Ring True: Music, Identity and Obsession
It took 25 years for Richard Wagner to write Der Ring des Nibelungen (the Ring Cycle); presumably he was hoping people would like it. But did he anticipate that his masterpiece would be an enduring source of obsession for people in the 21st Century?
For this conversation, we bring celebrated American radio producer, former film composer and Ring Cycle devotee Jad Abumrad together with one of the world’s foremost authorities on Wagner, Heath Lees. Taking the Ring Cycle as their starting point, the pair – with host Casey Bennetto – discuss music, obsession and identity.
Why and how does music hold power over us? What does extraordinary music do to our brains? And what does identifying with a work like the Ring Cycle mean personally, socially and even politically?
Jad Abumrad is the host and creator of Radiolab, a public radio program broadcast on 524 stations across the US and downloaded more than 9 million times a month as a podcast. Most days, Radiolab is the second most popular podcast, just behind This American Life.
Abumrad did most of his growing up in Tennessee, before studying creative writing and music composition at Oberlin College in Ohio. Following graduation, Abumrad wrote music for films, and reported and produced documentaries for a variety of local and national public radio programs.
In 2002, Abumrad began tinkering with an idea for a new kind of radio program, an open-ended radio 'laboratory'. Radiolab has since evolved into one of public radio’s most popular programs. Abumrad hosts the program with Robert Krulwich and also serves as its lead producer, composer and managing editor.
Alongside his radio work, Abumrad continues to work as a composer and remixer. His music is currently being performed across the country.
Heath Lees is an academic, musicologist, broadcaster and the founder of the Wagner Society of New Zealand.
Casey Bennetto is an award-winning writer, musician and radio broadcaster. He wrote the musical KEATING!, hosts the program Superfluity on Melbourne’s 3RRR, and has appeared in places as diverse as ABCTV’s Spicks and Specks, the Melbourne International Arts Festival and the Festival of Dangerous Ideas at Sydney Opera House.