sound design

kaija siirala - a conversation


A Conversation was produced by Kaija Siirala, from conversations wth Birgir Enni, Maarit Siirala, and Nik Sokol.

Thanks to Jordy Walker and Micah Smith for the night of recording the helicopter playground in Whitehorse.


Kaija says: 

This project was born out of a conversation I had while visiting the Faroe Islands a few years ago. I interviewed a sea captain named Birgir Enni about how he navigates the incessant fog that shrouds the islands. The conversation grew to be about Birgir’s life - about living next to the ocean, and inside of it - a retired diver he spent 30 years building the tunnels and bridges that connect the Faroe Islands.

While we spoke, as with most conversations, my mind went in tangential directions, spurred by the themes and topics he spoke about. Upon returning home, I followed some of these tangents which lead me to Nik Sokol, a geologist and tunnel engineer who has worked on many tunnel projects all over the world, including the 7th line extension in Manhattan, and whose interest is with seeing the earth “from the inside out”; and Maarit Siirala, my aunt, who lives in the Yukon territory where they experience the extremes of light and dark in the cycle of a year.

As I reflected on these conversations, I noticed that all three of these people’s understanding of the world around them was shaped directly by listening and communicating with their unique surroundings.  This piece for Constellations focuses particularly on the relationships to light and dark in their environments. This understanding is not just one based in numbers and science, but at times uses a form of communication beyond the language of our world. 

Inspirations from the world of radio and sound and beyond:

I recently heard Phil Smith’s work for the first time and was pretty blown away by the way he ties seemingly disparate associations together (and the stellar sound design). I’ve also been loving the show Still Processing a lot lately - I really think they’ve hit their stride in terms of deep dive cultural analysis.  Outside of the radio/sound world, I’ve been filled up lately by stepping away from the computer screen, taking things one day at a time and embracing transition through hanging out with kiddos & hellos/goodbyes with family and old friends. 


Constellations says:

Kaija's immersive piece is chock-full of sensual field recordings, including to our delight "some recordings of me playing piano downstairs in my old house through a hydrophone in the bathtub". Listening to this piece feels like we're following the fisherman's current into a suspension between light and shadow, propelled by bold transitions and a sensitivity to the musicality of voice. 


Kaija Siirala works in documentary media as a picture editor, sound designer and educator.  Most recently, she edited a short piece, We Became Fragments, which was published as a New York Times’ Op-Doc.  Kaija has worked as a sound editor on films that have screened at the National Gallery of Canada, True/False Film Festival and AFI fest.  In 2015, she travelled to the Faroe Islands as part of the fluid states: performance of unknowing conference. She has been teaching as adjunct faculty at Hunter College and Pratt Institute the past three years and was a member-in-residence of the Meerkat Media Collective from 2016-2018. In May 2018, she completed her MFA in Integrated Media Arts at Hunter College (CUNY) and is now newly based in Hamilton, ON.

michelle macklem - ode to my last 10 years of dating


Michelle Macklem

Ode to my Last 10 Years of Dating was written and composed by Michelle Macklem.

Michelle writes: 


OTML10YOD is an audio short story that charts the familiar sequences of romantic relationships. It stems from a personal experience, but embraces common feelings of closeness, connection, difficulty, love and loss. Let your mind wonder and project how you will.

On what inspires her to make audio:

Music, conversations that pull my heart in, the wind rushing past my ears as I ride my bike and, let's face it, I've been pretty hooked since I first listened to Radiolab back in the day.

These days I'm into Short Cuts, going back through the Soundproof catalogueFrozen Garbage segments, Sarah Boothroyd (forever and ever), Wiretap archivesScene on Radio's amazing Seeing White series and the fine pieces the Constellations community has been sending in!

Inspiration outside of audio: 

Reading. Particularly lyrical essays. Lately I've been into Claudia Rankin, Durga Chew-Bose and Anne Carson.

Listening. Listening to what people say and how they say it. Trying to sit with discomfort more. Not interrupting to offer advice. Just being present with people without story in mind.

Pop Music. I know! I listed music above AND it's audio BUT you can find a lot of gems in contemporary pop music... a lot of great production techniques that are quite obvious and relatively easy to borrow. Take this Lorde song, for example, there's a weird ambient windy synthy sound about 2/3s of the way through. Totally extraneous, totally great.


Constellations says:

Ode to my Last 10 Years of Dating explores a romantic loop suspended somewhere between the past and the future. Michelle's piece takes the listener through intricate moments of uncertainty, vulnerability, and projection. Plus some delightful musical composition. - Jess


Michelle Macklem is a radio producer and sound designer based in Toronto. Her documentary and fiction radio work has aired on CBC, BBC and ABC. Michelle uses vivid sound design to explore the atmospheric and ambient nature of audio. She holds an MA in Media Studies and Communications. When she’s not mixing it up in the studio, she can be found out and about recording forests, fields and waterfalls. Recently, she’s been a producer with CBC Original Podcasts including Sleepover with Sook-Yin Lee and The Fridge Light. Michelle is also the co-founder of Constellations. Follow her on Twitter: @michmacklem