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Talking with Sean Michaels: Giller Prize winner, author of Us Conductors


I love that the first time I met Sean Michaels, it was in a dining room at the Drake Hotel, where he and ten other music journos were tasked with choosing a winner for the 2013 Polaris Prize. The artist he championed, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, went on to win the award. Flash forward a little more than a year, and it’s Michaels’ turn at accept an award – the Montreal-based author recently won the Giller Prize for his debut novel, Us Conductors.

Us Conductors is a fascinating fictionalized account of the life of Lev Sergeyvich Termen, known to the west as Leon Theremin, the Russian scientist who invented the musical instrument which bears his name.  With strikingly beautiful prose, Michaels blends fact and fiction to recount Termen’s life, from his years of adventure in New York to his years of imprisonment in a Russian gulag.

Michaels is an unassuming character, though describing him as “soft-spoken”  would belie the erudition and depth of thought he displays in interviews. Listen to our interview here, check out his groundbreaking music blog at, or better yet, read Us Conductors.

Post from James Tennant, Program Director.


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