2020年11月13日 星期五

The Daily: The Sounds of a Divided America

We listened in on the country’s partisan echo chambers. Plus, the music behind Modern Love.

Hey everyone, we made it to Friday (though after last week, this one felt like a breeze). If you missed any episodes in your post-election daze, here’s a recap:

We also released a special episode breaking down the election results with three Times journalists. We hope you all get some rest this weekend. And if you’re needing a break from the news, catch up on this week’s episode of Modern Love.

A portrait of the country

Katina Driver, an Atlanta woman who brought her niece with her to vote, holds up a Biden-Harris sign. “When the projections were made, Katina called her niece and cried over the phone telling her ‘because she did, you can,’” producer Robert Jimison, who spoke with Katina, said. “You could hear it in their voices, the sense of relief.”Robert Jimison

Last week, America’s partisan echo chambers were playing different soundtracks.

For many supporters of President-elect Joe Biden, victory sounded like banging pots, honking horns and popping champagne corks, looping on their social media feeds and outside their windows.


But loss, too, had a sound. And in the hours after the U.S. election winner was announced, some of the 71 million-plus Americans who backed President Trump were grieving. So we wondered: What did those disparate responses sound like? And how could we weave them together into one portrait of the country in this moment?

Senior editor Alix Spiegel had a pitch. “I have an idea for an episode!!!!” she wrote on Slack last Saturday, just after The Times announced Mr. Biden had won the election. Alix suggested that the team use the unique access of Daily producers, who fanned out across the country after the pandemic shut down our offices, to tape wherever they were.

Alix had already recorded one scene the day before, when the results were still uncertain. “She got in a car and drove to Pennsylvania with no idea what she would find there,” our executive producer, Lisa Tobin, said. What Alix found, outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center, were the sounds of victory and grief colliding.

While volunteers were still counting votes inside the convention center, outside, Mr. Biden’s supporters were tentatively celebrating his slow inch toward victory, dancing to music on a loudspeaker. On the sidewalk nearby was a protester, crying because she felt the election was being stolen from Mr. Trump based on unsubstantiated rumors that were circulating on social media.


It was this “diversity of reaction” the team was trying to record, Alix said. “And the thing that audio is so wonderful at is really capturing, in a visceral way, how people feel.”

The scene Alix captured was just the beginning. On Saturday night and Sunday, Daily producers and New York Times reporters recorded scenes across the country: In Georgia, which turned blue for the first time in nearly three decades, Robert Jimison sought out Black women, “the demographic group that most ardently” supported Mr. Biden, he said. When we found out the reporter Astead Herndon “would be in Texas talking to supporters of the president, we asked him to record everything he heard using his phone,” the producer Rachel Quester said.

Finally, the producers Jessica Cheung and Andy Mills followed up with guests we previously had on the show. Jess called a woman who once feared deportation from Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, but now, with the prospect of a new administration, said, “I’m not scared anymore.”

Meanwhile, Andy spoke with a woman in Wisconsin who felt far less hopeful. Debbie Johnson, living in a red county, was avoiding social media because of all “the anger” she had been seeing. “That would make me feel less anxious, if we all just get along, I guess,” she told Andy.


Andy Mills checked in with Debbie Johnson, a bartender at the Al-Gen Dinner Club in Rhinelander, Wis., whom we first met on an episode of The Field.

Ultimately, we decided to knit together all these different people and places, the anger and the hope, in the episode — without a narrator. “If you give listeners the actual people, in actual moments,” Alix said, “often that gives them information they need.”

In the key of Modern Love

When we video-call Dan Powell, one of our composers, all we see are instruments everywhere.Carly Piersol

The new season of the Modern Love podcast kicked off a few weeks ago. Now produced entirely by The Times, the show feels and sounds a little different than before. The composer Dan Powell, above, explains his approach to creating the show’s musical theme:

By Dan Powell

The challenge of writing the theme music for Modern Love was finding a way to capture the column’s breadth. There are infinite permutations of “modern love,” and as a reader, I’ve always been drawn to the column for its stories that span ages, identities and types of love (platonic, romantic, the imaginary and fantastical).

The composer Frank Zappa once said, “There are more love songs than anything else. If songs could make you do something, we’d all love one another.” Beyond the sheer number of love songs out there, there are also more than a few genres and styles that have become coded into our musical vocabulary as signifying love. So for our theme music, we decided that a multigenre approach could help capture the scope of stories we’d be telling on the podcast.

For the intro, I wanted to quote the romantic string arrangements of classic Hollywood scores. I looked to Oscar Peterson’s album “In a Romantic Mood” as a reference, as it has a soaring, vintage schmaltziness. I built the opening to have a crescendoing swoop of strings. This blooms into a section inspired by neo-soul music, featuring keyboards, drum machines, electric cello and atmospheric guitar work by our senior technical manager (and my boss), Brad Fisher. I wanted to create the feeling of fast-forwarding from old love to new love — from memories and nostalgia, to future and fantasy. It sounds like this.

Fun fact: The percussion clicks and shakes used in the theme are all made from household objects — like cups, bowls and kitchenware. Modern Love essays often take place in or around the author’s home (home is where the heart is, as they say). So we wanted to use familiar percussive sounds to evoke a domestic setting. Take a listen.

Once we composed the song, we added one final layer: what we call “the seltzer montage.” It’s a simple set of sparkling chimes, intertwined with a handful of clips from iconic movies and songs that use the word “love.” You can think of it as opening the pandora’s box of the column.

Look out for a new episode of Modern Love every Wednesday. You can find it here or wherever you get your podcasts.

That’s it for The Daily newsletter. See you next week.

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