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Tuesday, October 18, 2011 - 07:00 PM

Kohn Ashmore’s voice is arresting. It stopped his friend Andy Mills in his tracks the first time they met. But in this short about the power of friendship and familiarity, Andy explains that Kohn’s voice isn't the most striking thing about him at all.

When Andy first met Kohn, he saw a college freshman in a wheelchair who moved slow and talked slow. But it only took one conversation for Andy to realize that Kohn was also witty and observant. They clicked so effortlessly over lunch one day that Andy went ahead and asked an audacious question: why was Kohn so slow? Kohn told him that when he was 8-years-old, he was hit by a car. He was in a coma for five months, and when he finally woke up, he everything about him was slowed down ... except for his mind.

That lunch quickly led to deep discussions and lots of late nights spent joking around and playing music. But when Andy decided to interview Kohn on tape last summer, Kohn told him another story about himself that caught Andy completely off guard--and made Andy question what it means to be truly familiar with something ... like the sound of your own voice, or that of a friend.

Neurologist Orrin Devinsky joins us to answer some questions raised by Andy and Kohn’s story, and the band Hudson Branch helps us hear, and feel, the world through Kohn’s ears.

Hudson Branch is: Matthew and Jacob Boll, Corey and Cobey Bienert, and Enoch Kim. Becky Beighley, Andy Mills, and Kohn Ashmore join them to sing an adaptation of Damien Rice's "Grey Room."


Orrin Devinsky and Andy Mills


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Comments [117]

Sara W from Minnesota

This story made me weep. Kohn is an amazing man and I'm glad he realizes how incredible his voice is. What a fabulous story! Thank you Radio Lab...

Dec. 02 2017 03:58 PM
Kristina from Madison, AL

Interesting segment with a lot of thoughts to ponder. Although it is difficult for some people to comprehend, it is similar to reading a "difficult" passage, with words we do not use on a regular basis silently. The words are pronounced perfectly in our mind while we are reading silently. However, when we try to pronounce difficult names , words, or a foreign language, it comes out differently when we speak out loud.

Oct. 18 2015 11:10 AM
Christina from New Hampshire

I just caught this story on radiolab today. I found Kohn's voice to be beautiful, and for reasons that I am unable to explain, listening to the song made me cry like a baby.

Thank you to Kohn and to the producers of this story.

Aug. 15 2015 01:34 PM

When Kohn communicates with his parents, does he see his signing slowed down?

Oct. 25 2013 08:12 PM
jane and jim l from pennsylvania.

we hardly know where to begin. you have, with the story, hit a very sensitive nail right on the head. my husband, jim, who is now severely disabled, was in the car while I ran into the office supply store for some printer ink. when I came out, he gestured that I should be silent and listen[he pointed at the radio]. we listened to the story about Kohl, and though I had missed much of it, I soon heard what had captured my wonderful husband's attention
Like Kohl, jims speech has become dysfunctional, after a lifetime of being a medical profsional , musician, athlete, outdoorsman. you catch the drift. For the last dozen years, he has become increasingly disabled by a progressive neurological disease. He sounds , now , like Kohl. "they" have decided it isn't Parkinsons, but Parkinsoniism, that is, the symptoms are similar but levodopa in any form doesn't help. Jim has had two sets of surgeries to install DBS, deep brain stim to areas of his brain the size of a pea, to help quell the terrible tremors. but his speech has worsened. The doctors say "oh that is because of the wires running down his neck to the generators. but jim feels otherwise. Especially after today, he is sure that it is a brain connection dysfunction, which could be related to a diagnosis of PSP. Progressive Supranuclear Palsy is a debilitating brain disorder in the family of "atypical parkinsons" . it could hav e been caused by envronmental toxins in his work as an orthotist prosthetist,a genetic predisposition with relatives having different but problems,getting hit in the head as a child. and several other factors.
jim's speech is SO much like Kohl's. When we discuss it , JIm feels he is speaking the "kings English" but he is not. The doctors say it is related to the wires going to the generators like pacemkers in his upper chest, as they pass his vocal chods. JIM disagrees.. the fight starts.

hearing the story opens so many boxes of questions. mainly , can it be fixed? or lessened. JIM went thru a program I believe silberman, designed to help parkinson's patients. it helped some , and for a while.
comments and ideas welcomed, suggestions on who should see jim, who is not in th e frame of mind to try any more meds. thanks , im so glad he got to hear it, made his troubles seem less to hear others have similar ones.

Oct. 06 2013 09:46 PM
Tyler Zimmerman from Ann Arbor, MI

I was listening to the story last night and I thought of something I remember from a class last year. If we believe that Khon's world is the product of how he is capable of processing it, then I don't think his perspective of how he speaks is really all that strange. As we know he is mentally high functioning, but if it is the case that the problem with his speech comes from areas that translate the mental representations of the words he wishes to use into the physical components of speech production, then he may very well be 'listening' to the mental representations. There are many levels of processing involved with language production, and if everything goes right up until articulation, then the majority of his speech production happens correctly. Only during some part of the articulatory phase do the words come out slow.

Now, we know that instant feedback is important in language. We'd think that his own feedback would have keyed him into the problem. But if the feedback does not correspond to how he had just perceived his own speech, could it not be the case that the feedback mechanisms themselves have been altered to accommodate what his mind constructs? Or even that the information provided by the feedback mechanisms is 'thrown out]' somewhere during processing because it doesn't match up?

Just a thought.

I really enjoyed listening to the story last night.
Damien Rice plays some good stuff.

Thanks Radiolab

Oct. 05 2013 11:39 AM
steve kudlak

I really was impressed by the song grey grey room. The version on youtube is alas 38seconds long. The lyrics "I always thought of my self as I heard myself '" states the feeling well Bringing up Kohn's haunting vioce makes it very impressive. Especially when he says "grey grey room" at the end.

Oct. 03 2013 06:35 AM
Chastity Hamilton from Georgia

Hey Guys! Really enjoyed this podcast! I am just curious...What is the fundamentalist church that Andy and Kohn were members of? Thanks! Keep up the good work!

Mar. 14 2013 04:53 AM

I felt soo much in this episode! At the end I was left thinking "I love these guys and I love radiolab!

Jan. 07 2013 06:29 AM
Brian from NH

You equaled This American Life with this one! Just heard for first time on WBUR pledge drive -- I trust it brings in some calls.

Dec. 11 2012 02:03 PM

To everyone who is asking why radiolab did not speed up Khon's voice- I think it is because this recorded show is just as much for Khan, as it is for us.

I think the idea leans more toward appreciating his voice and who he is, rather than trying to standardize it.

Dec. 07 2012 04:01 PM
Wongai from Shawnigan Lake BC Canada

I've never left a comment on anything before. And I'm not going to leave one now as I'm utterly speechless and I can't see through my tears.

Nov. 29 2012 03:50 PM
Kristen Lee from Hillsboro IL

It's good to hear your voice again, Andy! I always did love your stories:) You and Saul.

Nov. 14 2012 05:07 PM
Lacey from Columbus, GA

I caught this rebroadcast last night. I sat in the parking space in front of my apt. listening to Kohn's song. I cried because it was so haunting and beautiful. Wow.

Oct. 23 2012 10:44 AM
Teesh from Milwaukee, WI

I pulled into my garage during the middle of this show and sat there while wiping tears from my eyes. This was so moving. Kohn's song at the end...beautiful.

Oct. 13 2012 08:03 PM
JPCook from Behind the Orange Curtain, CA

This episode blew me away. It was so personal, touching and human. After listening lately to the dueling banjos that our political race has become, and the commentary about Big Bird, I found myself wondering who in their right mind would want to defund the tiny piece of budget deducated to this service? Who could listen to this and think it is some kind of leftist indoctrination plot or propaganda message? I would love to send this episode to all of those who think PBS or public radio is unnecessary or redundant. Well done once again, RadioLab!

Oct. 11 2012 01:51 PM
Alessandro from NYC

Goose bumps and tears summerize this masterpiece for me.

Sep. 08 2012 02:01 PM
nick from San Diego

I cried 2 times during this beautifully done show. Thanks for sharing.

Jul. 23 2012 01:53 AM
Sean Vo Kirkpatrick from Portland, OR

This story was a perfect blend of interesting science and touching humanity. Utterly brilliant. Also, that song made me cry...

Jul. 18 2012 08:56 PM
jackson from seattle

I think all the comments reveling in the 'variety of life' are slightly ridiculous. I apparently have a speech problem and finding that it prevents me from communicating with anyone. Strangely, some people think I sound erudite & British, but most people think I sound mentally impaired (literally). It is very frustrating to have this invisible wall between you and your possibilities. I would appreciate a follow-up with ideas on speech therapy, voice/acting therapy, whatever. Maybe to friends it's an endearing 'quirk', but it keeps them from sharing anything more than "hello, nice day" - and it's ruined any chance of a decent job.

Jul. 11 2012 01:26 PM
Tom from DC

Just heard this today....rebroadcast I guess. It was a remarkable story of friendship. Kohn is a inspiring person and Andy Mills proves he is as great a person as he is a story teller. I was moved to tears by the beautiful friendship. Thanks to both of them for sharing their story.

Jul. 01 2012 11:16 PM
saultst from McLean, VA

Khon's story reminded me of the first time I heard my own voice on the answering machine and realized that I speak English with an accent. I came to the US at 18 and learned English as a second language, but heard myself speaking like everybody else.

Jul. 01 2012 07:21 PM

This is one of the most moving and insightful story about the value of humanity, humility, patience, life challenges, etc.

A serious story about life.

Jun. 28 2012 01:57 PM

This was an incredibly touching and inspiring story. The focus on whether Kohn was being honest was demeaning and an unnecessary distraction from a beautiful story of friendship. Thank you Kohn and Andy.

Jun. 23 2012 11:40 AM
Ben from Cincinnati, OH

I am very interested to know what speed Kohn's voice needs to be brought to so that he we all can hear it the way that he does while speaking.

May. 04 2012 02:39 PM
LT from NJ

As much as we would all like to hear how Kohn hears himself, simply speeding his voice up wouldn't have gotten us there. It doesn't correct his pronunciation so I agree with the decision not to do it.
In any case, we should all be more like Andy.
Great story, guys!

Mar. 31 2012 03:12 PM
kathryn murphy from Bozeman, MT

Thank you for this story. My kids and I listened to it and it was so real and true. That song was amazing!

Mar. 31 2012 01:05 PM
Tieran from Cleveland, OH

Wow! What a great story! I'm inspired to not be hesitant to talk with and get to know people who may look similar to Kohn and get to know them.

Mar. 29 2012 03:18 PM

so depreseed,I can not understsnd better, I will listen more.

Mar. 11 2012 06:40 AM
Anna from San Francisco

Woah. Listened to this one driving home alone in my car last night and was an absolute wreck when the collaboration with Kohn and Hudson Branch played through. That was incredible. This story is fascinating from a scientific perspective and utterly moving simply as a story of sweet friendship. I'm really glad Kohn and Andy (and co) found eachother. I agree with a previous commenter and wonder how Kohn's parents' deafness affected him post-accident if at all, and would have loved to hear him be a more direct part of the show. Great work all around! And keep rocking at life, Andy and Kohn!

Feb. 28 2012 10:42 AM


Feb. 27 2012 05:20 PM

I kept wondering what Kohn's voice would sound like if it was mechanically sped up. Would it sound more like he thinks it sounds?

Feb. 19 2012 05:18 PM
rogesgallery from Deer Lake WA

The comments here are interesting when analyzed in context with the story. Some heard a study piece on self perception and therefore questioned the lack of further experimentation. Others heard an essay about two friends curious about their similarities and differences. Certainly I learned something from this but I was most moved by the openness of Kohn and Andy's friendship. Aint consciousness crazy.

Feb. 18 2012 06:14 AM
Charlotte from Wisconsin

I completely understand what Andy means about familiarity with speech. I work in the special education field, and Kohn's speech patterns sound very similar to a person with cerebral palsy. I had no problems distinguishing what he was saying from the beginning, and I've seen this occur frequently when regular education teachers talk to my students - I can understand the student perfectly, while they have trouble.

Absolutely fascinating piece - I could have listened to it for a full hour!

Feb. 17 2012 05:50 PM
Hannah from Anchorage AK

This story made my day! Such a wonderful story of friendship!

Feb. 06 2012 08:07 PM
Haley from VA

I keep trying to listen to these great shows online, and they keep stopping before they're over! It's like they don't load fully. What the hell is the problem? It's really frustrating!

Jan. 31 2012 01:18 PM
Sarah from Stockton, CA

An absolutely beautiful piece of journalism that makes me cry every time I hear it (that would be 3 times now). Love the show. Thanks for making it!

Jan. 11 2012 04:04 AM
john from Norway

What touching and insightful piece!
There are so many sides to self-awareness, it seems. I am convinced that we really do not hear our own voices when we speak, or even when we sing. Can you hear your own accent? You don’t have an accent, you say? I live and work in a language environment that is not my own American English, even after 30 years. I am sure I sound like Zsa Zsa and Arnold in my adopted language. However, I am not aware of how I speak unless I hear my recorded voice – I do not like what I hear.
In my work with nonprofessional public speakers, many shun use of a microphone. The shortly delayed feedback from their amplified voices provides a different awareness that is distressing. And listening and viewing a recording is worse. Professionals surely become more inured to the sound of their own voices.
And what do we see when we look in a mirror? I don’t see what I see in a photograph. Is it myopia or self-delusion? Or is it another wonder of the human mind that is mundanely amazing when it works well, and even more amazing when slightly impaired.

Dec. 23 2011 09:05 PM

This podcast was simply arresting. I listen to it all the time, but mostly to and from work on the DC Metro. This podcast wrapped me up completely, and when it was done, I was well past my stop. It stayed with me for days after. Amazing. I haven't been this touched in a long time. Thank you.

Dec. 19 2011 09:37 PM
becky hittner from Evansville, IN


Dec. 13 2011 03:27 PM
Rick from Los Angeles

Another profoundly moving story, congratulations. I was a bit surprised to hear so many listeners asking to speed Kohn's voice up to indicate what he heard in his head. I think this is what we think his voice should sound like rather than what he is "hearing" in his own head. It's not that his internal voice sounds so different, it's that his spoken voice does not sound strange to him while he is talking. It is the most natural sound in the world.

Dec. 07 2011 05:20 PM
Langsley from Jonesboro,AR

Like the website so much!!! :D

Dec. 02 2011 09:53 PM
Hukum Singh

utterly wrecked!

Thank you for this story from the bottom of my heart! This story raises questions for all of us. 1. Do others hear us as we do inside our heads? 2. Why are we not getting through too? 3. What is the nature of our identity? 4. WHY DON'T PEOPLE LISTEN?

Thank you for pointing out that it is a miracle that we are able to communicate each another being at all. Perhaps we all speak a slightly different languages and operate on very different frequencies.

Wahe Guru!

Nov. 29 2011 03:03 AM

I listened to Mr. Dietrich's time compression. While Kohn attempts to sing, he suffers from many people do, tone deafness. This makes understanding his singing even more difficult. I appreciate Mr. Dietrich's efforts. I feel that we are hearing Kohn more like how he hears himself. Thanks.

Nov. 27 2011 11:45 AM

It's a big world, everyone, and we've all got a place in it! It's useful to recognize that we all have disabilities of one sort or another. Acceptance of differences = something to strive for.

Nov. 26 2011 08:00 PM
Chip from ATL GA

Damn, man-it's 9AM on a Wednesday and you've got me in tears at work. Such a cool piece of work you have put together, Andy; you deserve all the accolades you have received, and more. And Kohn-you are awesome, and have great taste in music ;)

Nov. 23 2011 09:24 AM
david from berkeley

Fascinating story. I wonder: Since Kohn liked and would sing along with music, presumably out loud, how could he not realize that he was not keeping up with the vocalist on the song?

i.e., how did he perceive his own singing out loud along with a song on the radio?

Nov. 22 2011 01:38 PM

Kohn's discovery of his slow voice...

I had a very similar experience. As a child I had a severe lisp that I never knew about. Everyone assumed I could hear it, but I couldn't. I had no idea. As a freshman in high school I made a recording for a school project and couldn't figure out what was going on. I thought something was wrong with the cheap equipment I was recording with. Eventually I found out that my voice had always been this was heartbreaking.

Thank you for telling Kohn's story.

Nov. 22 2011 05:28 AM
Mike Klein from Indpls

I also assumed his voice would be sped up and played back at some point of the story. I assume that would have been a pretty heavy moment.

Nov. 17 2011 10:59 PM
Pieter Fourie from Singapore

julie you can't even spell in your native language so i guess we'll just have to cope if you 'loose' interest. git.

Nov. 17 2011 12:24 PM
lee from NW, England

13:58 - i cried.

Nov. 13 2011 01:07 PM
Julie from New York

Really interesting! Love radiolab! I hope this doesnt sound cruel but I prefered hearing about Kohn then hearing him speak. Reason is, it is difficult to listen to him speak. If i had to listen to someone speak very slowly, I'd likely loose interest.

Nov. 12 2011 10:55 PM
Ben Blohowiak from Charlottesville, VA

I like the song and Kohn's reaction to it. Cheers!

Nov. 12 2011 05:51 PM

I found Kohn's story to be really interesting, but it was jarring how much you were talking _about_ him instead of _with_ him. Is there a reason he was unavailable for a further interview? It just felt... I don't know, like he was being studied without being involved. It was odd and dehumanizing. He's obviously a very interesting man, and I would have liked to hear his perspective a bit more.

Nov. 09 2011 02:03 PM
Justin from Seattle, WA

Hi Jad,

What would Korn's voice sound like if it was sped up?

I was really surprised you didn't ask, and then do this this.

Nov. 08 2011 11:12 PM
Diana from New Orleans

This is so beautiful!! What a story.

Nov. 08 2011 05:30 PM
Friendship from Manhattan, NY & Eagle Rock, CA

Kohn - Thanks for demonstrating how wonderful it is to live in a diverse and beautiful world :)

Nov. 07 2011 05:30 AM
Friendship from Manhattan, NY & Eagle Rock, CA

Kohn - Thanks for demonstrating how wonderful it is to live in a diverse and beautiful world :)

Nov. 07 2011 05:27 AM
Laura from Berlin

Thankyou so much for the Podcast, this story really moved me.

Nov. 06 2011 12:42 PM
Faith from Los Angeles, CA

My mother had a very thick accent and hard as I tried, I was never able to hear it, even though others who met her for the first time always commented on it. She was never able to hear it, either, and had to rely on feedback from others to know what it sounded like.

Neither my mother nor myself were able to hear the accent, even on recordings.

Nov. 05 2011 08:42 PM

Thanks for making me tear up again a**holes! It's a little bit of a shame that this was a short since, as the other guys said, you couldn't go into the part of the parents being deaf and how that had any effect it at all, in both Kohn and his siblings growing up.

For John from Texas, you know, I am not surprised hearing that his voice speeds up when singing, as there are other verbal-mental problems where singing seems to "cure" the problem.

With stuttering, and even with tourettes.

Nov. 05 2011 06:31 PM
John Dietrich from Austin, TX

Very moving story. I was definitely among those who were immediately curious to know what Kohn's voice would sound like if time-compressed (at the same pitch) to a speed closer to that of "normal" speech. But at the same time, I completely understand the reasons for not doing that and, on balance, I think it would have been more of a distraction from the real message of the story than an aid to understanding anything about Kohn. I suppose part of me thought, "Well if you just speed that up, he might sound just like he sounds to himself."

Having done just that, I think it does reveal a few things that are interesting. It turns out that you have to time-compress Kohn's speech by about 60 percent to approximate a normal speaking pace. However, as a musician myself what I found especially remarkable is that his "singing voice" is not extended by the same degree. Assuming that Kohn is "hearing" the tempo of the Damien Rice song in his head, I used that recording as a time reference and discovered that, when singing, Kohn's voice need only be compressed by about 30 percent. In other words, he sings faster than he talks. But in fact the difference is even more subtle than that -- only the sung notes themselves are elongated, while the spaces between them are nearly in the actual tempo. This suggests that Kohn is indeed hearing the correct tempo of the song and attempting to fit his elongated notes to that framework.

For those who are curious, I have posted an MP3 of most of Kohn's portion of the interview. The spoken portions are compressed by about 60 percent, while the sung portions are compressed only about 30 percent. (In all cases the pitch is left unchanged.) Feel free to have a listen -- it's pretty fascinating.

Nov. 02 2011 02:48 AM
Helena from Melbourne, Australia

Great story.

Did anyone notice the child at the end reading the sponsor notes? Listen to how quickly he reads the web address compared to the sentences. I've noticed this before in friends' children - web addresses, hash tags, they are just like other vocabulary. I wonder what lexicon rolled off my tongue with ease and surprised my parent's generation?

Love your work guys.

Nov. 01 2011 04:57 AM
Doug Dickeson from Lincoln, NE

Beautiful, beautiful story that was told with just the right mixture of humor and empathy. I, too had tears when the song began, and when I tried to tell the story to my wife.

Oct. 29 2011 05:33 PM

Great story but I'm left with 2 questions:

1- just like everyone else, why didn't you speed up his voice?

2- did I really hear that both of his parents are deaf?!? Why wasn't this explored? It could have been fascinating to if this affected his speech development!

Radiolab is excellent but seem to have been dropping the ball a bit recently... Get back on the horse!

Oct. 28 2011 04:18 AM
ToddinHB from Hermosa Beach, CA

Great story, as usual. It brought to mind two reference points from my life:
1) When I was a grad student, I had a friend from mainland China with a very thick accent, so I performed a little experiment. I told him how I - a non-Chinese speaker - imitated what I thought Chinese people sounded like (as any sketch comedy show might). I then asked him to tell me how Chinese people imitated Americans. He then spouted some nonsense that was vaguely English, but with a dialect that reminded me of John Wayne. Very funny!
2) When I worked at Club Med, I was surrounded by nationals from around the world - French, Belgian, Italian, Morrocan, Brazilian, etc. After a few months, I became quite adept at understanding their English through their thick accents. It is definitely a learning process.

Oct. 27 2011 02:25 PM
Devin from Honolulu

Good story. Listening to it I felt the same way some posters here felt: speed his voice up incrementally, play it back to him, and stop when the speed matches what he hears in his head. Not for the song but just for us listeners to understand how different the two speeds sound. Considering Jad's audiophile talents, it is so puzzling that this wasn't done. Maybe in the future on a show exploring our brain's tendency to distort reality?

Oct. 26 2011 04:20 PM
Michael Rabinovitz from London

As much as I loved the show, why didn't anyone record his voice, and then speed it up to hear what his voice must sound like to him in his head? That seemed to me to be the first thing to do, and I kept waiting for it. Has anyone done this?

Oct. 26 2011 07:35 AM

Just beautiful.

Oct. 25 2011 10:26 PM
DonaldK from Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

Listening from far away, South Africa. It was cute. We have had TV for only 36 years. Up 18 y.o. it was radio all the time. Since the radio content changed big time. It was then so more humanlike. Just like this story - my first. I've never had a TV, have never been interested in them. The story says so much more, and you hear so much more. I think what with the TV we miss so much more. Keep on your work. I'll be back.

Oct. 25 2011 01:06 PM
DerekWongJC from China

What a beautiful story! It's really inspiring.

Oct. 25 2011 12:45 PM
Tamara Ashmore from Warner Robins, Ga

Thanks for the interview of my Nephew Kohn he is amazing. He is an interesting young man. I was there with him in the hospital for awhile during the process of him coming out of a coma. I feel ya his voice was odd for the longest time but very clear now. I took a voice recorder into the hospital and recorded his voice when he was 8 years old. I did this because I am a singer and I thought it might be fun to play and stimulate him . We had the best time ask him about the Mr. Naked Doll laughing . The reason his family did not say any thing about his voice to much is because we accept him for who he is Andy. So how he hears his voice is strange if he hears it normal inside but cool to I think The last time we visited i said to him hey dude, can ya spead it up I ain't got all day man. I was refering to how slow he was talking but kidding with him We laughed as we always do when we visit. I want a copy of him singing that song he sang on here please. He used to sing a song She's so high by Maroon 5 was the words in the course he loved that song as well. I love him so much he is so smart and so funny and can be what ever he wants to be. I think he could be a brillant author as proven since he has already written a book. He is strong and stubborn but his family has loved him so much and still does let me say that to him. Good luck on your adventures Kohn you rock. Aunt MIMI.

Oct. 25 2011 11:06 AM
Jim Moncrieff from Richmond, Virginia USA

This piece was my first exposure to RadioLab and wow! I sat in my car listening, parked outside the office, just spellbound...had to wipe away tears before I went in. Powerful!

Oct. 25 2011 12:38 AM

Why are you guys so damn good at telling powerful/heartbreaking/inspiring stories?

Oct. 24 2011 08:58 PM
Greg Jackson from North Platte, NE

I once had taken broadcasting classes to better deal with rapid and forced speech (ADHD, Hypo-mania). It proved effective in all ways. As with most people, I was unfamiliar with hearing my own voice. However, there eventually was a point where my perception of what I thought I sounded like, actually matched what I heard.on tape. For me, this was an illuminating realization and gave me an internal reference point for speech. I now knew what I sounded like to others, and became aware when I was way off.

Oct. 24 2011 01:10 PM
Zara Lawler from NYC

What a beautifully done story--I got tears in my eyes when the song started.

I was thinking that maybe the difference between Kohn's perception of himself and the reality that we hear is more about the pace at which his brain understands what he is hearing. Maybe his brain can listen/understand quickly when he is listening to others, and then it slows down to his speaking speed when he is, if his brain speed matches both his own speaking at some times and other people's speaking at other times, then both would sound "normal" to him: speech moving at the speed of thought.

Oct. 23 2011 06:43 PM

I love the short, however the original Piece is quite AMAZING!

Oct. 22 2011 08:39 PM
Eddie Lin

Another spectacular show! Perhaps your best Short ever!!

Oct. 22 2011 02:25 PM
harprose from Oregon

We see outward with our eyes, all the while I think we imagine how we appear to others. I think it's the same thing with our other senses. I listened to & watched a recording of myself, and had such a similar reaction. I had diligently practiced with a metronome for goodness sake! What was going on in my brain? What keeps us from truly perceiving?

Oct. 22 2011 02:06 AM
Jim H from r

Wonderful story. I wondered if you also thought of speeding up the voice by removing snippets? Maybe to shiw what Kohn imagines himself to say/ sing

Oct. 21 2011 04:20 PM
J Mac from Durham, NC

I love the idea of taking that song and giving it to musicians to put it to music to try to get at what he might hear when he's singing it. It reminds me of this professional artist, Dave Divries, who takes kids' drawings of monsters and paints them "realistically."

Oct. 21 2011 03:00 PM
Dogs on Tour from Chicago, IL


Our pieces are located in the "Records" section. And on our bandcamp.

Oct. 21 2011 01:13 PM
Rachel from chicago

@ lisa from new york

you can get it free here

check out the rest of their stuff too, they're great!

Oct. 21 2011 11:46 AM
Lisa from New York, NY

This is so touching. I'm in love with the song and I'd love to buy it. :)

Oct. 20 2011 08:44 PM
Henry Beazlie from Akron, Ohio, Earth

Its hard to find the words...The power of self recognition; the inevitability of resonance with another; reciprocity; the infinite capacity of one's mind to configure a world and one's participation in it. I work with the sick and wounded. I am forever astounded at the "power greater than ourselves" that each individual has to heal, and then share it with others in their own fashion. This story truely nails its.

Oct. 20 2011 08:26 PM
Philip Kizer

Nice story, very effective way to point out that perceived differences that most assume are deficiencies are usually much more complicated and interesting that most people think. (And in some cases like this one apparently merely inconveniences that do not indicate any more severe hidden problems despite naive assumptions.)

Ending with the song added a very nice touch, and similar to some other commenters, I thought his style wasn't really that far off of some professional musicians, I was particularly reminded of William S. Burroughs.

I did keep wondering what he might think of a recording of his own voice that has been sped up with pitch held constant.

Oct. 20 2011 02:38 PM
Don from Austin

Beautiful story of friendship, and fascinating as well. Love you guys, hope to be listening to Radiolab for many years to come.

Oct. 20 2011 01:14 PM
Greg O from cambridge mass

I've grown accustomed to his pace
His breathing out his breathing in...

Oct. 20 2011 11:12 AM

love love love this

Oct. 19 2011 07:24 PM
d8vidt from Atlanta, GA

i am wiping tears!! sooooooo beautiful

Oct. 19 2011 07:21 PM
Lucas Pattan from NYC

Jad - if anyone asks why you have received a Genius Grant, have them listen to this short. Stunning work.

Oct. 19 2011 07:13 PM
Jay from Washington, DC

When you started talking about familiarity, I couldn't help but think about how just about all of us react when we hear ourselves recorded: we don't think it sounds like ourselves. I may recognize that it's my voice, perhaps because of my word choice or style, but it doesn't sound like I think I sound.

I've heard people say that the reason we sound differently to ourselves is that we hear our own voice through bone conduction. But maybe it's something deeper than that.

Oct. 19 2011 06:34 PM
Hope from Salt Lake City, UT

I cried my way through this piece while sitting at my desk at work. Beautiful.

Oct. 19 2011 06:23 PM
Bea Alvarez from Chicago

Thanks for this enlightening story and how you can never judge a book by it's cover. Our fast-paced, overloaded, technology driven world rewards quickness and speed and tends to assume that slowness or taking it slow is a disability and disadvantage in life. I live in both worlds and I can tell you that there is a virtue and depth in taking it slowly that is too often overlooked or just misunderstood by most in this fast-paced world.

Oct. 19 2011 05:36 PM
John from Texas

Two anecdotes from a retired neurologist:

1) During a painstakingly slow interview with a patient who I could barely understand, I finally asked if she had ever had speech therapy for her severe speech impediment. She looked confused and startled, and replied: "Wa pees m pemen?"

2) When video recorders first came out, I taped a medical student with a head tremor, who had been told he had one but could not see it in a mirror, and his only "problem" was trying to look into a microscope. He was shocked and appalled when he saw what he looked like.

Oct. 19 2011 04:13 PM
Jean from Orlando

Beautifully done boys

Oct. 19 2011 04:01 PM
Premal from Downingtown, PA

What a mind-blowing story! While there may be many ways to view this story, I see it as a story about true friendship. One of the best stories you've done people...

Oct. 19 2011 02:40 PM
Margaret from Chicago

The natural interaction between Kohn and the music warms my heart and breaks it all at the same time.

I loved this story. Thank you for sharing this!

Oct. 19 2011 02:03 PM
Sara Hamling from San Francisco

This was such a great short, I was choking back tears on the bus.

Can you guys please please make their version of that song available for download somehow? I absolutely love it.

Oct. 19 2011 01:03 PM
marc cardwell

like the others have said, this was an incredibly moving story. regarding anon's ridiculous comment: i'm gonna donate twice to spite him. i LOVE the credits on RL!

Oct. 19 2011 12:34 PM

I think orchestrating Kohn's voice with the music was an amazing way to bring even more beauty and inspiration to his voice, rather than speeding it up. He was very moved by what Andy and Hudson Branch created with his story and with is voice ,and I think that is what matters.

Oct. 19 2011 10:48 AM
Jeff from Brazil

I agree with Carter - it would have been great to try to speed up Kohn's voice, so that he and others could hear him sing as he had imagined himself singing . . .

Oct. 19 2011 10:41 AM
David Hirschberg from Central Park North

Very interesting story. It just so happens that I am listening to this on my mac instead of my iphone today and I almost did not recognize Jad and Robert's voices as they were speaking so see I usually listen to this podcast on 2.0x on my iphone. I have a routine and some podcasts I listen to on my iphone at 2.0x on the subway or running in the park and some on my mac when I am home on the weekends (1x). Today my routine was different and listening to you on my mac caused a little discordance that took me some time to get used to. I wonder if the cadence of speech is more the expectation of the listener and not the speaker.....Kids seem to not care about how slowly people speak adults less so.....If Matt can learn to adjust to this perhaps the rest of us can be trained also

Oct. 19 2011 08:08 AM
Richard from Nebraska

I was immediately struck by Kohn's singing. Sounded like a really affected blues musician. Lots of emotion in the sounds. The song at the end was a real treat. Great story about a touching friendship.

Oct. 19 2011 01:50 AM
Jacqueline from Vancouver

The familiarity theory can be pretty well tossed out the window, given the complete dissonance he felt between his voice on tape and the voice in his head.

Why didn't you ask him if he still feels disconnected from his recorded voice, now? I imagine he might say, "I recognize that that is me, but that's not how I hear myself inside my own head."

On a total tangent, the little girl reading the credits is so comfortable when she gets to "w-w-w-dot". What a telling and precious moment!

Oct. 19 2011 01:26 AM
Aaron from Phoenix

So I saw a documentary a while ago about stuttering, and I remember there was a part where they are performing tests and experiments with this guy with a terrible stutter. They discovered that if they play his voice to him in real time as he speaks that his stutter improves dramatically. So they give him an ear piece or something and as he speaks it's broadcast back to himself through the ear piece.

This is what I was reminded of when I listened to your podcast today. I'm wondering if anybody had ever tried something similar with Kohn?

Oct. 19 2011 01:17 AM
Aaron from Connecticut

I have personally known Matt for around eight years now. He is as good a person as he is a musician. I couldn't be more proud of my friend. But then again, I did teach him everything he knows about music. :) Congrats guys, this is awesome.

Oct. 19 2011 12:56 AM
d8vidt from Atlanta, GA

i am wiping tears!! sooooooo beautiful

Oct. 19 2011 12:54 AM
JennaB from CT

Fascinating story. Kohn is blessed with lovely friends. I love the recording they made for him. Such a gift.

Wondered though about Kohn's singing along with music prior to his realization. Wasn't he not able to keep up as he was singing along?

Oct. 19 2011 12:42 AM
The Do Good Gauge from St. Louis


Oct. 18 2011 10:23 PM
Kevin from Maine

beautiful story- radiolab does an amazing job at telling it. Just followed the hudson branch link and listened to a different take at the story.

if you enjoyed this piece I highly recommend giving it a listen.

Oct. 18 2011 09:38 PM

Are YOU for real, anon? Impatience is a lame reaon to miss out.

Oct. 18 2011 09:33 PM

it's called public radio.

Excellent short! Radiolab is the best.

Oct. 18 2011 08:38 PM

Beautiful story. What I don't understand is why you didn't try to speed up Kohn's voice using some readily available software to see how it would sound. I understand the compelling impetus not to want to "fix" anything; we should be able to appreciate Kohn as he is. That said, speeding up his voice was basically the first thing I thought of and the thing I'm left wondering.

Oct. 18 2011 08:05 PM

Are you for real? Your podcast first starts with 30 seconds of pitch, then another 2 minutes of credits?


Oct. 18 2011 07:38 PM
Jaime Safianow from Austin TX

Beautiful and moving story, thank you for sharing.

Oct. 18 2011 07:37 PM
Ben Scarbro from DC

Absolutely beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing.

Oct. 18 2011 07:12 PM

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