Awesome tapes from Africa!

Posted by on January 7th, 2011 § 0

Believe it or not, the title of this entry does not spring from my (misplaced?) enthusiasm for cassette tapes.  Not directly, anyway.

Meet Brian Shimkovitz, recently spotlighted in the Fader for his blog called (what else) Awesome Tapes from Africa.  In some ways, it would appear that Mr. Shimkovitz (Brian?) and I are brethren in our efforts simultaneously to preserve the cassette tape as a medium and to digitally disperse the contents of cassettes.  His project differs from the Listening Project superficially, of course: he collects music from all over Africa, which he then digitizes and shares on his blog.  He also draws opinion in different ways.  By sharing the contents of his tapes, Shimkovitz provides a new forum for the voices of these artists, but also makes his own point about recording media, the music industry, and access.  As the music works its magic on his readers (and listeners, I suppose), Shimkovitz’s project begs for comments; in the Fader video, he speaks specifically of the different opinions and voices that have entered into conversation on his blog.  No need to take my word for it, though… that’s what links are for.

Incidentally, it sounds a little bit like the sound for the video might have been recorded on a cassette tape, but perhaps my ears betray me.

Blogs & Vids

Posted by on January 5th, 2011 § 0

Miss Genna Cherichello has done it again!  Thanks to her avid blog reading, we can enjoy this radio-related video.

The homeless man with an incredible radio voice: he’s already got a job in studio.

Looking Ahead…

Posted by on January 2nd, 2011 § 0

Well, it is most certainly 2011.  With the impending date change hovering over my head, I spent the last few days of 2010 tying up loose ends and accomplishing tasks that might imply some kind of resolution.  To wit: I signed up for a “trial membership” at a nearby yoga studio; I submitted an application to teach English in France; I purchased snow boots.  A lighthearted New Years Eve gave way to a heavy-headed New Years Day, but here I am… and with cassettes in tow!  A friend somehow managed to snag a decorative cassette tape off the bathroom wall in the fine establishment that hosted our revelry.  I can honestly say that under no other circumstances would I be more grateful for a tape of Nashville Pussy’s classic tunes.  Happy New Year to all!

While I’m rather doubtful that I will ever listen to this trophy tape, I am pleased to announce that the Listening Project has already acquired several more tapes (as yet unheard) whose recordings we will likely unveil next semester.  Although the LP was originally commissioned for just one semester, I think it’s clear that we still have work to do.  We have alumni voices to share now (and more who want to record).  I should also mention that one Stephen G. Emerson took a turn behind the tape recorder at our reception.  The following night, we ordered enough pizza for forty people and, by golly, all of it was consumed at the Broadcast Party.  Afterward, I received many emails from people interested in recording and peers who were interested in getting a copy of the broadcast.

Unfortunately, the broadcast mp3 is too large to share via WordPress, but this brings me to my next point.  Even if I were able to share the broadcast, it still wouldn’t do the recordings justice.  Whittling down seventeen tapes’ worth of material for a thirty minute broadcast meant leaving out entire interviews for the sake of continuity.  This coming semester, the LP hopes both to begin the process of archiving the tapes in the library and to create a series of brief themed podcasts to share on the blog.  We may also reopen community recording in some small scale way.  Keep your eyes on the blog, because 2011 has a lot in store for the LP.

Big thanks to Thy for keeping up with the blog over the holidays!

(This entry sponsored in part by The Passive Voice.)

the Moth and RISK!

Posted by on December 16th, 2010 § 0

One of my favorite ways to maximize procrastination is, predictably, listening to podcasts. Of course when you’re at the point in studying for finals where the idea of being intelligent for any longer is absolutely repulsive, storytelling podcasts (is there a more technical term for this?) are a great way to unwind.

While NPR’s StoryCorps is probably the most accurate comparison for the Listening Project, the Moth and RISK! are produced in a totally different form. Both podcasts are recordings of live stories told on-stage without notes.

The Moth StorySLAM, just one of seven ongoing programs, is a weekly open-mic event held in Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, and New York. Many of podcast recordings come from these weekly slams and other gatherings hosted by the Moth.

I’ve only been listening to the Moth for a few months, but from more recent podcasts, some favorites include Andrew Solomon’s the Refugee (a survivor of Khmer Rouge teaches a white dude about curing depression), Mike Birbiglia’s Stranded on a Desert Island (stranded with an ex at a hotel resort), and Sandi Carroll’s I Was a Spy in Chinatown (going undercover to fight knock-off handbags). A free iTunes subscription to the Moth will get you a free podcast each week, although you can stream more podcasts at

Consider the RISK! show the Moth‘s R-rated counterpart, brought to you by creator Kevin Allison and producer Michelle Walson. While it can be just as emotionally touching and hilarious as the Moth, RISK! is more likely to feature strange anecdotes about sex, bodily functions and bawdy behavior. Although their first season features seasoned comedians like Janeane Garofalo, Marc Maron, and Rachel Dratch, the podcasts also feature stories recorded at the stage show in New York and in interviews done in person or by phone. The show invites listeners and members of the public to perform or submit stories online.

RISK! is also free on iTunes, or you can have a listen over at

the Listening Project Alumni Reception

Posted by on December 15th, 2010 § 0

On December 10th, Haverford pulled about the big guns for Thea and the Listening Project–President Steve Emerson, James Weissinger with the Humanities Center, and the fine people at the Dining Center put together an alumni reception where Thea was able to present the concept of the Listening Project, and some samples from the project and her vision moving forward. Here are some photos from the event.

Broadcast fun

Posted by on December 6th, 2010 § 0

Well now.  After a Thanksgiving-Turkey-and-Thesis-induced hiatus, the blog is back!  And BOY DO WE HAVE NEWS!

Actually, we (read: I) have been plugging away at a fairly steady pace digitizing recordings and selecting clips for the broadcast.  Finally, they’re all done!  Unlike the simple drag-and-drop of the digital age, all of the recordings had to digitize in realtime.  So far, all of the recordings I’ve listened to are, unsurprisingly, awesome.  Surprisingly, most people seemed drawn to one question in particular… and their responses were more varied than I was expecting.  (Although, I’m not really sure I had any specific expectations.)  Why am I being so vague?  Well, it’s a surprise, isn’t it.

The LP has a couple of exciting things coming up at the end of this week.  On Friday night, the LP and student volunteers will be helping out at an alumni reception, sharing recordings from the project and helping old (like, really old) alumni make recordings of their own.  On Saturday evening, we’ll finally be ready to share the recordings with the rest of the community.  I think the awesome poster speaks for itself (but just to reiterate: 6pm. Chase. There will be pizza.).

Thank you!

Posted by on November 22nd, 2010 § 0

Yesterday was the last day of Listening Project recording, and now I’ve got about 15 cassette tapes!  I knew my fears were unfounded, but as a friend of mine said today, “it’s the curse of academia.”  You never know if you (or anyone else) will make the deadline.  I have clandestinely kept a photobooth diary of my feelings: every time I received something for the Listening Project (tapes, tape recorders, recordings…), I’d snap a little photo of myself with said item(s).  So, for your viewing pleasure, a triptych of emotion:

In other news, I’ve already received some emails and notes from people who didn’t make the deadline but still want to participate.  SO, to accommodate you slackers (it’s a term of endearment), I’ve decided to leave the Humanities Center tape recorder out for a little bit longer. All the materials you need are available in the office (and I may create some kind of basket outside the office to make the process even more convenient)… don’t forget to sign the recording release form!

And of course, a BIG thank you to everyone who has already participated.  I cannot wait to hear what you have to say.

Office Hours!

Posted by on November 19th, 2010 § 0

I know how setting deadlines works.  The end date for any open submission period is always the day that all the submissions come pouring in.  I’ve been in this position before and it’s turned out fine, but it’s always a little scary to think about.

This Sunday is the END of the open recording period! These weeks have flown by.  I know many people have pledged recordings, but I’m just not going to be able to believe it until I see it, you know.  I guess I’m a person of little faith (or maybe that’s just the nervousness speaking… I think it’s probably that one).

To help people overcome their fear of recording, the LP will be holding “office hours” throughout the day on Sunday.  Our lovely student volunteers will be hanging around various tape recorders to help you get started (and, of course, you can still make recordings on your own, if you so desire).  Here’s the breakdown:

1:00-2:00 = Ryan Gym
2:00-3:00 = Roberts Basement
3:00-4:00 = DC Basement
4:00-5:00 = Ryan Gym
8:00-9:00 = Roberts Basement

You can drop in, or email if you’d like to reserve a specific time slot (10 or 15 minutes should do the trick).

Happy recording!


Posted by on November 16th, 2010 § 0

This morning over breakfast a friend/colleague told me that the Listening Project had made it onto the Anonymous Confession Boards.  Now, I’ll be honest, I haven’t really looked at the ACB since sophomore year (back when I was still hoping to be nominated as one of the cutest girls at Haverford), but I couldn’t resist the temptation to see what people were saying about the LP.  It’s not very long, and my overall response is something like “no comment,” but I would like to thank those anonymous individuals who think the project is cool.  I hope you have time to tell a story or two.

Roadblocks and getting around them

Posted by on November 16th, 2010 § 0

The Listening Project is like a parasite.  I worded that very carefully — “like a parasite” — which is to say it exists within the Haverford community and also depends upon the Haverford community to survive.  Your roadblocks and hesitations become our roadblocks and hesitations; the harder it is for you to record, the harder it is for the LP to fulfill its goal.

The most common hesitation: It’s intimidating.  I’m not sure what I’d say.  I have to come up with something good.

Good gracious!  Further proof that the Haverford community is too thoughtful and wonderful to believe!  I now realize that perhaps the scariest part of the Listening Project is also the part that I thought would make it so appealing: you really don’t have to prepare much.  The goal is really to capture stories and reflections on Haverford as they arrive in your brain.  It’s scary to think that you can do this without preparing a lot.  Picking the “right” interview partner can prove challenging… even intimidating.

So… I’ve come to help!  During the opening event, we talked a bit about pairing: how to pick a good interview partner and the different kinds of pairings we listened to.  Here are a couple suggestions to help you pick your ideal interview partner:

  • Partner-in-crime: Who can you think of that shares some of your memories?  Did you ever climb the field house roof or go tunneling?  How did you meet your best friend: at supafun? at breakfast? in a really hard class?  Even if you don’t have a specific story in mind, joining up with someone who knows you well can really help the storytelling process.  Just pick one of our general questions as a jumping-off point and see where it leads you…
  • Roommate: Whatever this means to you — freshman year roommate, current roommate (maybe both!) — roommates are often the people who remember little details that other people might forget.
  • Adversary: Hm… I guess this word sounds a little combative.  What I really mean is: can you think of anybody who you love to debate with?  Is there someone whose views on Haverford are radically different from yours?  I bet sitting down and asking them about their opinions and experiences would be informative for everyone.  (The flip side of this would also work — is there someone who feels the same way about Haverford as you do?  Talk about what you love… or hate.  Remember the question: “What do you hope will change at Haverford? Never change?”)
  • Significant other: Fairly self-explanatory.  Some of our favorite interviews were between married couples… and hey, we all know that Havermarriage exists and persists within the Haverbubble.

Happy recording!  (And check back soon for more information about our “Last Chance Office Hours” on Sunday…)