Sounds of My Life: A Sixties Radio Narrative is a sound installation with Jeannette Altman consisting of a 1960s portable radio outfitted with an Arduino sound player. The Arduino unit plays a 9'04" sound file on continuous loop through the radio's speaker. The sound file samples radio and television broadcasts during the "The Sixties," a time of intense social, political, and cultural change. The result is a sampled narrative about the events that, looking back, shaped my life. The work was extracted from the earlier, and longer, Sounds of My Life (2010), a prototype for an envisioned project to produce a narrative sampled from radio, television, and other sound sources for each decade of my life. Listen to Sounds of My Life: A Sixties Radio Narrative.
Exhibitions / Publications / Broadcasts
- Audiobiography: 1960s: A sonic memoir, Harlot: A Revealing Look at the Arts of Persuasion, #9 Sonic Rhetorics, April 2013.
peer reviewed publication
- Electrifying Literature: Affordances and Constraints
The Monongalia Arts Center
juried sound art installation, 9'04"
Morgantown, West Virginia
13-23 June 2012
The Electrifying Literature: Affordances and Constraints media arts show was part of the Electronic Literature Organization 2012 conference, University of West Virginia.
The intent of the work, in the context of this exhibition, was to focus on sound as an important component of electronic literature. In my artist statement, I said of this work,
Not a typical radio documentary, nor a narrated history, the intent is instead a narrative that remixes the medium of its original telling, empowering listeners to combine the sounds heard with their lived experience to create a meaningful, personal experience. The desired end result is to provide listeners / participants a chronological acousmatic context in which to consider the relevance of historical, political, rhetorical, and cultural experiences seemingly, at first glance, far removed from traditionally accepted aspects / definition(s) of literature, but, upon closer examination / listening / reading, quite evocative of a multivalent, emerging electronic literature.
- LOUD & Clear: Sound & Image
North Bank Artists Gallery
invited sound art installation, 9'04"
6-28 April 2012
LOUD & Clear: Sound & Image was a month-long exhibition of works by students and faculty of the Creative Media & Digital Culture program at Washington State University, Vancouver, Washington. Each Friday of the month featured a different performance by a visiting media artist.
- Administration Gallery
Washington State University Vancouver
invited sound art installation, 9'04"
10 November 2010-1 March 2011
- iDEAS 10: Art and Digital Narrative
juried art installation, 9'04"
Emily Carr University of Art and Design
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
2-7 November 2010
The iDEAS 10 exhibition, with its theme of art and digital network, was part of the International Digital Media and Arts Association 2010 conference.
Sounds of My Life: A 1960's Radio Narrative, a collaboration between John Barber and Jeannette Altman, is a sound art installation, consisting of a 1960s portable radio outfitted with an Arduino sound player. The Arduino unit plays a 9'04" sound file on continuous loop through the radio's speaker.The sound file, samples the sonic rhetorics I heard through radio and television broadcasts during the "The Sixties," a time of intense social, political, and cultural change. The result is a sampled narrative about the events that, looking back, shaped my life.
The chronologically arranged samples of oral history, field and historical recordings, soundscapes, found sounds, appropriation, and cut ups are edited for length only and are not modified from their original recording characteristics via filtering, or other forms of electronic manipulation. Additional aural elements simulate changing radio stations / chapters in the overall narrative. The focus on the broadcast radio / television medium(s) is intentional as it examines repurposed narrative frameworks fostered by transmission arts, a particular interest of mine as a sound artist.
The focus on the broadcast radio medium is intentional as it examines repurposed narrative frameworks as a form of transmission arts. Not a typical radio documentary, nor a narrated history, the intent is instead a narrative that remixes the medium of its original telling, empowering listeners to combine the sounds heard with their lived experience to create a meaningful, personal experience. The desired end result is to provide listeners / participants a chronological acousmatic context in which to consider the relevance of historical, political, rhetorical, and cultural experiences ***.
Sounds of My Life: A 1960's Radio Narrative is a prototype for larger project, called Sounds of My Life, where I propose to produce an similar audio narrative from sampled recordings for each decade of my life. The research question behind this work is, "How can digital sound communication technologies effectively combine oral history, field recordings, and voice samples with additional sound events to create an immersive digital narrative experience?"
Timeline and Content
1 February 1960
Four black college students—David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, and Joseph McNeal, The Greensboro Four—from North Carolina Agriculture and Technical College sat down at a segregated lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, F. W. Woolworth Company, and refused to leave until they were served. The four young men stayed at the counter until it closed. The next day they returned with fifteen students. By the third day, 300 other people had joined them. Soon, 1,000 gathered at the Woolworth lunch counter. The sit in, as a political tactic, captured media attention and spread to fifty-four segregated lunch counters in nine states throughout the South. The sit in at the Greensboro Woolworth lunch counter continued for six months, with shifts of protestors occupying the seats and enduring threats from bystanders. On 26 July 1960, Woolworth corporate headquarters ordered the managers of the Greensboro store to segregate their lunch counter. The sit-in, as a political action, became a focal point of the Civil Rights Movement. McCain describes the thinking behind their activism.
1 May 1960
A CIA U-2 spy plane, piloted by Francis Gary Powers, was shot down near Svedlovsk, Soviet Union. Powers parachuted safely to the ground where he was captured and held for 1 year 9 months and 9 days by the Soviet authorities before being traded for Soviet spy Colonel Rudopph Ivanovich Abel. The event had an everlasting negative impact on relations between the Soviet Union and the United States that culminated in the Bay of Pigs, 17 April 1961, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 1962.
- 1961 #1 Song: "I Fall To Pieces" by Patsy Cline
Planned for later addition
17 January 1961
In his Farewell Adddress, elivered three days before leaving office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower warns against the rising danger of "the military-industrial complex." Not noted as a dynamic rhetor, Eisenhower's warning was easily discounted, and worse, ignored. As it turned out, he was telling the truth, and he was absolutely right to be concerned.
20 January 1961
In his inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy challenges citizens of the nation to think of their country, do for their country, rather than expecting the nation to do for them with this famous quote: "Ask not what your county can do for you, but rather what you can do for your country." I admit to being inspired by Kennedy's rhetoric when I first heard him speak these words on television in 1961, and continue to be inspired today. The idea that I could be part of the country moving forward, that my effort and contribution mattered, was a powerful, and persuasive idea.
12 April 1961
Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in outer space and the first to orbit Earth. "The Earth is blue," he reported to ground control. "How wonderful. It is amazing." And yes, indeed, how amazing that human beings were, and would continue, traveling in space. There was no need for an overlay of rhetoric devices or delivery. Gagarin's amazement with this new experience was enough to convince me of its authenticity. It made no difference that he was Russian, and was in space before any American. He represented all of humanity with his amazed, yet dignified observation.
17 April 1961
Bay of Pigs Invasion. CIA-trained Cuban exiles invaded Southern Cuba, with support from the United States. This support, however, was withdrawn, and the invaders were defeated in three days, much to the embarrassment of newly inaugurated President Kennedy, who responds in this selection, clearly utilizing his rhetorical skills to position United States involvement in the failed invasion as purely advisory, a stance that was used year's later as the nation became more and more involved in Viet Nam.
- 1962 #1 Song: "Roses Are Red (My Love)" by Bobby Vinton
Planned for later addition
20 February 1962
John Glenn becomes the fifth human and the first American astronaut, to orbit the Earth aboard Friendship 7. He orbited Earth three times during a flight lasting 4 hours, 55 minutes, and 23 seconds. The rhetorical message behind his statement, "All systems are go!", spoke to his confidence, and that of the nation, that the United States would participate fully in the exploration of space.
12 September 1962
During a speech delivered at Rice University, in Houston, Texas, President John Kennedy delivered this famous challenge: "I believe that this nation should commit itself, to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth." His rhetorical style was understated, yet definitive politics. We trailed the Russians in space exploration. Getting to the moon first would prove the technical and political superiority of the capitalist system. Whether or not for political reasons, the nation got behind the challenge and we all watched, spellbound, the various Gemini and Apollo missions leading up to the eventual launch bound for the moon.
22 October 1962
In this radio and television address to the nation, and the world, regarding the Cuban Missile Crises, President John Kennedy was intent to convey only one rhetorical message: "The United States will not tolerate nuclear warheads in Cuba, just ninety miles off the Florida coast." The Russian freighters carrying the missiles did not turn around until confronted by a United States Navy blockade. It was clear that Kennedy's rhetorical stance left no room for interpretation, or pushback.
"Duck and Cover"
Sample from a US Department of Defense film designed to teach the "duck and cover" method of personal protection from a nuclear explosion. First released in 1951, the film was shown into the 1980s. Note the rhetorical message, "Duck and cover will save your life in the advent of a nuclear attack." Of course, I knew this rhetoric was totally false, worse, cynical. I use it here, out of sequence with the timeline, in order to portray my fear of nuclear war during the 1960s.
"Daisy, Daisy" 1962
The IBM 704 was the first computer to sing when it delivered a rendition of "Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)" composed in 1892 by Harry Dacre. The synthesized vocals were programmed by John L. Kelly and Carol Lockbaum. The accompaniment was programmed by Max Mathews. The 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey gave a nod to this first performance when the HAL 9000 computer, while being deprogrammed, sang this same song.
- 1963 #1 Song: "Surfin' USA" by The Beach Boys
Planned for later addition
14 January 1963
Alabama Governor George Wallace included the phrase, "I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" in his inauguration speech. It was a dark day for segregation and civil rights, and when I heard Wallace's rhetoric I swore never to set foot in Alabama, a promise I later broke for graduate school, a decision made consciously in order to learn more about living in such a racist context.
26 June 1963
Begun 13 August 1961 by the German Democratic Republic, the Berlin Wall, two years later, not only divided the city of Berlin, but provided a barrier for people seeking to escape communist-controlled East Berlin and eastern bloc European countries during the Cold War. When President John Kennedy visited the wall in West Berlin and said, in German, "Ich bin ein Berliner," the western world took note of his rhetoric, standing shoulder to shoulder with Berliners and others who longed for freedom.
28 August 1963
I would argue that the seventeen minute "I Have A Dream" speech, delivered by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was the greatest rhetorical event of the 1960s, and of any time since. King, speaking to over 200,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, invoked the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, the United States Constitution, and other sources, as well as rhetorical devices, especially anaphora, to educate, inform, and inspire those gathered on site and listening around the world. The end of King's speech, which I have included in my sound file, brings together the various elements to leave the audience with his vision of freedom and equality arising from slavery and hatred.
22 November 1963
During a live news break into regularly scheduled programming, CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite announced, "President Kennedy died . . ." clearly emotional, yet still objective in his delivery. Kennedy was shot early in the day while riding in a motorcade through downtown Dallas, Texas. For many of us, Kennedy's death announced the beginning of the end for our dreams of hope and change and the building of a better world. We, like Cronkite, tried to remain dignified, even while screaming internally over our loss.
24 November 1963
Two days after he was alleged to have assassinated President John Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald himself was shot and killed by Jack Ruby in the basement of the Dallas Police Department on live television. This sample, from an on-the-scene report by Tom Pettit, NBC News, captures the pandemonium better than the numerous formal reports that followed, and contributed to my feeling of a downward spiral of hope.
- 1964 #1 Song: "I Want To Hold Your Hand" by The Beatles
Planned for later addition
9 February 1964
Ed Sullivan, host of the very popular television entertainment show that bore his name, introduced The Beatles by saying, simply, "Ladies and gentlemen, The Beatles!" He needed not say more, or use any different rhetorical strategy. My friends and families were tuned in, sitting on the edge of our seats, anxious to see, and hear, at last, the greatest popular culture phenomena we had ever known.
25 February 1964
Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr. outboxed Sonny Listen to become, at age 22, the youngest boxer ever to take the title from the reigning world heavyweight champion. Later this year, Clay announced his conversion to Islam, and changed his name to Muhammad Ali. This sample captures some of the rhetorical excitement surrounding these events.
3 April 1964
Human rights activist Malcom X delivered his "The Ballot or the Bullet" speech at the Cory Methodist Church, Cleveland, Ohio. In his speech, Malcom X advised African Americans to exercise their right to vote, but cautioned that if the United States government continued to deny African Americans full equality it might be necessary to take up arms. The rhetorical message of X's speech was clear even to individuals such as myself with little interest or direct involvement in politics: the other end of the spectrum from Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" was "I Have A Gun." X's rhetoric represented a more radical, and potentially violent, answer to civil rights issues confronting the nation in the 1960s.
7 September 1964
In 1964, Americans were still fearful of nuclear war. The presidential election that year pitted Lyndon Johnson, vice president under John Kennedy and sworn to the presidency following his assassination, against Barry Goldwater. The Viet Nam War still raged and Johnson and Goldwater debated how to bring about its end. Johnson's rhetorical message in the "Daisy" television commercial was clear: if elected president, Barry Goldwater would use the atomic bomb. The rhetorical strategy worked and Johnson was elected president. After four years he had not concluded the Viet Nam war and refused to run for reelection.
21 February 1965
Malcom X was murdered while delivering a speech in Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom This interview with his widow, Betty Shabazz, took place the afternoon of his death. Shabazz, clearly in shock, had no need for rhetorical strategies or devices. Her anguish was felt by thousands listeners, all of whom shared her question, "What next?"
"For What It's Worth"
"For What It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield, recorded in December 1966, was a political anthem throughout the remainder of the 1960s. In just a few lines, Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Richie Furay, and Jim Messina deliver an unescapable rhetorical message: it is time we stop all the confrontation, take a look around, and ask, "what's that sound?", what is going on?
- 1968 #1 Song: "Hey Jude" by The Beatles
Planned for later addition
23 April 1968
Students for A Democratic Society (SDS), led by Mark Rudd, took over and occupied for several days, Hamilton Hall at Columbia University, New York, a building housing classrooms and university administrative offices. Rudd later admitted that these actions were wrong, and that they contributed to destroying the New Left. SDS was outspoken in its protest of the Viet Nam War. The rhetorical message of chanting by thousands of protestors, such as in this sample, were common on college campus and larger demonstrations around the nation. The message was heard.
31 March 1968
President Lyndon H. Johnson, faced with growing national dissent over the war in Vietnam, announces that he will not seek reelection.
2 April 1968
In the movie, 2001 A Space Odyssey, the HAL 9000 computer takes over a space mission to Jupiter, killing off all but one of the spaceship crew. HAL had many memorable lines in the movie. One is sampled here: "I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that." It made sense at the time, President Johnson saying he would not continue as President of the United States and a self-aware computer asserting independence.
4 April 1968
Senator Robert Kennedy announced the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis, Tennessee, while campaigning for the United States presidency in Indianapolis, Indiana. Imagine driving into an unfamiliar neighborhood in an unfamiliar city, standing up in the back of a pickup truck, and extemporaneously telling a crowd that their spiritual, cultural, and political leader had just been murdered. Kennedy's rhetorical presence is sympathetic and calming. I admired his courage and forethought, even while grieving King's death.
5 June 1968
Robert Kennedy, United States Senator and brother of assassinated president John F. Kennedy, was shot at the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, California, shortly after midnight following a victory speech after winning the California and South Dakota primary elections for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. He died twenty-six hours later. This sound sample, taken from a radio/television news update, speaks to the collective horror felt around the country that yet another charismatic leader had been assassinated.
- 1969 #1 Song: "Aquarius" by The Fifth Dimension
Planned for late addition
20 July 1969
First moon landing
Millions watched a live television broadcast as astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped down from the lunar landing module, the first human being to set foot on the surface of the moon. "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," he said. His chosen words have been analyzed and criticized ever since, but his rhetorical message remains just as exciting today as it did the first time I heard them.
15-18 August 1969
Wavy Gravy (Hugh Nanton Romney) woke the crowd of 400,000 to another day of what is considered the pivotal moment in popular music history, the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, Woodstock, New York. The conditions on site were less than ideal, but spirits were high. Gravy's rhetorical message attempted to capture that spirit despite the rain, mud, and physical exhaustion we all shared.