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Interview Tue Feb 02 2010

Interview with Johanna Zorn from the Third Coast International Audio Festival

On March 6, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) will host the Third Coast Filmless Festival, an all-day event that will showcase a collection of audio documentaries, screenings and Q & A sessions with many accomplished radio producers including Gwen Macsai of "Re:Sound," Ira Glass of "This American Life," and The Kitchen Sisters. The full list of events and ticketing information can be found on the MCA's website. I interviewed Johanna Zorn, the founder and executive director of the Third Coast International Audio Festival.

Can you explain the relationship between "Re:Sound" and the Third Coast International Audio Festival?

Third Coast Audio Festival sounds like it's a one-time thing. But, it's actually a yearlong and ongoing project and then a lot of different things all around the curation of audio. [It is about] really encouraging a culture of listening. We are an independent organization now and among the things we do is we produce a weekly radio show called "Re:sound" that airs on WBEZ on Saturdays at 1 [pm] and Sundays at 9 [pm]. So that's our weekly radio show. And in addition to that, we host a challenge every year. We didn't do one this year because we were just going independent and we were mighty busy and trying to figure out how to do that but...what we do with the audio challenge is we invite people--anyone and everyone--to create a short audio piece based on a set of rules and every year we team up with a really interesting organization to collaborate on this set of rules and as an inspiration to the audio challenge.

"This American Life," another popular Chicago based radio show, recently decided to make a television companion to their radio show. Has any type of visual medium ever been something Third Coast has thought about?

No. (laughs)

How come?

It's funny because early on when we would these public listening events we didn't know exactly how we were going to do it. We're going to bring people together and listen to audio together and so our instinct was, well there should be something for the people to look at. And we were thinking like, a series of slides or something. And you know, some things are too literal, some things are kind of iconic but are sort of a distraction. And eventually we came around to, well, we're celebrating audio culture and that's what we're here to do. I love the fact that all the lines have blurred between audio and film and music and everything, that's great. What we do, what we're here to do, is really to celebrate audio culture and to bring listeners to audio and celebrate that form, the form of audio documentary. So we don't do that. It's not a bad thing to do. It's just not what we do. There aren't pictures that go along with the documentaries because, that's what we say happens in your mind's eye. As soon as we give you something, it changes the way you imagine it and how you create that in your mind and then we're taking away the power of audio to tell stories.

The title, Filmless Festival, uses film in juxtaposition to the audio festival. Do you base the model of the festival in somewhat opposition to film festivals?

We do. We want to actually make it as much like a film festival as possible. Even though it's filmless. Because that's a comfortable place for people to be. They know what that is. We're already representing this whole new idea to people, let's give them a construct that they are familiar with to some extent and comfortable with. And it's a good one. So we borrowed (laughs) very generously from the film world. We just want to make it clear that with the "less" we're doing something different and add some curiosity and hopefully a little bit of intrigue.


 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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