Radiolab: Overview


On a Sunday night several years ago, I was held captive by an episode of Radiolab.  The episode, which examines “the line between music and language,” has a particularly engrossing segment about Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring.

Within the segment hosts Robert Krulwich and Jad Abumrad discuss how The Rite of Spring changes in the span of 30 years from a piece that causes audiences to riot, to an accepted form of classical music, to the score for Fantasia.  It’s at that moment that you can clearly see multiple overlapping arguments about society, the role of music, the passage of time, etc.

It was also at that moment that I noticed my neighbor pull into his driveway and sit while the car idled.  Over the hum of his engine, I could hear his car radio echoing my own in the final strains of Stravinksy.  There’s just something about Radiolab.  It’s radio but also documentary.  Its stylized sound production feels like indie music and carnival.  It’s about science, but even its most complicated arguments always seem within reach.

Radiolab is a “limited run” program aired via WNYC with five episodes per season.  Each episode is organized around a theme.  Past episode themes include: “Time,” “Emergence” and “Yellow Fluff and Other Encounters.”  The program is co-hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, whose blog we’ve highlighted previously as a resource.  Part of what makes the program so enjoyable is the repartee between Abumrad and Krulwich. They’re informal and intellectually engaging.  It is this, in large part, which makes Radiolab an incredible resource for the classroom.

This week’s focus will be how to use Radiolab the program (including blog and videos) in your classroom to teach argument, theme, language, etc.  Each episode is a series of creatively structured arguments just waiting to be unpacked by students.  We’ll help you unpack them first.

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