ellenkushner: (Default)
As we programmed my national public radio show Sound & Spirit every year, we tried to throw in something seasonally appropriate.  Valentine's Day was the best - our programming ranged from the affirming . . . .

MY BETTER HALF (written with Titilayo Ngwenya)
From Edvard and Nina Grieg to Gala and Salvador Dalí, Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears to Lotte Lenya and Kurt Weill, Sound & Spirit explores the intimate, extraordinary, sometimes unusual relationships crafted by two people in love. Hear words and music by and about significant others, and sample the sweet fruits of conjugal affection and creative partnership.

. . . . to the "Yeah, well, what about those of us who are NOT in a couple this year?" cranky . . . .

BREAKUPS (written with Justine Larbalestier)
Like the beginning of a relationship, the breakup of a romance is a time brimming with possibilities and questions. Questions about the future: Who am I now? How can I live without you? What will I do with my freedom? Will I ever love again? Questions about the past: What was it that we had together? Is it gone now? Did I waste those years? In this award-winning program, Ellen Kushner looks for answers, with the help of poets and musicians from around the world.

. . . . to those wishing to slip the surly bonds of earth altogether:


What is the line between Carnal and Divine love? Over the centuries, music, poetry and mysticism have blurred it, and each one has fed the other - as we'll hear in this week's show! Ellen explores the way that American Gospel music provided the heat for Motown Soul, how the Sufis of Turkey and Pakistan sing of divine passion being found through earthly friendship, and how a modern rock singer, Joan Osborne, even turned to Sufi star Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn to learn how to express her passion.

(Actually, I'm not sure we ever programmed "Love Divine" for Valentine's Day - but we should have! I'm doing it now.)

Click on each title to listen to the show.

Playlists are clickable on each show's page.

And if you can figure out a way to get rid of that irritating blue stuff above (without re-typing the whole thing) . . . just let me know!
ellenkushner: (EK/DS wedding band)
Well, for one thing, I'm much too flighty.  Yes, there have been times in my life when I've cared deeply enough about some potent symbol or aesthetic to want it permanently.  But  when I think of what I might have been stuck with if I'd been permitted to choose a china pattern at age 25 (that would have been pricey/fancy enough to have to keep always) - let alone a skin design . . . I blanch.  Go back a little farther, and yes, there would be unicorns (medieval, yes, but still).  Look, I do not like to wear even the same earrings often; the idea of having a permanent skin decoration just does not compute. 

And besides, I remember being told that traditional Judaism prohibits tattooing, because in ancient times it was the involuntary mark of slaves.  (I put that into a conversation the highly-tattooed Theron Campion has with his half-sister Jessica in Delia's & my book, The Fall of the Kings - of course, the Campions are not Jewish.....are they?).  It turns out this is not quite right - the campus Hillel.com site explains it better. 

What I do have is a set of 3 plain silver rings with words stamped on them, which I can take on and off.

I put them on for the High Holidays:  for the 10 days of turning and returning that is the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

The words come from a song* with music by Philip Glass and lyrics by Laurie Anderson (whose album, Strange Angels,* is, to me, a perfect expression of the spirit of the High Holidays - was she even joking, in "The Ouija Board,"  [from her album The Ugly one with the Jewels] when she said that in past lives she was "...Hundreds and hundreds of rabbis" ?)  The song, from Glass's remarkable album Songs from Liquid Days,  is called "Forgetting":

A man wakes up to the sound of rain 
From a dream about his lovers 
Who pass through his room. [....]

The man is awake now 
He can't get to sleep again. 
So he repeats these words 
Over and over again: 
Bravery. Kindness. Clarity. 
Honesty. Compassion. Generosity. 
Bravery. Honesty. Dignity. 
Clarity. Kindness. Compassion.

I couldn't fit all the words on the 3 silver rings I ordered - but the ones I have serve to remind me of the verses.  They are things I think I need all the year 'round.  If they were on my skin, I might stop seeing them.

*Both  the songs "Forgetting" and "Strange Angels" are important parts of my "Door is Opened" special.

    ellenkushner: (EK/DS wedding band)
    My hair isn't washed, and it's not going to be. I'm going to finish the important email, then eat some dinner, put on white linen, and go, before sunset, to a nearby synagogue and join the congregation to begin Yom Kippur by asking to be released from all wrong vows that I have made this year, and to fast for 24 hours to seal the bargain with the year's cycle for the chance to begin again when the Gates are Closed at sunset tomorrow night.

    I'm so glad many of you liked my "The Door is Opened" High Holiday show. Here is the companion piece, a Sound & Spirit show I made a few years later, about the Book of Jonah - which is read aloud on the afternoon of Yom Kippur, and has much to do with seeking, finding, and turning, turning just right to listen to one's inner voice.

    If it won't play here for you, just go to:

    And, yes, some years my birthday does fall on Yom Kippur.
    ellenkushner: (EK/DS wedding band)
    Wishing all you wonderful and generous people a very sweet and healthy and happy new year.  May you turn, turn, and return to the spirit that is best in you.  May your good impulses outnumber your bad ones, your good deeds outweigh your foolish ones . . . and may you be written in the Book of Life for health and happiness, safety and love.

    Here is a High Holiday radio special I wrote some years back, which was rebroadcast as part of my PRI/WGBH series Sound & Spirit.  It's a personal meditation (with music by Richard Thompson, Laurie Anderson, and others - here's the playlist) on the themes of friendship, family and forgiveness, as I feel they relate to Jewish observance of the Days of Awe, the days between the beginning of the New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and the Fast of Yom Kippur, a solemn time to take stock of one's life, and make good on everything from debts to emotional injury.  To me, this time is a privilege, even a pleasure.  If I have said or done anything to offend you in the past year, I hope that you will forgive me for it.  That's the beginning.

    I call my show The Door is Opened

    The hour of radio also features the voices and wisdom of Rabbi Harold Kushner (no relation - though he looks *just like* my dad!), Joel Rosenberg (Boston poet & translator of the Reconstructionist siddur) and Rabbi Barbara Penzner.
    ellenkushner: (Default)
    ....was just eaten.

    Now I'm looking forward to my parents' arrival on Sunday, and to bullying my dad into eating whatever I tell him to because "I have to use it up!" - including strange rare treats like the fancy-schmancy oatmeal, and the end of the really good French cheese.  He'll do it if he has to.  And to hearing Delia & my mom warbling Gilbert & Sullivan and Tom Lehrer together as they grate carrots and whip eggs to a leaven-y froth.

    Between then and now lie deserts of vast eternity of cleaning cabinets & shifting boxes of dishes & food - mostly by Delia & her Minions, I admit . . . I finished most of the shopping today - though I sure hope those unopened boxes of matzah meal in the basement from last year have lost none of their savor.

    My favorite line from yesterday's radio interview with Frank Stasio - actually his intro to the interview before ours:  

    No other Englishman beheaded by a monarch has moved as much product as Sir Walter Raleigh.

    (No, of course I didn't remember it verbatim!  I wrote it down.  And it turns out you can hear the whole very entertaining interview with  Mark Nicholls, co-author of Sir Walter Raleigh: Life and Legend, on the same page as ours

    (I haven't listened to ours, yet.  You listen, and tell me if I sound like an idiot!)

    ellenkushner: (LUBLIN witches)
    Stayed up as late as I could last night with Jim Freund & co. on the WBAI interview - and in the cab home, I listened to the conversation continue with that fabu TuneInRadio app that turns your iPhone into a radio!  I love the modern world sometimes.  It helps me be old-fashioned in new and exciting ways.

    Caught almost enough sleep, then dragged myself out of bed to go to a small radio studio (happily, just 10 blocks from my house) this morning to do interview with the fabulous veteran NPR journalist Frank Stasio (STAY-show) on WUNC's local interview program, "The State of Things." We had a whole 20 minutes all to ourselves - director/producer Sue Zizza, co-author/musician Yale Strom & I - and Frank also played a good clip from the show itself.   Did anyone hear it?  Did I sound like an idiot?

    You can actually listen to the whole WUNC interview archived online - or download it, forsooth - right here!  How cool is that?

    Many, many stations are airing The Witches of Lublin this weekend.  See?

    And Ian Randal Strock gave us a nice write-up in SFScope online.

    Then Sue & I went and had lunch & talked about how to get even more stations to air us next year!  Also, how soon we can get the CD produced and the album to Audible.com for download.  Stay tuned.  And again, thank you VERY MUCH for your donations of time, support, and even dollars.  When you hear The Witches of Lublin, I hope you will feel it has all been put to very good use.

    ellenkushner: (Witches of LUBLIN)
    The Witches of Lublin gets it NYC premiere tonight on the legendary indie station WBAI, 99.5 FM.  Show goes on at midnight, and then at 1:00 a.m. I'll be there in the studio with the great actor Tim Jerome - a Broadway veteran who brings such depth & humanity to the part of the Rabbi in our show - and my beloved co-author Elizabeth Schwartz (through the magic of technology - she's phoning in from San Diego), all hosted by our dear Jim Freund, who so kindly made this possible.

    The 1:00 - 2:00 a.m. interview segment is a CALL-IN show - so even out-of-towners (from all over the globe, yet!) can listen LIVE online and phone in your questions & comments.

    For a complete list of stations scheduled to air the show, look here.  And remember that most of them will allow you to listen online.

    Tomorrow (Thurs. 4/14) I'll be on at noon on WUNC in Chapel Hill, NC with producer/director Sue Zizza & co-author/music director Yale Strom, being interviewed by Frank Stasio on his show The State of Things.  Then they air the show Sunday night at 6:00 pm.
    ellenkushner: (Witches of LUBLIN)
    Now on the Witches of Lublin homepage:  The first 10 minutes of the show (with a "dummy" copy of my intro - I just recorded the real one this week, and it hasn't been mixed in yet)!  Just click & hear.

    More of my endless blabbing about this project (including those Pesky Promos) here and here.

    More and more stations signing up to carry this Passover special in April - keep checking here to see if yours is there, and if it's not, do something about it here

    Want to help out?  PayPal now live here, along with a list of cool prezzies we're offering for big gifties.  But every $$ helps us pay our bills and get this show on the air!
    ellenkushner: (Witches of LUBLIN)
    ...well, the first 10 minutes of it, anyway.  I am thrilled beyond belief, and hope you like it.  To listen:

    Just click on over to public radio's PRX page for The Witches of Lublin.

    I'm afraid you must sign in to PRX to be able to listen to the whole 10-minute segment.  But PRX is pretty cool; you might end up enjoying surfing there!
    ETA:  You can still sign in to PRX... but all this is now also available on our homepage, too!

    And best of all, you can hear my final, produced-with-music renditions of my :15, :30 and even :60-second promos for the show! (OK, well, I think that's exciting.)  If you did read my earlier post about promo copy, you will already know that the bit-where-I'm-not-talking at the end is not because I ran out of copy, but the necessary space for stations to add their local ID & air time for Witches.

    Which seems like a good place to mention that I hope this may inspire you to write to  your own local public radio station to remind them that the show is available for Passover special programming and that their listeners would very much like to hear it on their air, thank you very much.  Especially as it features Neil Gaiman in his first ever dramatic role (since grammar school, anyway).  Here's how to do that.

    I'd also like to say that we are still seeking funding for this project.  If you like what you hear, and can spare a few shekels (or groshn), could you drop us some over at PayPal? All contributions are tax-deductible, and any amount is very, very welcome.  We have big gifties for big donors - those will be up soon, and include a CD of the show for tax-deductible donations of $100 or more, and a signed, limited edition print of Ilene Winn-Lederer's gorgeous art for $500 or more.  As we are offering the show to stations free of charge, we have to grant- and crowd-fund the entire enterprise.

    I know that some of you have already granted one or both of the above requests for help.  I know who you are (I hope - I think I've written thanks to everyone); you know who you are.  Thanks again.  I'm beginning to believe this is really going to happen.

    ellenkushner: (Witches of LUBLIN)
    Sue & David are still working mixing (and created SFX, and editing, and timing and refining) The Witches of Lublin, but meanwhile I just wrote and recorded a bunch of promo spots for stations to air in the days leading up to the broadcast.  I'll put a couple of them below for you to enjoy. Meanwhile, I know you're dying to appreciate the Finer Points of the Art:

    Promotional spots for public radio stations have to be :30 or :60, to fit into those little spots left by carefully-timed NPR breaks, etc. 

    But really they're just :20 or :50, because you have to leave a :05-:10 music bed for the local announcer to be able to say: You can hear The Witches of Lublin at 5:00 Saturday/tomorrow/today right here on WXXX, 98.6 FM.

    Yes, you can grab a few critical seconds by reading extra-fast - or by cutting those fantastic adjectives you know you had no business putting in in the first place.

    Yes, it all timed out perfectly when you read it at home/at your desk.  That's because you were muttering, not using your Good Radio Voice.

    And, really, your :50 copy is more like :30 because you need to leave a few seconds for establishing music at the top . . . and for the clips of the actual actors delivering cool excerpted lines.

    Fortunately, I am a master at this craft.

    That said, not sure which of the many we wrote & recorded will actually make it to air - but here are hot contenders:

    Sample on-air promos )

    * * * 

    I hope your appetite has been whetted.  By next week we should have posted on our website a list of stations who plan to carry it . . . And if you'd like to help add to that list by writing to your local station, please click here.  It really works:  We've had several stations say they were alerted to the show by interested listeners who, my intelligence network revealed, were YOU.

    We also, aherm, have bills to pay - and promotional items to print up, and, well, expenses.  Please don't break your piggybanks to send us your last $5 - but if you've got a few bucks for a worthy arts endeavor, contributions are tax-deductible, and we'll appreciate it greatly.  There are very cool thank you items for generous donors of $250 and up - if that's possible for you, please contact me and I'll fill you in.

    Friday glee

    Mar. 4th, 2011 11:10 am
    ellenkushner: (TEA)
     Joel Mabus' new rendition of "Swing that Thing" - great clip here, and it doesn't even get to the bit where Mozart tells Bach to "drop that horn" - and then JM swings some Bach on his guitar (along with a few other musical quotes - hee hee!) . . . I was listening to Boston's WUMB on the kitchen Logitech radio ("I'm in love with the modern world!"), and started laughing so hard Delia came in to see what I'd eaten....

    And it was immediately followed by Nancy Griffith's rendition of Richard & Linda Thompson's "Let me Ride on the Wall of Death" - Alec's favorite song!  I'll never forget the first time I heard Richard live - a sunny afternoon at Newport - and a half-naked teenage boy standing in the front row on the grass shouting, "DO THE ONES ABOUT DEAAAAATH!"
    ellenkushner: (LUBLIN witches)
    Many thanks to wonderful you in Rochester, NY, who wrote to your local station WXXI to let them know about  our new audio drama, The Witches of Lublin!  The program director there hadn't known about the program - and thanks to your letter, she's now asking about airing the show in April!

    My producer is laughing at me because I'm surprised that this really works.  But it does!  So please, contact your local station to get The Witches of Lublin on your air - or at least, on the program director's wavelength!   My last post has explanation, links & a sample letter to stations.

    ellenkushner: (Witches of LUBLIN)
    The Witches of Lublin:  a new musical audio drama written by Ellen Kushner, Yale Strom (who's also our music director & composer & violinist) & Elizabeth Schwartz!  Long in the making, and now recorded and preparing for release to public radio stations nationwide as a
    free Spring Holiday Passover radio special!
    We're in Post Production right now with gifted, hardworking producer/director Sue Zizza, who is merrily editing the trax we recorded in November with our all-star cast including:
    Tovah Feldshuh (Yentl; Golda's Balcony; Kissing Jessica Stein)
    Simon Jones (Brideshead Revisited; The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy)
    Barbara Rosenblat (Anne Frank Remembered; The Secret Garden; virtually every great audiobook you've ever heard)
    Neil Gaiman (some writer guy with a nice voice) . . . and more!

    Art by Ilene Winn-Lederer (also illustrator for for my children's book, The Golden Dreydl, a super-nice person and incredibly versatile, talented artist!).  This art will also be the CD cover for a 2-CD set that we're producing, consisting of the entire 59-minute audio drama, plus 11 new tracks of music from the show!  We'll let you know when it's available.  Meanwhile:

    "Can I hear The Witches of Lublin on my beloved local public radio station this April?"

    I hear you cry.

    The answer is:


    First, your local station needs to know that the show exists, and that their listeners want to hear it on their air.  So here's what you must do*:

    • Go to this handy listing of NPR stations
    • Type in your Zip Code
    • Click through ("more info") to your local station's homepage
    • Find "Contact Us" there, and
    • send a note along these lines:

    *Sample Letter to Stations* )

    It really will make a difference - so on behalf of our talented team of musicians, actors, writers & producers, I thank you in advance.  This is about the time stations are nailing down April programming, so it's just the right time for you to step in and help make it possible for everyone in your community to get to enjoy The Witches of Lublin.  There's lots more info on our website, including full cast bios, plot synopsis, music sample, and more to come!

    * Obviously, if you already  know how to contact your station, you can jump this bit about how to find yours!
    ellenkushner: (Bryn Mawr: Writing)
    One of my life's dreams was to have my own show on public radio. When I moved from NYC to Boston in 1987, that dream came true when I became the overnight radio host at WGBH-FM.  On air live from midnight to 5 a.m.,  I learned my craft in the "graveyard shift" as  I listened to - and played - reams of diverse music from the amazing WGBH music library. WGBH added a Sunday afternoon world music shift, and also made me the writer/host for a very eccentric national concert series (The Nakamichi International Music Series), whose producers & I joyously broke all the rules of classical announcing. In the next 2 years I created a trio of equally unlikely Jewish holiday specials. At that point, PRI asked me to pilot a national series that combined my passions for world cultures, history, humanities, and every kind of music. That show became my national series, Sound & Spirit, broadcast on nearly 300 stations nationwide.

    By the time I left Boston in 2006, my awesome staff & I had created well over 150 shows. To my amazed delight, PRI chose to continue offering them to stations around the country. Only this year did they finally decide to retire the broadcasts. And so, next Sunday, June 27, 2010, will see the final radio broadcast of PRI's Sound & Spirit with Ellen Kushner.

    There isn't room here for all my thoughts & feelings about it. So I hope you don't mind if I simply share with you, below, the letter I wrote last month to all the stations who've carried the show.

    And the best news of all is that Sound & Spirit is going to remain available online! Thanks to the generosity of producing station WGBH Boston, you can listen on demand to shows ranging from Riddles, Storytelling, Tricksters, Borderlands, Dreams (with guest Neil Gaiman) to Surviving Survival (with guest Terri Windling) . . . all by going to: http://www.wgbh.org/pri/spirit  any time you want!

    So, whether you're a longtime radio listener, a frequent webbiste, or someone who's only just learning about this interstitial hour of indescribable radio . . . happy listening.  And thanks.

    Letter to Stations from Sound & Spirit host Ellen Kushner )
    ellenkushner: (NYC: RSD)
    For Alan Rickman fans  - who liked my post on meeting him after a performance of Strindberg's Creditors at BAM - here he is, discussing that production with New York Public Library’s Paul Holdengraber in front of an audience at BAM (recorded for WNYC by my friend Sarah Montague!). 
    ellenkushner: (EK:  Twelfth Night)
     [livejournal.com profile] jfreund  asks me to tell you that he does not, in fact, have puppydog eyes.  Must've been thinking of some other early-morning radio host.

    He also says that the show we just did this morning live on Hour of the Wolf is now up online on the WBAI Archives page (and will remain there for 13 days):  listen at http://bit.ly/JUpX3 - -look for Hour of the Wolf.

    We've got some great music in there, and some great conversation.  Henry Wessells reads an exquisite bit of his novel-in-progress at about :20 minutes into the 2-hour show, and Jim plays Delia's & my December '10 NYRSF performance of "The Man with the Knives" from about :45 - 1:15.

    Henry also presented me with the first ever copy of "The Man with the Knives" - here's me in the studio handling it reverently, and here's Henry & me (taken by Jim) showing it off afterwards, and here's what you see when you step out of the on-air studio at 7 a.m.
    ellenkushner: (Bessie McNicol)
    Ha!  Found the source of the French song I was desperately trying to remember so I could dig it out to play on Hour of the Wolf this morning at 5:00 am (as mentioned in previous post).  I knew it was Renaissance-ish, but could hear it in my head sung by a Brit folk group. ??  God bless YouTube, and those who sail on her:  I went in looking for "Le Mois de Mai" and somehow found my way to it:  Janequin's "Ce Mois de Mai" done by the wonderful Pyewackett on The Man in the Moon Drinks Claret.  I thought I owned the album, but it must have belonged to WGBH.  So I've just downloaded it from iTunes (thanks to the lovely gift certificate from S-- B--!).

    I've pulled a nice stack from my giant CD drawers of all kinds of cool stuff to play that ties into our declared topics one way or another:  Greek laments for Sofia (in the story) by Sophia Bilides and Finnish runesongs from Varttina, ditto . . . The Renbourne Group doing a terrific "Reynardine" (animal shapeshifter) . . . May Day/Morris from The Watersons & John Kirkpatrick . . . . 

    Dammit, I used to do this full-time.  And, yeah, I guess I do kinda miss it.
    ellenkushner: (book swords music)
    Am I nuts?  Or can I just not resist Jim Freund's puppydog eyes --and constant unwavering support of all sf/f/interstitial writers in the NYC area  (and visitors from the four corners of the world) whom he can corral, induce, persuade & delight to come hobnob with him on Hour of the Wolf on NYC's WBAI 99.5FM every Saturday morning from 5:00-7:00 a.m.*?

    So that's where you'll find me, about 12 hours from now.  

    I'm only doing it 'cause MWTK publisher Henry Wessells said he'd come, too.

    And did I mention it's a CALL-IN show?

    And it's streamed live on the interweb here.   So if you're in the UK or Paris, f'rinstance, you can be dipping your croissant in your cafe au lait (don't spill it on your keyboard) & Skype in your questions to me.  That would be so cool!  (And if you're in Seattle or Japan, just stay up late...)

    We'll be talking about "The Man with the Knives" (in honor of its pub date this Monday, May 3rd!), playing songs to do with May Day (& animal transformation, in honor of The Beastly Bride, too!) . . . and best of all, Jim is going to broadcast a recording of the reading that [livejournal.com profile] deliasherman  & I did of "The Man with the Knives" back in December at NYRSF! The reading felt like something very special at the time; it was the first time I'd presented the story to the public, and people seemed pretty excited. I hope it sounds as good as it felt.

    Better go find those Waterson/Carthy albums, now . . . (And if anyone can suggest a good Animal Transformation song - or non-trite version of "The Great Silkie of Sule Skerrie" - I'm all ears.)

    *Not to mention the years he's spent organizing & running the NYRSF readings, and recording all the KGB (and prior) readings every month.  Really, the man's a jewel.  He also recorded our Witches of Lublin reading this week, so I REally Owe Him.
    ellenkushner: (EK/DS wedding band)
    WGBH (89.7 fm Boston & wgbh.org) is re-running the New Year's radio show I made:

    Sound & Spirit for the week of Jan. 3, 2010: Cycles

    As the calendar turns, many of us pause to reflect on the patterns that shape our year and our lives. Ellen Kushner examines the various passages in human life that mark significant changes, and how they are observed and celebrated in poetry, legend and music.

    Listen to the program</strong>

    (You can also hear it on demand any time by clicking through the alphabetical list of shows at the top of the page.)

    Yom Kippur

    Sep. 27th, 2009 04:57 pm
    ellenkushner: (EK/DS wedding band)
    I'll be off-line for the next 24 hours, observing the fast of Yom Kippur. If you've always wondered what the heck it was all about - or if you're Jewish and dislike YK because you think it's all about guilt and suffering, I humbly invite you to go here:


    and listen to the program that is currenly featured (and will be archived alphabetically in the complete list of shows) called THE DOOR IS OPENED.

    I think it's some of the best work I've done. It explains how I feel about the high holiday traditions this time of year, as a time of contemplation and an opportunity for connection and renewal.

    May you & yours have a sweet and a healthy & a happy new year! Even if you're not Jewish, there's something about the fall that always seems to say New Beginnings . . . . Enjoy, and be well.

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