Emotions, Space & Revolution: The 2009 TCA PBS Summer Press Tour – Feature – Part II

PBS’ consistency is initiated in its relevance to the volume of life. Like the aspect of nostalgia, music also takes an exceptional approach yet the essence of the stars, both above and on Earth, draw us in.

Executive Session – Paula Kerger The President/CEO of PBS revitalized that they are pushing more towards internet and cross program pollination with shows such as “Front Line”. In terms of “American Masters”, they are working on Johnny Carson for the Fall 2010 scheduled to coincide with a new book on him. They will also be airing the Broadway version of Cyrano De Bergerac starring Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner. PBS is also moving further in merchandising through their Discover/Hasbro connection though Kerger says that she is concerned about “the distinction between learning and advertising”.

This Emotional Life PBS is premiering “This Emotional Life” in early 2010 which includes such interviews as Richard Gere, Alanis Morissette and John Leguizamo raised around distinct themes within three two-hour programs, two of which are “negative emotions” and “happiness”. Some of the distinction are made by Dr. Daniel Gilbery who is a Harvard psychologist. He discusses that the single best progression of happiness is social contact and encourages the public discussion of therapy. He believes in shows and media that normalize the aspect of this kind of changing but admits that the film “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” severely hurt the profession while “Good Will Hunting” and “Ordinary People” had a positive effect.

Latin Music USA The essence of the evolution of music within the Latino vision is peppered with spice and rhythm. Narrated by Jimmy Smits, the doc series, Smits believes, will be “a big revelation for the PBS American audience”. In terms of his own love for the music, he says it permeated throughout his career especially involving his move from New York to Puerto Rico. He grew up listing to Three Ocho Pansos which indicated an eclectic musical background which contributed he says to “my all inclusive angle to genres of music”. He says his mom met his dad in NY in one of the clubs playing this music doing the mambo. He says the series “reinforces how we are interconnected” citing that when they talked to Dizzy Gillespie you realize “how latin music inspires you on what jazz could be”.

Musician Bobby Sanabria then got up and started playing the bongos with aplomb running with beats and changing the essences from latin to rock to hip-hop before refracting into a simple African beat. Sanabria relates that every heavy metal guy uses a Latin beat on the heavy drums before referencing that “Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones is based on the cha-cha-cha. Every rock club, he continues, was based on The Palladium in NYC which started with mambo. Sanabria explains in his own exceptional way that “alot of Latin music comes from the influence of Arabia since Spain was part of that empire for 800 years”. At this point Sanabria actually demonstrates how Muslim chanting can be based or integrated off the Latin beat.

Adriana Bosch, the series producer, adds that the interrelation of Latin music is all about the intersection of cultures. Emilio Estefan is of Lebanese descent, she explains. Shakira shows up at his studio and she has Lebanese descent as well but with Colombia roots. The influence of this is that, after World War I, a lot of Turks came over to Central America which allowed the ability of Latin music to blend and evolve eventually making its way to the United States.

NOVA: A Last Mission To Hubble This PBS documentary which reflects the Hubble 3D IMAX movie to be released next spring relates the intense work incumbent in repairing this massive telescope in orbit. Astronaut John Grunseld, who related his intense love of digital cameras and electronics, says that all Hubble Missions are difficult. He explains that back in 2002, the director of NASA thought the mission was too risky. However it is a story that has to be told. Grunsfeld says that initially there was a very big possibility that they might not complete the repairs on the gigantic piece adding that “sometimes you spend 12 hours in the pool and you don’t get it done”. He also explained the aspect of having the IMAX camera on the shuttle with them. He said he just flipped a switched to get it rolling inside its compartment but the mystery of how much film rolled still remains elusive. Speaking to him informally after the presentation, the question was when we will see some handheld HD footage from outside the shuttle looking past someone’s feet 100 miles below to earth. Grunsfeld relates that he is a tech head and brings his digital cameras up there with him but that all the liquid has to be removed from the gears in order to blast off in the shuttle. In that perspective, cameras (of a more personal nature) don’t seem to be taken outside the shuttle into the vacuum of space. This would be killer footage but their possibility again remains a mystery clouded under a classified wire. Space tourism will however perceive why in a few years despite Grunsfeld’s obvious enthusiasm despite his NDA.

Playing For Change This series follows the inception of music crossing boundaries in very specific ways in the essence of recording sounds to conceptualize symbiotic and natural similarities in rhythm around the globe. When filmmaker Mark Johnson first approached TV mogul/philanthropist Norman Lear with the idea, Lear said “I was creative enough to recognize a great idea and great execution”. Lear showed the aspect of the music to his friend Bono of U2 who helped bring it together. Using his Concord Music blanket which is compromised of a bunch of different labels, Lear was able to steer the project. He admits that “music is partly what my life is all about now” although he admits that “being an exec producer is how one gets names connected”. Creatively, he says, Johnson is getting the job done and he is just “fanning the embers”. The key he has found in recent years is that “music and laughter are not mutually exclusive” but that “one feeds the other”. He had the company which could help Mark and controlled a relationship with Starbucks which allowed for the music release extension. Lear continues that “the best conversations are all about questions”. This idea, he says, encourages discusssion “beyond the stained glass rhetoric you only hear on Sundays”. The music performers themselves gathered from all over the world, will tour. He sees their tonal creations as “a combination of feelings and melody” because “they have so much talent and so much soul that express a message”.

Lear, when asked to reflect on the incumbent impact of different mediums, says he wonders “if TV reflects or does it lead?” which is the same question he says can be asked of the mass media. He admits that he might never know the answer. One interrogative he states is if Obama caught a wave of a need for effectiveness across the globe as a vessel for change? The further question becomes, within his character, does Obama become that symbol?

Patti Smith: Dream Of Life (P.O.V.) This doc gives a vision of another musical intensive from a quintessential basis of American folklore which has been contained a mystery. Smith, full of smiles, says that she withdrew from the limelight in 1979 to raise her family. When her husband died in 1994, she realized she had to start a new life. She relates about when Bob Dylan asked her to tour with him which was a reflection of a conversation he had shared with Allen Ginsberg who spoke with Dylan about Smith’s faith. She admits that the film, directed by Steven Sebring, is a very accurate portrayal of her between the ages of 50 and 60 including her kids, her peers and her protests of the Bush Administration. She loves rock n’ roll but her close friends know that her favorites are Glenn Gould and Maria Callas. In terms of the subjects covered in the doc, Smith says she never told Sebring what parts of her life to focus on. He simply became part of what they did. He could have gone straight to the rock roots but she explains that “he had no design to which he gravitated towards”. In returning to her lost years, Smith explains that she and her husband moved to Detroit in 79 and lived in its heart at the Book Cadillac Hotel which was still cleaning up from the 68 riots. She loved her husband and considered him a great man. However she couldn’t walk in Detroit like she did in NY so she had to learn to be behind the wheel. She relates that she is in the middle of recording a new album which will have guests like Flea and Lenny Kaye which will be out in February 2010.

When asked about the current state of rock music, Smith relates two angles. She admits that the music “business” is in shambles despite the fact that the state of the talent is fine. However this era is not one of the rock gods. There is no Jim Morrison…Jimi Hendrix…Bob Dylan…or Grace Slick. She says that “rock n’ roll is the people’s cultural voice” which can be “revolutionary”. In terms of technology, she uses You Tube to watch Glenn Gould which is something her kids taught her. She admits to having a taste for Nirvana and My Bloody Valentine as well. In terms of her love of Maria Callas, she likes to study her as a performer in that “the way she delivers an aria” motivates “an inner narrative” that distinctifies “an emotional interpretation”. She says watching Callas build to an emotional peak is like “pissing in a river” because “you have to release at a certain time.” She admits that her voice, like Callas, “is not always perfect”. However she follows this by saying that her voice is much stronger than when it was when she was younger. She cites that Joan Baez, whom we talked to earlier, was “a real singer” with “a voice that was flexible with perfect pitch” while she herself was more a performer. She says that her time in the 60s was “more like a bridge between traditional music in the most revolutionary sense and the punk movement”. Her clan wanted to “remind people of the innate power of it all” and that “it belonged to the people”. She admits that they lost some of the great artists in the 70s and that they thought that “celebrity and drugs would engulf it all”. They wanted “to break through it”. She also says she always thought “they” were like Moses. They could see the ground but relishes that the “next wave of kids made it”. The one progression she admits to being proud of is that she is as loud as some of the major guitar players. She also addresses her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe saying that their relationship as artist and muse was “based on trust…never thought”.

In terms of her sacrifice leaving the public eye, she says that “I am ‘Mom’ first”. She set aside time each day when she retreated from public life to write poetry and songs with her husband but states that she was never bored. She liked to study with a creative impulse saying “it was a nice life”. When she examined her vision of music, she saw some structure through John Coltrane and Roland Kirk’s music. She likes the “idea of improvising and having a base root” but “talking to the stratosphere” while “returning to your root consciousness”. In continuing with an almost psychological base, Smith relates that, in her childhood, her mother was a waitress and her father was a factory worker. She says that they didn’t have alot but they were well loved. Her sense of rebellion in later life had nothing to do with her parents at all. She felt confined by the government, not by her home life. The questions were spiritual but reflected more culturally. They lived in South New Jersey where there was no cultural base. She just felt the need to break out of it,

As Patti sings “The Blackian Years” in essence of her husband followed by “One Common Wire”, the reflection of hope and a wisp of Dylan reflect in the fading of the afternoon.