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A pilot series of "American conversations with global attitude," showcases some of the best of our evergreen material from the 2007-2010 podcast season, which have never been broadcast on any public radio stations. These programs are intended for workshopping, so let's hear your feedback! Email chris at radioopensource dot org.

Click on the title of each program below to get the full rundown on each program, or just click the "play" button on one of the audio players to instantly sample the audio.

The goal is a weekly one-hour broadcast, ongoing indefinitely. For a sampling of the full range of interviews we've been recording over the past few years, visit http://www.radioopensource.org .

Featured

Gunther Schuller: A Life in Pursuit of Music & Beauty, Part I

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 36:26

Gunther Schuller is a composer, conductor, horn virtuoso, jazz historian and critic who had the nerve and the authority years ago to decree that “all musics are created equal.” He’s walked that walk through a 70 year career between Beethoven and Bill Evans, Igor Stravinsky and Charlie Parker.

Gunther_schuller_part_1_small

Gunther Schuller is a composer, conductor, horn virtuoso, jazz historian and critic who had the nerve and the authority years ago to decree that “all musics are created equal.”  He’s walked that walk through a 70 year career between Beethoven and Bill Evans, Igor Stravinsky and Charlie Parker. And he’s talking the talk with us the same way – old, new, jazz and classical music, back and forth intimately and equally because, as he says, “well, they’re equal.”  Above a certain level where genius “changes the language of music,” it’s all democracy.  ”No matter what its label, if something is perfect, well then, it’s perfect.”

Gunther Schuller got started late, at age 11, without teachers but with any uncanny gift for reading music.  He learned by studying scores, listening to records, and then feeling “the vibrations on the floor of the pit” with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestera.  He made it to the Met in the 40s as a teenager on the French horn, the same horn he played with Miles Davis’s “Birth of the Cool” nonet in the 50s.  He revived the New England Conservatory in the 60s and 70s and, inside it, revived the ragtime jazz that became the soundtrack of the Robert Redford and Paul Newman blockbuster movie, The Sting.  In his 89th year, Gunther Schuller has a dozen or more commissions for new pieces in his own a-tonal mode.  And he’s assembling a second volume of autobiography.  The first volume, A Life in Pursuit of Music and Beauty, runs 600 pages through the 1950s in the New York of his boyhood, what he remembers as, day and night, a “cultural paradise for all the world.”

MUSIC IN THIS SHOW:

Thelonius Monk – Misterioso

Count Basie & His Orchestra – Broadway

Thelonius Monk with John Coltrane

Frederick Delius – Sea Drift

Alexander Scriabin - Piano Concerto in F sharp minor Op. 20

Alban Berg – Violin Concerto

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K. 216

Johnny Hodges – Funky Blues

Charlie Parker – Parker’s Mood

Duke Ellington – Rockin’ in Rhythm

Duke Ellington & His Orchestra – Things Ain’t What They Used to Be

Bille Holiday – Fine and Mellow from The Sound of Jazz

Erroll Garner – Lover

Milton Babbitt – All Set

Bill Evans – Some Other Time

 

Gunther Schuller: A Life in Pursuit of Music & Beauty, Part I

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 36:26

Gunther Schuller is a composer, conductor, horn virtuoso, jazz historian and critic who had the nerve and the authority years ago to decree that “all musics are created equal.” He’s walked that walk through a 70 year career between Beethoven and Bill Evans, Igor Stravinsky and Charlie Parker.

Gunther_schuller_part_1_small

Gunther Schuller is a composer, conductor, horn virtuoso, jazz historian and critic who had the nerve and the authority years ago to decree that “all musics are created equal.”  He’s walked that walk through a 70 year career between Beethoven and Bill Evans, Igor Stravinsky and Charlie Parker. And he’s talking the talk with us the same way – old, new, jazz and classical music, back and forth intimately and equally because, as he says, “well, they’re equal.”  Above a certain level where genius “changes the language of music,” it’s all democracy.  ”No matter what its label, if something is perfect, well then, it’s perfect.”

Gunther Schuller got started late, at age 11, without teachers but with any uncanny gift for reading music.  He learned by studying scores, listening to records, and then feeling “the vibrations on the floor of the pit” with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestera.  He made it to the Met in the 40s as a teenager on the French horn, the same horn he played with Miles Davis’s “Birth of the Cool” nonet in the 50s.  He revived the New England Conservatory in the 60s and 70s and, inside it, revived the ragtime jazz that became the soundtrack of the Robert Redford and Paul Newman blockbuster movie, The Sting.  In his 89th year, Gunther Schuller has a dozen or more commissions for new pieces in his own a-tonal mode.  And he’s assembling a second volume of autobiography.  The first volume, A Life in Pursuit of Music and Beauty, runs 600 pages through the 1950s in the New York of his boyhood, what he remembers as, day and night, a “cultural paradise for all the world.”

MUSIC IN THIS SHOW:

Thelonius Monk – Misterioso

Count Basie & His Orchestra – Broadway

Thelonius Monk with John Coltrane

Frederick Delius – Sea Drift

Alexander Scriabin - Piano Concerto in F sharp minor Op. 20

Alban Berg – Violin Concerto

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major, K. 216

Johnny Hodges – Funky Blues

Charlie Parker – Parker’s Mood

Duke Ellington – Rockin’ in Rhythm

Duke Ellington & His Orchestra – Things Ain’t What They Used to Be

Bille Holiday – Fine and Mellow from The Sound of Jazz

Erroll Garner – Lover

Milton Babbitt – All Set

Bill Evans – Some Other Time

 

Gunther Schuller: A Life in Pursuit of Music & Beauty, Part II

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 33:10

We're picking up the thread of a long conversation with Gunther Schuller. He’s the man who first mapped a Third Stream of “jazzical” music between classical and jazz temperaments. In this second half of our conversation, I’m asking a question I put to Richard Powers a couple of months ago: is there any summing up the 20th Century disruptions of tonality and rhythms in mainstream music?

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We’re picking up the thread of a long conversation with Gunther Schuller, in his living room outside Boston.  He’s been a sort of one-man vessel of many revolutions in 20th century music, a player of many parts, too: a French horn virtuoso in orchestras led by Toscanini and Fritz Reiner, a modern composer still winning commissions in his 89th year, a jazz player back in the day too with Miles Davis, Bill Evans and the Modern Jazz Quartet; also a principal big-book historian of jazz in its early, swing and modern eras; and all his life an instigator of things, like the Ragtime revival that went to Hollywood in the 60s and 70s.

He’s the man who first mapped a Third Stream of “jazzical” music between classical and jazz temperaments.  So the thread in Gunther Schuller’s autobiography and our conversation so far has been the many musics in a sort of democracy of geniuses: Duke Ellington in the Pantheon with Beethoven and Mozart; Erroll Garner’s piano improvisations standing tall next to Shubert and Chopin.  It was Gunther Schuller’s line years ago that “all musics are created equal.”   By now his third stream is inundated by maybe 300 world streams of genius music.

 In this second half of our conversation, I’m asking a question I put to Richard Powers, the musically astute novelist of Orfeo, a couple of months ago: is there any summing up the 20th Century disruptions in tonality and rhythms of mainstream music?  And Gunther took it immediately to Igor Stravinsky, the Russian-born composer who started a riot in Paris in 1913 with “The Rite of Spring,” a riot that changed Gunther Schuller’s direction and in a sense, never ended.

MUSIC IN THIS SHOW:

Louis Armstrong – Potato Head Blues

Igor Stravinsky – The Rite of Spring

Gunther Schuller – The Twittering Machine

John Lewis – Three Little Feelings

Ravi Shankar – Improvisations on the theme from ‘Panther Panchali’

Vijay Iyer – Brute Facts

Duke Ellington – Ko-ko

Duke Ellington – Harlem Air Shaft

Duke Ellington – Rockin’ in Rhythm

Duke Ellington – Don’t Get Around Much Anymore

John Coltrane – Coltrane Plays the Blues

John Lewis - Jazz Abstractions (composed by Gunther Schuller & Jim Hall)

Putin, Crimea, and Our Failure to Read the Russians

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 58:35

Thought experiment: given that many of our best insights into Russian character and temperament come to use from their literary geniuses, can we summon some collective judgment on Putin, Ukraine and the Crimea from the contentious, often dissident wisdom of Tolstoy, the humanist; Dostoevsky, the Slavic Nationalist; Chekhov, the gentle star of both Moscow and Yalta; Solzhenitsyn, who argued forcefully that Ukraine must be an eternal part of Russia; and Vladimir Nabokov, who sailed out of Russia for the last time from the Crimea?

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Russian troops are encircling naval bases, Crimea is locked down. We Americans are looking across an ocean, flummoxed in a familiar way by the mind and the mission of the Russian president and people.

Suzanne Massie, who persuaded Ronald Reagan that he could hate Communism and love the Russian people in the same career, puts it this way: Why do we keep getting Russia wrong? Putin is only the latest in a series of Russian leaders that have divided American thinkers and policymakers against themselves. Is he a realist, or is he ruled by his emotions? by Cold War nostalgia? by a vision of Eurasian Union? Is he a fascist or a plutocrat, or is he simply reacting to the West’s expansion of NATO? Is he winning — or has he overplayed his hand?

We turn to Massie and other close familiars of Russian culture and history to try and figure out how to read the Russians, now and forever. Thought experiment: given that many of our best insights into Russian character and temperament come to use from their literary geniuses, can we summon some collective judgment on Putin, Ukraine and the Crimea from the contentious, often dissident wisdom of Tolstoy, the humanist; Dostoevsky, the Slavic Nationalist; Chekhov, the gentle star of both Moscow and Yalta; Solzhenitsyn, who argued forcefully that Ukraine must be an eternal part of Russia; and Vladimir Nabokov, who sailed out of Russia for the last time from the Crimea?

Guest List:

  • Suzanne Massie, is the connoisseur of Russian art, music and literature whose private tutelage of Ronald Reagan gets major credit for his historic walk through Red Square — and maybe for the cultural thaw that ended the Cold War. Her new book is the terrific memoir, Trust but Verify: Reagan, Russia, and Me.
  • Mark Kramersenior fellow at Harvard’s Davis Center and director of its Cold War Studies Program.
  • Maxim D. Shrayer professor of Russian, English, and Jewish Studies at Boston College, and author of Leaving Russia: A Jewish Story and other books.
  • Svetlana Boym, Professor of Slavic and Comparative Literatures at Harvard University and the author of Another Freedom, a reflection on the cross-cultural conception of freedom.

 

Will We Ever Get Over 9.11?

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 58:34

Are we getting over 9.11? What is it doing to our character, our culture, our Constitution? We’ve been through the flags-everywhere stage, the foreign invasion response, the big build-up of surveillance and eavesdropping, interrogation, with torture – all in the name of security, but do we have a word for the fear we sense inside the new Security State?

Counterterrorism_small Here’s an awkward question that may be urgent: Are we getting over 9.11?  Will we ever? Do we want to?  Is it a scar by now, or a wound still bleeding? Is it a post-traumatic-stress disorder?  What is it doing to our character, our culture, our Constitution?  After a monstrous attack on the American superpower, is there anything like those five stages of individual grief — some version of the famous Kubler-Ross steps: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance?  We’ve been through the flags-everywhere stage, the foreign invasion response, the big build-up of surveillance and eavesdropping, interrogation, with torture – all in the name of security, but do we have a word for the fear we sense inside the new Security State?  Do we have a word for the anxiety that a War on Terror can feed on itself forever? A decade and a half out, are we a different country?

Guest List:

Steven Pinker
, experimental psychologist and  writer at Harvard University, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined.

Chas W. Freeman, Jr.
, the U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1989 to 1992, and author of America’s Misadventures in the Middle East and Interesting Times: China, America, and the Shifting Balance of Prestige,

Pico Iyer
, British-born novelist and travel writer, essayist for Time magazine, and author of  The Man Within My Head about the late great novelist Graham Greene.
 

Stokely Carmichael and Black Power

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 59:14

Stokely Carmichael was a down-home organizer and radical off-beat visionary of racial equality in America 50 years ago, a quicksilver activist, theorist, street hero, preacher and prophet of black revolution in America and the world.

Black_power_and_stokely_carmichael_small Stokely Carmichael was a down-home organizer and radical off-beat visionary of racial equality in America 50 years ago, a quicksilver activist, theorist, street hero, preacher and prophet of black revolution in America and the world.  He’s in the civil rights pantheon, for sure, but he’s still struggling in spirit with the leadership, especially the example of Martin Luther King; and he’s still a scarecrow in the memory of white America.   Stokely Carmichael had some of Malcolm X’s fury and fire, and some of the comedian Richard Pryor’s gift with a punchline, too.

“Black power” was his slogan that became a chant, that built his bad-boy celebrity and awakened a political generation but may also have been his undoing in the 1960s.  So what does a half-century’s hindsight make of the man and his Pan-African vision?  And while we’re at it: what would Stokely Carmichael make of black power today – looking at Hollywood, Hip Hop, the White House, and prisons and poverty?

Guest List:
Peniel Joseph, author of the new biography, Stokely: A Life, and professor of history at Tufts University.
Isabel Wilkerson, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of The Warmth of Other Suns, on the great migration of African-Americans. 
Jamarhl Crawford, editor of the Blackstonian and an activist/artist based in Roxbury. 

Stokely Carmichael and Black Power

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 59:14

Stokely Carmichael was a down-home organizer and radical off-beat visionary of racial equality in America 50 years ago, a quicksilver activist, theorist, street hero, preacher and prophet of black revolution in America and the world.

Black_power_and_stokely_carmichael_small Stokely Carmichael was a down-home organizer and radical off-beat visionary of racial equality in America 50 years ago, a quicksilver activist, theorist, street hero, preacher and prophet of black revolution in America and the world.  He’s in the civil rights pantheon, for sure, but he’s still struggling in spirit with the leadership, especially the example of Martin Luther King; and he’s still a scarecrow in the memory of white America.   Stokely Carmichael had some of Malcolm X’s fury and fire, and some of the comedian Richard Pryor’s gift with a punchline, too.

“Black power” was his slogan that became a chant, that built his bad-boy celebrity and awakened a political generation but may also have been his undoing in the 1960s.  So what does a half-century’s hindsight make of the man and his Pan-African vision?  And while we’re at it: what would Stokely Carmichael make of black power today – looking at Hollywood, Hip Hop, the White House, and prisons and poverty?

Guest List:
Peniel Joseph, author of the new biography, Stokely: A Life, and professor of history at Tufts University.
Isabel Wilkerson, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of The Warmth of Other Suns, on the great migration of African-Americans. 
Jamarhl Crawford, editor of the Blackstonian and an activist/artist based in Roxbury. 

The Syria Test

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 58:34

With Iraq and Afghanistan bleeding in our rear-view mirror, is there a case still to be made for American intervention with anything more than words in Syria’s miserable meltdown? What should we have done, what can we still do, and is it too late to pass the test in Syria?

Syria_small

With Iraq and Afghanistan bleeding in our rear-view mirror, is there a case still to be made for American intervention with anything more than words in Syria’s miserable meltdown? The news and pictures from Syria are perfectly awful – sarin gas against civilians succeeded by barrel bombs on Aleppo, millions of Syrians on the run, all varieties of torture, targeting of children and doctors, a death toll in two-and-a-half years of warfare approaching 150,000, and no end in sight. But is there anything like a constructive case for American intervention?

Our guest Steve Walt from Harvard was a leader of the “realist” school of American strategy before it was fashionable. He warned all along that war with Iraq would undermine the US interest; today he’s saying we should be fighting the temptation to commit American power in Syria. Our guest from London, Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, is the historian of folly in Iraq, the “Neoconservative War,” he calls it. But he’s telling us that Syria is different – a murderous tyranny that only the threat of American force can check. And Nabih Bulos, the Los Angeles Times journalist, is just back from Damascus and a tour of the besieged city of Homs and Yarmouk refugee camp inside the city.

What should we have done, what can we still do, and is it too late to pass the test in Syria?

Guest List:

Stephen Walt, Belfer Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University, author of the bombshell book The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, and a columnist at Foreign Policy.
Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, a Pakistani academic, a commentator at Pulse, and author of the forthcoming The Road to Iraq: The Making of a Neoconservative War.
Dr. Laurence Ronan, a staff physician at Mass General Hospital, director of the Thomas S. Durant, M.D., Fellowship in Refugee Medicine, and medical director for the Boston Red Sox, calling in from spring training.
Nabih Bulos, professional violinist and war correspondent, born in Jordan to Palestinian parents, who returned from a trip to Damascus two weeks ago. 

Boston Noir

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 58:34

Noir heroes tend not to be gangsters of Whitey Bulger’s grandeur; not tough cops either: they’re punched-out boxers and junkies, little perps, prisoners, victims reduced to victimizing each other and themselves. It’s bad things happening to bad guys, giving and getting the punishment they think they deserve.

Playing
Boston Noir
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Boston_noir_small Boston noir is an art of darkness, under an overcast sky and fishy salt-air smell of the  waterfront. It’s now a sort of signature of our city, in novels that became movies, like The TownThe Departed, and The Fighter

Dennis Lehane, who wrote Mystic River, says noir is working-class tragedy — different from other kinds. “In Shakespeare,” Lehane puts it, “tragic heroes fall from mountaintops; in noir, they fall from curbs.”  Noir heroes tend not to be gangsters of Whitey Bulger’s grandeur; not tough cops either: they’re punched-out boxers and junkies, little perps, prisoners, victims reduced to victimizing each other and themselves.  Noir is the bottom of underground capitalism, talking to itself.  It’s bad things happening to bad guys, giving and getting the punishment they think they deserve.

Guest List:

Rick Marinick, author of Boyos and In for a Pound, the state trooper turned gangster who served 18 years in prison for multiple armored-car robbery convictions;

Nick Flynn, a playwright, poet, and memoirist born and raised in Scituate, son of an alcoholic bank-robber, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City and The Reenactments; and

Anna Mundow, author of the “Crime and Punishment” column in the Barnes and Noble Review, contributor to The Boston Globe and longtime correspondent for The Irish Times. 

A Flailing State: Daron Acemoglu and Matt Taibbi on Economic Inequality

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 58:35

We’re somewhere between the legend and the facts of the U.S. economy. The legend, still in our heads, is it’s a rough-and-tumble democracy and a classless society. Facts say it’s the high end getting the growth: “inequality has deepened,” the President said the other night: “upward mobility has stalled.”

Economic_inequality_small

We’re somewhere between the legend and the facts of the U.S. economy. The legend, still in our heads, is it’s a rough-and-tumble democracy and a classless society.  Facts are: the top of the heap owns almost all the wealth and most of the politicians, and the top of the top – one percent – takes more and more of the income: almost 25 percent of the whole pot in Obama-time – it was less than ten percent in the seventies. Legend is Americans don’t much like redistribution of income.  Facts say there’s been a steady upward redistribution of wealth and income over 40 years now.   Legend is we’re in a slow recovery from the Great Recession of ’08.  Facts say it’s the high end getting the growth: “inequality has deepened,” the President said the other night: “upward mobility has stalled.” 

We’re in the studio with Daron Acemoglu, the MIT economist and the co-author of Why Nations Fail. His argument is that the problem goes beyond soaring income inequality — to the eclipse of the myth that Average Joes rule our politics. Well into President Obama’s second term, deep in the doldrums of the status quo, he says the state of the union is “dangerous.”  Matt Taibbi from Rolling Stone joins us on the phone. He is by now a Diogenes on Wall Street. What I didn’t know was that he trained for his critical role in a ten-year stint in Yeltsin’s Russia, a world of back-room deals and a burgeoning oligarchy. He tells us, ”A lot of things that I saw in the former Soviet Union, we’re starting to see here.”

Guest List:

Daron AcemogluMIT economist, winner of the 2005 John Bates Clarks Medal, and author of the acclaimed book, Why Nations Fail.

Matt Taibbiauthor and contributing editor for Rolling Stone, author of The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap and Griftopia. 

David Foster Wallace's "Infinite Boston"

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 58:34

Here’s how to read David Foster Wallace’s thousand-page door stop and masterpiece Infinite Jest: it’s a Boston novel the way Ulysses is a Dublin novel, as Les Miserables is a Paris novel.

David_foster_wallace_and_ij_small

Here’s how to read David Foster Wallace’s thousand-page door stop and masterpieceInfinite Jest: it’s a Boston novel the way Ulysses is a Dublin novel, as Les Miserables is a Paris novel. Infinite Jest is a novel about Wallace’s alcohol addiction and recovery on a route through Boston we all walk and drive and manage not to see into: the “clot and snarl of Prospect St in Cambridge,” those “Live” and “Fresh Killed” poultry signs in Inman Square, the clang and squeak of the B-Line trolleys along Comm Ave, Brighton past the halfway houses on the hill for catatonics and drunks where Wallace’s life turned around. Maybe it helps to read Infinite Jest as a tour map of one man’s battlefield.  Re-enactments every day.  We’re talking a walk through DFW’s Infinite Boston this hour.

We got 200-and-some contributions for this conversation posted on Reddit so far.  IJ, as they say, is about addiction, entertainment, compulsive consumption, emotional isolation, TV, the Internet, anxiety, panic attacks,  – and loneliness throughout.  One of the Reddit writers said: “Infinite Jest, it’s still where I go to understand the queer sadnesses of 21st-century life.”

Our guests include Bill Lattanzi, poet, playwright, and the original Infinite Boston tour guide; D.T. Max, staff writer at The New Yorker and author of the acclaimed Wallace biography, Every Love Story is a Ghost StorySven Birkerts, the writer, critic, andeditor who was a friend of Wallace’s; and Deb Larson-Venable, executive director ofGranada House, where Wallace began his road to recovery, and the extraordinary inspiration for the extraordinary Pat Montesian, a character in the novel.

The Transcendentalists Are Coming!

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 58:34

We're revisiting the birthplace of the American mind. Five houses on three streets within a period of five years in Concord, Massachusetts launched American literature and poetry, the environmental movement, progressive politics, feminism, and new ideas about religion and education.

Emerson-house_small In the Big Bang of American literature, Miracle One was that it happened in three houses on three streets in the village of Concord, Massachusetts in the space of just five years.  Miracle Two is that the geniuses and masterpieces we remember as the Concord renaissance read deeper, darker, more demanding on most of our big issues in 2014: Thoreau on the habitat’s ruin and the scandal of race, Margaret Fuller’s proto-feminism, Bronson Alcott on schooling for America.  Then: the democratic and moral substance of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, Melville’s Moby Dick and those blazing rockets of everyman wisdom from the Transcendentalists’ chairman of the board, Mr. Emerson.   We’re revisiting the old home town of the Mind of America

Guest List:

 

Richard Powers: A Musical Theory of Everything

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 47:52

Richard Powers is indulging us in a runaway riff on music, in a little room in the Boston Athenaeum, on the top of Beacon Hill, overlooking the Old Granary Burying Ground, after a marvelous reading and talk out of his new novel, Orfeo.

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Richard Powers is indulging us in a runaway riff on music, in a little room in the Boston Athenaeum, on the top of Beacon Hill, overlooking the Old Granary Burying Ground, after a marvelous reading and talk out of his new novel, OrfeoPeter Els is Powers’ protagonist in the book, a 71-year-old chemistry professor and lifelong amateur composer whose only wish before he dies is “to break free of time and hear the future.” He wants to map “a shortcut to the sublime,” something like the DNA of music, “something in music beyond taste, built into the evolved brain.”

The main thread is the eternal mystery of the music behind the music. On the way to a blazing confrontation with Homeland Security, the novel is a retrospection on Peter Els’s life and loves, and also on the old center of gravity in Western music, tonality, in the disruptive 20th century. In the tradition of the BBC’s “Desert Island Discs,” I asked Richard Powers to hang our conversation on a few favorite pieces among the scores that figure crucially in 
Orfeo. They turned out to be Gustav Mahler’s “Kindertotenlieder,” Olivier Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time,” and Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.” Richard Powers is referred to as “the most ambitious novelist in America,” a writer of Melvillian scale in our midst. I couldn’t help telling him that for his mix of erudition, imagination and lyricism, I can’t think of anyone else like him.

Richard Powers is a Midwesterner at the core, now living in California and teaching at Stanford. Under the spell of the Boston Athenaeum, the antique Brahmin library, he is jolted by flashbacks of his Boston period. Drawn by the mystique of Emerson and Thoreau, wanting to “walk those streets,” he arrived 30 years ago in his early 20s, a self-taught computer programmer living in the Fens and frequenting the Museum of Fine Arts where he was knocked asunder by August Sander’s stunning triple-portrait of three German farmers in 1914. The photograph inspired Richard Powers’ first novel, Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance, and changed his life. World War I changed the lives of those farmers, Powers continued, no more than digital tech and culture have changed all of our lives in three decades. With Robert Zucchi’s nudge, I’m tickled to add a bit of transcript, and that photo!

China Rising

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 58:37

China is in its own gilded age says The New Yorker writer Evan Osnos, into a second generation of ultra-modern tech, a still-developing country bristling with billionaires. On the eve of Chris' trip to China, we're wondering how a country with nearly a century of poverty, collectivism, and authoritarian rule adapts to its instant prosperity?

Playing
China Rising
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GUEST LIST

China is in its own gilded age says The New Yorker writer Evan Osnos, into a second generation of ultra-modern tech, a still-developing country bristling with billionaires. On the eve of Chris’ trip to China, we’re wondering how a country with nearly a century of poverty, collectivism, and authoritarian rule adapts to its instant prosperity?

Benjamen Walker (Theory of Everything) on 1984 (Excerpt)

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 05:56

Benjamen Walker, radio producer/host of the Theory of Everything podcast, explains how the book "1984" started in the year 1984.

Toe_2_small Benjamen Walker, radio producer/host of the Theory of Everything podcast, explains how the book "1984" started in the year 1984.

One Nation Under Surveillance Vox (Excerpt)

From Open Source | Part of the Open Source with Christopher Lydon series | 01:18

On the news of the latest information from Edward Snowden, we're catching up with what the government knows about us and what Google, Facebook and our phone companies know about us, why they care, and what they do with the oceans of very particular factoids of our comings and goings, our intimate clusters of family and friendship and email correspondents, our minutest preferences in music and fashion, in people and books, sports and movies. We begin with what some people in Boston think. Chris Lydon asked them if they thought they were being watched.

National_security_agency_2013_2_small On the news of the latest information from Edward Snowden, we're catching up with what the government knows about us and what Google, Facebook and our phone companies know about us, why they care, and what they do with the oceans of very particular factoids of our comings and goings, our intimate clusters of family and friendship and email correspondents, our minutest preferences in music and fashion, in people and books, sports and movies. We begin with what some people in Boston think. Chris Lydon asked them if they thought they were being watched.