Alex Lewis

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Yowei Shaw and I wrote an article for Transom about some lessons we learned from making Going Black: The Legacy of Philly Soul Radio. You can read the piece here: Lessons From Making A Historical Documentary. This was special for me not only because Transom is the definitive craft website for radio making, but also because I graduated from their workshop in Spring 2012. It’s nice to feel I’ve come a long way since then.

The Other Window

Exactly a year ago I was traveling around Alaska. We were in Talkeetna, AK the day after my birthday and I paid half-price ($40) to get on a small plane that would land on a Mt. McKinley glacier. I remember feeling brave sitting in my seat – like I was a modern day explorer sacrificing my safety for the sake of discovering something bigger than myself. I’ve actually thought about that feeling a lot since then. I know I was just doing a touristy thing that hundreds of people do every day, but the feeling I got from that  glorified amusement park ride felt so real. The fact of all the huge mountains I saw out the window; the fact of the motion sickness I get so easily; the fact of never actually being brave in that way. The pilot, who was about my age, told me he made these trips seven or eight times every day and that it never got old. I wondered if he was brave or if it was just a job anyone could learn. In any case, I took some cool photos and it’s nice to remember now. It was just a year ago, but it feels like a much different time.

Here’s an outtake from my recent interview with the composer and flautist James Newton. A reminder that good things can happen when you stick to what you’re passionate about.

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I produced this story which aired this week on WNYC’s All Things Considered and also on their Saturday Weekend Edition. A trove of Eric Dolphy papers were recently unearthed and made public. Among the newly archived materials are a number of unplayed, unrecorded (and often unfinished) compositions. A few of these were premiered this weekend at Pheeroan akLaff’s Freedom of Sound Dolphy tribute festival. One strain of thought is that these new pieces – along with a resurgence of interest in Dolphy fifty years after his passing – may tell us more about where he was headed with his music. That’s what my small piece is about.

Use of Spies

 

Upright and sleepless,

having watched three bad movies,

I am flying across the ocean to see you.

 

I am a warrior and nothing will stop me,

although in the event both passport control

and a stoned cabbie from Haiti will give it a go,

 

but I meant to mention something else.

 

Just before dinner I woke in mid-air,

opened the shutter and saw the sun rising,

Light  swung over the clouds like a boom.

 

The way it broke continually from blue

to white was beautiful, like some fabled

giant wave that people travel years to catch.

 

I thought I’ll have to try and tell you that.

- Nick Laird

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Strange to be posting a poem here after only putting up work and news for so long. It’s just that I have returned to this a lot recently because I love the voice. I especially like the latter half of the piece. It reads in a simple way that, I think, I often strive for in my own things. The poem is also about failing to communicate something nice to someone else, which happens all the time. Anyway, thought I’d like to have this here.

New Sky Tour Disposable Photos

Looking Out

Nico – a new friend and the bass player on our recent tour – bought a bunch of disposable cameras at a Walgreens in Chicago so we’d all be able to document our time together on the road. It was a nice change from the lazy Instagram documentation we typically do on tour (and I usually shoot a little with my 35mm too). In any case, I think these disposable photos turned out pretty nice and wanted to post a few here. You can see the rest on Facebook. Really good memories.

Rearview

The Bean

Peeing

Baby Goat.

Swinging

Saddle Creek Rd.

Driving

Council Bluffs

Girard College Chapel Organ Console

Here’s another concert write-up: This one is about John Zorn’s epic solo organ performance at the Girard College Chapel in Philadelphia. It’s posted on WXPN’s The Key. Read it here.

Milford Graves

Nearly two-and-a-half years ago, when I left Portland, I also made a promise to myself to never write another show review.  I churned out dozens of them back when I lived there and I never felt like anyone cared. I stopped caring. Who really reads about a show after it already happens? I started doing it for the guest list pass and free beer – not good reasons to do anything. But I just broke my promise. I wrote about Milford Graves’ Ars Nova Workshop performance for WXPN’s The Key.

So, fuck it. After some time away from music writing, I have some ideas of how I can make it my own positive thing again. I’ll be writing for The Key and other outlets going forward. More coming soon (new radio work too…).

New Sky Tour

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Another season, another tour with Ben Seretan. We’re taking a whirlwind trip to these Midwestern cities next week. I’m excited to see some places I’ve never seen before! Ben also made this video for some music we recorded a couple December’s ago. We’ll probably be playing some music that sounds like this:

“8:26″ from Ben Seretan on Vimeo.

Gloversville, New York

This month I set a goal for myself to make something for fun. Just for me, not a paid gig. I was feeling uninspired until I heard about this new project. It’s a collaboration between the amazing radio show State of the Re:Union and the storytelling site Cowbird. It’s called The One Thing and it’s a call for stories about why people leave small towns and why some people stay.

I had really been wanting to use this tape I collected during the Autumn of 2012, but had trouble making sense of what to make of it. So finally, I had this catalyst, and put this together: