A little more about Reasonably Sound, with Mike Rugnetta

August 25, 2014

Your host:  Mike Rugnetta

The Podcast: Reasonably Sound | iTunes

Mike is the host of Idea Channel, the PBS web series that explores the relationship between popular culture, technology, the Internet, philosophy, cultural theory and everything in between.  He’s also a composer, programmer and performer, which is why he’s hosting a podcast about sound for Infinite Guest, not Grumpy Cat or Bronies.

Mike Rugnetta

Do you have an overarching goal for this podcast?  Is there anything specific you hope to do/accomplish with this show? 

MR: So much! From so many different perspectives. Generally I would love to provide some kind of “in” to the world of sound for people who don’t already have one and provide some new stuff to think about for people who do. So many of us listen to music and (hopefully) podcasts, we use our ears every day, but our visual sense is much more developed and attuned to the world. I’d love for the show to provide some context and explanation and a little celebration of the complexities and awesomeness of audio and the various cultures which surround and have grown around it. The idea is to make these things meaningful and useful to everyone, not just “sound people” or “audiophiles” or whatever you want to call it.

My big reach for the show, and I realize this is a big, big, big reach, is to make something like Car Talk for Sound: a show that, even if you don’t have an active interest in the subject matter, you’ll be happy to listen to. I actually stopped working on my Click and Clack impressions to write this email…

Do you listen to other podcasts?  If so, which ones and why?

MR: Many. Here’s a rundown in no particular order:

  • Welcome to Night Vale: ALL HAIL THE GLOW CLOUD.
  • Memory Palace: Nate’s delivery is hypnotic, the length of the show perfect and the stories engaging. These little tidbits are what history is made out of, and I think Nate does a really great job of implicitly confronting how we construct that history from narrative, which is not exactly a naturally occurring substance.
  • Diet Soap: Douglas Lain’s philosophy and media-critique podcast. I share lots of Douglas’ views on the world (the description on the website includes the words “Marxism”, “Surrealism” and “Noir” so we might as well have been classmates) except Douglas is about a half a generation older than me. Our perspectives are related, but different. Diet Soap sits in the same territory as my YouTube show, Idea Channel, and so I find it very relevant.
  • 99pi: Sort of in the same boat as Memory Palace. 99pi uncovers all these things about the world we live in, but are blind to until someone points at them and says “look at this” or “here’s how this works”. It’s a podcast that, when you explain it to someone, they’re might respond with a confused “Uhh … ok?” but then when they listen, it becomes immediately clear why it is good, interesting and necessary.
  • Overthinking It: As a professional over-thinker myself, it’s nice to have someone who can’t hear you to agree with on long car rides.
  • Comics for Grownups: My friend Alex does a podcast with some pals about the comics medium as one for serious artistic consideration and it’s awesome. This is a world I do not inhabit (I do read comics, but not, usually, the ones they talk about) so it’s amazing to be able to peek my head into it every once in a while.

There are more (On The Media, Pop Culture Happy Hour, The Moth, Song Exploder), but I think that’s about representative.

Three guests you’d like to have on.  Can be real, fictional, dead, or Paul Rudd.


  • Hermann von Helmholtz
  • Morton Feldman
  • Daredevil
  • Paul Rudd

(all at the same time)

Do you have a favorite sound?  Put another way: Is there a sound that provides you with comfort or gives you a visceral sense of joy/relief.  Ex: Charlie Watts’ drum sound on a late-‘60s Rolling Stones single, butter sizzling in a hot pan, a friend’s laughter.

MR: The first track off the self-titled Riceboy Sleeps record, “Happiness,” always puts me in this bizarrely euphoric state. I don’t know how Jonsí and Alex do it. There is something about the track that completely resists my analytical tendencies (maybe that’s my brain protecting me from myself) and it just brings me to another place. But that’s also not really a “sound”, it’s very much an assemblage so …

I’m going to say Robert Ashley’s voice, specifically — if I have to be specific — the beginning of “The Park” on the Private Parts LP (“He took himself seriously. Motel rooms had lost their punch for him. He opened all his bags … there were two and inside those two there were two more.”). Robert Ashley is a huge inspiration, and has been a major organizing force in my creative life. I never studied with him, or anything, I’m just a huge fan, and this was the first piece of his I really fell in love with.

 I tried to explain what a blog was to my dad, and I still think he’s confused.  (He’s 67 and doesn’t own a computer or cell phone, so it stands to reason.)  Knowing this, what’s the simplest way to explain a meme to Howie Neuman?  Is it even possible? 

MR: Calling in the ringer, huh? I’ve been explaining what memes are to people, professionally, for about 6 years now and let me tell you it never gets easier. The first thing to establish is that “meme” and “internet meme” are not the same thing. A meme, generally, is simply piece of cultural information that travels between members of that culture. Fashion styles are memes. Catch phrases and popular songs are memes. Hair styles, architectural trends, car designs: memes. All bits of cultural information moving between people. It has been very astutely pointed out by some people on the internet that memes should really, for simplicity’s sake, be called by their true name: “ideas.”

So, knowing this, we transport it to the internet. An internet meme is a piece of cultural information shared between people on the internet. It could be all kind of things: email sign offs, emoticons, emoji, retweets on twitter and so on. But over the last couple years it’s come to mean a very specific set of humorous media usually made by non-professional media-makers. Funny pictures of cats, silly videos, etc. etc. etc.

If you want to try and get a laugh, you go the Encyclopedia Dramatica route and simply tell your dad “it’s an inside joke for people with no friends.”