Author Archives: Kelley Rourke

chimps in the news

This week’s New Yorker alerted me to the existence of a new film on Nim Chimpsky, one of Lucy’s contemporaries. Project Nim (see a clip here) opened this year’s Sundance Festival and has been picked up by HBO Films. In addition, the current New York magazine carries the story of Travis, a chimp that lived in a [...]

men are from mars, women are from venus, dogs are from…?

A few items of interest: A New York Times article on a border collie with a vocabulary 1,022 nouns and assorted verbs. A Radiolab episode on the minds of animals–blessed hamsters, grateful whales, guilty dogs. Another New York Times article on well-meaning pet owners who cook for their companions. Home-cooking may be a be motivated [...]

what were they thinking?

We asked ourselves this question a lot. We had to keep reminding ourselves it was a different time. In the 1960s, family values looked like kids bouncing around the back of the station wagon without seatbelts while mom and dad filled the car with cigarette smoke. Just as dangerous as what we didn’t yet know was [...]


Rose: (referring to some crazy effect John wrote) I actually learned how to do something new. Andie: How did you do that? Rose: (beat) I practiced it. One of my favorite aspects of last week was being able to spend so much time in the company of practicing musicians. By practicing musicians, I don’t just [...]

adventures with chimps: what I know so far

American Opera Projects hosted a TERRIFIC evening for us last night. We’re all still digesting the experience…. expect lots more words and thoughts some time next week.  Putting together the printed program required me to step back and synthesize everything I’ve learned to date about our interactions with chimps in the second half of the [...]

based on a true story

When we first began to talk about making this piece, we knew the story of Maurice Temerlin and his daughter, Lucy, via Radiolab. Using excerpts from Temerlin’s memoirs and the testimony of those who knew Lucy, the show touched on some of the more remarkable aspects of Lucy’s 12 years with the Temerlins (such as [...]

Jane Goodall on 50 years with chimpanzees

Q. When you first reported chimp tool use, Dr. Leakey declared, “We must now redefine man, redefine tool or accept chimpanzees as human!” Did that ever happen? A. It’s never happened. Every time someone has shown that chimpanzees or any other animal possesses a characteristic which we used to think was unique to us, there’s an [...]

twin cities recap

On Sunday John and I landed in Minneapolis, toy piano in tow. We traveled west at the invitation of Ben Krywosz, who had offered us an opportunity to present Our Basic Nature on Nautilus Music-Theatre’s “Rough Cuts” series. Ben describes “Rough Cuts” as a kind of Zen practice, an ongoing commitment to airing works-in-process, in [...]

I went on down to the Houston zoo…

There are not too many zoos in the US with chimp exhibits, which is disappointing for all of us working on this project…. YouTube is great, but after reading so much about Lucy and her kin, I’d really like to see some of these guys in person. I was recently at the Houston Zoo, where [...]

old school take-aways

John’s coverage of our latest adventure was so thorough that there isn’t much left for me to say. But I’d like to briefly highlight a few of the elements that, from my perspective, made for an afternoon of extraordinarily productive music-making: 1. Economy. The basic musical material came down to a simple V-I pattern in [...]