Soundscapes surround us, complementing the visual landscapes we inhabit, and providing rich sources of material for research, storytelling, and artistic practice. The soundmarks of a place, after all, can be as specific as any landmark. We are immersed in sound all the time, and yet in media, social sciences, arts, and communications, sound has been a relatively under-explored component. However, with the rise of podcasting and the rebirth of radio in recent years, the sound arts are once again gaining currency. Podcasting, due to the intimate nature of the medium and its accessibility, is a powerful agent of social change. It functions as an applied exercise in communicating and listening, both vitally important skills in an era when our social discourse has devolved into a spasmodic binary argument between “us and them.” So whether your focus is on scientific, artistic, community, or organizational communication, place-based audio recording and storytelling is an enriching practice that can connect you with an audience, while deepening your understanding of the world and your place in it. With this in mind, The Story from Hear Audio Collective held a 5-day production-oriented workshop on Cortes Island last summer, focusing on the power of sound, listening, and place-based audio storytelling.
The workshop was geared for media-makers, sound artists, community storytellers, scientists, activists, and other message-oriented individuals wanting to deepen their listening and audio storytelling skills in a supportive group environment. Participants from Klahoose and other First Nations, the Cortes community-at-large, Powell River, the Lower Mainland, and as far away as St.Louis, spent time together in nature, listening, recording, and creating audio stories based on what they heard. Through attentive “sound walks” guided by acoustic ethnographer Jenni Schine and renowned acoustic ecologist and composer Hildegard Westerkamp, participants sonically explored and documented the sounds of the unique coastal, cultural, marine and rainforest environments of Cortes Island. With creative and technical guidance in an intimate workshop setting from experienced radio producer and UBC creative writing professor Jen Moss, participants developed the active listening, interviewing, writing, recording & editing techniques needed to design and deliver an impactful audio story. After listening to inspiring stories from Cortes locals and collecting their own audio field recordings, participants created individually-tailored podcast episodes, informed by the rich sonic landscape and culture of the island. These podcast episodes were shared at a local community “listening party” and are now being offered on local radio. The workshop is being offered again this year (Aug 28 - Sept 1), with a renewed focus on technical and creative skill-building opportunities for participants.
The Story From Hear 2018 workshop participants included: Jacqueline Mathieu, Zoe Ludski, Naomi Devine, Nastaran Arianpoo, Lindsey Mae Willie, Julia McIntyre-Smith, Marina Dodis, Honna Veerkamp, and Teri Snelgrove.
The Story From Hear Co-facilitators were: Jen Moss, Jenni Schine, with special guest Hildegard Westerkamp.
Jennifer Moss has spent nearly 20 years as a storyteller in various media. Starting in theatre, she soon moved into print journalism, radio, podcasting, and digital interactive fields. Her writing revolves primarily around arts, social issues, and character-driven stories. She has a strong track record of working closely with Indigenous creators. Jen has worked extensively in radio production for both CBC and Roundhouse Radio in Vancouver. She has created dozens of audio documentaries for CBC, on topics ranging from downtown east-side gentrification to the perils of hospital food. Her 2016 audio documentary for CBC’s Ideas, The Dream of Brother XII, details the strange life of a cult leader who lived near Nanaimo in the 1920s. She won a Jack Webster Award for Best Audio Feature in 2010 for Wild Art, a story about a local artist and recovering addict. Many of her other short audio documentaries can be found at Mossisnice on Soundcloud. Jen has been a writer and interactive story producer on numerous award-winning interactive projects, including Bear 71 (NFB), Seven Digital Deadly Sins (The Guardian), Hyperlocal (CBC), Life on Hold (Al Jazeera), and The Last Hunt (NFB). Currently, she now teaches Creative Writing for New Media, and Creative Writing for Podcasting at the University of British Columbia and is interested in cross-genre and cross-disciplinary collaboration, and in continually exploring how emerging technologies open new doorways for writers.
Jenni Schine is a sound artist, broadcaster, and community-engaged researcher whose work explores the oral histories and soundscapes of coastal British Columbia. A big fan of public engagement, Jenni has extended her academic work into film, radio, electroacoustic composition, and art installations. She is a member of The Kingcome Collective, a place-based arts initiative and was previously a Director at the Salmon Coast Field Station. Jenni was selected to attend the 2016 and 2018 WNYC Women’s Podcast Festival in New York City and recently produced Ecology of Sound: Hildegard Westerkamp (2017) for CBC’s Ideas series. She teaches courses in both rural and urban environments and also likes to connect artists with scientists. Jenni is grateful to learn from the many knowledge holders in the traditional territories where she works and plays.
Top photo credit: Jen Moss interviewing Cortes resident Doreen Guthrie