Timing is everything. An article declaring that indie book blogs are dead made the social media rounds just yesterday, as I was about to announce something new on Litkicks: my first podcast. Well, it's true that a lot of book blogs are dead, but Literary Kicks never followed any trends — except the ones we want to follow, like podcasting. It's more fun trying something new than dying, right?
Yeah, my friends, I am into podcasting now. It's a technology that seems to fit the moment all over the world in 2019, for reasons that may be hard to express. Why are podcasts such a hot trend right now? Perhaps it's the intimacy of the human voice, or the down-to-earth spontaneity that the conversational format requires.
I can't exactly explain podcasting's appeal, but I can tell you that my primary method of consuming books for the last 6 or 7 years has been in my ears via Audible. Lately I've subscribed to so many fascinating, original and unique podcasts about such a wide variety of topics that I haven't even been had time for Audible books. I walk a lot, and I also drive a lot and do mindless chores a lot, all with stimulating ideas and stories streaming into my head. I was listening to a podcast one day last November when it suddenly hit me that I wanted to create one.
I was concerned at that time that I hadn't felt motivated to write many Litkicks blog posts in the past year. I guess after running this website since 1994 — the 25th birthday will be in July — I was bored with typing paragraphs in HTML. The idea of speaking a blog post to you all out there feels somehow magical and delightful to me. That's why, after promising to write a long blog post about literary opera last year, I nearly got finished writing it, and then realized I wanted to podcast it instead. So I bought a mic, downloaded audacity, and got busy.
"Lost Music: Exploring Literary Opera" is the first podcast series from Literary Kicks. It's completely free, and the first episode is now available on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Stitcher. If you have a different podcast app you like to use, please post a comment to let me know. I want to spread this as widely as I can.
I will be doing a Patreon page and other stuff like that soon.
Recording and editing turned out to be harder than I expected. After years of developing my blogging "voice" (my written voice, that is) here on Litkicks, I suddenly found myself staring down a microphone through a pop filter, struggling to turn my natural speaking voice into an instrument that can carry my thoughts to untold strangers. This is especially not easy for me, since I've never liked my voice. I seem to always sound tentative and enervated. I talk too fast, then too slow, and certain vowels always kick my ass. I happen to have a Brooklyn/Queens/Long Island accent like the worst hack comedian's bad imitation of a bad Brooklyn/Queens/Long Island accent. (Yeah, that's me.) So, podcasting is not a natural fit for this longtime blogger.
But I learned something interesting after talking to some podcasting friends about this. It turns out none of us like our voices. That came to me as a surprise, especially since I think these friends have excellent speaking voices.
I have a track record of trying to develop my public voice. I like to push myself: doing spoken word poetry, singing in front of strangers, and more recently speaking at political rallies and protests. (A good protest, and we've had a few here in New York City the last couple of years, can really present a refreshing workout for the vocal cords).
Given the deeply conflicted feelings I have about my own voice, it's ironic yet fitting that I chose opera as the topic for my first podcast series. Opera, of course, is very much about the human voice — though my podcast also makes the case that opera is about much more than singing or even music. Opera is an intense literary experience.
And that's what "Lost Music: Exploring Literary Opera" is about. As for exactly why I am lately so obsessed with this topic, and what I mean about "lost music" and "exploring literary opera". consider it a mystery. You'll have to listen to episode one for the answer, and I hope you will.
Editing also turned out to be difficult, and I'll be the first to admit that after much grueling work I ended up releasing a pretty raggedy mix for my first episode. When you hear all the technical errors and sloppy splices, you'll probably have trouble believing that this is like 20 hours of work, all crammed into 37 minutes and 2 seconds.
I'll get better at all of this for episode 2, and I'm not apologizing to anybody for mistakes in the mix. Hey, this is still punk rock over here.
Episode One: Otello
Music credits: Various excerpts from Otello by Giuseppe Verdi and Arrigo Boito, featuring Placido Domingo, Maria Callas, Kiri Te Kanawa, Piero Cappuccilli and Mirella Freni. All music is public domain found at Archive.org.
I'm going to be continuing to expand this page with other episodes as I release them. I'm also going to keep a running list on this page of other opera podcasts I like. Here are a few to start with: The Indie Opera Podcast. Unnatural Acts of Opera. Sex Drugs and Opera. The Met Opera Guild Podcast, and the Met's Aria Code. Backstage at Lyric (Chicago). The Art of Opera. Ideas at the House (Sydney Opera House). So much out there ...
Welcome back to Literary Kicks, as we head towards our 25th birthday, and I hope you'll check out and enjoy "Lost Music: Exploring Literary Opera". Please give me a good rating and tell your friends if you do!