"Like falling in love."

"Someone asked me what my favorite material was and I said light. I really believe in a certain sense you can sculpt with light."

The architect Steven Holl studied in Rome as a young man, and fell in love with the city, and with the Pantheon.  He told me about his experiences in this ancient building when he was one of my guests for Spark at The Met, and his story was so moving and evocative that I asked him to tell it again for a story for Studio 360.  

The architect Steven Holl studied in Rome as a young man, and fell in love with the city, and with the Pantheon.  He told me about his experiences in this ancient building when he was one of my guests for Spark at The Met, and his story was so moving and evocative that I asked him to tell it again for a story for Studio 360.  

Steven Holl also describes his beautiful design for the Nelson Atkins Museum.  Here is his watercolor sketch for that collection of buildings -- he creates all his designs in watercolor, and paints every morning before he goes to work.  

A tragedy, a mystery, a revelation about how memory works

Over the past few months I have had the wonderful opportunity to explore a world that was completely new to me -- neuroscience.  I've been working with neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki to create a new podcast series called Totally Cerebral for Transistor, a new initiative from PRX.  I have loved learning about the creativity that is at the heart of great discoveries.

In our first episode, Wendy talks to pioneering experimental psychologist Brenda Milner, who in 1957 completely changed how we think about learning and memory.  Brenda studied the famous amnesic patient HM, and the story is a tragedy, a mystery, and a revelation about how memory works.  I'm thrilled to share it here:


Sound, Space, and Awe

Last month, I had the pleasure of talking about music, architecture, and awe with the architect Steven Holl, neuroscientist Robert Zatorre, and musician and theologian Peter Bouteneff.   Our inspiration was the music of Arvo Part.  It's just been announced that Arvo Part and Steven Holl are both being awarded the Praemium Imperiale!  

You can listen to our conversation, in which neuroscientist Robert Zatorre explains how music can engage the reward system deep in our brains—the same system that responds to food and sex; Steven Holl describes making spaces for music, and shows how music influences his work; and Peter Bouteneff talks about the thread of spirituality that weaves throughout Pärt’s masterpieces.


In Jody Oberfelder's 4Chambers, we're pulled into the power of the heart by dancers who let us feel their heartbeats -- and make us aware of our own.  In my story for Studio 360, dancer Mercedes Searer offers a visceral experience of being in the piece -- and shows us it's possible to dance on the radio!

Liz Forkin Bohannon and Sseko Sandals

Wonderful news from France -- Liz Forkin Bohannon is a finalist in Cartier's Women's Initiative Awards!  Liz was my first interview for Pursuit of Spark, here's her delightful and inspiring story again.

I met Liz Forkin Bohannon in 2010 at Seth Godin's fantastic workshop for women entrepreneurs. Her ebullience and humor are what I noticed first, and then I began to understand the determination and imagination that have allowed her to develop a successful company from scratch. With the money she'd saved from babysitting jobs and a sewing machine her parents gave her for her birthday, Liz beganSseko Sandals, which employs young women in Uganda so they can earn the money they need to go to university. This week Liz talks about how she got Sseko off the ground. 

A.R.T. in Middlebury Vermont

Last fall when I spoke at Middlebury College, my hosts told me about a fascinating program at the vocational/technical high school in town, where students learn how to weld, paint, sew, hang lights, and build just about anything, all in service of theatre. Alumni from the program are mixing sound for Motown the Musical, rigging Cirque du Soleil, and acting on TV shows such as The Office. I'm thrilled that NPR's Weekend Edition asked me to report a story about the Addison Repertory Theater high school program at the Hannaford Career Center. Here it is.

Many thanks to Sarah Popov for production assistance on this story, and Laura Bertran at NPR for her insightful editing. And thanks to Steve Small and all the students and teachers at A.R.T.

Joel Meyerowitz and Maggie Barrett

Photographer Joel Meyerowitz and writer Maggie Barrett talk about their life together, and their collaboration on their new book Provence: A Lasting Impression.  Their honesty, about the pleasures and challenges of their creative partnership in life and in art, is an inspiration.

Joel has also just published Taking My Time, a retrospective of his 50 years taking photographs, including his early street photography, his beautiful landscapes of Cape Cod and Tuscany, and his powerful photographs of the aftermath of 9/11 at the site of the World Trade Center.  

To read more about Joel and Maggie, and to see more photographs, visit Maggie's blog, Feeling Our Way Around.

 The photo of Provence is by Joel Meyerowitz.  The music in the podcast is by Delgarma, via WFMU's Free Music Archive.

Give thanks for all that you've been given

It was delightful to meet the young singer/fiddler/songwriter Sara Watkins and to hear her play with her brother Sean and bassist Tyler Chester.  They performed live in WNYC's studios on 8/3, capping off my second day as guest host on the Leonard Lopate show.  I think Sara's interpretation (with Fiona Apple) of the Everly Brother's You're the One I Love on Sara's new album Sun Midnight Sun is my new favorite song.

I also love the song and the sentiment in Sara Watkins' song Take Up Your Spade, which finished her short set.  In it she gently tells us all to get to work, and to "Give thanks for all that you've been given/Give thanks for who you can become."

On being a pattern interrupt

Ed Zimmerman with winemaker Freddy Mugnier

Ed Zimmerman with winemaker Freddy Mugnier

Ed Zimmerman is a lawyer who specializes in tech deals. He's happiest in gatherings where he's the host, so for many years he's organized conferences and workshops for entrepreneurs and venture capitalists so they can get to know each other, and he can get to know them. Ed came up to me at TED right after I'd given my talk, and invited me to one of these meetings, where I got to see up close the informal and engaging way he gets people to talk about what they do. I was interested in how he chose this kind of work, and in talking with him found that the answer is complicated and fascinating, and that part of it comes directly from his father. Here's the entire interview, which is full of Ed's humor and generosity.

You can also hear some of the music Ed talks about in this 5:00 story I produced for Studio 360.  This weekend is Father's Day, and kids all over the country are buying ties and barbecue aprons and music for their dads.  When he was growing up, Ed always knew what kind of music to get for his father Sam, who had unrealized dreams of being a singer and a writer.  Ed is a lawyer who crafts deals for tech entrepreneurs and VCs, and he has been surprised and pleased to find that his father's passions have had a major influence on his own work, who had unrealized dreams of being a writer and a singer, and whose passion for words and music had a profound impact on his son.  Ed spends a lot of time talking about songs by Springsteen, Aretha, Dar Williams and The Clash with his wife and two kids, and always keeps one of his father's opera tapes in his glove compartment.   You can read Ed's blog post about music and his father here.

"Creating something together that we couldn't have on our own"

My conversation with Liz Forkin Bohannon continues as Liz talks about having her husband Ben join her as co-dreamer for Sseko Sandals. Liz is honest about the joys, adventures and challenges of creating a new company and a new marriage at the same time.  And she has a great story about unique ways to use wedding presents! 

The lovely spring weather is a perfect time for sandals -- you can see Sseko's offerings at ssekodesigns.com.