This week on “State of Wonder,” we remember the life and legacy of the ground-breaking writer Ursula K. Le Guin, and then we talk with Oregon’s three Grammy nominees: Portugal. The Man, The Decemberists’ side project Offa Rex, and Randy Porter and Nancy King.
Remembering Ursula K Le Guin
Portland lost a living legend this week. Ursula K. Le Guin passed away on Monday at the age of 88 in her Northwest home. Her writing not only spanned genres, it tore down the barriers that separated them, helping to elevate science fiction and fantasy into “literature” — to say nothing of opening up fiction to women writers and women protagonists. The worlds Le Guin created were places of refuge for those who felt like outsiders and places that challenged readers to think differently and expand their imaginations.
In this segment, we listen to:
- 2:04 - A remembrance from April Baer
- 5:50 - An interview with Le Guin at Wordstock in 2015, shortly after the release of a new version of her guide to writing, “Steering the Craft,” in which she spoke about her writing process and what it means to “push back” as a woman writer.
- 13:57 - We talk with Le Guin’s eldest child, Elisabeth Le Guin, a professor of musicology at UCLA, about where her mother wrote, how she balanced books and babies, and what it was like to sit around the dinner table with such a fierce author. You can listen to the full conversation here.
- 22:38 - A conversation with Molly Gloss, the author of numerous books including “The Hearts of Horses” and “Wild Life,” who met Le Guin in 1981 and has been a close friend and writing peer since. You can find the full conversation on “Think Out Loud.”
Portugal. The Man’s “Feel It Still” Is Up for Best Pop Group Performance - 29:17
“Feel It Still,” the first single from Portugal. The Man’s newest album, “Woodstock,” set new records at the top of multiple charts, becoming the biggest crossover hit since Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know.” Now the song has snagged Portugal. The Man a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. Last summer, the band played an exclusive live set at the OPB studio and sat down to talk about the album. You can watch videos of their opbmusic session here.
The Decemberists’ Collaboration with Olivia Chaney Gets Nominated for Best Folk Album - 35:57
The Decemberists may have finally met their match. The band teamed up with British singer Olivia Chaney under the name Offa Rex — a reference to an Anglo-Saxon king. The album, produced by local whiz Tucker Martine, is called “The Queen of Hearts,” and it’s up for the Grammy for Best Folk Album. We invited Decemberists frontman Colin Meloy into the studio, and got Chaney on the line from England, to talk about how this dream team came to be.
Randy Porter and Nancy King Contend for Best Jazz Vocal Album with “Porter Plays Porter” - 44:32
Last but not least in the trio of Oregon Grammy contenders is the jazz pianist Randy Porter. Porter was first exposed to the music of his namesake, Cole Porter, at age 20, when he worked on a revue of the great American composer’s work. Randy Porter has since become a successful pianist known for his impeccable technique, and now his trio has teamed up with one of the region’s jazz treasures, vocalist Nancy King, on the record “Porter Plays Porter with Nancy King.” It’s up for the Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album.