These are the best podcasts/bits of audio I've listened to this month...

August 2019

That Infernal Noise (Der var en infernalsk støj-net) – Niels Pugholm

A sound art piece by the Danish sound artist Niels Pugholm. This is a Google translation of the Danish description of the piece on his website: Through a series of recorded conversations with old workers from the Frederiksværk steel rolling mill, I have made a sound installation based on their remembered sound pictures of the steel production.

Thanks to Jennifer Macey for playing this at her excellent Listening Party in Port Kembla in August.

Towel of Song: a documentary musical – CBC The Doc Project

Yes, it’s a documentary musical about towels. Turkish towels. Turkish towels look very pretty, but do they really do what a towel is supposed to?

Recommended to me by Mike Williams.

July 2019

Moon Graffiti – The Truth

To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, the Truth has replayed (repodcast?) their first ever episode, back from 2010. The story is inspired by a real contingency speech written in 1969 by William Safire for Richard Nixon titled “In Event of Moon Disaster.” If you were going to be left to die on the moon, wouldn’t you want to write your name in moon dust too?

The Quiet in the Land – Glenn Gould

As well as being an extremely gifted pianist, Glenn Gould also made film and audio documentaries. Excellent, weird ones. This audio documentary is about Mennonites in Manitoba. We hear the intimate, raw, sometimes certain and sometimes confused reflections of Mennonites as they consider the impact of modern life on their culture. I’m not sure if Gould intended this to be listened to on headphones or not. There are often two entirely different tracks playing on the left and right channels. You might hear a sermon in one ear, and a Mennonite man talking about how many in their community now have TVs in the other. In headphones, you can kind of switch the sides of your brain to concentrate on one or the other. But on a speaker, it comes out as a very confusing cacophony of words and sound.

The Quiet in the Land was made for CBC Radio in 1977 and is the third part of the Solitude Trilogy, three documentaries united by the theme “withdrawal from the world”. Part one of this trilogy, is The Idea of North an entrancing mash-up of voices talking about Canada’s far north. This track is an except, but you can listen to the whole thing on Spotify here (there’s also a few bootlegs on YouTube). Thanks to Andrea Valentino for sharing this recommendation in the Bello Collective.

How modern life is changing our feet – BBC The Compass

This is the first of a three part series called ‘Changing World, Changing Bodies’. It covers depressing changes to our feet, backs and faces as a result of our sedentary and tech-filled modern lifestyles (spoiler alert the common theme is decay). It’s a pretty straight-up BBC doco style but full of interesting info, such as thr delightful tidbit that will make you feel smug if you live in Australia – turns out our outdoor living is good for our eyesight.

June 2019

Your Undivided Attention – Centre for Humane Technology

This is a new podcast from CHT, a nonprofit organisation set up by a bunch of ex-silicon valley dudes who have seen the error of the former was and are now on a mission to reverse the evils of technology and “realign it with humanity”.
Episodes 1 and 2 feature Natasha Dow Schüll, the author of Addiction by Design. Schüll’s book looks at the addictive nature of pokies – she’s spent years studying how they hold people in an endless loop of play. The parallels with social media and smartphone design are quite terrifying.

May 2019

Is America Ready to Make Reparations? – The New Yorker Radio Hour

This podcast is one of few that I am actually subscribed to and have set to automatically download and enter my queue. In my view, the New Yorker consistently publishes some of the best writing in the world and their podcast is usually of an equally high calibre – albeit less carefully crafted than the magazine. This short series on the case for reparations to African-Americans includes the voices of Ta-Nehisi Coates and a bunch of other, lesser-known clever people, as well as the particularly interesting story about the history of Georgetown University and how students voted to pay reparations to the descendants of the enslaved people who built it.

Itch – Pitt Medcast

This eight minute episode of the University of Pittsburgh’s medical school podcast explains the interesting relationship between pain and itch, as well as some interesting, recent breakthroughs in this surprisingly complex matter of neurobiology. Thanks to Caroline Crampton‘s podcast recommendation feed The Listener for this one.

Sound and Health Cities – 99 Percent invisible

I’m writing this recommendation from a Hong Kong hotel room where I’m hiding from the incessant barrage of jack hammers, pile drivers, heavy hands on car horns and loud, hissing busses one is subjected to on or near street level (19 floors up I have relative quiet). This episode examines how little attention has been paid to sound in cities and the impacts of this neglect. There’s a ray of hope in words from people championing good sound design but I remain pessimistic and sometimes want to run away to live in the wilderness. Then I realise I lack survival skills and this is a terrible idea. Maybe just a country town?