Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen

Saturdays from 3pm to 4pm
Kurt Andersen

The Peabody Award-winning Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen, from PRI and WNYC, is public radio's smart and surprising guide to what's happening in pop culture and the arts. Each week, Kurt Andersen introduces you to the people who are creating and shaping our culture. Life is busy, so let Studio 360 steer you to the must-see movie this weekend, the next book for your nightstand, or the song that will change your life.

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  • Friday, October 24, 2014 12:00am

    At the height of her fame, Juliette Binoche turned down roles in blockbusters to do European art-house films. So why did she decide to do Godzilla this year? Kurt Andersen also talks to Mark Mothersbaugh, a founding member of Devo and in-demand film composer, who now has a major retrospective of his visual art. And we’ll meet another composer, whose music turns garden-variety haunted houses into something much scarier.

  • Tuesday, October 21, 2014 8:00am

    If YouTube had an A&R genius, his name would be Kutiman. The Israeli musician and video editor, whose real name is Ophir Kutiel, charmed millions in 2009 with Thru You, an album of music he created by selecting YouTube musicians’ videos and layering them into new tracks.  Earlier this month, Kutiman released Thru You Too. The novelty has worn off, but the new record shows that Kutiman’s method was never just a gimmick: he makes terrific songs that happen to use videos as his instruments.  

    The idea came to him while watching an instructional drumming video featuring the famed session drummer Bernard Purdie. “Apparently he’s the most amazing drummer in the world, and I didn’t know,” Kutiman says. His first intuition was to write bass and guitar parts to accompany Purdie, but he ended up finding other music on YouTube that gelled with the drums. He kept layering samples and videos until he ended up with “The Mother of All Funk Chords.” His art form had found him.

    On Thru You Too, Kutiman is still sampling and layering, but his focus is now is more on the songwriting. “The first one was more about the concept and I tried different genres,” he says. “This time I really felt like creating this album of ballads, of singers, trying to make people forget it’s coming from YouTube.” His sophomore effort hasn’t garnered nearly as much press, but his fans stayed loyal: the album’s first single, “Give It Up,” hit a million views shortly after being uploaded last month. 

    Kutiman’s work violates YouTube’s terms of service, but no one seems to mind. It probably helps that he doesn’t make any money from the project. “It’s not for the money,” he says. “I earn my living producing, playing, and performing.” Since becoming internet-famous, he has directed a Maroon 5 music video, performed at the Guggenheim Museum, and collaborated with PBS Digital Studios to create “Thru Tokyo” – a live version of the mash-up form he perfected from his bedroom. Together, the various gigs pay for the groceries. “I don’t eat much,” says Kutiman. 

  • Friday, October 17, 2014 12:00am

    In her memoir Fun Home, cartoonist Alison Bechdel — a newly minted MacArthur Fellow — told the difficult story of her childhood in the family funeral home with a closeted gay father. Now her family’s most private moments are jumping from the comic-book page to a Broadway musical. We go inside a beloved Nashville music studio saved from the wrecking ball at the eleventh hour. Rosanne Cash explains why the great performers of classic American pop don’t get royalties, but their younger successors do. And Blake Mills, guitar virtuoso turned singer-songwriter, performs live.

  • Friday, October 10, 2014 12:00am

    Frances McDormand makes it a point to play strong, complicated female characters. Her latest role is one of her thorniest yet: she plays the title character in the miniseries Olive Kitteridge. Olive is a small-town Mainer, frustrated, occasionally unpleasant — and she teaches math. We hear from John Luther Adams, the Alaskan composer who didn’t have running water till he was nearly forty. Plus, the unlikely success of Fiddler on the Roof. The characters are Old Country Jews, but it’s really about everyone who made their home here in the US.

  • Tuesday, October 7, 2014 8:00am

    Before he made a movie, Damien Chazelle was a drummer studying jazz. After college, he wrote a screenplay based on his experience, but there was one big problem: it was about jazz, and no one wanted to make it. Chazelle figured out a way to show studios that his story wasn’t an homage to a worthy art form – it was about passion, ambition, and blood. 

    On paper, Whiplash sounds like an intense version of Mr. Holland’s Opus: a young jazz drummer is challenged by a demanding band leader. But demanding isn’t even the word for Chazelle’s Terence Fletcher – he cares so much he’s insane. Chazelle’s highly praised feature is bloodier than Christopher Nolan’s entire Dark Knight Trilogy (and it’s rated R). No wonder the movie earned the nickname “Full Metal Jazz” at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Grand Jury Prize.

    As a guy in his 20s with no studio movies under his belt and a screenplay about an earnest jazz musician, Chazelle faced no small task in getting producers to fund Whiplash. This is not a little, DIY movie – it looks like the work of a master. To convince backers, he managed to scrape together enough money to make a short, which won an award at Sundance. “The idea was to take a scene and do it as a stand-alone short,” he says. “That will be proof of concept – show people how I would direct it, show people that I could direct it.”

    His confidence feels preternatural, but one day Chazelle had to show up – a rookie with nothing but a college thesis film under his belt – on a set, with a professional crew he didn’t know how to direct. He’d brought along a good friend from college to shore up his confidence. “That was probably the one thing that prevented me from having a meltdown.”

    Meltdown averted. Now, the 29-year-old’s biggest problem is fielding offers. Whiplash has yet to arrive in theaters and he’s already been tapped to direct another two movies.