Field Noise is a show about the role of sound in our everyday lives. It’s a show about people who make sounds and people who listen to them. It’s a show about music and noise and silence and the politics of those categories. It’s a show about how disability, gender, race, and class are central to what we think about as “technology.” And it’s a show that is very much still finding its voice. Here’s a preview.
These last few weeks I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how a show about sound should sound, and for me that has meant a) procrastinating, and b) making little scenes without worrying too much about the narrative. I’ve been grabbing short pieces of interviews and mixing them with archival audio, some music, maybe some sound effects. Once I had all of these interesting interview clips sitting around, I wanted to share them. The snippets that comprise this trailer come from stories about old reading technologies, new listening technologies, the history of violin making, regional language differences, the politics of jet noise, and more. The voices you hear come from the bodies of:
Harvey Lauer, Mara Mills, Max Rammer, Sam Zygmuntowicz, Alex Libin, Joan Hall, Alma Princip, Quincey Whitney, Steven Aquino (and Harvey Lauer again). The music is by the Minneapolis band Inside Voice. They were generous enough to share some demos with me and are cutting their debut record right now. I can’t wait to hear it.
The first “real” episode of Field Noise is coming soon(ish?), but in the meantime, I hope this gets you a tiny bit as excited for this project as I am.Transcript
Harvey Lauer, from an old recording: The Visotoner is a reading machine for the blind. There are nine tones in its output. Here they are, first one by one, then all together.
[electronic tones play an ascending scale]
Mara Mills: Anyone who studies the history of reading or listening can tell you that you don’t often have a record of how people read, or how people listen, or how people learn to play an instrument.
[Electronic chord, followed by a song featuring a cello with electronic accompaniment]
Mara Mills: You have the teacher’s guides, you have the recording at the end, but you don’t—to understand a technique or a human behavior…they don’t often leave records.
[Violin music continues]
Max Rammer: With my injury, I can kind of take my wrist and hit it up against like a drum pad. That’s kind of how I use these drum pads is…
[sound of hand hitting a drum machine]
I know it’s audio recording, so you can’t see what I’m doing, but I’m just kind of hitting my pinky up to the beat pad.
[violin music continues]
Sam Zygmuntowicz: Well, let’s let’s just back up a little bit. There’s a line of a line of thought which is that every object vibrates according to its nature. Those vibrations move the air. And the different vibrations will move the air in different ways and be perceived by the ear. And the combination of ways that it vibrates will give it its tone color.
[Sound of feet running on gravel with a digital metronome]
Alex Libin: One thing I started doing was I was like, Okay, well, I’ll run with this metronome. And if I have the metronome, you know, it’s going to keep my cadence where it needs to be no matter how slow I’m running.
[Continuation of running with metronome, with electronic melody and violin music]
Joan Hall: Well, one of the principles behind this was that we were not going to bowdlerize the language. We wanted to show how people use it. And even when it’s very offensive, if it’s a fact of our history, we didn’t want to whitewash it. The entry for the N word was very difficult. But we tried to be as descriptive and maybe clinical as possible.
[Electronic music with swelling cello]
Alma Princip: I grew up in a war zone. So hearing these planes as well as some fireworks always puts me on edge and in panic mode…it’s very visceral.
Quincy Whitney: Her legacy is nothing short of overturning the violin world in several different ways. One of them is she encourages open communication.
Steven Aquino: Don’t don’t edit it out, because, you know, it makes for cleaner audio. Like, you know, I am who I am, right?
[in the music, electronic tones end, leaving only the cello]
Harvey Lauer, from an old recording: Thank you. That’s all for this.
[music ends along with sound of a tape recorder turning off]