Best of 2011: 360 Behind the Scenes
Friday, December 30, 2011 - 12:00 PM
This year, Kurt talked to movie stars, revolutionaries, and polymaths — and he hosted the first-ever audio broadcast in 3D.
Assembling the show each week requires research, editing, and lots and lots of tape. Intriguing things often happen before the mic is switched on and the story continues after it's switched off.
The Studio 360 staff assembled this list of our favorite moments from 2011, with a dash of Producer's Commentary.
Poet of the Revolution
Steven Soderbergh Says Goodbye to Hollywood
In January we began doing a segment at the beginning of each hour about a current news event. Our timing was very lucky — the protests in the Arab world were just beginning, and it was remarkable talking with the Egyptian poet Tamim al-Barghouti about his freshly written ode to the revolution, and the experience of reading it to the protesting pro-democracy throngs in Tahrir Square. I also really enjoyed my conversation with Steven Soderbergh — especially when I got him to talk for the first time in detail about his plans to wind down his Hollywood film-directing career. —Kurt Andersen
The New 9/11 Memorial
In August, it was thrilling to be among the first to visit the new National 9/11 memorial to interview its architect Michael Arad. But its huge square pools were dry dark voids that left me a little cold. Later that month we returned to get more audio and images of the site. And that's when the near impossible happened. The city's signature noise, the non-stop traffic and construction clatter, pretty much faded away. Its replacement: a loud, intense — and welcome — rush of water; the memorial's heartbeat. The 30-foot waterfalls were running full-force. —Michele Siegel, Associate Producer
Sleep No More
I loved getting the behind-the-scenes tour of the McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea by Punchdrunk’s artistic director Felix Barrett. The 100,000-square-foot warehouse space was transformed into 100 rooms where guests encountered scenes loosely based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Learning about the painstaking details that went into transforming the raw space from the show’s creator felt like a magician revealing his secrets. —Josh Rogosin, Senior Broadcast Engineer
Aha Moment: Doc Watson & Abigail Washburn
The Aha Moment series is one of my favorite parts of Studio 360. And I was particularly struck by Abigail Washburn's story of becoming a musician after hearing Doc Watson's "Shady Grove." Produced by Michael Raphael, the piece makes for great listening not only because of its sound design — Watson's music weaves seamlessly into Washburn's voice and then right into Washburn's own music — but also because it's a delightful reminder that hearing the right song at the right time can truly change everything.
—Sharon Mashihi, Intern
Nicholson Baker's Literary Porn
My summer reading got a jolt with this delightfully smutty book from Nicholson Baker. House of Holes will make you laugh, gag, blush, or all three at once. Whether the book’s fantastical, hedonistic theme park is actually sexy is questionable, but it’s certainly a fun place to escape to. And if you’re too prude to go there, listening to Baker and Kurt talk about it is the next best thing. —Leital Molad, Senior Producer
I have a friend who’s obsessed with the concept of the Singularity — the idea that technology will rapidly evolve in the next 20 years, leading to the potentially catastrophic creation of computer superintelligence. I don’t buy it. But Jessica Benko's fascinating piece about a computer program named AARON (and our online quiz comparing art made by AARON and humans) made me rethink my understanding of the creative powers of technology. If I can’t tell the difference between art that’s computer-generated and art that’s made by humans, perhaps the Singularity is near after all.... —Emma Miller, Intern
Songs from The Book of Mormon
We're used to famous guests at Studio 360, some more gracious than others. But every once in a while you meet someone like The Book of Mormon composer Bobby Lopez. Would you play in the studio? Sure. And would you play bits that never made it to the stage? Sure. And I know you’re a composer, but would you sing too? Sure. The recording session yielded one of the foulest jokes I’ve heard recently (alas, cut for broadcast). But the most striking aspect of the final interview is that it’s infused with genuine sweetness — the same quality that elevates his expletive-ridden show to the status of Broadway classic.
—Jenny Lawton, Associate Producer
The Carsten Höller Experience
One of my main responsibilities is to update the show website with new content for each week’s episode. Creating the slideshow for Sarah Lilley’s piece on the Carsten Höller exhibit at the New Museum was difficult because I wanted to include every shot we had from Höller’s funhouse of art. I don’t know how many times I caught myself just staring at the photo of Höller’s mammoth, twisting slide installation. When I finally did make it to the museum and hopped in the slide, it was just as awesome as I hoped it’d be. And Höller was right: that thing is totally a smile machine. —Alana Harper, Production Assistant
Women Take Over Primetime TV
My favorite story of the year happened to be the first one that I worked on, about the new slate of primetime TV shows featuring female leads. I was tasked with finding sample clips of TV shows to play during our segment, and being new to the show, I wanted to find just the right clip to epitomize the discussion. As I searched I was amazed (and relieved) to find that each clip blatantly, even ridiculously, conveyed the cultural argument made by our guest Hanna Rosin: the rise of a new vulnerable, stumbling yet stomping, alpha-female persona. In the end, it was hard to find a clip that I couldn’t use. —Katie Long, Intern
Secrets of a Blonde Bombshell
We're lucky to work with a cluster of independent producers who have been with the show for years, and editing a story sometimes feels more like visiting with a friend than transacting business. But connecting with a great new contributor gets an editor's heart beating a little faster. I had never heard of Phyllis Fletcher — a news reporter at KUOW, in Seattle — when she wrote to Studio 360 with a terrific story that was hers and only hers. The more I heard the more I liked it, and when Phyllis turned in her script, she had me from the very first line: "Ina Ray Hutton was a stone cold fox." —David Krasnow, Senior Editor
Adventures in 3D Sound
It would be cool enough to air the first ever 3D stereo broadcast, but what really got me about our trip to Edgar Choueiri's 3D audio lab at Princeton was seeing the gee-whiz fulfillment of a young Lebanese kid's dreams. Having grown up during the space race, Choueiri's passion for rocket science and hi-fi stereo equipment was infectious. That one field of study could lead to a breakthrough in the other was just icing on the cake. —Derek John, Associate Producer