Sound Education + meeting Carlin

Sometimes you get lucky.

Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend the Sound Education conference at Harvard. There was a ridiculous amount of talent concentrated in the dowdy halls and classrooms of the Divinity School. I got to meet a bunch of fellow Dark Myths podcasters and rub elbows with some big names in the … what should we call it? The industry? The biz?

The point about language is no joke. It was blindingly clear that the folks at the conference divided sharply between the small independent types — the ones who work day jobs and run their passion projects on the side — and those who come to their podcasts loaded with resources ($) from radio stations and universities. At one panel, I asked a question about strategies to balance deep research and a timely release schedule. It was easy, one of the panelists said — just get your interns to do the research for you.

That divide also showed itself in levels of preparation. Some of the big-name panels were disappointing in that little preparation or thought had gone into them. It reminded me of a lot of disappointing master classes I went to in music school, where big-name musicians (who were well-paid for their time) would play for five minutes and then ask the room if anyone had questions. On the flip side, I saw a GREAT talk by CJ Kilmer of the Dangerous History podcast (and a fellow Dark Myths guy) about voluntarism in education; he spoke to a room of four people.

So I count all this as good luck. I was lucky to meet these people, make these connections, learn a bit about what separates the big fish from the small fish.

The biggest piece of luck, though, came courtesy of Kristaps Andrejsons, host of the Eastern Border podcast. I hosted him for part of the weekend, showed him around Boston, introduced him to New England seafood (it turns out oysters and clam chowder are in line with the Baltic addiction to salty things from the ocean), and in return, he gave us both the chance to meet one of our creative idols.

We spoke with Dan Carlin for about fifteen minutes in the lobby of Harvard’s music building, just after Dan had given a keynote talk in the main hall upstairs. We recorded it, and you can listen to the whole thing by following the link at the end of this post. The setting wasn’t ideal. You’ll hear that in the weird audio levels, the boomy acoustics of the space, and the arrival of a noisy elevator at the end of the interview.

But do yourself a favor and listen to the whole thing. Dan certainly didn’t have to make time for us, nor did he have to give two nervous junior podcasters his full attention. But that was exactly what he did. Dan was incredibly warm, personable, and took us and our questions seriously. This moment was loaded with meaning for me. When my fledgling career in music foundered a few years ago and I was desperately looking for a new creative outlet, Dan’s work pointed the way to something new and exciting. Inward Empire’s DNA goes back to my listening to Dan’s massive multipart series on the end of the Roman Republic and my desire to adapt and build on the model that Dan has created so masterfully. It’s always a relief to find out that someone you admire — especially someone you admire creatively — is also good person.

So here it is, a product of a tremendous piece of good luck in a weekend full of them. All my gratitude to Kristaps for making this happen, and to Dan for his generosity and time.


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