GLAMi nomination: Raw Material: A Podcast from SFMOMA

nominated by: Erin Fleming, SFMOMA, USA
institution: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
category: Museum-Wide Guide or Program

Raw Material is a new arts and culture podcast from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Each season is produced and hosted by a different “podcaster-in-residence” and focuses on a different topic, featuring voices of artists working in all media and exploring the inspiration and stories behind modern and contemporary art.

In 2005, SFMOMA was one of the first museums to produce a podcast.  Our groundbreaking SFMOMA Artcasts ran for ten years, highlighting stories from collection artists in addition to providing information about current and upcoming exhibitions and programs at the museum.  

Raw Material is both an evolution of and a departure from our first podcast, updated to reflect the current audio storytelling landscape, SFMOMA’s recent expansion, and the Interpretive Media team’s ongoing commitment to innovation.  Raw Material is not a podcast about SFMOMA; it’s a podcast about art, rooted in the current cultural milieu.  Our intended audience is not just SFMOMA visitors, but arts and culture enthusiasts all around the world.  We consider the podcast a channel that highlights many artists whom visitors won’t necessarily encounter on SFMOMA’s walls- those who are emerging, underrated, or otherwise in the periphery of the art world.  So Raw Material is a platform, not for stories about the museum, but one onto which we invite artists to give a glimpse of their lives, and share what drives them, in their own words.

In our first season, Otherworld, producer and host Ross Simonini documented artists who explore the unknown, including rituals, hauntings and supernatural phenomena.  Genesis Breyer P-Orridge recounted h/er history with chaos magic, Santiparro performed an Ayahuasca ceremony, Tom Friedman presented a conceptual sculpture cursed by a witch, and Desiree Holman described her research on extraterrestrial encounters.

The Vibration is the fifth episode of Season 1 of Raw Material.  The structure, content and sound design of this episode in particular were all designed to surprise our listeners.  The Vibration focuses on two artists: contemporary multidisciplinary artist Terence Koh, and pioneer of free jazz drumming, Milford Graves.  While the link between the two artists might not be immediately apparent, it becomes clear with subtle sound design.  Listeners first hear the sound of bees buzzing, as Terence Koh describes his practice from within his latest project, a “bee chapel” he built in the Catskills.  The sound of bees buzzing coalesces with the sound of Koh humming, using vibration to evoke a meditative state.  Rhythm and vibration permeate the rest of the episode, moving fluidly between sounds of buzzing, humming, outer space “chirping,” a heart beating, and Graves’ improvisational drumming.  At one point, the episode seems to unravel into a free-wheeling mix of noise, vibration, storytelling, and Barry White, before gently bringing listeners back to a traditional narrative.  By the end, audiences feel like they’ve done more than simply hear a story; they’ve gone on a journey.

Raw Material Season 1 Credits:
Executive Producer: Erin Fleming with SFMOMA
Scriptwriter, Producer, Narrator and Sound Design: Ross Simonini
Producers: Erica Gangsei and Stephanie Pau with SFMOMA
Other voices in The Vibration (in order of appearance): Artist Terence Koh, jazz drummer and healer Milford Graves, composer Nat Evans.