inside story

Framing Failure
By Will Rogers

The staff members of This American Life are often challenging themselves with little experiments (24 hours at a diner, 20 acts in 60 minutes, stories pitched by their parents), and I’ve noticed a theme that intrigues me: Sometimes when an experiment goes badly, the story still turns out sounding fantastic.


I often shy away from telling stories about when things go badly in my own life/work… I like to tuck these experiences away in a closet, waiting for the day when they’ll ripen into success stories. I’m sure that the staff of This American Life has plenty of stories in their own story closet, failures that they don’t share with their audience. But they also have this trick that I’ve really grown to appreciate, and it involves failing, then talking about what went badly and why -- and when this strategy is used well, worse becomes better.


Two Unraveling Characters, Interwoven by Music
By Tina Tran

There’s some magical quality in radio, perhaps the softness of the voice or the raw emotion in every vibration that can evoke a visceral reaction. That magical quality comes out really strongly in “Unraveling Bolero”, by Jad Abumrad for Radiolab. It explores the intersection of creativity and neurology, and the eerie similarities between two artists. The music used to connect the two stories is what creates that magical quality.

Unraveling Bolero is the story of two lives, woven together in a haunting echo of one another across time and space. The first is Anne Adams, an incredible cell biologist, who after a series of events became a full-time artist. Soon afterwards, her obsession with Maurice Ravel’s Bolero began as she meticulously deconstructed the composition into a striking visual representation. The second is Maurice Ravel himself who, in the 1920’s in France, became consumed by the very same repetitive melody, during the process of writing the piece.