Field recordings in the Annapurna region of Nepal near Tibet, including a ceremony for the Buddha’s birthday, a few donkey trains passing in a cacophony of melodious bells; and a five-foot prayer wheel in a Buddhist gompa in Marpha.
From NPR Radio Expeditions, hidden deep in the woods of the Payette National Forest are the terraced remnants of the “Ah Toy Garden” (near the town of Warren, Idaho), now on the National Register of Historic Places. Produced by Carolyn Jensen Chadwick with sound desgin by Michael Scweppe.
When most people are headed to the beach, our producer heads for the ski slopes near his home in Utah. The goal is to find a combination of freezing and thawing in the late spring that gives the mountain snow pack the singular spring skiing experience(on PRX | on NPR).
Attempting to climb the world’s most deadly and second highest demands extreme gear, training, timing, preparation, and a carefully selected team. Joe Frank eschews every bit of that: why make so easy? Excepted from Joe’s hour, Mountain Rain, available on CD and as an MP3. Music: “Buried At Sea” MC 900 Ft Jesus, One Step Ahead of the Spider.
Beatrice is a white toy poodle, a neighbor, and “the most evil entity, force, energy known to man. Death to humans is a mere plop of a pebble in the ocean that is the evil that you are Beatrice. Evil Beatrice the white poodle.”
From Sonic Scenery, an exhibit I worked on at the natural history museum in Los Angeles a couple years ago. Composers were invited to record music specifically to be heard in wings of the museum. The visitor wears a headset, which plays the compositions when triggered by remote signals in the galleries. Experimental duo Matmos took it all the way by making audio environments for each of the seventeen dioramas in the North American Mammals hall. The timechart (above) was intended to cue the visitor to move from one window to the next, but you can read along for a similar effect.
In general, our work starts by taking an object, making sounds with that object, and working outward from those sounds in a free-associative manner, without a preconceived result or specifically targeted genre in mind.
In this case, we have had to reverse this process and have tried to think about the precise specifics of the North American Mammals hall and work to gather sounds that will evoke both the natural locale and the specific behaviors of the animals in the room. We decided to anchor our piece around the sounds of animals eating, breathing, and sniffing their environment, and to locate these noises of animal life against a backdrop of plateaulike drones generated with musical instruments associated with “Americana”: pedal steel, acoustic guitar, banjo, harmonica, and autoharp. Feeding peanut butter to a friend’s dog, we built up a basic library of mammalian lip-smacking, huffing, barking, whining, sniffling, and breathing noises, and combined this with a percussive battery of antler noises made by smacking deer antlers against each other and some softer rustling textures harvested by stroking and rubbing the pelt of a wolf.
The work is divided into miniature ‘cells,’ which stand in for the seventeen distinct dioramas/environments and animal species represented in the room, and this is split down the middle by a central section that corresponds to the large bison display at the far end of the room. Our work is intended to be a sound map of a walk through this room and is paced to coincide with a five-to-seven-minute counterclockwise walk through its contents
“17 Species of North American Mammals” (2:22 excerpt) Matmos
LA’s The Natural History Museum commissioned original music compositions to accompany their 2006 exhibit Sonic Scenery: Music for Collections. Matmos’ music used the vocal sounds of North American mammals.
One of America’s oldest roadside attractions is the Linesville Spillway in northwest Pennsylvania. Tourists toss bread; carp amass at the spillway’s edges: The fish are so thick that mallard ducks hop, skip and jump on the fish’s backs to compete for a slice of bread. Original music by Tim Fite, part of LHP’s song/story series.
Writer (Amazon), hunter, angler, outdoorsman, Norman Strung demonstrates the shrill sound and thrill found in calling for elk. (Miss ya, Norm: “Labradors [are] lousy watchdogs. They usually bark when there is a stranger about, but it is an expression of unmitigated joy at the chance to meet somebody new, not a warning.” –Norman Strung)
Father Rupe LaRock and son Joe provide a hunter’s perspective of the annual deer breeding cycle. “You can just smell the heat and smell the rut right in the air.” Another of the Deer Stories , produced with Gregory Sharrow at the Vermont Folk Life Center.
For Memorial Day, two stories recorded in Vietnam, one after the war, and one during:
In 1966, a young Lance Corporal carried a reel-to reel tape recorder with him into Vietnam. He made tapes of his friends, of life in fighting holes, of combat; and he continued to record until, two months later, when he was killed in action. Friend and fellow marine, Tim Duffie, remembers him in “The Vietnam Tapes of Michael A. Baronowski,” produced by Jay Allison and Christina Egloff for Lost & Found Sound. NPR: story | response | credits/links; American RadioWorks: transcript; Lance Cpl Baronowski: Memorial.
Host Alex Chadwick first went to Southeast Asia was as a soldier in the Sixties. Two decades later, he made a “Return to Vietnam” as a journalist, on the anniversary of the Tet offensive, to find what had and hadn’t changed since the war (producer: Art Silverman, engineer: Flawn Williams).
A classical composition, in three parts, for strings, winds, and an interview with Tom Martinet, who trained to be a priest, but, instead, started working Nevada dice tables. Premiered 1997 in Vegas, performed by Sierra Wind Quintet. Re-released on PKB’s 2006 Larkin Gifford’s Harmonica.
“Poker at the Ox” (9:54) Alex Chadwick
An NPR hosts pits his wits against the regulars at a downtown small-town casino. Guess who wins. Produced by Carolyn Jensen; sound engineer by Michael Schweppe.
“Old Gambler” (7:07) Joe Frank
An excerpt from Joe’s hour “Zen” in his series The Other Side. What happened in Vegas… definitely didn’t stay in Vegas. Getting on the wrong side of Sin City’s collection crew.
“Bass Keno” (8:18)
Jazz bassist Kelly Roberti (David Murray Quintet) lost his bass to the keno machines. He kicked the habit; the scars remain, but the bass is back. Kelly was a 2010 Governor’s Arts Awards winner.
“Lock It Up” (5:56) John Ridley
A radio drama written for Ridley’s 2001 LA Series on NPR Morning Edition. Performers are Bob Wisdom, Yang Chee, and Jim Wallace (script).
Above photo of the Las Vegas sign by Kcferret, June 2005.
Our show host maps get directions to Heaven, in the holy Hindu city of Vrindavan, India. A three story series:
“The Streets of a Holy Hindu City” are reminders that the Hindu faith is everywhere in Vrindavan — countless temples line the streets and pilgrims march in devotion. There is also stark, third-world poverty and suffering. But for the faithful, the city is a manifestation of heaven, here on Earth.
“Pilgrims on the Path of Krishna“, among the stones of ancient temples and bathing pools, march and chant praise to Krishna and his consort, Radha. They touch the holy water of the Yamuna River and walk barefoot down the same paths they believe Krishna himself once trod.
“The Embodiment of Earthly Divinity“, the focus of many worshippers in Vrindavan, is the Sri Radha Raman Temple, where a black stone statue of Krishna sits enshrined and wrapped in saffron robes. Many consider the small stone statue to be Krishna himself.
The producers gather sounds from the streets of their own backyard, the 112 square miles of the borough of Queens, New York, home to the largest mix of immigrants and refugees in the United States. These are people praying in different neighborhoods, in churches, mosques, synagogues, in apartments, at public gatherings and in private moments who come from Togo, China, Haiti, Nigeria, Queens, Romania, even North Carolina. Part of: Crossing the BLVD: strangers, neighbors, aliens in a new America.
The producer is in Harvard Square with his aunts, looking for a “side-room”: That’s their word for a place to pray. Five times daily, even when they’re away from home, they perform “namaaz” (nah-MAHZ), their prayer service. They find the direction of Mecca, and a space that, temporarily at least, is sacred. Hammad Ahmed’s piece, was produced for the Say It This Way podcast. A brief glossary for the uninitiated: “qibla” = the direction Muslims face while praying (i.e. towards Mecca), “namaaz” = any of the five daily prayers, “hijab” = Muslim headscarf, “sajdah” = lying prostrate during prayer, “side-room” = a private-or-not-private space that Muslims occupy for prayer when away from home.
A woman’s song on the streets of Taipei, Taiwan, leads the producer to the outskirts of town, to climb the rock steps of the White Temple. There, high in the clouds, one hundred voices are singing a salutation to the Buddha.
Splendid with Sound: The audio world lost a great producer today, Carolyn Jensen Chadwick. With her husband Alex she co-founded NPR’s Radio Expeditions (article in Current) and produced the Interviews 50 Cents films.
We hope you’ll spend an hour soaking in her sonics below. Hubby Alex once described a jungle as “splendid with sound.” That phrase also does justice to CJC’s enveloping, enrapturing, sometimes ecstatic, and always engaging work.
Master-engineer Skip Pizzi (NPR, Microsoft) would play this first piece at workshops to illustrate how a simple story can be superb, when elegantly enhanced with stereo sound. David Molpus narrates a portrait of “Equestrian Olympian: Bruce Davidson” (1984 / Carolyn Jenson Chadwick, producer / 12:39 mp3):
Among the natural sounds CJC captured were those of human nature, as when her husband Alex pitted wits with the regulars at a small-town casino, playing “Poker at the Ox” (Carolyn Jenson Chadwick, producer; Michael Schweppe, engineer / 9:55 mp3):
And in the mountains of Payette National Forest, it’s all guns, guitars, guts, and wild game, inside an “Idaho Hunting Camp” (Carolyn Jenson Chadwick, producer; Michael Schweppe, engineer / 12:57 mp3):
NPR Alex Chadwick invites America to share their stories of Flexible Flyers and downhill runs in a cross-USA audio Sledding Party, produced by Katie Davis. (Music: “Come to the Meadow” Roger Kellaway Cello Quartet (1974).)
Seven skiers go into the back-country, only six return; the story from the perspective of the survivors: Dave Carter, Dwight Butler, Alan Murphy, Chris Larson, and Larry Olson; in memory of Greg McIntyre.
A training day in the life of three women at the U.S. High Altitude Sports Center in Butte, Montana; with skaters Chantelle Bailey, Tara Laslo, and Mary Doctor, and trainers Michael Crowe and Susan Sandvig.
“Vatnajökull” (excerpts /2003) Chris Watson
And the sounds of Iceland’s largest glacier, captured by field-recordist Chris Watson, on his CD Weather Report(Touch Music).
Watson’s Vatnajökull sounds were also used in this Sigur Rós film, “Heima” (trailer):
Poland battles against the Germans and then the Russians at the start of the Second World War.
A German foot soldier and Polish townspeople recall, differently, the first days of the invasion of Poland in September 1939, and Poland’s later battle to fight years of environmental poisoning during the Soviet era.