Ken Howard/ Metropolitan Opera.

When Richard Wagner premiered his epic, 4-night work The Ring of the Nibelungen in 1876, he didn't think of it as an opera. He called it a total work of art that combined drama, poetry, music and staging. Harvard musicologist Thomas Forrest Kelly says that even then it was considered one of the most important artistic events of its time.  Next week, PBS will air a new production of the masterpiece, so we've asked Dr. Kelly to join us to talk about Wagner and about the power of music and myth.

Photo by Tom Thurston

Friday, we're rebroadcasting our conversation with Grammy-winning storyteller and musician Bill Harley. Harley specializes in "growing up stories," but he doesn't aim to tell kids what to do. He's more interested in describing the experiences and feelings of childhood. He says his job is to make kids laugh, but you'll often find his whole audience in stitches. Harley spoke with Doug earlier this year about his craft. He also played a few songs, told some stories and reminded us what the world looks like from a child's perspective.

Thursday, we’re profiling China’s first global art star, Ai Weiwei. He’s also the country’s most outspoken domestic critic. His work blurs the lines between art and politics, and it tests the boundaries of free speech in a country infamous for censorship and crackdowns on dissent. In a new documentary, the filmmaker Alison Klayman chronicles three years in Ai’s life, capturing his run-ins with the Chinese authorities, his development as an artist and the spirit of an artistic activist. Doug will talk with Klayman and the art curator Mika Yoshitake about the life and art of Ai Weiwei.

Deborah Feingold

It would be foolish to make assumptions about singer-songwriter Rosanne Cash. She's the eldest daughter of country icon Johnny Cash, but her music, writing  and curiosity about the world defies genre. She's inspired not only by country, rock, folk, pop and blues, but also literature and theoretical physics. Rosanne Cash is coming to Utah next week and Wednesday, she joins us to talk about the power of art, tradition and the place music holds in her life.


Jul 25, 2012

After serving his LDS mission in China, Eric Chipman shipped a great big Chinese zither harp, or guzheng, home to Salt Lake City. He didn’t exactly know how to play it, but he ended up incorporating the guzheng into the folky bluegrass he writes. Chipman then rounded up some musician friends, got a hold of some more traditional Chinese instruments and formed the band Matteo. The band’s four members recently returned from a trip to China, where they learned to better play their instruments and the Chinese music that gives the band its unique sound. Matteo is playing in the RadioWest studio on Wednesday and they’ll chat with Doug about their sonic smelting of Eastern and Western music.

New Music of 2012

Jul 12, 2012

When NPR's Bob Boilen created All Songs Considered, he wanted it to be a resource for music discovery. That was some 12 years ago and Boilen continues to introduce listeners to new music of all styles. Among his top picks of 2012 (so far) are songs ranging from feel-good pop and rich, complicated tunes to tracks for quiet reflection. Friday, Bob Boilen joins Doug to explain his list of new songs worth a listen.

Van Gogh: The Life

Jul 8, 2012

For 10 years, writers Gregory White Smith, Steven Naifeh and a team of researchers delved deeply into the life of Vincent van Gogh. They read the books he read in his day, dissected his numerous letters and scoured every text and record they could find on him. Their new biography of the fabled artist lays bare van Gogh's deeply troubled, fanatic and passionate soul, and it offers a revisionist history of his death. Gregory White Smith joins Doug on Monday to talk about Van Gogh: The Life. (Rebroadcast)

Bullets & Belles

Jun 20, 2012

Thursday we’ve got the Salt Lake trio Bullets & Belles in studio to chat and play some tunes as part of our Local Music series. It’s hard to pin down the band’s unique sound, but neo-doo-wop-folk isn’t far from the mark. Bullets & Belles’ music features sparse instrumentation—little more than guitar and hand percussion—married to sublime three-part vocal harmonies and deeply-felt poetic lyrics that reflect on subjects like the brevity of youth, the war in Afghanistan and a mysterious California beach town.

Thursday, RadioWest is live at 7:00 p.m. from the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. Our guest is the filmmaker Lucy Walker. Her documentaries include DEVIL'S PLAYGROUND, which followed Amish teens experimenting with life in mainstream America. Her most recent film is a meditation on life and healing as victims of the Japanese tsunami struggle to rebuild during cherry blossom season. Doug sits down with Walker and then we'll screen THE TSUNAMI AND THE CHERRY BLOSSOM.

2012 Summer Reading

Jun 8, 2012

Monday, we're offering a list of books to consider for your summer reading. Our guests are local booksellers Catherine Weller of Weller Book Works, Betsy Burton of The King's English and Ken Sanders of Ken Sanders Rare Books. They each have omnivorous taste and in the hour we'll cover new titles and classics, novels and non-fiction, children's books and more.