Sounds of My Life is a 28:08 experimental radio art narrative that combines, layers, and remixes segments of oral history, audio narrative, soundscapes, found sounds, samples of radio drama, appropriation, cut ups, and sound effects to create a meaningful listening experience.
Object: Audio file
Bit Rate: 356kbs
Creator: John F. Barber
Exhibitions, Publications, Broadcasts
Future Places: Digital Media and Local Culture
(Invited radio art broadcast, 28:08)
14-15 October 2010
Invited for broadcast as part of Future Places: Digital Media and Local Culture conference, a collaboration between the Science and Technology Foundation of Portugal and the University of Texas at Austin with a focus on interdisciplinary research, education, and capacity building in advanced digital media addressing the potential and impact of digital media on local culture. Renamed Analog Memories::Digital Futures to align with conference theme.
RadiaLx convenes every two years, providing a forum for international artists and producers to explore and share "new and forgotten ways of making radio." Broadcast by Radio Zero at the Lisbon Institute of Technology, RadiaLx highlights radio not just as a broadcast medium, but as an active social enhancer focusing on participative and social awareness of the radio art form and technology. Broadcast by Rádio Zero, part of the international Radia network.
Timeline and Content
Vancouver, Washington, Symphony Orchestra tuning
X Minus One blastoff SFX
The opening of the classic radio show, X Minus One, broadcast on NBC from 24 April 1955-9 January 1958. The rocket launch SFX was a backdrop to the narrator's introduction of another tale of "new dimensions in time and space."
"Survivor" (excerpt 1)
Oral histories are recording impressions, opinions, or experiences lived by the speaker, generally in relation to some historic or otherwise significant event. "Survivor" (excerpt 1) is a recorded conversation with one survivor of the atomic bomb blast at Hiroshima. The survivor speaks through a translator to recount her experiences.
"Is Everybody In?" (excerpt)
William Burroughs reading a poem by Jim Morrison, over a soundtrack provided by Morrison and The Doors.
"Broadcasting in digital stereo . . ."
Skills in digital audio production are often applied to more utilitarian pursuits. That does not mean, however, that these efforts have to be any less creative. A truly wonderful piece of audio draws no attention to itself, but immerses the listener in a cocoon of believable and participatory reality.
A frequently-used SFX for film and television, used in more than 216 films since 1951, and now a popular cinematic clichè.
"Dance with Tweaks and Whistles"
An audio narrative, in my thinking, tells a story using various sound files rather than relying on the spoken voices of multiple actors. "Dance with Tweeks and Whistles" spans the cosmos and the history of computer technology. The computer music is some of the earliest created in 1951. The tweeks and whistles are very low frequency sounds created somewhere in the universe and recorded here on Earth.
"Acousmatic" refers to a sound one hears without being able to visualize its source. Acousmatic listening focuses on the act of hearing, and makes the "sonorous object" what we hear, not what is playing the sound (Pierre Schaeffer. "Acousmatics." Audio Culture: Readings in Modern Music. Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner, eds. New York: Continuum, 2004. 76-81). With acousmatic listening we take interest in sounds for their own merit, refining our listening. Repeated listenings make us aware of our listening variations and our own subjectivity.
"Voice of the Fair"
Soundscapes are layered audio recordings that attempt to present the multiple sounds one might hear in a particular immersive acoustic environment, real or imagined. "Voice of the Fair" combines various field recordings to represent the ambience of a county fair.
"Amen Air Raid"
As DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid tells us, "lay one metaphor onto the other, remix, and press play. The sampling machine can handle any sound, and any expression. You just have to find the right edit points in the sound envelope—it's that structure thing come back as downloadable shareware for the information perplexed. . . . The remix becomes 'faction'" ("In through the Out Door." Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture. Paul Miller, ed. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2008. 6, 9). And, as Mark Amerika told me, "it's art about the future using the materials of now; people making up their lives, shape shifting, borrowing, moving through and around the bits of information, learning to navigate the virtual." (personal conversation).
"Amen Air Raid Rain" samples and remixes the "Amen Break," an air raid siren, and Steve Reich's "It's Gonna Rain." The iconic amen break (the 6 second drum break from "Amen, Brother" by The Winstons, 1966) was sampled extensively in early hip-hop and sample-based music and is the basis for drum-and-bass and jungle music. It exists in multiple forms and versions today. This is the original. The air raid siren is also a cultural icon, especially for those who lived through World War II in Europe, or the Cold War in America. Steve Reich's "It's Gonna Rain" features African American Pentecostal preacher Brother Walter recorded January 1965 in San Francisco's Union Square. Walter begins with the story of Noah. Reich repeats and loops the phrase "it's gonna rain" throughout the original tape recording.
"Voices of the Sixties"
Aural histories, in addition to vocal narratives, may include other sounds to provide context, background, and deeper, richer information about the topic or event of focus. In fact, the narrator's voice may be eliminated entirely, allowing the additional sounds to provide the narrative. This audio narrative mixes audio samples from political speeches and signature events to provide a personal, chronological, historical perspective of the politics, civil rights, space exploration, counterculture movement, and popular culture during the 1960s. This portion evolved into Sounds of My Life: A Sixties Radio Narrative.
Constructed from field recordings to represent a natural environment.
"Symphony for Antique Tractors"
Combines field recordings of antique tractors and other farm machinery made during at a county fair.
Found Sound describes audio objects created from modified sound files that are not normally considered art, often because they already have a non-art function. A good example is home recorded tapes or messages from telephone answering machines that often turn up in garage sales and thrift stores. Found sound provides an opportunity for both the artist and the audience to contemplate the original sound file(s), as well as their recombination. Much of the identity of found sound as an art form comes from the designation placed upon it by the individual artist. "Ghost Story" combines an answering machine taped greeting with a home audio recording to produce unintended, but pleasing results.
Acousmatic listening (see above)
"Alien Operating Room"
Creates a fantasy soundscape. What sounds might one hear in an alien (as in intergalactic) operating room? Nobody knows, but we can imagine . . .
An appropriation from the mid-1980s "Rainer Frogs" television commercial featuring frogs croaking "Rainer" and "beer," an idea appropriated a decade later by Budweiser beer for a series of television advertisements.
"Trailer Couple" (excerpt 1: Learning to use the recorder)
Found sound describes audio objects created from modified sound files that are not normally considered art, often because they already have a non-art function. A good example is home recorded tapes or messages from telephone answering machines that often turn up in garage sales and thrift stores. Found sound provides an opportunity for both the artist and the audience to contemplate the original sound file(s), as well as their recombination. Much of the identity of found sound as an art form comes from the designation placed upon it by the individual artist.
"Survivor" (excerpt 2)
Oral history (see above)
"Survivor" (excerpt 2) is a recorded conversation with one survivor of the atomic bomb blast at Hiroshima. The survivor speaks through a translator to recount her experiences.
"Trailer Couple" (excerpt 2: "I'm going to have a little snort!")
Found sound (see above)
Excerpt 2: "I'm going to have a little snort!"
"Burroughs-Gysin cut up" (excerpt)
William S. Burroughs adapted "The Cut-Up Method" from painter and writer Brion Gysin, who knew the technique had been used since the 1920s by Surrealist/DaDa visual artists in their collages, images, and textual compositions. For Burroughs, the cut-up method involved physically cutting linear passages of printed prose, both by himself and other writers, and then pasting them back together again at random. The results, he claimed, were far more interesting than the original. Examples of this cut-up method are found in Burrough's novels The Soft Machine (1961) and The Ticket That Exploded (1962). In this excerpt, Burrough and Gysin demonstrate how they can create an audio montage of their fragmented recorded words.
"Trailer Couple" (excerpt 3: artichokes and "Happy Birthday")
Found sound (see above)
"Looney Tunes" (excerpt)
"War of the Worlds" (excerpts: "Just one moment please" and "2X 2L")
Radio, as an auditory medium, has the power to combine the human voice and other sounds to produce powerful narratives. At one time, radio drama was practiced as a high art. Today, sadly, not so much. For that reason, it's good to look back, listen, study, and appreciate what can be done with just a voice and some sounds.
"John Barber's resume" (close)
Broadcast stinger (see above)
These aural elements simulate the passage of years or changing radio stations / chapters in the overall narrative. Not a typical radio documentary, nor a narrated history, the desired result is for listeners to associate these sounds in a meaningful way with their own lived experience.
This work was conceived as a prototype for an larger project by the same title to produce a narrative sampled from radio, television, and other sound sources for each decade of my life. I began with the decade of the 1960s. I excerpted a portion as A Sixties Radio Narrative.