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FROM THIS EPISODE

From classical compositions of “Olympian serenity” to Italian baroque music and an intense rock track from the late ‘60s, “Fruit Detective” David Karp chooses songs that have inspired his work as a freelance writer and photographer specializing in fruit. He uses music as a connection to memories of his childhood in NYC and hones in on some classical masters with truly unique stories. 
For More: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Karp_(Fruit_Detective)

Track List

1. Velvet Underground: Sister Ray

2. Brian Eno: The Big Ship

3. Alessandro Scarlatti: Concerto Grosso No. 1 Grave

4. Carlo Gesualdo: Madrigal from Book 6

5. Gabriel Faure: Second Piano quintet, first Movement

 

Transcript

Tom Schnabel: I'm Tom Schnabel and I'm here with David Karp, a freelance writer and photographer specializing in fruit. He's known to many, and to me, as the “Fruit Detective.” We'll be talking about music that has inspired him over the years as part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. First of all, David, welcome back to KCRW. What did you bring for us today?

David Karp: Well, a mixed bag to say the least.

TS: Why don't we go straight to Velvet Underground?

DC: Haha, alright!

Song: Velvet Underground's Sister Ray

DC: It's the most intense, ball-busting piece imaginable. I mean, for people that are listening to it today, this may sound like ‘aw, we here that kind of stuff all the time' -- but believe me in 1967, 1968 that kind of music did not exist. And, the Velvet Underground launched a thousand other bands and this was their signature song. If you listen to most of their music you can't quite understand just how intense, how it just bowled people over listening to this kind of music.

TS: That was David Karp's first selection by Velvet Underground, Sister Ray the Swan Mix. Let's listen to some Brian Eno, a fascinating guy. A lot of Eno heads love this record, Another Green World.

DC: When I'd get all jacked up listening to punk music - this is the 70's, early 80's - I'd need something to come down. It would either be something, an artificial way of modulating, or very often I would choose the natural way. And when you listen to this you'll understand that this transitions between the intensity of rock music - it almost has a heavy-metal aspect to it - and at the same time it has the soaring dignified kind of sound that you would get from an organ concerto. But it reminds me very much - growing up in New York City we had a wonderful view of the East River. From the 10th floor I would see ships go by the window and they would blow their horns. Sometimes it would be in the fog and you would just hear this overwhelming sound, "aaaahhhhhh" like a cosmic rhinoceros or moose.

Song: Brian Eno's “The Big Ship”

TS: What does a fruit detective do, and where did you get this?

DC: I was a medievalist at university, then I was a risk arbitrage trader on Wall Street, a punk rock producer, and from there I segued naturally into fruit detection. What actually happened was that I had to re-invent myself around age 31 and I was fortunate to have a former college classmate Eric Asimov, nephew of the famous science fiction author, who was food editor of the New York Times. I convinced him I was sufficiently passionate enough about apricots that he gave me shot a writing an article and I was off and running. And so, understanding the difference between what's out there commercially and what a fruit can be at its best is at the essence of my work.

TS: I'm Tom Schnabel and my guest today here is David Karp. He's a freelance writer and photographer, and also the Fruit Detective. You brought some Scarlatti along. What's the connection?

DC: Well, there's a very close connection to myself and to my work. I first encountered Domenico Scarlatti, Alessandro's father, because my mother had a record of his harpsichord pieces, which I very much got into at the time -- we're talking 30 years ago or so. When I was at Sam Goody's, the famous old record store at 43rd & 3rd, I came across an LP which was by Alessandro Scarlatti, Domenico's father. I bought it and I was entranced from the first cut of the first concerto grosso. When I graduated from school I went on a grand tour of Europe visiting my favorite late antique sarcophagi. And I visited a lot of baroque churches and just nosed around in the back looking for a sarcophagus. This reminds me very much of those days.

Song: Alessandro Scarlatti's Concerto Grosso No. 1 Grave

DC: I immediately fell in love with Italian baroque music which plays a very important part in my work. It serves as sort of an external gyroscope to modulate my internal gyroscope when I'm working. Because sometimes there's an excess of nervous energy in my brain. And this sort of absorbs and guides it, modulates it, so that I'm able to work.

TS: That was music of Alessandro Scarlatti, the lesser known father of Domenico Scarlatti. David Karp is our guest DJ on KCRW. He's known to many as the Fruit Detective. I'm Tom Schnabel.

Your music that you have here, obviously, it kind of focuses you. I remember reading an article in college that some people studied better with music on… I wasn't one of those. I couldn't do it. I would just want to listen to the music. But for you, listening to Scarlatti helps focus you.

DC: On the other hand, there's other music which is so intense that I would never listen to it when I was working. I'd only listen to it probably in the dark with the lights out focusing all of my energy on it.

Don Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, a great Italian nobleman of the 17th century, notorious for having killed his wife when he found her in flagrante delicto with a lover and he spent the rest of his years in agonizing regret and wrote progressively more and more insanely outlandish madrigals. And when he got to the end of his life, just before his death, it's just so intense. His was a very dramatic life, to say the least.

Song: Carlo Gesualdo's Madrigal from Book 6

DC: One of the things that attracts me to this particular recording is that the basso profundo is none other that Dimitri Nabokov, son of Vladimir Nabokov, my favorite writer. He had a brief career as an opera singer and, evidently, a dramatic singer of Italian art songs. And, not only is it a very beautiful recording, but it's close to my heart for that reason.

TS: That was a madrigal from Book Six, Quinteto Vocale Italiano, by Carlo Gesualdo. My guest is David Karp, who is the Fruit Detective. He's also a freelance writer and photographer specializing in fruit. You really listen to all the little details in the music, don't you? Very carefully.

DC: Very much so. And it's never more important than from my favorite composer, who's really closest to my soul, Gabriel Faure. Not that well known, even among classical aficionados, although his requiem is relatively well known, I'd have to say. He wrote chamber music, piano music and art songs. His late chamber music is a virtually unknown treasure of Western music. And, gosh, if I have to choose just one, it's the allegro, the first movement from the second piano quintet.

Song: Gabriel Faure's Second Piano quintet, first Movement

DC: It's music of Olympian serenity. And, I'm not religious, never have been. But there is something in listening to this music that helps satisfy the religious instincts in me that my reason rejects.

TS: David, thank you so much for joining us today and talking about your love of music and the music you love.

DC: Thanks so much. I really appreciate your inviting me Tom.

[PLAYLIST GOES HERE]

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