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Transom Podcast

52 EpisodesProduced by TransomWebsite

Transom.org is an experiment in channeling new work and voices to public radio through the internet, and for discussing that work, and encouraging more. Our podcast offers some tasty little audio morsels to go.

10:25

Preaching To Myself: Five Heretical Sermons In Five Minutes

 

Editor’s Note: This speech was delivered as a “provocation” on the opening night of the Third Coast International Audio Festival in Chicago, November, 2016. (photo by Jay Allison)

I confess I like preaching, but don’t want you to feel preached to, so I claim that these sermons are for me, and they are . . . even when I don’t heed them.

They’re heretical in that they’re the opposite of a lot of advice, but they’re some of the things I tell myself when I stray from what feels most abidingly important.

Maybe they’re exhortations to stay true to my younger self — not to be as foolish maybe, but to be brave and good-hearted — something that feels more critical than ever in these days.

 

Sermon 1: Don’t Ask Permission

You want to get on the air, be on a show, have your story out there — but as you make your pitches, keep something precious in reserve and don’t pitch it. Just make it. Don’t even really plan it or predict what the narrative or sound will be. Just follow it and see what happens.

Be dogged in the expedition. The joy of this work is the exploration and discovery — both of which are antithetical to pitching, which even for the best of us, can inadvertently cripple the imagination by determining your trip before you walk it.

Walk in the dark, microphone extended, and don’t ask permission.

 

Sermon 2: Be Odd

Here’s the convention: Listen to the work you like or shows you want to be on, and then work in that style. Okay. But also: Don’t produce in someone else’s mold; don’t subscribe to someone else’s existing theory of narrative, musical tone, structural traditions, in a voice we’ve already heard. Find a new one. Make something we’ve never heard before.

Sure you can copy, and learn from the exercise, but sometimes: Be a poet. Be odd. Stick out.

I miss the whacko fringe in public media. It’s important, because the edges can move the center. So, nourish the Fringe in yourself.

And, while you’re at it, as useful as group edits can be, choose not to submit to them sometimes. Groups can make things that sound like groups made them. The edges are worn off, the individual fingerprint gone.

How fine it is to see someone out on a limb by themselves. That’s how new things happen — by following a seemingly crazy impulse. You will fall and fail sometimes, but it can be important, for yourself and for others who witness your risk. Once in a while, fail nobly, on your own.

 

Sermon 3: Stay Home

Don’t just connect with like-minded strangers far away. Radio producers are fundamentally dysfunctional. We want disembodied intimacy, which is a bit weird. We create detached connection, blind one-way communication. Remember to counter that.

Do something on the ground with people who share the spot where you live, including the ones you disagree with and that don’t look like you. Build something from place. The Internet promised to connect us, but it has us hunkering in our chosen silos. Interview your neighbors, and look them in the eye.

Maybe, where you live, you can introduce people to one another, calm one person’s fear, enlarge the civic space by inviting everyone to participate.

Don’t necessarily move to Brooklyn. Find a place you love and dig in. Make it better.

 

Sermon 4: Don’t Try To Be Cool

Don’t be afraid to be sincere. It’s a snarky world; we all want to be in on the joke and we don’t want to be the butt of it. When you’re sincere, you are close to earnestness and open to mockery. It’s much, much riskier to be sincere than to be ironic. The heartfelt is rare,

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