Thursday, June 16, 2011
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
My bed is my office. I am still in my pajamas and my hair looks like a family of New York pigeons lives in it. Before I belt my jammies, thrown on a saucy pair of heels and run out the door to pick up my boy from preschool, I want to tell you how excited am I for the upcoming sonic explosion rushing our way. In addition to the incredible pre-records I have been mentioning all month, we have two dozen live performers throwing down throughout the broadcast.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
Over sixty performers have collaborated with us this year to create the most sonically satisfying Radio Bloomsday ever. Join us on Thursday, June 16th at 7pm to hear (listed in alphabetical order) :
Alec Baldwin, Laura Barnett, Aaron Beall, Shawnee Benton-Gibson, Marie-Louise Bowe, Cian Buckley, Charles Busch, Beau Carley, Corey Carthew, Routh Chadwick Janet Coleman, Art Coyne, Louise Curtin, Michael Corcoran, Naoise Dack, Frank Delaney, Paul Dooley, Roma Downey, David Dozer, Kate Ellis, Anne Enright, Jim Fletcher, Finbar “Barry” Foley, Lucas Grange, Leo Hanna, Ryan Hargadon, Robbie Harris, Anna Goodman-Herrick, Mark Greenfield, Larry Josephson, Garrison Keillor, Owen Killian, Sam Killian, John Lithgow, Lawrence Lowry, Marc Maron, Melanie Martinez, Emer Mayock, Nick McDonell, Michael-David McKernan, Mara McEwin, Colin Middleton, Paul Muldoon, Caraid O’Brien, John O’Callaghan, Jimmy Reardon, Laura Ross, Bob Odenkirk, Nick Roth, Conor Ryan, Wallace Shawn, Marc Singer, T. Ryder Smith, Jerry Stiller, Tarab, Bernadette Quigley, Fiana Toibin, Francesco Turrisi, Kate Valk, Fiona Walsh and Zeroboy!
And of course are amazing production staff and engineers including Nellie Gilles, Robert Auld, Mark Torres, Jon Almehleh, Reggie Johnson, Max Shawn Rhodes, Max Schmid and Daniel Dunne.
We are still working away here at Radio Bloomsday Central, touching up the final rundown for the big show this Thursday night June 16 from 7pm to 2am. Let us know if you are planning any Bloomsday Listening Parties and we will send people your way. The Hudson Yards on 10th Avenue and 35th Street has said they would tune in at the bar. The photo above is of Radio Foundation Producer Larry Josephson (working on his thirtieth Bloomsday), producing staff Nellie Gilles, director Caraid O'Brien and the wonderful actor Jerry Stiller.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Listen to a Radio Bloomsday preview hour today, Sunday, at 11am on WBAI 99.5FM or on wbai.org. Artistic Director Janet Coleman and Caraid O'Brien will discuss Ulysses during The Next Hour radio show. We will play some excerpts of the novel from previous Radio Bloomsday broadcasts including performances by Paul Dooley, Anne Meara, Aaron Beall, Nicole Wiesner, Tara Bahna James and more. We will also be playing some music by the wonderful new instrumental ensemble Tarab. If you miss the broadcast you can listen to it on the WBAI archive.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Not long after Ulysses was published in 1922, June 16th began to be called Bloomsday. The Oxford English Dictionary added an entry on Bloomsday in 2005 and cites the word’s first appearance in a letter Joyce wrote in June 1924. The practice of gathering together on the day to celebrate started early on as well, in 1929, when Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier invited Joyce and thirty other guests to a luncheon at the Léopold restaurant near Versailles to honor both the publication of the French translation of Ulysses and Bloomsday’s 25th anniversary. The lunch took place on June 27, eleven days after Bloomsday, but no one seemed to mind.
New York can lay claim to the longest continuous association of any city with Bloomsday. The James Joyce Society was founded at the late, lamented Gotham Book Mart in 1947. One of the Society’s meetings each year has usually been on Bloomsday. The annual readings at Symphony Space, broadcast on WBAI, began in 1981. This is Radio Bloomsday’s fourth annual reading devoted exclusively to radio performance and broadcast on the Pacifica Radio Network. So join us in celebrating Bloomsday’s 107th anniversary in the best way we can think of: listening to the people and the city of Dublin, and the day come alive in the words James Joyce gave us on the pages of Ulysses.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
As Joyce moves through the history of English language literature in Ulysses while at the same time pushing it forward in his tale of a day in Dublin in 1904, he engages and comments upon the writers who went before him and lodges himself firmly in the (sub)consciousness of the writers who came after him. As we put together the seven hour radio show, thematically weaving together Joyce and Yeats and Milton and Callaghan, what emerges is an extension of Joyce's literary conversation with no end in site. Joyce himself correctly stated that his novel "was sure to keep scholars busy for centuries." And in fact, the business of Joyce scholarship is a cottage industry with thousands of books written on his works as well as a Joyce expert in the majority of universities worldwide.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Rich Maxwell once described the setting of "NH," which takes place in an unnamed but richly described small-town in America -- possibly in Minnesota --as his Dublin. Like "Ulysses," it's an exploration of the hero myth though told in the most American of authorial voices.
I salute the Los Angeles contingent of Radio Bloomsday and its brilliant recorded work at KPFK, WBAI's sister station. I am thrilled that two of my favorite Second City alums, Bob Odenkirk and Paul Dooley were able to play together this year, not just wave at each other on Cahuenga Blvd.
After Berlin, the NYC Players returns to NYC for one day, then on for a week in Montreal. After that, for me, it's all James Joyce and Caraid O'Brien all the time. It's quite stunning to be in my airborn Dublin, Geniusville.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
We often forget the main event of Bloom's day as we go through the many experiences that make up his world on June 16, 1904, his breakfast, his toilet, his errand running, his getting thrown out of a pub, his heavy lunch, his bath, his attendance at mass, his visit to the newspaper office and later to the seaside, his visit to the hospital to check on poor Mrs. Purefoy in yet another long labor, his carousing with Stephen Dedalus at the whore house, their drunken walk home, his lost key, his scrambling to get over the fence and sneak into his own house, his last act of kissing his wife goodnight on her bottom. There are also his many musings on food, life, wife, sex, her affair with Blazes Boylan, the time when he was courting Molly as a young man, his pen pal lover Martha, his own dead son, his own dead mother, his own dead father. What gets Bloom out of the house that morning, however, is the unexpected death and funeral of his friend, Patrick Dignam at 11am that morning. What keeps him from returning home, of course, is the knowledge that his wife is planning to consummate her affair with her lover.
Agenbite of inwit. Inwit's agenbite.
Eighteen deeply human moments in dozens of people's lives, as moving today as they were when they were written. What we seek to highlight during our broadcast of Radio Bloomsday is the longing, the desperation, the pain, the beauty, the hope and the dreams behind the hundreds of Dubliner's who populate Joyce's mind, decades after he physically left that city forever and continued to write in Zurich, Pola and Paris. Please join us as we investigate the psyche of the human soul as seen through the mind of James Joyce on Thursday June 16, 2011 in WBAI 99.5FM in New York City, on KPFK 90.7 in Los Angeles and on www.wbai.org anywhere in the world.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Larry was the host of an infamous grumpy morning program on WBAI, New York (1966-72). A series of local and national programs followed: “MODERN TIMES,” “BRIDGES: A Liberal/Conservative Dialogue;” an 8-hour documentary, “ONLY IN AMERICA: The Story of American Jews;” and “What Is Judaism? Conversations with Rabbi Ismar Schorsch About Seven Jewish Holidays.”
Josephson is also responsible for the revival of Bob & Ray on public radio, CD and in Carnegie Hall, after they were no longer commercial. He holds a B.A. in Linguistics from the University of California at Berkeley, and has taught radio production at the New School and NYU.
Director Caraid O'Brien interviews Larry at his Upper West Side studio.
How long have you been producing Ulysses for the radio?
1981 was the first year I produced Bloomsday for radio. In the late 70s there was a Bloomsday marathon reading broadcast on WBAI from the Shakespeare & Company bookstore on 81st and Broadway, now a discount cosmetics outlet. When the store went out of business I went to Isaiah Sheffer and suggested we take over the tradition and broadcast a show live from Symphony Space, which we did for 27 years. In 2008, I decided to produce a Bloomsday exclusively for radio, broadcast live and on tape from the WBAI studios on Wall Street. The radio-only concept allows us to record actors who can’t come down to WBAI live—Alec Baldwin, Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara, Wallace Shawn, Anne Enright, Paul Muldoon, Bob Odenkirk and many others. I invited Caraid O’Brien to direct and to perform Molly Bloom’s soliloquy. Janet Coleman, WBAI’s Arts Director, serves as Artistic Director of the project.
What was your first experience with Ulysses?
The first time I encountered the book was in 1978, hearing it read over WBAI from Shakespeare & Company. I loved it as sound art, to me it’s verbal music. I believe that it was written to be read aloud, to be declaimed, whatever Joyce’s intention. It’s a feast for the ear as much as for the eye.
Most educated people haven’t read the book. If I had nickel for every time someone confessed to me that they have never read Ulysses, or started and gave up, I’d be a wealthy man.
So your first encounter with Ulysses was when it was read aloud at a Bloomsday?
And since then you have devoted 30 years to performances of Ulysses on the radio?
Larry (with beard) in a 1969 photo by Richard Avedon for a piece on WBAI in New York Magazine.
What are your favorite parts of the book?
The opening of the book has a certain resonance, “Stately Plump Buck Mulligan…, and Molly, the end of Molly, starting from “the night we missed the boat at Algeciras” ... to the final “Yes.” It’s some kind of a miracle that a man could write Penelope. I can’t think of another man who could have gotten into a woman's mind like Joyce did. Caraid, I like your Molly best, it sparkles like champagne. Fionnula Flanagan's is completely different, like a full bodied wine. Both are amazing performances. The stamina, not to mention bladder control, required boggles the mind.
Ulysses is very funny. I love the jokes: Mr. Deasy’s line from the second chapter – “Why didn't they kick the Jews out of Ireland? Because they never let them in.” That’s funny and sad.
What else speaks to you about Ulysses?
I love the language. And the languages: English, Greek, Latin, Gaelic. That it’s about all of life and death, sex and food—and drink---compressed into one day. And how disrespectful and mocking it is to the church and the clergy. I like the fact that there is an incredible amount of scholarship about Joyce and Ulysses, Joyce and his relationship to his wife, Nora Barnacle, the letters and poems we read. And its publishing history, including the battle with censors. The fact that Bloomsday is celebrated all over the world on the same day is inspiring to me; it’s great to be a part of that.
I also like the sound of the character names: Blazes Boylan, Patty Dignam (R.I.P), Stephen Dedalus, Mr. Deasy, Corny Kelleher, Bella Cohen, Father Conmee, S.J, and, of course, Mr. Leopold Bloom.
You have produced a radio documentary on history of the Jews in America. Do you relate to Bloom’s Jewishness?
I don’t think of Bloom as a Jewish character (according to Jewish law he isn’t—his mother was a Christian, his father converted to Christianity), nothing he does is particularly Jewish. Only the drunken, anti-Semitic louts in Barney Kiernan’s pub define him as a Jew.
However, he is one of the few Jews in mainstream literature that isn’t a despised character like Fagan or Shylock. He is the outsider in his own (Irish) society.
Another association with Ulysses: my first wife and I had a baby who died at 18 months; the marriage broke up soon after. It is still very painful to this day, so I identify with Molly and Leopold that way.
(Bloom lost his newborn son Rudy 11 years before Ulysses takes place; he and Molly haven’t slept together since then.)
When did you first become involved with WBAI?
I was a computer program for IBM in Poughkeepsie, NY, a form of hell for a single man from LA who’d never seen snow. In 1965 I finally got a transfer to an IBM office in New York City. Since I knew no one in the city, I volunteered at WBAI as a recording engineer. Bob Fass, my radio mentor, got me a job as an announcer in 1966. Shortly after most of the staff, including AB Spellman, the morning host, walked out over a dispute on how to cover the Vietnam War. I auditioned, got the job and the rest is history. I broke all the rules of morning radio—eating my breakfast on the air and reviewing it at the same time. Occasionally, I was so depressed I couldn’t speak and just played music--one morning I played “Lady Madonna” over and over for two hours. Other mornings I showed up late or not at all.
I was called “the morning mayor of the revolution.” but I was skeptical of the sixties movements, especially the alleged transformative power of drugs and sex but I was against the Vietnam war and supportive of civil rights.
I don’t think human nature has changed much since we climbed out of the primordial slime. Rage and passion are just the same, one’s basic needs for security and love, to raise children, have always been there and will always be.
A four year old named Katie would call in every day and talk about her day. Lisa, a 14 year old student at the Nightingale School would call in with cynical tales out of school. WBAI never sent out a press release. I started out in March, 1966; in September I opened the Times to find a review of my show by Jack Gould, their TV radio critic, who loved the show and gave me a great review. I did the morning show for 6 years. After the baby died, I couldn’t talk about it so went back to Berkeley to finish my degree. Two years later I returned to WBAI as station manager. As a station manager I made a good radio producer!
People think of me as a typical New York Jew but I was born a typical LA Jew, transformed into a New York Jew after living here for 50 years.
What is WBAI’s connection to literature on the radio?
WBAI became a Pacific station in 1960 after the eccentric philanthropist, Louis Schweitzer, donated the station to Pacifica. In the seventies WBAI did a marathon reading of “War and Peace,” mostly live, with William F Buckley, Morris Carnovsky and a cast of hundreds, using community members as well as professional actors. “The people” reading the people's novel. In the sixties and seventies, original and traditional radio drama, cultural criticism and reviews were an essential part of WBAI’s schedule, along with news and public affairs. The station became highly politicized in the seventies, divided against itself, driven by identity politics, so cultural programming with broad appeal started to fall away.
Radio Bloomsday’s artistic director, Janet Coleman, has done yeoman service in keeping literature and radio drama alive throughout her career at the station.
Who do you hope is listening in to Radio Bloomsday?
People who love Ulysses or who will learn to love it after listening to Radio Bloomsday, because it’s a wonderful piece of literature read by great actors. Having a book read to you goes back to infancy, it is a primal experience. There is a long history at NPR, Pacifica and on the BBC reading books to listeners, just like mother.
Why do you produce Ulysses for the radio every year?
It is an activity that is something I am very proud to be part of. I enjoy it. I am very pleased that I have made Ulysses readings happen on the radio for 30 years. It has given me a lot of pleasure, a bit of prestige and it fulfills the motto of the Radio Foundation, “Devoted to the Art of Radio.”