karen werner - swimming through butterflies

Photo by Laura Wulf

Photo by Laura Wulf

Swimming Through Butterflies was produced by Karen Werner for ABC's Soundproof. It features the voice of Laura Wulf and the cello playing of Reinmar Seidler.

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Karen says: 

A few years ago, my friends Laura Wulf and Reinmar Seidler
traveled together to the mountains of Michoacan, Mexico, to see the monarch butterfly migration. I was very moved hearing Laura describe the sights and sounds of being amidst so many butterflies and wanted to record her.  

Wondering how to turn this into a radio story, I realized I could ask Reinmar, who is a conservation biologist, to describe his experience of the butterflies and make a kind of duet with Laura’s version. Then I had the idea to ask Reinmar to “tell” his version only by playing the cello in response to my questions.

 I liked the idea of getting a biologist to “speak” in sound and not in words or facts.  Reinmar is an amazing cellist and, without hearing Laura’s version, described his own experience of being amidst the butterflies with a lot much passion and subtly. In my editing, I wove Laura and Reinmar’s versions of the “story” together.

On her process:

I learned a beautiful interviewing technique from a talk Rikke Houd gave at Third Coast Festival where the interviewer sits beside an interviewee and asks them to close their eyes and slowly describe the scenes of a story in present tense. It’s an intimate interviewing practice and allows one to draw out very associative and sensory-rich tape. I know Laura very well and felt comfortable trying this approach with her. Plus this butterfly story lends itself so well to a visual experience for the listener and was a story I personally wanted to experience as closely as possible. Trying out this interviewing technique is really what got this radio piece off and running.

Inspirations from inside and outside the world of radio and sound:

Muriel Rukeyser’s poem, Poem (I lived in the first century of world wars), walking, Fred Moten, Layli Long Soldier’s poem, 38. I’m inspired by working collaboratively lately, and also by a video about phantom limbs called “Reflecting Memory” by the artist Kader Attia. Attia has wonderful ideas about repair.

And a new friend named EE Miller has had a long time radio show, Death Jewel, where guests play sounds and music and tell stories to honour their dead.

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Constellations says:

We love the interdisciplinary and collaborative approach that Karen took in this piece. The scoring of this piece feels raw and vivid - clearly the cello is a second narrator in this piece, seamlessly harmonizing with the speaking voice and pointing to both speech's and the narrative's musicality. This piece makes time slow right down, with musical interludes complex and abstract enough to bring the listener fully into this conjured fluttering space. On every listen, we're left with a potent sense of wonder.

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Karen Werner is a radio producer & sociologist based in Montague, Massachusetts. She is currently producing Strange Radio about Holocaust postmemory in Vienna.  Karen's sound piece, Haus, part 1: Covenant of the Tongue is playing inside the MuseumsQuartier Tonspur passageway in Vienna through February 23, 2018. Haus, part 2: Zirkus will be the focus of a group exhibition at the gallery MAG3 in Vienna, opening February 23, 2018.

Upcoming projects: Creating Haus, parts 1 and 2 for Kunstradio on Österreichischer Rundfunk (Austrian national radio); working with students at the Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice, Poland to make an episode of Ghosts Radio; creating a compilation of Strange Radio episodes in 2018-2019.

 

rignam wangkhang - prairie wind

Prairie Wind was produced by Rignam Wangkhang.

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Rignam says: 

This piece was a rumination on what’s important in life and what is just noise. It came from my ongoing battle dealing with the ephemerality of life and how much time I waste on frivolous things.

Inspiring Rignam within the world of audio:

It’s hard to pin down a singular inspiration but Jad Abumrad always blows my mind. Outside of radio, The Dalai Lama is an example of the best humans can be.

Inspiring him outside the world of audio:

Oprah?

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Constellations says:

Rignam reached out to us about this piece after recently having moved to Winnipeg. He said it would be inspired by "the prairie wind - outside my apartment windows, you can hear it howl". His piece takes us to the prairies and beyond, sweeps us across a vast and melancholic landscape while kicking up the dust of the world under its heels. In this piece, the wind is an omniscient character whose powers seem matched only by the anxious pulls of technology. 

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Rignam Wangkhang is a Tibetan-Canadian multimedia journalist and radio producer at CBC Manitoba. He got into radio pretty randomly and is now trying to get better at the craft everyday. He’s currently trying to reconnect with his Tibetan heritage and history, so his next two projects reflect that desire. He will be producing radio documentaries for CBC’s The Doc Project and Now or Never. Follow him @RignamW.

joan schuman - walking in bad circles

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Walking in Bad Circles was written and produced by Joan Schuman. It is part of Travels in Stasis, a radio-art series created by Joan Schuman when she lived in the U.S. Southwest in the early 2000s. It’s a multiple trek that follows the nomad’s movements around walled cities and deserts reaching the sea, through the uprooted mind. Presented individually or as a whole, this themed project has been heard across radio installations in museum exhibits in Los Angeles; in media arts festivals in Australia and Canada, France and Spain; on the air on NPR, ResonanceFM and FBI Radio in Sydney; and more recently, on podcasts featuring adventuresome sound and stories.

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Joan says: 

When I read a story in the back of the newspaper about a young man who had wandered across the U.S./Mexico border, I became curious about what his experience must have been like. I imagined how he might wander through his mind, talking to no one in particular, remembering his town, his mother, and the things he heard and saw along the way—how he kept repeating that he was ‘walking in bad circles,’ as if any of us walk a linear, knowable journey.

As often happens, I might have had the sounds long before mixing them with story layers. I’m not sure how long I had field recordings of freight trains rumbling through the urban desert where I was living at the time, and a surreptitious recording of my neighbours blasting ranchero music while playing an afternoon game of horseshoes. Did I read about the young man found wandering in the desert metropolis, tossing rocks at a police car, before I had these recordings?

I think it was all of one period where I was collecting the audible traces of the desert, paying attention to experiences along this border that is so keenly present and easily ignored. What struck me was a single line from that news item, the allusion to the wanderer’s shaky mental state: “I’ve been walking in bad circles.” What are ‘good’ circles? A straight and linear walking?

It seemed to reflect more broadly, whether staying put in the geography we’re meant to be in or just traveling through briefly. We might, at some point, be journeying in round-about ways that aren’t always meaningfully evident.

By weaving what I could imagine this young man speaking—in both English and Spanish—to his mother, to the stars and the moon, and without overt translation, was a way to give a sense of movement across all kinds of borders: geographic and cultural, physical and emotional.

 

Inspirations from inside the world of radio and sound:

 

And outside of it:

Everything translated into English by the German fiction writer, Jenny Erpenbeck: she creates sound pieces in her novels—sounds and voices and stories are gorgeously, profoundly woven.

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Constellations says:

This piece has a maze-like quality both sonically and structurally. We follow the narrator as he drifts past a dreamy landscape of trains and chatter, with the distinct sense that he isn't headed anywhere in particular.

We love in this piece the richness with which Joan has rendered the idea of aimlessness, as well as her pacing between English and Spanish, which helps listeners practice taking in narrative audio without an assumed destination of clarity or comprehension in mind.

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Joan Schuman has been making sound works for radio since the late 1980s, including presenting other sound artists on the air and in art galleries, beginning in the late 1990s.

Her engagement with practitioners naturally continued online as guest curator/producer on Trickhouse in 2013 and again in 2014, and eventually, in her founding Earlid in early 2015. She conceives and creates quarterly exhibits of adventuresome listening, offering contextualized essays, sonic portraits and dialogues with practitioners, and open submissions once annually.

In 2017, Joan co-moderated a 10-person online forum with radio artist Gregory Whitehead, hosted at Earlid, exploring the legacies and contemporary stance of radio artistry, along with engaged comments from 20 participants. During the Winter of 2018, Earlid is exploring two artists working in sonic transmission technologies as they consider environmental ruin — as activist witness and intruder. She produced another series of audio remix/portraits of one of the artists, Anna Friz, with sounds Friz collected around the Chilean desert’s extractive industries.

Since 2004, Joan has been teaching online courses in the art of radio experiments and theories and history of sonic culture via The New School for Public Engagement. She lives along the coast in California.