Field Noise is a podcast about the audible world and how we hear it. Listening can be simultaneously a personal, cultural, and collective experience. Even though we share the sonic environment with those around us, we don’t all hear the same things in the same ways. On a technical level, "sound" is a set of vibrations, waves that travel through the air to reach our ears. But how we process those sounds once they get there is informed by our history, culture, and politics.
I’m fascinated by sound on a technical and physical level—I love its quirks and nuances and relationships to technological apparatus. I think sound is inherently cool, and I love working with it. But I’m also cognizant of the historical ways that the categorization, regulation, and very definition of sound (and its counterpart, noise), has often involved silencing racial and gendered others, ethnic minorities, the differently abled, the lower classes, and the mechanized sounds of industrial capitalism. Sound can be used in extremely uncool ways: as a weapon, an instrument of power. In Field Noise, I’m hoping you’ll find a balance of "sound is cool" stories with "sound is power" ones.
Carleen Hutchins wasn’t formally trained in violinmaking, but despite that—or because of it—she changed the profession forever. With handfuls of Christmas glitter and a 150-year-old technique, she was able to visualize the vibrations of violin plates, allowing luthiers to rely to on the principles of acoustics instead of just “feel.” Traditionalists were outraged, but Carleen didn’t seem to mind. She had already spent most of her adult life pushing back on the constraints imposed on women in midcentury America. This episode explores Carleen’s life and legacy, the history of acoustics, the act of making sound visible, and our obsession with old Italian violins.
Field Noise: A Preview
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.
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perfect for audiophiles and also regular people!
I’ve been waiting for the release of this podcast for ages and it truly delivers! I love the way the first episode doesn’t use a central editorial voice to guide the story—instead it uses gorgeous sound design and the interviews themselves to create a fascinating narrative. Definitely one of the most unique podcasts I’ve ever heard, and anyone who remotely likes Radiolab should keep up with Field Noise, because I’m pretty sure Craig has some amazing rabbits to pull out of his hat in future episodes.