radio 417

The Summer term has begun and my Intercession course (HIST 417) on France during the Second World War along with it. The weeks of preparation were intense, with Spring teaching and grading still going on, a kid at home full time, all the anxiety/bonkers of life in pandemic.

In all the frenzy, some ideas came to me, and one of them was radio 417. Each week of the 6-week intensive course, my students will listen to one or two pre-recorded broadcasts around 15-20 minutes long. And I’ve enlisted the brilliant help of colleagues and friends from all over, geographically and in terms of the disciplines they hang out in. Each episode features a conversation giving listeners some things to think about before hearing a French song/piece from the years 1939-1945. When the broadcasts are done, I will have spoken with scholars of radio, music/sound, literature, wine, the Holocaust, race, empire, the wartime and postwar era.

I had an amazing chat this past week with Sarah Osment, a scholar of American literature and poetry who is also the co-editor (with Bob Ryan) of hyped on melancholy, “a quarterly magazine that features smart words about sad sounds and the reasons we cleave to them”. Sarah and I talked about sadness, Édith Piaf, and the song “L’Accordéoniste,” written by Michel Emer in 1940.

Listen to our conversation now:

And don’t forget to watch Piaf’s performance of the song in 1954!