A podcast on sound art, sound studies, and the sonic humanities
In this re-cast, we examine the sounds humans make in order to monitor, repel, and control beasts. Author Mandy-Suzanne Wong’s Listen, We All Bleed is a creative nonfiction book that explores the human-animal relationship through animal-centered sound art. When we first released this episode in 2019, Listen was a collection of short essays in search of a publisher, but today we are thrilled to announce its official release by New Rivers Press--we're spreading the word by re-airing this powerful Phantom Power episode. You'll hear Mandy-Suzanne reading her unflinchingly reflective prose, mixed with the sound art she illuminates in these essays: works by Robbie Judkins, Claude Matthews, and Colleen Plumb. By turns beautiful and harrowing, these sounds and words reposition us, kindling empathy as we listen through non-human ears. Mack Hagood is joined by former co-host cris cheek for a four-legged listening session. Links to works by the artists heard in this episode: Mandy Suzanne-Wong’s Listen, We All Bleed. Robbie Judkins: Homo Tyrannicus, "Pest" (video), live in London, 2017 Claude Matthews: “DogPoundFoundSound (Bad Radio Dog Massacre)” Colleen Plumb: "Thirty Times a Minute" (homepage), indoor installation (video)
36 min 5 sec
How to think about the contradictory figure of R. Murray Schafer? A renegade scholar who used sound technology to create an entirely new field of study, even as he devalued the very tools of its trade. A gifted composer who claimed a sincere appreciation for indigenous cultures, yet one who, perhaps, could only love them on his own terms, only as they fit into his sweeping vision for Canadian music. An erudite reader with a deep knowledge of world cultures, who nevertheless dismissed Canada’s most multicultural areas as less than truly Canadian. And a man, who despite a bomb-throwing persona on the page, is described by those who knew him as a kind and generous person. Today we speak to Jonathan Sterne, Mitchell Akiyama, and Hildegard Westerkamp to learn the critiques and contradictions of Schafer. Perhaps the greatest testament to his lasting legacy is the fact that we aren’t done arguing with him. Works discussed in this episode: Jonathan Sterne’s first book, The Audible Past, includes critiques of Schafer’s work, especially his concept of schizophonia. His chapter “Soundscape, Landscape, Escape” (PDF, in the edited volume Soundscapes of the Urban Past) traces the intellectual and audiophile histories of Schafer’s term soundscape. Listen, a short film on Schafer directed by David New, includes Shafer’s claim that recorded sounds are not “real sound.” Hildegard Westerkamp’s Kits Beach Sound Walk presents a subtler way of thinking about “schizophonic” sounds. Her chapter "The Disruptive Nature of Listening: Today, Yesterday, Tomorrow" (in the edited volume Sound Media Ecology) reexamines the World Soundscape Project through the political lenses of the 1970s and today. An episode of the CBC radio program “Soundscapes of Canada” is available at the Canadian Music Centre’s music library. Rafael de Oliveira, Patrícia Lima, and Alexsander Duarte‘s interview with Schafer in Corfu, Greece is available on YouTube. Mitchell Akiyama’s critique of the World Soundscape Project appears in “Unsettling the World Soundscape Project: Soundscapes of Canada and the Politics of Self-Recognition” (on the sound studies blog Sounding Out) and in his chapter “Nothing Connects Us but Imagined Sound” (in the edited volume Sound, Music, Ecology). The program notes (PDF) to Schafer’s North/White contain his dismissal of urban Canadians (page 43). Dylan Robinson’s book Hungry Listening opens with Schafer’s insulting words about “Eskimo music” and contains a critique of the way Schafer appropriates indigenous music to create his “Canadian” music. The Vancouver Chamber Choir shares this performance of Schafer’s “Miniwanka” complete with a side scrolling presentation of the graphic score. Today’s music was by R. Murray Schafer, Vireo, and Blue the Fifth.
46 min 11 sec
R. Murray Schafer recently passed away on August 14th 2021. If you’re someone who works with sound or enjoys sound art or experimental music--or you’ve just thrown around the word "soundscape"--you’ve probably engaged with his intellectual legacy. Schafer was one of Canada’s most influential avant-garde composers. He was also the creator of acoustic ecology, the founder of the World Soundscape Project, and the author of the classic book The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World. He brought a musician’s ear to the field of ecology and he brought an ecological perspective to music. And he bequeathed us a generative vocabulary for talking about and thinking about sound. This is the first of a two-part series on R. Murray Schafer. Next month, we speak with two of Schafer's critics--Mitchell Akiyama and Jonathan Sterne. But today, we speak with three of Schafer's associates to understand the person, his creative works, and his lasting impact on the study of sound: Ellen Waterman, ethnomusicologist, flutist, and Schafer expertHildegard Westerkamp, soundscape composer and member of the World Soundscape ProjectEric Leonardson, sound artist and President of the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology Creative works heard on today's show: Listen, a short film on Schafer, directed by David New.Snowforms, R. Murray SchaferThe Greatest Show, R. Murray Schafer The Crown Of Ariadne, R. Murray SchaferWolf Music V: Nocturne, R. Murray SchaferLe Testament, Ezra PoundLoving, R. Murray SchaferBeneath the Forest Floor, Hildegard WesterkampMiniwanka, R. Murray Schafer Special thanks to Elisabeth Hodges for translation assistance, Alex Blue V for our outtro music, and Craig Eley for his dramatic turn as R. Murray Schafer. Today's show was produced and edited by Mack Hagood with additional editing by Ravi Krishnaswami.
34 min 23 sec
Today, in honor of World Listening Day, we rebroadcast our story on renowned Australian sound composer, media artist and curator Lawrence English. This episode of gets deep into English’s own listening practices as an artist, specifically a technique he calls Relational Listening. In fact, as you’ll hear, he describes himself not as a sound maker but as a professional listener—that’s how central the act of listening is to his artistic practice. In particular he talks about his reworking of an important work in the fields of musique concrète and field recording, Presque Rien by Luc Ferrari, and the recent premiere of Wave Fields, his own 12-hour durational sound installation for sleepers at Burleigh Heads in Queensland as part of the Bleach* Festival. Lawrence is interested in the nature of listening and the capability of sound to occupy a body. Working across an eclectic array of aesthetic investigations, English’s work prompts questions of field, perception and memory. He investigates the politics of relation listening and perception, through live performance, field recordings and installation. The show includes extracts from the following tracks: Album: Cruel Optimism: "Hammering a Screw." Album: Wilderness of Mirrors: "Wilderness of Mirrors," "Wrapped in Skin." Album: Songs of the Living: "Trigona Carbonaria Hive Invasion, Brisbane Australia," "Cormorants Flocking At Dusk Amazon Brazil," "Various Chiroptera Samford Australia." Album: Ghost Towns: "Ghost Towns." Album: Kiri No Oto: "Soft Fuse." Luc Ferrari: Presque Rien. Transcript [♪ ethereal music playing ♪] [CRIS CHEEK] This… is… Phantom Power. [COMPUTERIZED VOICE] Episode 4. [CRIS] On Listening In. [buzzing sounds fade in, and fade out as Cris begins to speak] [CRIS] The hive of the sugarbag bee, endemic to northeastern Australia. [loud music starts abruptly] The first notes of a piece called… [more loud notes] Hammering the Screw. [scratching noises and metallic noises begin] Found objects – a 44 gallon drum, a ghost town in far northern Australia. [scratching sounds] Just some small extracts from recordings made by today’s guest. [MACK HAGOOD] It’s Phantom Power, sounds about sound. That’s Cris Cheek, and I’m Mack Hagood. [LAWRENCE ENGLISH, pre-recorded] I’m Lawrence English, and I have been described as a professional listener. [bullfrog sounds fade in] Which does make me sound like a very second-rate therapist. [laughing] But, it is the kind of thing that I spend a lot of time doing in my everydays. There is a lot of listening that goes on, and I suppose in some respects you know, I’m increasingly interested in problematizing what that actually means, what our relationship is with that way of knowing the world around us. [music fades in, intense and somewhat sad] [MACK] So, Cris, I’m really excited that you got this interview with Lawrence English. [CRIS] Yeah! [MACK] I’m familiar with his work. I always thought of him as the Drone Guy, you know he does these really amazing and complex droning soundscapes, but it turns out, as you’ve just shown us by playing that material, that’s not even the half of what he does. [CRIS] Yeah, that’s right. He’s a highly contemporary model of the artist scholar, I think. A prolific composer – there’s at least 18 solo records and rising in the current millennium. He’s a sound art researcher, an artist, a fine photographer, and he supports a ton of other artists through his highly influential imprint, Room 40, based in eastern Australia, but genuinely servicing a global audience. Really interesting. [MACK] So, Cris, I know today you’re gonna walk us through some of Lawrence English’s recent work, including this recreation of a piece by a godfather of sound art, Luc Ferrari, and also some of his recent albums such as Cruel Optimism and Wilderness of Mirrors. But, what was it like talking with him? Did you find that there were any sorts of through lines to his work? [CRIS]
36 min 55 sec
What can sound technologies tell us about our relationship to media as a whole? This is one of the central questions in the research of Phantom Power's host, Mack Hagood. To find its answer, he studies devices that get little attention from media scholars: noise-cancelling headphones, white noise machines, apps that make nature sounds, tinnitus maskers--even musical pillows. The story these media tell is rather different from the standard narrative, in which media are conveyors of information and entertainment. In his book Hush: Media and Sonic Self-Control, Mack argues that media are the way we control how--and how much--we let the world affect us. On Phantom Power, Mack has always focused on presenting the ideas of other scholars and sound artists. However, during our summer break we thought we'd share a piece by Mack that appeared in another podcast, the audio edition of Real Life, a razor-sharp magazine on digital culture. "Emotional Rescue" begins with the odd example of pillow-based audio technology to make the point that media are really about something more intimate than information: The cozy conflation of content and comfort... is not a recent digital development. Nor is it, I would argue, a quirky edge case of media use. In fact, this is what media are: tools for altering how the body feels and what it perceives, controlling our relationship to others and the world, enveloping ourselves, and even disappearing ourselves. Misunderstanding the true nature of our media use isn't merely of academic concern--it has had disastrous effects on our politics and social cohesion. The article was written for the Real Life website, then subsequently dropped in podcast form. Writing for the eye is quite different from writing for the ear, but podcast producer and narrator Britney Gil is amazing at elucidating written prose for the listener. If you listen to nonfiction audiobooks and/or want to hear a great narrator reading insightful takes on digital life, be sure to subscribe to Real Life: Audio Edition. "Emotional Rescue" by Mack Hagood: Original Article Original Podcast
32 min 47 sec
Today we present the first episode of Jacob Smith’s new eco-critical audiobook, Lightning Birds: An Aeroecology of the Airwaves. In this audio-only book, Smith uses expert production to craft a wildly original argument about the relations between radio and bird migration. The rest of the book is available, free of charge, from The University of Michigan Press, but this introduction is a great standalone experience that we think Phantom Power listeners will delight in. It tells a truly unique cultural history of radio, describes important scientific discoveries about bird migration through interviews with key researchers, and continues exploring Smith's singular mode of ecocriticism, combining text-based scholarship with sound art, music, and audio storytelling. Professor Jacob Smith is Director of the Masters in Sound Arts and Industries Program at Northwestern University and author of numerous books. He is a cultural historian focused on media and sound who never fails to come at his subject matter from an oblique and completely original angle. His first three books focused on the relationship between the media technologies that developed over the course of the twentieth century—the phonograph, radio, film, and TV—and the kinds of performance styles we have come to expect from performers. For example, his 2008 book Vocal Tracks tackles questions such as how radio changed acting and why fake laugh tracks developed on television—and why we feel so weird about canned laughter. In recent years, Jacob Smith’s work has changed in a couple of ways. Thematically, he took a hard turn towards environmental criticism. His 2015 book Eco-Sonic Media lays out an agenda for studying the negative environmental effects of media culture while also telling a strange alternate history of “green” sound technologies: hand-cranked gramophones with eco-friendly shellac records and needles sourced from cacti instead of diamonds. His next book maintained this eco-critical perspective while revolutionizing the format of the scholarly book. 2019’s ESC: Sonic Adventure in the Anthropocene was a 10-part audiobook that mined golden age radio shows and sound art to explore the dawn of the Anthropocene era, in which humans emerged as the primary force affecting earth systems. In episode 12 of this podcast, we played an excerpt of that book and interviewed Jake about the process of crafting a book-length scholarly argument in sound by sampling sounds from other eras. Lightning Birds continues this Smith's work in this innovative vein.
38 min 21 sec
Today’s guest, Kate Carr, is an accomplished sound artist and field recordist whose recent work grapples with issues of communication and longing—themes we can all relate to in the Covid era. In part one of the show, we mark Phantom Power’s three-year anniversary and 25th episode. Mack does a little thinking out loud about the different kinds of audio work that we've featured over the past three years. The terminology and practices for audio work always seem to be in flux—and people can have completely different terms for similar kinds of work. Mack imagines a spectrum of sound work, from more materialist genres like musique concrete to more conceptual or idealist genres like the audiobook, which emphasize meaning over form. In the end, the spectrum eats its own tail—the material is always conceptual and the conceptual is always material. Sound is always both resonance and meaning and the two can never be completely teased apart. Signal and noise are one. Episodes discussed: Ep. 20: What is Radio Art (Colin Black) Ep. 12: A Book Unbound (Jacob Smith) Ep. 15: Goth Diss (Anna M. Williams) In part two, we meet Kate Carr, an artist the critic Matthew Blackwell describes as a “sound essayist.” Since she began it in 2010, Kate Carr’s work as a musician and field recordist has taken her around the world, from her native Australia to a doctoral program at University of the Arts London. She’s been featured in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Wire, and Pitchfork. She also runs the field recording label Flaming Pines. Since slightly before the pandemic, the theme of communication at a distance—always implicit in field recording—has taken center stage in her work. We examine three such pieces by Kate Carr. Each one explores how sound helps us communicate at a distance and how it comforts us in moments of loneliness: “Contact”—a meditation on sonic connection through radio, morse code, and digital technology. “Where to Begin”—a study of love letter writing, which Carr says has profound similarities with field recording. “For Some Odd Reason”—an exploration of the kinds of noise we came to miss during social distancing and the mediated ways we've tried to add it back. Together, these three pieces—one from before the pandemic, one from its beginning, and one from its interminable middle—explore how earnestly we try to connect across distance—and how heightened these attempts have become over the past year. Huge thanks to our co-producer on this episode, Matthew Blackwell. He is a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at the University of Iowa and a freelance music writer. He writes and edits Tusk Is Better Than Rumours, a newsletter that covers the discographies of experimental musicians. He is also a contributor to Tone Glow, a newsletter featuring interviews with experimental musicians.
Phantom Power's Amy Skjerseth brings us the story of perhaps the most famous vocal performance artist and avant-garde musician whose actual work doesn’t get the attention it deserves: Yoko Ono. Collaborator with the Fluxus group in the early 60s, creator of performances such as Cut Piece and her Bed In with John Lennon in the late 1960s, director of experimental films such as 1970’s Fly, and recording artist of experimental pop albums such as that Fly’s soundtrack... Despite this large body of work, her most famous role was that of wife to that guy in that band—a performance that made her the target of misogynous and racist criticism that persists to this day. As Amy points out, much of this criticism centered on the sound of Yoko Ono’s voice. Of course, as we’ve explored on this show before, listening to the other with a racist or sexist ear is nothing new. But in Ono’s case, this prejudicial listening is compounded by the fact that, years before the emergence of punk rock, she was pushing the boundaries of what was considered acceptable vocal expression for anyone, let alone a woman—moaning, wailing, chortling, and screaming. The vast majority of listeners immediately dismissed these sounds as a punchline. On today’s show, we’re going to actually listen. What is the purpose and meaning and effect of Ono’s vocal artistry? We’re exploring it in her recorded work, in her feminist and pacifist political agenda, and most of all, in her film Fly, in which she uses her voice to destroy boundaries between sound and touch, human and animal, self and other. This episode includes elements from an audio essay Amy published at [in]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film & Moving Image Studies. Music by Yoko Ono, John Lennon, John Cage, Tanya Tagaq, and Graeme Gibson, as well as “Crickets, Birds, Summer Ambient” by Nikodemus Christian. You can hear most of the music again on this Phantom Power Spotify Playlist. Yoko Ono's film Fly is available on MUBI. The soundtrack has been reissued by Secretly Canadian. You can hear Yoko Ono's Twitter response to Trump (November 11, 2016) here.
34 min 22 sec
What would happen if you took red state rural voters on a walk into the woods with left-wing environmental activists and experimental music fans? Our guest this episode knows the answer. BRIAN HARNETTY is a composer and an interdisciplinary artist using sound and listening to foster social change. While Brian studied composition at the Royal Academy of Music, London, one of his teachers, Michael Finnissy, suggested he look for musical inspiration in his home state of Ohio. Brian took that advice and the result has been eight internationally acclaimed albums. Brian's music combines archival recordings of interviews and singing—often from the Berea College Appalachian Sound Archives—with his original compositions. For the past decade, Brian has focused on the myth, history, ecology, and economy of Shawnee, a small Appalachian town in Ohio. His 2019 album Shawnee, Ohio was praised by the BBC, the Wire, and named 2019 Underground Album of the Year by MOJO. The album engages with the social and environmental impacts felt by the town and nearby Wayne National Forest in their long history with extractive industries from timber to coal mining to fracking. But Brian doesn’t just document Shawnee’s narrative—he intervenes in it. He’s an environmental activist of a gentle kind, one who gets area residents of different political stripes to walk in the woods together to listen—to one another and to the forest. All in service of protecting and healing the land. In this episode, we are thrilled to present an audio documentary that Brian Harnetty has produced for Phantom Power about this quietly radical experiment, called Forest Listening Rooms. And afterwards I’ll speak to Brian about his project. Learn more: Visit Brian Harnetty's studio in Ohio. Check out his Bandcamp page. Visit his website.
37 min 4 sec
The Hey Robot board game Today, we’re playing with voice assistants and thinking about the role of voices in gaming with our guest, game designer and NYU professor Frank Lantz. Over the past nightmare year of the coronavirus, many of us have been hunkered down, trying to figure out how to pass the time with our families. Board game sales on Amazon were up 4,000% percent in March, when Americans began sheltering in place. And, of course, we’ve also spent way more time interacting with digital technology. These two things have come together in a weird and delightful way in Lantz’s game Hey Robot. Created by Lantz’s family-owned company Everybody House Games, Hey Robot is a guessing game you play with a group of friends—including your voice assistant or smart speaker. The premise is simple: Make Google Home or Alexa utter the words written in a deck of cards. The questions it raises are complex: What are these digital entities that many of us interact with daily? How have web searches and voice-based computing changed the way we talk? And what does this reveal about language itself? Hey Robot is available in a free online Quarantine Edition that you can play remotely with your friends. The board game edition is available on Amazon. Today’s show was written and edited by Mack Hagood. Fake Cumbia music by Mack Hagood. Ambient music clip taken from Hiroshi Yoshimura’s album Green.
25 min 49 sec
Episode 21 presents a portrait of Iranian experimental composer Siavash Amini. His music, which moves seamlessly between contemplative ambience, menacing dissonance, and spacious melodicism, has been released on experimental imprints such as Umor Rex and Room40. His latest, A Mimesis of Nothingness, just came out on the Swiss label Hallow Ground. Siavash tells host Mack Hagood that his entire life is based on an experiment and he doesn't yet know what its outcome will be. This episode traces the contours of that story, from his boyhood as a metalhead in a small Iranian port town to his role in the development of Tehran's lauded experimental music scene. Along the way, we drill down on the international and internal politics that add danger and difficulty to the life of this outspoken leftest composer. Amini is forced to navigate not only the authoritarianism of Iranian government censorship, but also the authoritarianism of western tastemakers, who sometimes want him to make the "Middle Eastern music" they hear in their own heads. Steadfast in his individuality, Siavash makes sounds that resist these authorities--the defiant anthems of an imaginary land, population: one. Most of the music in this episode is by Siavash Amini--listen to it again in this Spotify playlist and check out this great introduction to his music on Bandcamp. This episode was edited by Mack Hagood.
47 min 18 sec
What is radio art? It’s a rather unfamiliar term in the United States, but in other countries, it’s a something of an artistic tradition. Today’s guest, Dr. Colin Black is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning radio artist and composer. He speaks to us about his practice as a radio artist and the influence the Australian radio program The Listening Room had on Australia’s sonic avant garde. We then listen to his piece Out Of Thin Air: Radio Art Essay #1, which both explores and exemplifies the possibilities of radio art. It’s both informative and a total treat for the ears! The piece was originally commissioned by the Dreamlands commissions for Radio Arts, funded by the Arts Council England and Kent County Council. Out Of Thin Air: Radio Art Essay #1 is a meta-referencing poetic reflection and meditation on radio art underpinned by an artistic treatment of dislocation, transmission, reception and place as a thematic underscore. The work is in the form of an abstract song cycle that chiefly oscillates between “songs” originating from High Frequency (HR) radio static/broadcasts between 3 and 30 MHz and those from interviewees replying to questions relating to radio art. Location recordings, sound effect and musical composition weave this originating material together to form a sonic confluence and juxtaposition of elements to stimulate the listener’s imagination while offering an insight into the work’s subject matter. Interviewees (in order of appearance): Armeno Alberts, Tom Roe, Jean-Philippe Renoult, Gregory Whitehead, Götz Naleppa, Andrew McLennan, Elisabeth Zimmermann, Heidi Grundmann, Andreas Hagelüken, Teri Rueb and Kaye Mortley Producer and Composer: Colin Black High Frequency (HR) radio receiver operator: Dimitri Papagianakis Duration: 00:25:10 Music for this episode is by Blue the Fifth. We also hear a brief excerpt of Things Change,Things Stay the Same by Rik Rue.
40 min 13 sec
It's been a minute, so in this short episode, we update you on what's happening with Phantom Power and what's coming in 2020. The big (and sad) news is that co-host cris cheek is departing. After two years of lending his unique voice, ideas, and turns of phrase to the show--not to mention producing fantastic episodes like his interview with This Heat's Charles Hayward--cris has decided to refocus on his many other creative endeavors. We will miss cris, but the show will go on. And he's been kind enough to let us continue using his golden intro! Check out the pod to hear about some of our upcoming 2020 episodes, with guests including Colin Black, Harriet Ottenheimer, Jonathan Sterne, and Siavash Amini. Transcript [low humming and static playing] This is Phantom Power. [cars driving with birds chirping in background] [soft organ plays from lowest key to highest key] [Mack Hagood] Strange tones echoing through my Cincinnati neighborhood [birds chirping with soft tones in background] bubbling up from underground. [tones go from low to high] [WATER SERVICE WORKER] Alright.. [MACK, laughs] That is crazy. [background talking of construction workers with tones playing and birds chirping] Wow. Standing in front of my house is this guy from the Cincinnati water department. He’s in front of an open manhole cover. And he’s got a microphone lowered down into the manhole. [tones and birds chirping playing in background] And about a block down the street. There’s another open manhole cover. And the tone generator is making the sounds that we hear this upward sweep of tones. It’s called acoustic emission testing, I think. And it’s a sonic way of figuring out if the the water pipes are in good repair. I rather enjoyed the acoustic testing. But unfortunately, it was a harbinger of [laughs] less pleasant sounds that were soon to come. [loud jackhammers, machines stoping and going] All the water lines in my early 1900s neighborhood are being torn out and replaced, which, of course, means that all of the streets are being torn out and replaced. And it’s a it’s been a loud experience. Jackhammers. Yeah, this is what it sounds like inside the house. [machine sounds.] Idling trucks. [idling truck noise] Those are probably the worst, the constant idling machines everywhere. And so hey, it seemed like a perfect time to go ahead and get the roof replaced. [laughing] Just throw that into the ongoing cacophony. [Hammering and footsteps coming through the ceiling] This is the sound of my roof being torn off, right above my head as I sit in my office where I record this podcast. [Hammering and tearing] So yeah, it’s been a little louder around here, a little bit difficult to produce a podcast under these circumstances. [truck idling] And it’s fitting because Phantom Power is a little bit under construction, you might say, we’re going through some changes. And so I just want to fill you in on them. The big thing is that cris cheek, my good friend, and partner in this podcast for the past couple of years, is leaving. When we originally set out to make this podcast, we planned on it lasting a year, maybe two years. And it’s become an ongoing concern. And it’s been a lot of fun to do. It’s also very challenging to do. It’s quite time consuming, putting together the show the way we want to put it together. And cris just really felt that this was taking away time from his his poetry and his performance and his visual art and all the amazing things that cris does. So, it’s just gonna be me solo now. And I’m gonna miss having cris, his unique voice, his unique turns of phrase, his oblique angles of analysis. You know, he’s what he’s a one of a kind. And so the show goes on. [Music playing] And we’ve got some fascinating episodes coming your way in the next few months, we’re going to drop the episodes as we get them done. In the next week or two, I’m going to have a show on radio art that features the Australian sound artist Colin Black,
7 min 47 sec
Slab trunks feature sound systems and visual displays. Today we re-cast one of our favorite episodes, an interview with folklorist and Houston native Langston Collin Wilkins, who studies "slab" culture and the "screwed and chopped" hip hop that rattles the slabs and serves as the culture's soundtrack. Since the 1990s, many of Houston’s African American residents have customized cars and customized the sound of hip hop. Cars called “slabs” swerve a slow path through the city streets, banging out a distinctive local music that paid tribute to those very same streets and neighborhoods. Wilkins shows us how sonic creativity turns a space—a collection of buildings and streets—into a place that is known, respected, and loved. In this show we hear the slow, muddy, psychedelic sounds of DJ Screw and The Screwed Up Click, including rappers such as Lil Keke, Fat Pat, Big Hawk, and UGK--as well as songs by Geto Boys, Willie Dee, Swishahouse, Point Blank, Biggie Smalls, and MC T Tucker & DJ Irv. Photos by Langston Collin Wilkins. Transcript [low humming and static playing] [CRIS CHEEK] This…is…Phantom Power. [Tamborine beat blends in] Episode 7: Screwed and Chopped. [Hip hop music with vocals cuts in] Parental discretion is advised. Welcome to Phantom Power. I’m cris cheek. Today on the seventh and final episode of our first season, my co-host Mack Hagood converses with Langston Collin Wilkins. Langston is a folklorist an ethnomusicologist active in both academia and the public sector. Working as a traditional art specialist at the Tennessee Arts Commission. Mack spoke with Langston recently about his research into Houston’s unique slab, car culture. The city’s relationship to hip hop and hip hop’s to community. Enjoy. [Different hip hop music plays] [MACK HAGOOD] So before we get into the research of Langston Collin Wilkins, maybe we should get one question out of the way. Why would a folklorist be studying hip hop? Don’t they study things like folk tales or traditional music or quilting? Well, in fact the folklorist I know study things like bodybuilding and fashion and internet memes. Folklorists study everyday creativity. One contemporary definition of folklore is “artistic communication in small groups.” As Langston shows, it’s the way a town like Houston gets a look and a sound all its own, but folklore didn’t lead Langston to hip hop. In fact, it was quite the other way around. [Hip hop music cuts out] [LANGSTON COLLINS WILKINS] Back when I was a kid, around 12 years old, I received my first hip hop record, which was the “Ghetto Boys Resurrection Album” in 1996. [A song from the album plays] Born and raised in Houston, Texas, the south side, where Scarface is from that same area. The Ghetto Boys in my hometown heroes as they are for everyone growing up in Houston in those communities. I just became obsessed with hip hop, and not just the music, but just the larger culture and community surrounding it. I was reading everything I could get my hands on about hip hop, I was watching everything, just studying the culture and that kind of continued through college. When I got the grad school, I went hoping to study hip hop in some form or fashion. It was through hip hop that I learned about folklore and became interested in it. I spent a year doing ethnographic research in Houston amongst the hip hop community there. I focus mostly on I guess the more street oriented or gangsta rappers, and we’re studying the artists and producers connection to place. I was looking at how and why these artists was so deeply connected to the city itself, apartment buildings, streets, neighborhoods, and how these attachments and connection to place have been reproduced in their musical output. [Different hip hop song plays] Why do Houston Raptors always shout out, call out, give dedications to places that they are familiar and intimately connected with? [Several places are listed through hip hop songs] Washington, Armstrong,
35 min 9 sec
What did going to the movies sound like back in the “silent film” era? The answer takes us on a strange journey through Vaudeville, roaming Chautauqua lectures, penny arcades, nickelodeons, and grand movie palaces. As our guest In today’s episode, pioneering scholar of film sound, Rick Altman, tells us, the silent era has a lot to teach us about why sound works the way it does at the movies today. And as our other guest, sound and film historian Eric Dienstfrey tells us, “What we think of today as standard practice is far from inevitable.” In fact, some of the practices we’ll hear about are downright wacky. Audiences today give little thought to the relationship between sound and images at the movies. When we hear a character's footsteps or inner thoughts or hear a rousing orchestral score that the character can’t hear, it all seems natural. Yet these are all conventions that had to be developed by filmmakers and accepted by audiences. And as Altman and Dienstfrey show us, the use of sound at the movies could have developed very differently. Film sound scholar Rick Altman and Mack after their interview at the University of Iowa. Dr. Rick Altman is Professor Emeritus of Cinema and Comparative Literature in the Department of Cinema and Comparative Literature, University of Iowa. Altman is known for his work on genre theory, the musical, media sound, and video pedagogy. He is the author of Silent Film Sound (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004), Film/Genre (Bloomsbury, 1999), and A Theory of Narrative (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008). Dr. Eric Dienstfrey is Postdoctoral Fellow in American Music at the University of Texas at Austin. Eric is a historian of sound, cinema, and media technology. His paper "The Myth of the Speakers: A Critical Reexamination of Dolby History” won the Society of Cinema and Media Studies’ Katherine Singer Kovács Essay Award for best article of the year in 2016. Transcript [ominous music plays] [CRIS CHEEK] This…is…Phantom Power. [MACK HAGOOD] Episode 17… [low horn instruments play] [CRIS] The Sounds of Silents [ERIC DEINSTFRY] We think of going to movies as going to the movies but for a lot of audiences, they were going to hear a live concert that was accompanied by motion pictures. And there’s this great anecdote that Anna Windisch uncovered in their scholarship in Viennese practices from the turn of the century. And they found a series of films, I believe, where you had the motion picture printed on film, but you also had a visual recording of the conductor, conducting a score that was meant to go along with that film. So I believe it was sort of like a superimposed image. So when you screen the film, you’ll see the conductor on screen conducting. And then the orchestra that was live in the theater playing would take its cues from the conductor that was on screen. [conductor taps baton, and orchestra plays] [MACK] It’s Phantom Power. I’m Mack Hagood. [CRIS] And I’m cris cheek. So what are we listening to here, Mack? [MACK] This is Eric Deinstfry. He’s a historian of sound technology and sound media working at the University of Texas, Austin. And he knows a lot about the history of sound in motion pictures. [CRIS] So what’s he talking about? [MACK] It’s this crazy story told me about the silent film era in Vienna. You know, back in the early days of film, people had to figure out how to combine music and film. And as you can imagine in Vienna they had this illustrious classical music today. With fame conductors, and it seemed like a good idea to just put the conductor in the film and let the local orchestras where the film was being shown just sort of follow his conducting. [CRIS] Yeah, but I’m imagining this didn’t go so well. [MACK] No, it didn’t. [orchestra music continues] [ERIC] And, like a lot of these practices, they’re fine. They’re enjoyable, but they don’t always work.
43 min 19 sec
Why do certain musical sounds move us while others leave us cold? Are musical trends simply that—or do they contain insights into the culture at large? Our guest is a musicologist who studies pop and electronic dance music. She’s fascinated by the way EDM privileges timbral and rhythmic complexity over the chord changes and harmonic complexities of the blues-based rock and pop music of yore. However, Robin James is also a philosopher and she connects these musical structures to social and economic structures, not to mention structural racism and sexism. Robin James In this episode, cris and Mack have a lengthy, freeform interview and listening session with Robin in which she breaks down the sounds of EDM, pop, hip hop, “chill” playlists, and industrial techno, conceiving them as varied responses to neoliberalism’s intensification of capitalism. Her analysis includes lyrical content, but her main focus is the soars, stutters, breaks, and drops that mimic the socio-economic environment of the 21st century. It's an environment that demands resilience from all of us—and especially from women and people of color. Robin James’s books include: Resilience & Melancholy: pop music, feminism, neoliberalism (Zer0 Books, 2015). The Sonic Episteme: acoustic resonance & biopolitics (Duke, 2019). The Conjectural Body: Gender, Race, & the Philosophy of Music (Lexington Books, 2010). Transcript [ominous music plays] [CRIS CHEEK] This…is…Phantom Power. [techno music fades in] [MAC HAGOOD] Episode 16. [CRIS] Soul and chill. [MACK] Hey, I’m Mack Hagood, and yes, you are hearing Calvin Harris on Phantom Power, the podcast on the sonic arts and humanities. Why you might ask? Well, our guest today spends a lot of time listening to Calvin Harris and David Guetta. She calls them the Coke and Pepsi of pop, electronic dance music or EDM. As a musicologist, she’s fascinated by how EDM pushes beyond tonality. That is the harmonies and chord progressions that are the focus of blues based rock and pop music. EDM cares more about Tambor, and rhythmic complexity, ear catching sounds and intense Sonic experiences. moments when the vocal stutters for the beat drops moments like this one, where the entire song begins to soar. [music continues] But Robin James isn’t just a musicologist. She’s also a philosopher. She really wants to know what these songs can tell us about society. And while many cultural analyses of pop songs focus on song lyrics, with a few vague gestures towards sound, Robin James brings her musical logical experience to bear connecting musical structures to economic structures, not to mention structural racism and sexism. To my mind, the strength of her work is that she makes admirably bold and clear claims about why certain kinds of popular music are popular in a given moment. And whether or not you decide you agree with those claims by the end of the show, you may never hear an EDM sore quite the same way again. In today’s episode, my co host cris cheek and I have a lengthy freeform conversation and listening session with Robin, in which she breaks down EDM pop songs featured in her book “ Resilience and Melancholy: Pop Music, Feminism Neoliberalism.” We also get into a bit of hip hop, as well as songs from her current research into chill music in the streaming era. Robin James is Associate Professor of Philosophy at UNC Charlotte, and co editor of the Journal of Popular Music Studies. For the 2019-2020 academic year. She is also visiting Associate Professor of Music at Northeastern University. And by the way, she got her started musicology and philosophy as an undergraduate at Miami University in Ohio, where cris and I teach. [music fades out] [ROBIN JAMES] So I started college as an oboe major back in the 90s. Yeah. [CRIS] You were playing oboe at Miami? [ROBIN] Yes. [CRIS] Okay. [ROBIN] I played Piccolo in the marching band. I thought I wanted to be a conductor. I was taking philosophy classes.
With My Gothic Dissertation, University of Iowa PhD Anna M. Williams has transformed the dreary diss into a This American Life-style podcast. Williams’ witty writing and compelling audio production allow her the double move of making a critical intervention into the study of the gothic novel, while also making an entertaining and thought-provoking series for non-experts. Williams uses famed novels by authors such as Anne Radcliffe and Mary Shelly as an entry point for a critique of graduate school itself—a Medieval institution of shadowy corners, arcane rituals, and a feudal power structure. The result is a first-of-its-kind work that serves as a model for doing literary scholarship in sound. Anna M. Williams This episode of Phantom Power offers you an exclusive preview of My Gothic Dissertation. First, Mack Hagood interviews Williams about creating the project, then we listen to a full chapter—a unique reading of Frankenstein that explores how the university tradition can restrict access to knowledge even as it tries to produce knowledge. You can learn more about Anna M. Williams and her work at her website. This episode features music from Neil Parsons’ 8-Bit Bach Reloaded. Transcript [ominous music plays] [CRIS CHEEK] This…is…Phantom Power. Episode 15: Goth Diss. [sound of wind blowing] [ANNA WILLIAMS] It’s May 4th 2017, and I’m in room 311 of the English philosophy building. [jazzy music plays] Room 311 is a windowless closet crowded with a conference table and rolling chairs that currently contain the five members of my dissertation committee. A radio scholar, A romanticist, an 18th century-ist education theorist and Victorianist. [MALE VOICE] So we’re here to talk prospectus and I welcome you with my colleagues. And we’re interested in raising constructive questions that will help you with clarifying focus, the scope, and the process because the process is so interesting. [ANNA] It’s the job of these five people to advise me over the next months, or more likely years as I write my dissertation, which is the only thing standing between me and my doctorate in English. What we’re here to discuss today, isn’t my dissertation per se, but rather my prospectus, a Microsoft Word document spanning anywhere from six to 20 pages that describes the dissertation, the one I haven’t written yet. In this way, think of the prospectus as a sort of dissertation permission slip, a sheet of paper that once signed allows me to climb on board the bus and head into the field of academic literary criticism. And if I don’t earn my committee signatures at the end of this meeting, then I guess I’m going to have to stay behind and eat my bag lunch all by myself. [music fades out] [MACK HAGOOD] Hey, everyone, its Phantom Power. Sounds about sound, the podcast where we explore sound in the arts and humanities. I’m Mack Hagood. My partner, cris cheek is out vagabonding. It’s summer, I caught sight of him via social media on the Appalachian Trail. As you hear this, he may be in London or Rome. cris, if you’re listening, I hope you brought your recorder with you pick up some good sounds for us. And yeah, it’s summer. But there was something I wanted to share with you because it’s hot off the audio presses. One of the really nice and unexpected fringe benefits of doing this show is we’ve started to get invites to come and talk to folks about how to do academic work in sound, and what the potential of podcasting is in the world of sharing ideas. And so I was giving one of those talks at the University of Iowa. And people were telling me we have a PhD student who is doing her dissertation in podcast form. The author’s name is Anna M. Williams, and her project is called My Gothic Dissertation. [carnival sounds and music play] It’s a study of the Gothic novel, something that many literary critics, like Williams have studied in the past. But she does it in podcast form. And she uses the Gothic novel as a venue as an avenue into ...
58 min 11 sec
In the 1950s, a schoolteacher named Carleen Hutchins attempted a revolution in how concert violins are made. In this episode, Craig Eley of the Field Noise podcast tells us how this amateur outsider used 18th century science to disrupt the all-male guild tradition of violin luthiers. Would the myth of the never-equaled Stradivarius violin prove to be true or could a science teacher with a woodshop use an old idea to make new violins better than ever? We also learn about the mysterious beauty of Chladni patterns, the 18th century technique of using tiny particles to reveal how sound moves through resonant objects--the key to Hutchins' merger of art and science. In this episode, we hear the voices of:Quincy Whitney, Carleen Hutchins biographer and a former arts reporter for the Boston Globe.Myles Jackson, a professor of the history of science at Princeton.Joseph Curtin, a MacArthur-award winning violin maker.Sam Zygmuntowicz, an extremely renowned violin maker and creator of Strad3D.Carleen Hutchins herself. You can subscribe to Craig Eley's Field Noise podcast to hear the original version of this story. This episode was edited by Craig Eley and Mack Hagood. Music is by Blue Dot Sessions and Marc Bianchi. The archival interview clips of Carleen Hutchins were provided by filmmaker James Schneider. The interview with Quincy Whitney was recorded by Andrew Parrella at New Hampshire Public Radio. Transcript [ominous music plays][CRIS CHEEK]This…is…Phantom Power.[MACK HAGOOD]Episode 14.[CRIS]Resident grains.[a whirring sound plays, then a string being plucked][CARLEEN HUTCHINS]What I’m interested in now is to see what the waves that are traveling through the woods are like. And those are the things that I think are making a lot of difference in the way, energy and the waves of energy can go through the wood itself. And wood is all sorts of sort of discontinuity, if you will, that will make the energy have to slow down or go around something, it’s a little bit like a river flowing. And if you put some rocks on the edge of a river, you’ll change the whole flow of the river downstream. Think that’s what’s happening in violins. There are certain ways that those blockages, the discontinuity can be worked out. And that’s the kind of thing I’m looking for us to see what happens. Because some of the beautiful issues that I’ve been working with and testing show that there’s a good deal of this sort of thing going on.[CRAIG ELEY]Well, let’s just back up a little bit. There’s a line of thought, which is that every object vibrates according to its nature.[A more persistent humming, then fades out][MACK]Welcome to another episode of Phantom Power. I’m Mack Hagood.[CRIS]And I’m cris cheek.[MACK]Today we have the pleasure to speak with one of our collaborators, Craig Eley. Craig is a producer on Phantom Power. And he’s also the producer of his own podcast, a podcast called Field Noise. Hi, Craig. [CRAIG]Hey, guys. Thanks for having me.[CRIS]Yeah, thanks for being with us.[MACK]Alright, so Craig, we’re doing a little bit of a swap-a-roo this week. We’re going to hear basically an episode of your podcast Field Noise. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your show?[CRAIG]Yeah, you know, the idea has always revolved around my own research interests: sound studies, history of technology, environmental history, and just the sort of relationship between sound and technology in the environment. You know, when I finished graduate school, I actually did do a research postdoc for a year, but then I ended up working in public radio. And I’m trying to incorporate some of my own research, but also just do some original reporting and just kind of follow my ears as it were for some stories that I’m that I’m interested in trying to tell.[MACK]So today, you’re bringing us an episode of Field Noise that is about an outsider who revolutionized the field that she entered.[CRAIG]That’s absolutely right.
40 min 24 sec
In an unusual episode, we listen back to field recordings that co-host cris cheek made in 1987 and 1993 on the island of Madagascar. It's a rich sonic travelogue, with incredible musicians appearing at seemingly every stop along the way. Mack interviews cris, who discusses the strangeness and surprises of listening back to the sounds of that other time and place--and listening to the voice of an earlier version of himself. The BBC broadcast some of this material on Radio 3 as ‘The Music of Madagascar,” produced by John Thornley. It won the Sony gold radio award for ‘specialist music program of the year in 1995. A longer version aired as "Mountain, River, Rail and Reef," produced by Phil England and Tom Wallace for Resonance FM, the world’s first radio art station as part of 1998's Meltdown Festival at the South Bank Centre, curated by John Peel. This episode takes its name from a boat cris traveled on in Madagascar. Transcript [ominous music plays][CRIS CHEEK]This…is…Phantom Power.[sound of glass being smashed][MACK HAGOOD]Episode 13. [CRIS]James Bond. [MACK]Welcome to another episode of Phantom Power, the podcast about sound in the arts and humanities.[CRIS]Who are you?[MACK]*laughs* I’m Mac Hagood. [CRIS]I’m cris cheek. [MACK]And today we have a very unusual episode because I get to interview cris.[CRIS]Yay![MACK]cris has brought in a program that he produced for the legendary community radio station in London, Resonance FM. Based on your travels in Madagascar, actually two trips you took right?[CRIS]That’s right 1987, 1993, yeah. [MACK]cris, why don’t you tell us a little bit about this show?[CRIS]It was originally broadcast on the BBC. And there was some format things that got in the way of it being a longer show on the BBC. And I wanted to let some of the recordings play a little bit more than they could do in the original.[MACK]In resonance, it was much more of a sort of freeform kind of space where you could let something like that stretch out right?[CRIS]It was pretty emergent as a station at that point, but also yeah, the BBC wanted to cut me distinctly to just under half an hour. [MACK]And why Madagascar? Maybe we should start off with where is Madagascar? [CRIS]Madagascar is off the east coast of Africa. It’s in the Indian Ocean. Fourth largest island on the planet. 90% unique in flora and fauna. Really extraordinary mixtures of people who came fromFrom Polynesia, down the Amoni Arab coast from particularly Southwest India, pirates. Did I mentioned pirates yet? [MACK]No, you didn’t.[CRIS]There were several pirate bases in Madagascar. [MACK]Yeah, and the musical traditions that resulted from that mix are really, really incredible. [CRIS]They are, and the people are really incredible. [MACK]So what we’re going to hear, I’ve heard a little bit of it already. It’s gorgeous music and really some delicious sounds recorded, just delectively. I just really love these recordings and sort of what interests me beyond this sonic travel log that you’re presenting to us, is just the fact that I’m going to hear the you that I didn’t know from 20 years ago, and then you’re also going to sort of hear yourself, the person that you used to be back then.[CRIS]Yeah, that’s why I brought this. I mean, I brought it because we’ve been talking in so many different ways about listening about paying attention to the sounds that are around you, the things that are at the edges of our attention, and really concentrating on those. It felt like it was in conversation with so many of the other programs that we’ve made.[MACK]Great well, so maybe what we should do is just let it roll, check in, and debrief?[CRIS]We’ll stop. [MACK]Okay. This is Mountain, River, Rail and Reef by cris cheek.[upbeat, almost latin style music plays][CRIS]Mountain, River, Rail and Reef. A field sound narrative.[music continues then fades out, a low drumroll plays]Monday, March the 13th, 1993. It’s so hard to see out of those distortionary plastic L...
55 min 34 sec
What would it be like if scholars presented their research in sound rather than in print? Better yet, what if we could hear them in the act of their research and analysis, pulling different historical sounds from the archives and rubbing them against one another in an audio editor?In today's episode, we get to find out what such an innovative scholarly audiobook would sound like--because our guest has created the first one! Jacob Smith's ESC (University of Michigan Press) is a fascinating sonic exploration of postwar radio drama and contemporary sound art, as well as a meditation on how humans have reshaped the ecological fate of the planet. Before we listen to an excerpt of ESC, Mack interviews Jake about how his skills as a former musician came in handy for his work as an audio academic. You can listen to ESC: Sonic Adventure in the Anthropocene in its entirety for free courtesy of the University of Michigan Press. You can also watch Jake's 90s band The Mysteries of Life perform in the "bad music video" Jake mentions or on Conan O'Brien.Jacob Smith is founder and director of the Master of Arts in Sound Arts and Industries, and professor in the Department of Radio/Television/Film at Northwestern University. He is the author of three print-based books on sound: Vocal Tracks: Performance and Sound Media (University of California Press 2008); Spoken Word: Postwar American Phonograph Cultures(University of California Press 2011); and Eco-Sonic Media (University of California Press, 2015). He writes and teaches about the cultural history of media, with a focus on sound and performance.Today's show was edited by Craig Eley and featured music by Blue Dot Sessions. Our intern is Gina Moravec. Transcript [ethereal music plays] [CRIS CHEEK]This…is…Phantom Power. [MACK HAGOOD]Episode 12. [CRIS]A book unbound. [MAN ANNOUNCER]Tired of the everyday grind? Ever dream of a life of romantic adventure? Want to get away from it all? We offer you escape. Escape, designed to free you from the four walls of today. For a half hour of high adventure. [old, dramatic music plays. In between are people listing off natural disasters.] [MACK]Hey everyone. Welcome back to another episode. This is Mack Hagood. My partner chris cheek is out, so you just got me today. What you just heard is an excerpt from ESC. A fascinating project that’s one part podcast, one part audiobook. And it’s produced by my guest today, Jacob Smith. Jake is the founder and director of the Master of Arts in Sound Arts and Industries program at Northwestern University, where he’s also a professor in the Department of Radio, Television, and Film. So, for those of you who are regular listeners to the show, you know that I work in this disciplinary space that gets called sound studies. So we have all these folks working in this space of sound studies. And yet, how do we publish all of this research that we generate? We publish it in print, or in pixels on the screen, right? We do it via the written word. And that’s why I was so excited about having Jake Smith on today because he is challenging that paradigm, working in sound, and doing something that really could only be done in sound. His new project ESC is an audio native audiobook. [guitar music plays] So what do I mean by that? So basically, this is a book length critical reading of a CBS radio drama from the 1940s and 50s called Escape. But instead of just reading about the radio drama, we actually hear the radio drama itself. And through Jake’s excellent production techniques, we also hear his criticism, and we hear these sounds sort of matched up against the work of contemporary sound artists. The through line argument of the the piece is that this moment in the 40s and 50s, after World War Two, when this radio drama was being produced, is also the moment that was sort of a tipping point in the Earth’s geological history. It’s the moment when human beings start having a larger impact on the Earth’s ecology...
39 min 9 sec
Working across and among languages, media, and art forms, Caroline Bergvall’s writing takes form as published poetic works and performance, frequently of sound-driven projects. Her interests include multilingual poetics, queer feminist politics and issues of cultural belonging, commissioned and shown by such institutions as MoMA, the Tate Modern, and the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Antwerp, and won numerous awards. Ragadawn is a multimedia performance that explores ideas of multi-lingualism, migration, lost or disappearing languages, and how language and place intersect. Ragadawn is performed with two live voices and recorded elements, outdoors, at dawn, which means the start and end times are location specific. It features song composed by Gavin Bryars, sung by Peyee Chen. Ragadawn premiered at the Festival de la Bâtie (Geneva) and at the Estuary Festival (Southend) in 2016. You can find more work(s) by Caroline Bergvall at: http://carolinebergvall.com Also on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/carolinebergvall/ohmyohmy and Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/carolinebergvall/videos Her publications include: • Éclat, Sound & Language, 1996• Fig: Goan Atom 2, Salt, 2005• Middling English, John Hansard Gallery, 2010• Meddle English: New and Selected Texts, Nightboat Books, 2011 • Drift, Nightboat Books, 2014 Transcript [CAROLINE BERGVALL]Jigsaw of traveling languages. [ominous music plays] [CRIS CHEEK]This…is…Phantom Power. Caroline Bergvall. [CAROLINE]How does one keep one’s body as one’s own? What does this mean about the relative safety of boundaries. Could I make sure that what I called my body would remain in the transit from other languages, that it would hold this progression into English, and because I didn’t know and wasn’t sure, and since for a great number of people, for an overwhelming number of persons, for an overwhelming a large number of persons for all always growing number of persons. This is far from self evidence. This is not self evidence. This does not apply, this doesn’t even begin to figure, I never knew for sure. Some never had a body to call their own before it was taken away. Somehow the [speaks in norwegian.] Some never had a chance to feel it body as their own before it was taken away. Some never had a chance to know their body before it was taken away. [speaks in norwegian]. Some were never free to speak that body before it was taken up and taken away. [speaks in norwegian]. Some tried their body on to pleasure in it before it was taken up beaten violated taken away [speaks in norwegian] Some had their body for a time that was taken away or parts of it somehow [speaks in norwegian] Some thought they had their body safely then were asked to leave it behind the door or parts of it some little dirty trick how the [speaks in norwegian]. Some hoped they had one safely only to find it had to be left across the border or parts of it [speaks in norwegian]. Some wanted to leave their body behind and couldn’t [speaks in french]. Some could neither take it or leave it behind [speaks in norwegian]. Some are loved at, some are spat out some are dragged into the crowd [speaks in norwegian]. Some bodies are forgotten in the language compounds. Some immense pressure is applied on to the forgetting of the ecosystem some escape from. Some bodies, like languages, simply disappear. [speaks in french]. Some or many are being disappeared [speaks in norwegian]. Some or many disappear. [speaks in norwegian]. Some are many that disappeared arise and some are many of us. [speaks in norwegian]. Some arise in some of us. [speaks in norwegian]. Some arise in some of us, arise in many of us. [speaks in norwegian]. Some arise in some of us, arise in each of us. [speaks in norwegian]. [MACK HAGOOD]It’s Phantom Power. I’m Mack Hagood here with cris cheek. Cris, that was amazing. [CRIS]Unusual to hear more than one language inside a poem. [MACK]Yeah, and there was something almost liturgical about it....
41 min 12 sec
This week, we examine the sounds humans make in order to monitor, repel, and control beasts. Author Mandy-Suzanne Wong’s Listen, We All Bleed is a creative nonfiction monograph that explores the human-animal relationship through animal-centered sound art. We’ll hear works by Robbie Judkins, Claude Matthews, and Colleen Plumb, interwoven with Wong’s unflinchingly reflective prose. By turns beautiful and harrowing, these sounds and words reposition us, kindling empathy as we listen through non-human ears. Links to works by the artists heard in this episode: Mandy Suzanne-Wong’s Listen, We All Bleed. Robbie Judkins: Homo Tyrannicus, "Pest" (video), live in London, 2017 Claude Matthews: “DogPoundFoundSound (Bad Radio Dog Massacre)” Colleen Plumb: "Thirty Times a Minute" (homepage), indoor installation (video) Transcript [ethereal music plays] [CRIS CHEEK] This…is…Phantom Power. [pig grunting] [MACK HAGOOD] Episode 10. [CRIS] Animal Control. [MANDY SUZANNE WONG] If humans did this to each other, they call it sonic warfare, terrorism or crowd control, depending on who did it and whom they did it to. They call the end result for the victims, that is post traumatic stress, but skunks aren’t human. They’re not even pets. Not like your spaniel who clearly enjoys notions of his own. Can a skunk suffer post traumatic stress? Aren’t they just wild animals? Yes and yes, sound is contact. Fear is a weapon. The wild is here. [sounds fade out] [MACK] Welcome back to another episode of Phantom Power, where we explore the world of sound in the arts and humanities, I’m Mack Hagood. [CRIS] And I’m cris cheek. [MACK] Hi, cris. [CRIS] Hi Mack. How you doing? [MACK] I’m okay. We’ve got an interesting episode in store today I think. [CRIS] Good. [MACK] I spoke with an author of fiction and nonfiction work. Her name is Mandy Suzanne Wong. She hails from Bermuda. She’s got a PhD from the University of California in Los Angeles. You may have heard of the place. [CRIS] I have. she’s very interdisciplinary right? [MACK] Yeah, she’s another person that I met through that crazy conference for science literature and the arts. Like the other person that we met. [CRIS] Brian House. [MACK] Brian House, yeah. The other person we met at that conference, Brian House. She has a concern with animals and the sounds of animals and sound art about animals. [CRIS] Right, it seems like she is a creative writer in short fiction and also has a novel coming out this year. It seems like she is also an essayist about sound almost a creative nonfiction thinking about sound is that right? [MACK] Yeah, and she’s got this manuscript that she recently finished and it’s called “Listen, We All Bleed.” It’s her critical response to a number of sound art pieces that focus on the human animal relationship through sound. So, on today’s show we’re going to listen to four pieces of audio that Mandy Suzanne Wong has written about in “Listen, We All Bleed.” We’re going to listen to those pieces and we’re also going to listen to her words about those pieces. So, the first piece we’re going to listen to is by Robbie Judkins. It’s called “Desired Place” and it’s on his album “Homo Tyrannicus.” [low, ominous music plays, sounds like an orchestra] [MANDY] What is empathy? There are at least two definitions of empathy out there on philosophers of animal ethics. One is basically if I empathize with you, I feel something similar to what you feel. Another is when I empathize with you, I am deeply affected by your situation, but in my own way/ I think Robbie Jenkins desired place could be about either or both. I think empathy is a kind of resonance. [music continues] The final track on his album “Homo Tyrannicus: Desired Place” opens with a beautiful electronic chord. Long and rolling in slow motion through the tones of some major triad with a bit of fuss....
34 min 57 sec
Charles Hayward is one of the most propulsive, resourceful and generative rock-plus drummers of the past half-century. An influential percussionist, keyboardist, songwriter, singer of songs, and forward thinker through sound, Charles spoke with Phantom Power about a 40thanniversary touring with a partly reformed and enlarged This Heat as This Is Not This Heat, and then opened into generous reflections on his solo works The Bell Agency and 30 Minute Snare Drum Roll. Charles is founding member of the experimental rock groups This Heat and Camberwell Now. Since the late 1980s he has concentrated on solo projects and collaborations, including Massacre with Bill Laswell and Fred Frith. Most recently he released an album of improvised duets with Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. This Is Not This Heat play their final concerts at EartH Hackney Arts Center in London March 1st , a two-day residency in Copenhagen March 5th-6th, Le Poisson Rouge in New York City March 18th, Zebulon in Los Angeles March 20-21, the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville TN on March 24th, the Albany in Deptford, London May 25th. Live performances: 30 Minute Snare Drum Roll live at Café Oto, London Improvisations with Thurston Moore This Is Not This Heat Full albums: this heat Deceit Health and Efficiency Camberwell Now Images provided by Emma McNally and Fergus Kelly. Transcript [CHARLES HAYWARD] Song is to be human.. [ethereal music plays in the background] [CRIS CHEEK] This…is…Phantom Power. [radio or television static mixed with an orchestra] [MALE ANNOUNCER] The time now, very nearly three o’clock. The next program on BBC One: “Songs of Praise” follows at three fifteen… [Funk/techno music suddenly cuts in] [MACK HAYGOOD] Episode nine. [CRIS] A drummer’s tale. [music fades out] [MACK] So it’s great to be back. Phantom Power Season Two, and this episode is one that I have been waiting for with a certain fan-ish frenzy, because we’re going to talk about Charles Hayward; the drummer, keyboardist, vocalist, tape manipulator, pioneer of experimental rock and roll. [CRIS] Yeah, right. And still putting out albums. Still touring. This Heat, the band that you would just hearing, they’ve recently done a 40 year set of concerts under the name “This is not This Heat.” [MACK] It’s amazing to hear This Heat still making such an impact on music, because I remember playing music in Chicago in the late 90s and early 2000s and at that time post rock was a genre that was a pretty big deal. Those of us playing that sort of music were really inspired I would say by a few bands. There was Can. There was Lee Scratch Perry. There was This Heat. Talk Talk was another one. [CRIS] Interesting to hear that. I like them too, especially their later albums. [MACK] So, This Heat was just a group that once you heard them you’re like, I can’t believe this already existed so long ago. [CRIS] They they take a punk DIY aesthetic and then they retain some of the immediacy of the elements of that music. They were more involved with a very different kind of idea about the interrelationship between melody and rhythm and noise. Dirty sense and dirty samplers and expanded sense inside music making that leads into trance ambience, precise bursts of silence. I think all of that is part of what makes their music still sound fresh. [ethereal music fades in] [MACK] Charles Hayward went on to play with so many interesting bands, including Massacre with the guitarist Fred Frith and the bass player Bill Laswell. [CRIS] They just put out an album this year of improvisations with [inaudible] from Sonic Youth. [MACK] By the way, how do you know Charles Hayward? [CRIS] Loosely rubbing shoulders on and off over the years. When I was playing music around various different scenes in London. This sort of person who I felt was part of a community of music makers and interested audiences over...
38 min 27 sec
Season Two erupts in our ears with a film-noir soundscape—an eerie voice utters strange and disjointed phrases and echoing footsteps lead to sirens and gunshots. What on Earth are we listening to? We unravel the mystery with NYU media professor Mara Mills who studies the historical relationship between disability and media technologies.An ink blot, often used on test subjects in projective tests. In Episode 8, “Test Subjects,” we examine the strange and obscure history of sound’s use as a psychological diagnostic tool. In the late 20th century, while many disabilities were eliminated through medical interventions, a host of new disabilities were invented, especially within the realm of psychology. Mills's historical work in the audio archives of American Foundation for the Blind reveals how auditory projective testing was used to diagnose blind people with additional psychological disabilities. As we listen to these strange archival sounds, we learn how culture and technology shape the history of human ability and disability. Read Mara Mill’s article on auditory projective tests, "Evocative Object: Auditory Inkblot” and visit NYU's Center for Disability Studies, which she co-directs with Faye Ginsburg. Thanks to archivist Helen Selsdon and the American Foundation for the Blind for the use of the auditory projective tests. This episode’s theme music is by Mack Hagood with additional music by Graeme Gibson, Blue Dot Sessions, Claude Debussy, and Duke Ellington. The show was edited by Craig Eley and Mack Hagood. Transcript [ethereal music plays in the background] [CRIS CREEK]This…is…Phantom Power. [static and creaking sounds fade in and out] [MACK HAGOOD]Episode 8. [dial tone plays] [CRIS]Test Subjects. [MAN OVER PHONE]This is the first sound. [fast ticking of a clock fades in. Water sloshing, then dramatic, ethereal music fades in] [WOMAN]They walk together slowly, their feet making a sound together. And the man wonders…wonders why all the noise, all the turmoil, so quiet. When will it stop? So quiet, so peaceful, so serene, so quiet. You can’t forget the quiet. You can’t ever forget. [sound of a whistle, then a crash. Music and ticking play in background] [CRIS]I feel as if I’m being thrown into a space or a place that I am experiencing as anxiety, that sense of the alarms, the hurrying footsteps, the dramatic voice and the time passing. It’s just a kind of a…its a terror of time passing. It’s Jonathan Query’s 24/7 being made manifest in my ears. [MACK]Yeah, these are sounds I’ve been playing around with. Our guest for today’s episode just shared this archive of amazing sounds with me, and so I was just playing with them putting them into a collage. A lot of them do seem to induce a bit of a feeling of dread. [CRIS]No, I liked it. It was it was full of portent. It was almost as if I was in radio play where most of the dialogue could have been removed and I just had the sound effects left. [MACK] Yeah, and as we’ll learn, the sounds are sort of a relative of radio drama and believe it or not, they’re intended to be healing sounds cris. [CRIS]No way. I mean, the idea that the clock was kind of coming forwards and going backwards into the distance this stuff is pure terror! [MACK]I did mess around with the sounds a little bit, but these are sounds that are supposed to help you become the best person that you can possibly be. Welcome back to another episode of Phantom Power where we explore the world of sound in the arts and humanities. I’m Mack Haygood. [CRIS]And I’m cris cheek. [MACK]cris is a poet and performance artist. I’m a scholar of media and communication. Welcome to season two. Today we examine the strange and obscure history of sound being used as a diagnostic tool for the betterment of human beings. Now, how can anyone think that the chilling film noir sounds we just heard could possibly be good for you? Well, maybe I should just let our guest explain it. [CRIS]Exactly.
37 min 18 sec
Slab trunks feature sound systems and visual displays. Since the 1990s, many of Houston’s African American residents have customized cars and customized the sound of hip hop. Cars called “slabs” swerve a slow path through the city streets, banging out a distinctive local music that paid tribute to those very same streets and neighborhoods. Folklorist and Houston native Langston Collin Wilkins studies slab culture and the "screwed and chopped" hip hop that rattles the slabs and serves as the culture's soundtrack. Wilkins shows us how sonic creativity turns a space—a collection of buildings and streets—into a place that is known, respected, and loved. In this show we hear the slow, muddy, psychedelic sounds of DJ Screw and The Screwed Up Click, including rappers such as Lil Keke, Fat Pat, Big Hawk, and UGK--as well as songs by Geto Boys, Willie Dee, Swishahouse, Point Blank, Biggie Smalls, and MC T Tucker & DJ Irv. Photos by Langston Collin Wilkins. Transcript [low humming and static playing] [CRIS CHEEK] This…is…Phantom Power. [Tamborine beat blends in] Episode 7: Screwed and Chopped. [Hip hop music with vocals cuts in] Parental discretion is advised. Welcome to Phantom Power. I’m cris cheek. Today on the seventh and final episode of our first season, my co-host Mack Hagood converses with Langston Collin Wilkins. Langston is a folklorist an ethnomusicologist active in both academia and the public sector. Working as a traditional art specialist at the Tennessee Arts Commission. Mack spoke with Langston recently about his research into Houston’s unique slab, car culture. The city’s relationship to hip hop and hip hop’s to community. Enjoy. [Different hip hop music plays] [MACK HAGOOD] So before we get into the research of Langston Collin Wilkins, maybe we should get one question out of the way. Why would a folklorist be studying hip hop? Don’t they study things like folk tales or traditional music or quilting? Well, in fact the folklorist I know study things like bodybuilding and fashion and internet memes. Folklorists study everyday creativity. One contemporary definition of folklore is “artistic communication in small groups.” As Langston shows, it’s the way a town like Houston gets a look and a sound all its own, but folklore didn’t lead Langston to hip hop. In fact, it was quite the other way around. [Hip hop music cuts out] [LANGSTON COLLINS WILKINS] Back when I was a kid, around 12 years old, I received my first hip hop record, which was the “Ghetto Boys Resurrection Album” in 1996. [A song from the album plays] Born and raised in Houston, Texas, the south side, where Scarface is from that same area. The Ghetto Boys in my hometown heroes as they are for everyone growing up in Houston in those communities. I just became obsessed with hip hop, and not just the music, but just the larger culture and community surrounding it. I was reading everything I could get my hands on about hip hop, I was watching everything, just studying the culture and that kind of continued through college. When I got the grad school, I went hoping to study hip hop in some form or fashion. It was through hip hop that I learned about folklore and became interested in it. I spent a year doing ethnographic research in Houston amongst the hip hop community there. I focus mostly on I guess the more street oriented or gangsta rappers, and we’re studying the artists and producers connection to place. I was looking at how and why these artists was so deeply connected to the city itself, apartment buildings, streets, neighborhoods, and how these attachments and connection to place have been reproduced in their musical output. [Different hip hop song plays] Why do Houston Raptors always shout out, call out, give dedications to places that they are familiar and intimately connected with? [Several places are listed through hip hop songs] Washington, Armstrong, Mainwelles and St. Williams. Robinson, Thomas Hopes,
33 min 10 sec
On July 18th this year, Teresa Barrozo's question -- What might the Future sound like? -- will be opened to global participation. We bring news of World Listening Day, and speak with Teresa about her intervention. We also hear of data archival developments in acoustic ecology. And we speak with Leah Barclay, the editor of Soundscape: The Journal of Acoustic Ecology, about her Biosphere Soundscapes project and some of the challenges of developing accessible apps for mobile platforms. Cris grapples inadequately with the terminology of the anthropophone, the biophone and the geophone in his everyday life. The audio work heard in this episode can be found on the Soundclouds of Leah Barclay and Teresa Barrozo. Transcript [low humming and static playing][CRIS CHEEK]This…is…Phantom Power. Episode 6.[squeaking sounds][CRIS]Data streams.[sound of flowing water fades in as squeaking continues][MACK HAGOOD]Welcome to Phantom Power, I’m Mack Hagood. Today, My co-host cris cheek prepares us for World Listening Day, an annual global event held every July 18th and sponsored by the World Listening Project with events held all over the planet. We’ll get you tuned in to acoustic ecology and World Listening Day with plenty of time to find an event near you, or perhaps to start one of your own. cris has a show for us in three parts. First, we’ll meet Teresa Barrozo, a sound artist, composer and sound designer for film, theater and dance, and the creator of the theme for this year’s World Listening Day. Next, cris does some close listening of his own in a meditation on the sounds of humans, animals and earth in his neighborhood. Finally, we meet Leah Barclay, who made the recording we’re hearing right now in dolphin code on the great Sandy Biosphere Reserve in Queensland, Western Australia. She’s the president of the Australian forum on acoustic ecology, the editor of Soundscape Magazine and the Vice President of the World Acoustic Ecology forum. Leah spoke with Chris from a remote biosphere reserve when it was still summer in the southern hemisphere.[sounds fade out, ethereal music fades in][CRIS]World Listening Day enters its second decade in 2018. This year’s theme is future listening, created by Filipino sound artist, Teresa Barrozo. Phantom Power caught up with Teresa amidst her preparations.[ethereal music continues with drum rolls, wooden chimes, and traffic noises periodically playing][TERESA BARROZO]I’m Teresa Barrozo, and I’m a composer and a curious listener from the Philippines. [CRIS]Whereabouts in the Philippines are you?[TERESA]Carson City, Manila.[sounds continue][CRIS]Theresa, how did you get involved with the World Listening Project?[TERESA]It’s quite popular every year. I get to read up on it. For this year, I got invited by Eric Leonardo and Leah Barclay to create a theme for this year’s World Listening Day. I’m actually surprised that they invited me, because I’m starting out as a sound artist. My day job is that I’m a composer for film and theater and sound designer for theater, but this since that’s my background, I’ve been very fascinated with how sound and music is used in storytelling. How we use sound and music to manipulate our audience.[sounds are distorted, sped up and slowed down, with an occasional car honk being heard over the noise. Technological sounds are added.]That’s where my interest began. Here in the Philippines, there’s no such thing as sound studies, so I started looking outside the Philippines. I started reading about sound and listening online. Mostly, we find everything online, so I just started Googling stuff about sound. I really got interested. I got interested with sound installations; how sound can stand on its own as an art work. I’m interested on how sound can shape the society.[sounds become softer and have more of a rhythm, or steady beat]I saw online there’s this thing called acoustic ecology. There’s this thing about deep listening,
32 min 16 sec
This episode, we talk with Jennifer Lynn Stoever--editor of the influential sound studies blog Sounding Out!--about her new book, The Sonic Color Line: Race and the Cultural Politics of Listening (NYU Press, 2016). We tend to think of race and racism as visual phenomena, but Stoever challenges white listeners to examine how racism can infect our ears, altering the sound of the world and other people. We discuss the history of American prejudicial listening since slavery and learn how African American writers and musicians have pushed back against this invisible "sonic color line.”Works discussed include Richard Wright's Native Son and music by Huddie Ledbetter (Lead Belly), Fishbone, and Lena Horne.Additional music by Graeme Gibson and Blue the Fifth. Transcript [low humming playing] [CRIS CHEEK]This…is…Phantom Power. [COMPUTERIZED VOICE]Episode 5. [CRIS]Ears racing. [low humming and contemporary music fades in] [MACK HAGOOD]Race. We think of it as a visual phenomenon. [CRIS]But race has sound too. [DIFFERENT VOICES GIVING GREETINGS]Hey guys, welcome back. Hi sisters. Hey Jim, (inaudible). Hey everyone. Hey! [CRIS]When you heard those voices, did you give them a race, a class, perhaps some kind of assignation of character and if so, why do we do this? Where does this discriminating ear come from? [MACK]I’m Mack Hagood, [CRIS] and I’m cris cheek. [MACK]Today on Phantom Power we listen, to race or to put it more correctly, we examine how we are always listening to race. Our guide is Jennifer Lynn Stoever, Associate Professor of English at the State University of New York Binghamton. Stover is the author of the “Sonic Color Line: Race and the Cultural Politics of Listening” a book that argues that white racism depends just as much on the ear as it does the eye. She shows how listening has been used since slavery to distinguish and separate black and white and how African American artists and critics like Richard Wright Leadbelly and Lena Horne have identified, critiqued, and push the boundaries of this sonic color line. [techno-like music and a choir play in the background, then fade out] [MACK]Cris, when I spoke to Jennifer, she reminded me of a story that really shows how high the stakes of this kind of listening can be. [JENNIFER STOEVER]You know, I talk in the opening of the book about the case of Jordan Davis. [piano music fades in] [MALE NEWS REPORTER]It happened November 23rd, 47-year-old Michael Dunn told investigators he felt threatened at a gas station. Parked side by side with an SUV full of teenagers, the alleged gunman complained they were playing their music too loud. [JENNIFER]Jordan and his friends are playing hip hop at the gas pump. They were driving they had their music on. They were getting gas. Gas stations in theory (are) a transitory shared space where we all come in with our music we pump our gas and we leave. [MALE NEWS REPORTER]Detective say Dunn confronted Davis who was in the backseat and told him to turn the music down. [JENNIFER]The white man at question felt a proprietary access to the soundscape both it if he decided it was too loud, is too loud for everybody there, that his sensibility should be catered to. That there is a way that a gas station should sound and hip hop is not part of that. And when they said no, he saw that as as aggression. [MALE NEWS REPORTER]Dunn’s attorney says his client thought he saw a gun so he pulled his own weapon and started shooting. [last line echos a few times] [JENNIFER]Shot into the car. [MALE NEWS REPORTER]Firing at least eight shots. [JENNIFER]And killed a young man. [MALE NEWS REPORTER]Investigators never found a gun and the teen’s car. [ethereal music plays in the background] [MACK]In her book, Jennifer Stoever has a term for the way Michael Dunn heard Jordan Davis at that gas station back in 2012. The listening ear. [ethereal music cuts out] [JENNIFER]The listening ear helps us get at what’s really happening in a case li...
54 min 36 sec
This time we talk with a fascinating sound artist and composer Mack met at a recent meeting of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts. As his website puts it, "Brian House is an artist who explores the interdependent rhythms of the body, technology, and the environment. His background in both computer science and noise music informs his research-based practice. Recent interests include AI, telegraphy, and urban rats." If that description looks a little daunting on the screen, the work itself sounds really cool to cris and Mack. We'll listen to three pieces of Brian's: a composition that imprints motion-tracking data on collectible vinyl, a field recording from the Okavango Delta in Botswana, and an encounter with the wildlife that put the "burrows" in New York's five boroughs.Links to works discussed: Quotidian Record (2012), Urban Intonation (2017).Mack notes that it was incredible to edit this episode using Daniel Fishkin's daxophone arrangement of John Cage's "Ryoanji" (1983).The other music on today's episode is by Brian House and Graeme Gibson. Transcript [♪ ethereal music playing ♪][CRIS CHEEK]This… is… Phantom Power.[FEMALE COMPUTERIZED VOICE]Episode 3.[CRIS]Dirty Rat.[unidentified sounds raising and lowering in pitch, banging noises][CRIS]So, what are we listening to here, Mack?[MACK HAGOOD]What do you think we’re listening to here, Cris?[noises continue, Mack laughing][CRIS]I don’t know, what is that? Is that an owl, put through a filtering device or something?[MACK, still laughing]You think it sounds like an owl put through a filtering device? Let’s listen to some more.[CRIS]Oh, wow. So synthetic.[MACK]It sounds like an old theatre organ having a bad day.[CRIS]Oh, yeah, no, I’m hearing that now. A pipe organ.[MACK]Yeah.[CRIS]Or something that hasn’t got a lot of wheeze left in it.[MACK]Something sad is happening in the silent film.[CRIS]Something very sad is happening.[MACK]Harold Lloyd fell off the clock.[both laughing][CRIS]And so he did.[MACK]Alright, so… it’s… it’s rats.[CRIS]That’s a rat?![MACK]That’s a rat.[clanging noises begin, rat noises stop][MACK]So today we’re gonna meet the guy behind the rat recordings that you just heard a moment ago: Brian House. He’s a composer and sound artist I met last November at the Conference for the Society of Literature, Science, and the Arts, which is this really crazy conference for interdisciplinary scholarship and creative experimentation. I met Brian, and when I heard about what he was working on, I just knew we had to have him on the show. His work uses sound to express relationships between bodies, human and nonhuman bodies, social relationships, geographic relationships, temporal relationships, and sonic relationships. So we’ll be hearing three different pieces of his: a musical composition that traces human, urban, and transatlantic movement, a field recording from the wetlands of Botswana, and an installation that will take us into the underground boroughs of New York City. This is work that helps us make sense of relationships we normally can’t sense at all.[BRIAN HOUSE]Well, my name is Brian House, and I’m an artist based right now up here in Providence, though I frequently do work down in New York. Yeah, I’m up here at Brown University at the moment, working on my PhD in music.[♪ upbeat technological music ♪][CRIS]So, Mack – how does Brian get interested in rats when he’s working on music?[MACK]Well, I think in order to get into that, we need to understand more of his previous work and some of the themes that are going on in it.[BRIAN]You know, I’ve been particularly interested in the ideas of Henri Lefebvre, right, who, in his last writings, outlined this poetic methodology called “Rhythm Analysis.”[MACK]Yeah, yeah, he was the French Marxist sociologist, spent a good amount of time thinking about life in the city, and –[CRIS]And the design of the urban environment, and –[BRIAN]And that’s been the basis for a lot of my rece...
35 min 6 sec
This episode we have a single longform interview with a media scholar of note--The New School's Shannon Mattern. We have teamed up with Mediapolis, a journal that places urban studies and media studies into conversation with one another, to interview Mattern about her new book, Code and Clay, Data and Dirt: Five Thousand Years of Urban Media (U of Minnesota Press: 2018). And lucky for us on Phantom Power, a large portion of Mattern’s story is about sound, from the echoes of ancient caves to Roman amphitheaters to telephone wires and radio towers—she shows us how sonic infrastructures allow us to communicate and form communities, cultivating forms of intelligence that are embodied and affective, as well as informatic. Before there was the smart city, there was the sonic city—and the sonic city isn’t going anywhere soon. Some topics discussed: Patrick Feaster and First Sounds; Neil Postman; Harold Innis; Marshall McLuhan; John Durham Peters' The Marvelous Clouds; Carolyn Birdsall's Nazi Soundscapes. Transcript [♪ ethereal music ♪] cris cheek: This is Phantom Power. Female computer voice: Episode two. cris cheek: City of Voices. [♪ fade out ethereal music ♪] Shannon Mattern: When we reduce the city to a computer, we think that everything can be ‘datified,’ everything can be fed through an algorithm. There are actually a lot of really important dimensions, human dimensions in particular, historical dimensions, things that resist ‘datification,’ that don’t really fit into that model. So, there’s a lot about a city that sort of leaks through those algorithms, that isn’t captured when you equate the entire city with a computational machine. Mack Hagood: That’s Shannon Mattern, an associate professor of media studies at The New School in New York City. Thanks for joining us on Phantom Power, a podcast about the sonic arts and humanities. I’m Mack Hagood, flying solo this episode. cris cheek will be back for episode three. Last year we put this episode online as a preview of the series. So, for the couple hundred of you who listened to it, give it another listen. There’s a lot going on. Or just check us out again in two weeks, when we’ll talk to sound artist Brian House. But for everyone else, this episode, we talk with Shannon Mattern about her new book, Code and Clay, Data and Dirt: Five Thousand Years of Urban Media. A large portion of Mattern’s story is about sound, from the echoes of ancient caves, [echoes] to Roman ampitheaters, [chanting] to telephone wires and radio towers. [pre-recorded radio broadcast] She shows us how sonic infrastructures allow us to communicate and form communities, cultivating forms of intelligence that are embodied and effective, as well as informatic. Before there was the Smart City, there was the ‘sonic city,’ and the sonic city isn’t going anywhere soon. [♪ bell music ♪] If you spend any time looking at architecture or design blogs, or reading tech websites or watching TedTalks, you’ve probably encountered a couple of truisms about how human beings will live in the future. The future is urban, and the future is ‘smart.’ Pre-recorded Unidentified Female Voice: Half of the population of the world’s actually live in cities. Pre-recorded Unidentified Male Voice: By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities covering less than 2% of the earth’s surface Pre-recorded Unidentified Female Voice: But cities also give off a lot of challenges. Pre-recorded Unidentified Male Voice: Never have cities been so challenged. Pre-recorded Unidentified Female Voice: Well, many cities are starting to adopt ‘smart technology.’ [♪ upbeat music ♪] Pre-recorded Unidentified Male Voice: Public transportation, IT connectivity, water and power supplies, sanitation and solid waste management, efficient urban mobility, governments,
31 min 8 sec
On our first episode of Phantom Power, we ponder those moments when the air remains unmoved. Whether fostered by design or meteorological conditions or technological glitch, the absence of sound sometimes affects us more profoundly than the audible. We begin with author John Biguenet discussing his book Silence (Bloomsbury, 2015) and the relationship between quietude, reading, writing, and the self. Next, we speak to poet and hurricane responder Rodrigo Toscano, who takes us into the foreboding silence in eye of a storm. Finally, our own co-host and poet cris cheek ponders the many contradictory experiences of "dead air" in an age of changing media technologies. Today's episode features music by our own Mack Hagood and by Graeme Gibson, who is currently touring on drums with Michael Nau and the Mighty Thread. Transcript [♪ ethereal music playing ♪] [CRIS CHEEK] This… is… Phantom Power. [MACK HAGOOD] Episode One. [CRIS] Dead Air. [RODRIGO TOSCANO] You know, silence… [JOHN BIGUENET] It’s like, uh, it’s like a vacuum… like a walkie-talkie, where you’ve gotta press the button to speak and let it go to hear. [CRIS] The signal drops out. [MACK] Hello, and thanks for joining us on Phantom Power, podcast about sound in the arts and humanities. Over the next six or seven episodes this season, we’ll be investigating how artists and scholars are thinking about sound, writing about sound, and using sound to make things. My name’s Mack Hagood, I’m a media scholar, a writer, and a musician. [CRIS] I’m cris cheek, I’m a poet. Sometimes a sound poet, sometimes an unsound poet. I’ve also done a lot of work with music over the years. And I’m gonna be learning a lot as we make this series in terms of thinking about listening and talking together. Sounds about sound. [MACK] And I don’t, I don’t know if this is ironic or fitting, but we’re starting off this first episode talking about silence. So today we sort of have a three parter. We’re thinking about the roles of silence, uh, in reading and writing, and we’re going to think about the dead air in the eye of a hurricane, this kind of silence that prestiges something terrible. And, um, then we’re going to think about silence as a disruption. You know, an interruption of your regularly scheduled broadcast, or what they call [CRIS] Dead air. [MACK] [laughing] So, cris, a long, long time ago, I was a 19 year old college student in New Orleans, Louisiana, at Loyola University. And I just took this, you know, intro English class with this professor named John Biguenet and he just made a huge impression on me, really started making me think in different ways. And then I went on with my life, and it turned out that this gentleman John Biguenet turned into a well known fiction writer, poet, playwright, um, he has written a collection of short stories called The Torturer’s Apprentice, which is just this sort of spellbinding collection that is a little bit Chekov, a little bit Kafka, a little bit Borges. Um, he’s won the O’Henry Award for Short Fiction, uh, he’s won a Harper’s Magazine Writing Award. He wrote this trilogy of plays about Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans. And now he’s written a book on silence, uh, for this series of short books that have titles like Bread, or, uh, Golf Ball. [laughing] So, just kind of thinking deeply about these quotidian objects in our everyday lives and John chose silence. I read it, it’s a terrific short book, I highly recommend it. And so the last time I was down in New Orleans, I went to his office and we had a terrific conversation. [♪ record crackles, loud bells chiming ♪] [JOHN] We may conjecture that somewhere in the cosmos, beyond the border of all human trace, a zone of silence awaits. [♪ bells chime again ♪] Always receding, of course, before the advance of future explorers. A great sea of stillness unperturbed by the animate. An utterly quiet virgin territory. Our imagination misleads us if we conceive of s...
36 min 34 sec