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Jessica Duchen
Saturday 21st November 2009
If You've Got It, Use It

The Internet, that is. The exciting thing about this medium is that we are creating it as we go along. Anyone with the imagination and application (mental, not just digital) to use it in a new and exciting way has, essentially, an open door to do so. And here's one of the most creative and surprising developments I've come across recently: cellist Robert Cohen has a new site on which he is uploading a series of 'podtalks' - conversations with movers and shakers from the arts world, to which we can all listen, free of charge. The first podcast is a meaty 40-min chat with Sir John Tusa. Where's the cello, then? Is Mr C putting us reporters out of a job?

Not quite, says Robert, who's set up the series and the site with producer Tommy Pearson. Part of the motivation is the lack of such in-depth talks in the arts field on mainstream radio... I asked Robert to do an e-interview for us to find out why he's decided to start this series and where it goes from here.

robert  cohen- keith davey photo credit (2)

JD: You're a cellist, so what's prompted you to set up a series of podcasts? - in other words, what's in this for you?

RC: I wanted my friends and the general public to hear discussions and debates about the arts and our culture that are not normally heard on radio or TV. 

JD: Why did you choose these particular individuals to interview?

RC: Because they are all highly intelligent, articulate and creative people. They are true artists in their field and are prepared to fearlessly step over the line and stand up for their beliefs and ideals. 

JD: Do you maybe feel that as a practising musician yourself you can bring a perspective to these interviews that will be different from that of a journalist?

RC: Generally, interviews with journalists have a specific agenda. Cohen Pod Talks are not interviews but open conversations that can lead anywhere. There is a particular intrigue and understanding between myself (as a musician) and my guests, because we recognise and empathise with each others' flow of creativity and inovation in the arts and culture. These podcasts are 'back-stage' conversations, not 'on air' interviews. 

JD: What's been the most interesting thing you've learned through doing the series?

RC: We often think that people in elevated and influential positions will be very guarded. So it was a wonderful surprise to discover how unihibited my guests were; how much they enjoyed talking and sharing their thoughts, despite the microphone between us. 

JD. Are you planning to do any more, or to link them up with your other activities, whether concerts or your festival etc?

RC: We plan to record a second series in the new year. I don't anticipate linking them to my other activities because that would suggest a set agenda. The free discussion is very important to me.  

[photo credit: Keith Davey]


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About Jessica Duchen

Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.

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