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The Organist

Take a weird, thoughtful and pleasurable journey into literature, music, art, philosophy, the internet, language, and history with McSweeney's and KCRW. This unconventional arts-and-culture magazine features contributors and guests like Miranda July, George Saunders, Lena Dunham, Tig Notaro, and Sarah Silverman.  

The Podcast Library of Babel

In the short story “The Library of Babel,” the great Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges  imagined the universe as an infinitely vast library. Every possible book was contained in this infinite library, every possible combination of letters and symbols. Some books were just a single letter, repeated over and over; others, as Borges writes, contained “the detailed history of the future, the autobiographies of the archangels, the true story of your death, the translation of every book into every language…”

Today, the internet resembles this infinite library, where the most important and beautiful ideas are crammed alongside nonsense and garbage and treasure. And this is especially true of podcasts: you would need to listen around the clock for hundreds of years to listen to every podcast ever recorded, and thousands are added to the library every day.

So this season on the Organist, we’re excited to present the iTunes Library of Babel, where we imagine the universe as an infinite catalog of podcasts. Just as in Borges’s story, this library goes on forever: it contains all of the existing podcasts, plus the negation of those podcasts. Some podcasts in the iTunes Library of Babel are episodes of This American Life hosted by a tangerine smoothie; some are just 45 minutes of the sound of a sprinkler soaking a pile of Dell laptops on a hillside in Iceland in 2007.

Submit your imaginary podcast

The Organist podcast seeks writers, producers, sound artists, musicians, and their ex-lovers to submit extracts of imaginary podcasts (or whole episodes if they’re short -- we’re aiming for between 5 seconds and 3 minutes) to this recurring series. Submissions can be audio only, or a script for production. All entries must include a sentence or two suggesting how the host of the Organist will introduce the fictional podcast (or podcast excerpt) that you are conceiving and realizing.

Payment: We will pay you for your work if it’s accepted for publication

Deadline: Beginning immediately; ongoing until the last sentient being in the cosmos expires

Guidelines: Submissions can be audio only or a script or both. They must include a title and short description for host to read. Please also include a short biography of yourself.

Send it to: organist@mcsweeneys.net with the subject line: BABEL SUBMISSION

Do you have a story to share about making art and making a living?

The Organist is partnering with the Creative Independent, a resource for emotional and practical guidance for creative people, to produce an episode about creativity and finances. We know making a living as an artist can be incredibly hard, and there are hundreds—maybe even thousands—of reasons why choosing to sustain yourself as a working artist can feel like a risk. For this collaborative podcast episode, we’re looking to learn a little more about your actual experiences trying to achieve financial stability as a creative person. Maybe you’ve figured it all out and have wisdom to share, or maybe you’re in a financial hole—either way, we want to hear from you.

Tell Us Your Story

To share a story about how you’ve been able (or unable) to make a living as an artist, call or text (814) RL-SNAIL.

Your story can be about:

  • Art - or student loan-related debt 
  • The day job that sustains your practice 
  • Your cooperative/creative business model
  • Why you’re in an unexpected financial situation 
  • Ways you’ve successfully (or unsuccessfully) sold your creative work
  • Something else you feel the need to share (as long as it’s related to the theme of supporting yourself as a creative person)

If you text us, rest assured that your story will be read by our team only, and if we choose to share it on the podcast, we’ll use a voice actor to read what you share (your phone number will never be shared).

If you call and leave a message, let us know if you’d like us to disguise your voice for extra anonymity, should we choose to use the recording in the podcast. And, if you’re open to us following up with you about your story, include your email address in your message (this is completely optional).

— The Organist and The Creative Independent

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