Audiophiles: The hidden musicality of the human voice

February 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

If you had to design music for a performance called Chinese Whispers, you might
jump to some pretty familiar sounds – mandolin, bamboo flute, maybe a gong or two. But artist Rene Yung’s Chinese Whispers isn’t that kind of a project.

Part “investigative journalism” and part “epic poem,” the project includes a performance of Chinese American oral histories gathered along the route of the transcontinental railroad – stories that otherwise would have been forgotten. So when thinking about the soundscape for the project, both Yung and sound designer Jeremiah Moore wanted to break outside of the “Chinese box” and honor the material that they had – voices. « Read the rest of this entry »

Catching up on six months of Hear Here

November 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Last year around this time, I had a moment of transmedia inspiration that came from living in the Bay Area. Pop-up stores and restaurants were (and still are) hugely popular in San Francisco and Oakland because they take a space and make it multifunctional, surprising, and refreshing. So I asked: How can we as producers rethink the bounds of radio? (Brick and mortar storefronts seemed like a wildly appropriate analogy for the institution of public media.) And so Hear Here was born: a very ambitious, multifaceted project that experiments with different ways of collecting and distributing audio stories.

For the past six months, with support from the Association of Independents in Radio and in conjunction with KALW, I’ve been leading the experimental project that is Hear Here. That journey has not only taken me to all corners of San Francisco and Oakland, but has reshaped the way that I perceive the process and distribution of audio stories. The 10 projects that were chosen by AIR were asked to address the gap between public media and the communities it claims to try to serve. Through some very direct means which I will delve into in future blog posts, we’ve figured out how to discover and amplify some wonderful local voices that would likely have been missed by a reporter or producer on a normal beat. Here’s a sample of the people that we’ve met, and their stories:

Finding mental health somewhere between east and west

June 27, 2012 § Leave a comment


Pictured above: Khmer Rouge survivor Sophany Bay now provides mental health care to Cambodian patients in San Jose. Photo by Erica Mu.

In this story, I conclude my series on Asian American mental health by visiting a mental health clinic in San Jose.

To find the Unify Event Center in San Jose, you have to weave your way through a huge parking lot, swing around the Wal Mart, and follow the music into a large banquet hall. Today just happens to be Khmer or Cambodian New Year. There are about a hundred people in the hall, sitting around large circular tables while the house band warms up for the evening’s party.

It’s a small crowd, but this is a small community. An estimated 12,000 Cambodians live in the Bay Area. Khmer New Year is a positive reminder of their roots and homeland, despite the fact that so many came here under such traumatic circumstances. « Read the rest of this entry »

For Asian American women, depression and suicide go largely unseen

June 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

Danise Sugita shows the diary she kept during one of her suicide attempts. Photo by Erica Mu

A couple weeks ago, KALW began a series on Asian American mental health. We introduced you to the Lieu family, who described their challenges as immigrants finding care for their schizophrenic daughter.

Albert and Anne Lieu run a support group in Oakland to help Chinese families navigate the complex American healthcare system. Their hope is to remove barriers to care, including stigma, and get families to open up to treatment. Asian Americans tend to wait longer before seeking mental health care, and often have more serious problems when they finally see a specialist.

This plays into a surprising statistic among Asian American women. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Asian American women aged 15 to 24 have the highest rates of depressive symptoms of any ethnic or gender group. The CDC reports that young Asian American women have the second highest suicide rate among their age group – the same goes for Asian American women over 65.

In this second installment of KALW’s series, “Asian American Mental Health: Inside Out,” Erica Mu introduces us to two women who have stories that shed light on that statistic. « Read the rest of this entry »

Asian American Mental Health: Inside Out

May 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Flickr photo by Alaina Abplnalp Photography, courtesy of Creative Commons

This article has been formatted for the web. Listen to the audio above to hear the full Q&A and story.

It’s difficult to deal with any kind of illness when it hits. But when it affects your emotional and psychological health, it’s often impossible to even describe.

“I think if I were to describe it, it’d be like being in a dream state and not feeling like anything’s real,” says Danise Sugita, one of the estimated 57 million Americans who currently suffer from mental illness. “Whether I go through good things or bad things, the feelings of just like this darkness I still have.”

Sugita is fourth-generation Japanese American, and her experience is emblematic of the many issues Asian Americans face when it comes to mental health. « Read the rest of this entry »

The International Asian American Film Festival turns 30

March 8, 2012 § Leave a comment


Thirty years ago, the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival was born. At the time, it was just a small traveling road show. Today, the festival spans 10 days and 12 venues all over the Bay Area. I sat down with festival director Masashi Niwano to get a sneak peek into this year’s festival for KALW’s “Crosscurrents.” « Read the rest of this entry »

Can knowing when you’ll die help you live?

March 1, 2012 § Leave a comment


A note to listeners and readers: We’ve changed the name of the patient in this story for privacy reasons.

It’s a busy Monday morning at the San Francisco Veterans Association Medical Center. Palliative care physicians Alex Smith and Katherine Aragon, along with their intern Sara Murray, gather in the lobby. They’re on their way to see a patient, Bill Jones – a gentleman in his 60s who has a form of slow-growing cancer.

On the way to Jones’ room, the physicians pause by the elevators to discuss Jones’ case, and estimate his prognosis. To do so, they not only look at Jones’ charts – they pull out their iPhones. « Read the rest of this entry »