This is the first in our series about new and ear-worthy podcasts. We're leading off with Nocturne, a well-crafted production that's the brainchild of a San Francisco producer and a veteran composer/sound designer.
Vanessa Lowe cut her teeth in radio while segeuing out of a career in clinical psychology. Thanks to mentors like Claire Schoen and Rob Rosenthal, she found non-fiction audio storytelling an ideal fit for her background and sensibilities. This feature on the passion of Polaroid photography, co-produced with Megan Jones, helped her earn public radio cred when it aired multiple times last year on WNYC.
Anybody who works in sound-rich radio would love to collaborate with a guy like Kent Sparling. Vanessa calls him Nocturne's resident composer. Sparling brings an impressive resume as a film composer, sound designer and re-recording mixer. You've probably already heard his work on recent flicks like "Her," "Love Is Strange" and "Night Moves."
Judging by Nocturne's early episodes, there's a lot to like. First, it has a well-defined, even unique, niche — a fundamental ingredient for success according to podcast pros. Natural sounds weave a cool aural tapestry with Sparling's music. There's a meditative quality that echoes the quiet, alternate world when the stars come out.
Is it an acquired taste? Does it work if you're a morning person? Are there enough nighttime themes to enable a long-running series? We checked in with Vanessa to find out.
Why a podcast about night?
Vanessa Lowe: I wanted to do a podcast on a topic that would focus my line of inquiry without being too limiting. Put another way, I’m easily overwhelmed – so I needed a solid theme that would guide me, and help me hone in on ideas. But I don’t want to run out of places to go either. The night fits the bill – I immediately filled pages and pages of my notebook with stories I’d like to do. The funny thing is that so far the stories that have shown up are totally different than the ones I imagined – so I can envision Nocturne going on for a long time.
What was your inspiration for "Nocturne?"
V.L: The other major reason I chose to do a podcast about the night – I guess what you’d call the inspiration — is that it’s kind of a foreign place to me, and a not altogether comfortable one. I’m not naturally a night person, but I’m very interested in the things that take place there, and the way people relate differently to the night. It’s so amazing how different one half of a 24-hour period can feel from the other – and how we so rarely hear about the details. The night can feel dangerous, exciting, scary, freeing, spiritual… Some people find an incredible creative wellspring and others are paralyzed by fear and discomfort. When I started researching the night I found that there are strong cultural biases against the night, as well as many spiritual and religious rituals in reverence of it. And also, that we are rapidly losing a lot of our connection to the night as our view of the stars fades away with the steady advance of light pollution. What happens to our feelings of connection to the universe as we lose our ability to visually connect with the vast and unknown?