Line Press. I’ll be adding a few more writers to this list in the near future!

Why make another project about Moby Dick?

I started reading Moby Dick for the first time in 2013, and on a whim I decided to “live tweet” the book. My first tweet?

Initially I was just having fun being snarky, as lots of people do on Twitter. But soon I found that my tweets for each chapter helped me to internalize the book, and ultimately to help me formulate an opinion about it. This made the book much more interesting for me, and I found myself personally invested in the book far more intensely than usual. I want to channel that investment into this project.

That you could tweet endlessly about a work of fiction that’s now over 150 years old is pretty amazing. There’s so much to talk about in the book, but even more importantly, there are lots of people already talking about it. I want to connect to the community of people who are talking about the book, and to add a new perspective to the conversation.

Wish me luck!

Starting a new project is not an easy thing to do. So, I wanted to take this opportunity to let you all know about the project so that you might be interested in adding your own thoughts to the mix. (Please leave a comment or send me an email.) I’m looking for a few more guest authors. (Hey Doug, I know this great writer…) I’m also looking for sponsors (Hey Doug, I have a small business that would love to sponsor an episode…) and I’ll have a way to make tax-deductible donations available soon.

It takes a village, and I look forward to working with a talented cast of collaborators. Thanks!

 

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