Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I'm Doug Johnson. This week on our program:
We play music by the
jazz-influenced singer Melody Gardot ...
answer a question about New York City’s Central Park.
But first, a report about a new exhibit
brought to you by spiders.
Silk is a smooth, shiny and costly natural
material. People usually get their silk
supply from worms. But spiders make
silk, too. In fact, their silk is even
lighter and softer than silk from silkworms. But getting silk from a spider might seem more difficult. Especially from a big spider that can
bite. Recently, two men in Madagascar
proved it can be done with extraordinary results. Mario Ritter has more.
The American Museum of Natural History in New York City
has a most unusual object on exhibit. It
is a beautiful wall covering made of shiny, bright golden silk. The tapestry is about three meters long and
one meter wide. It is light as a feather
but strong as steel. The tapestry was woven with silk provided by the golden
It took more than a million
of them to produce that much silk. Simon Peers is a British art historian and expert in
woven materials. He moved to Madagascar
about twenty years ago. He started a
textile business in that island nation in the Indian Ocean off the coast of
Africa. Nicholas Godley is an American
clothing designer. He also had a
business in Madagascar making purses.
were interested in the idea of making a textile piece from silk of the golden orb
spider. These spiders are native to
Madagascar as well as many other places. The females make huge webs, sometimes large enough to hang between trees
on either side of a rural road. The webs
have an intense golden color. The female
spiders have a bright yellow splash of color on their bodies and can grow as
large as a human hand.
Mister Peers had researched stories of spider silk
being used by human weavers. Together he
and Mister Godley paid local people to gather about three thousand female spiders
daily. They placed twenty-four spiders
at a time in a holding device. Each
spider produced a line of silk about three hundred fifty meters long. Then, the creatures were released back into
tapestry was finished after about four years of gathering the silk and weaving
it together. The piece has a traditional Malagasy design woven into it.
Mister Godley and Mister Peers hope the
tapestry will help protect the golden orb spider and bring attention to the
needy country of Madagascar.
Our question this week is about New York City. Djamel
wants to know about Central Park. This outdoor area is more than three hundred
and forty hectares. It was the first public park built in the United States.
eighteen fifty-eight a design competition was held to find the best idea for
planning this huge area in the center of New York City. The winners were two
landscape designers, American Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux from
was not easy to create this park. It may look like a natural environment of
lakes and woodlands, but it was entirely built by human labor.
Workers moved millions of cubic meters of stone and earth
to clear the area. They brought in more than fourteen thousand cubic meters of
fertile soil from New Jersey to make it possible to grow trees and other
took fifteen years to complete the project. Central Park was a huge success and
helped create a movement across the United States for creating public gardens.
the park is managed by the Central Park Conservancy under an agreement with the
city of New York. The Conservancy raises about eighty-five percent of the
park’s twenty-seven million dollar yearly budget.
are a few facts that help show just how big – and busy – Central Park is. It
contains seven kilometers of paths for horseback riding and about ninety-three
kilometers of walking paths. When you get tired from all that walking, there
are more than nine thousand benches where you can sit down.
are twenty-one playgrounds for children as well as areas to play basketball,
baseball, football and even chess. There is also a zoo. And, every summer,
visitors can watch plays by William Shakespeare in an outdoor theater. About
twenty-five million people visit Central Park each year to enjoy its many
sights and activities.
park is also important for natural life. It contains more than twenty-six
thousand trees. And hundreds of kinds of birds have been sighted in the park
which serves as a stopping area for birds as they fly to other places.
This week, Central Park has been a good place to get into
the spirit of Halloween. On Tuesday, there was a large party called the
Halloween Ball. People attending the event wore wild clothing and took part in
a competition for best costume. On Friday, brave children can visit the
nineteenth century Belvedere Castle. Park organizers turned the building into a
frightening place where families could enjoy both tricks and treats.
Melody Gardot did not always plan to be a singer and
songwriter. She had learned to play the piano as a child. In college, she took
classes in art and clothing design. But a severe car accident in two thousand
three changed her life. During almost a year of recovery, Gardot turned to
music to help her heal both mentally and physically. Critics are praising her
expressive voice and songs influenced by jazz and blues music. Barbara Klein
was the song “Some Lessons” from Melody Gardot’s first full length album,
“Worrisome Heart.” It tells about her accident and how it taught her a very
difficult lesson about life and chance. When Gardot was nineteen, a large car
ran into her while she was riding her bicycle in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
broken bones and severe head injuries which continue to affect her hearing,
sight, and memory. While
she was recovering, her doctor suggested musical therapy as a way to heal her
She knew she could no longer sit
at the piano without pain. So she learned to play the guitar in bed. And she
began writing songs about her experience.
Gardot later produced a short record with some of her songs. They became
popular and soon record companies became interested in her music.
is the song “Baby I’m a Fool” from her second album, “My One and Only Thrill.”
Gardot says after her accident, she could only listen to soft and quiet music
such as bossa nova.
She says she does
not approve of the word “disabled” to describe her condition. She says she
simply can do some things and cannot do others. And she says her near death
experience has made her realize what really matters in life.
(MUSIC: “If the Stars Were Mine”)
I'm Doug Johnson. Our program was written by Caty
Weaver and Dana Demange who was also the producer.
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