Jad Abumrad of Radiolab
TALK: Gut Churn
This lecture thread begins with a simple question: what does it mean to “innovate?” How does it feel to make something new in the world? (These are questions Jad Abumrad was frequently asked after being awarded a MacArthur fellowship in 2011). This lecture, on one level, is the personal story of how Jad invented a new aesthetic. On another, it is a clinic in the art of storytelling. On a third and more profound level, the lecture is the result of a three-year investigation into the science, philosophy and art of uncertainty, which all began with the two words that are the title of this talk. Gut churn. What use do negative feelings have during the creative process? Do those feelings get in the way, or do they propel us forward?
Jad Abumrad is the host and creator of Radiolab (radiolab.org), a public radio progam broadcast on 437 stations across the nation and downloaded more than 4 million times a month as a podcast. Most
days, Radiolab is the 2nd most popular podcast, just behind This American Life.
Jad 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.Abumrad employs his dual backgrounds as composer and journalist to create what's been called "a new aesthetic" in broadcast journalism. He orchestrates dialogue, music, interviews and sound effects into compelling documentaries that draw listeners into investigations of otherwise intimidating topics, such as the nature of numbers, the evolution of altruism, or the legal foundation for the war on terror.
In 2011, Radiolab was awarded the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award and Abumrad was honored as a MacArthur Fellow (also known as the Genius Grant). The MacArthur Foundation website says: "Abumrad is inspiring boundless curiousity within a new generation of listeners and experimenting with sound to find ever more effective and entertaining ways to explain ideas and tell a story."