The Sound Edit ))) October 2014

))) The Book: A Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert. As some of you might know, I like my French novels. It’s one literary passion my college professors didn’t manage to extinguish by force of essays on the-critics-criticizing-the-criticism. To clarify the extent of my obsession, I once recorded my way across Belleville to find multiple voices for my Julien Sorel (after falling uder Stendhal’s spell), another time invited Des Coulam to follow the footsteps of the characters of Zola’s L’Assommoir on my behalf, and he kindly obliged.  Currently, I am in the company of the hapless Frédéric Moreau as he allegedly studies Law, but mostly really scampers around Paris (wouldn’t you?), in a futile attempt to ‘make his name’.


Not faffing around: rebels at the barricades.

Flaubert said about the creation of this novel: “I want to write the moral history of the men of my generation– or, more accurately, the history of their feelings. It’s a book about love, about passion; but passion such as can exist nowadays–that is to say, inactive.”  He succeeds in doing so and in a very modern way, despite the traditional structure.  Unsurprisingly, this novel wasn’t received as well in its day.

L’Éducation Sentimentale has a lot in common with Le Rouge et Le Noir, but while Sorel pursues his ambition like a ruthless ladder-climbing machine, poor Frédéric is a true romantic, captive of his own daydreaming: thinking a lot and achieving very little, despite the fact that political and social turmoil is all around him. This novel, as a thinly veiled autobiography and therefore accurately researched and rendered, also works as an accurate historical document, with the characters moving against the restless backdrop of Paris during the 1848 revolution.

))) The Sound Event: unless you were actually living on Mars, you will be aware that this month NASA set up a soundcloud account and uploaded an absolute treasure trove of archive recordings. Here you will find words from the missions that made history: the awe-inspiring engines of the Space Shuttle, sounds from deep space converted from data collected by Voyager, historical documents such as speeches by JFK as well as the immortal ‘one small step for (a) man’, ‘the eagle has landed’ and ‘Houston we’ve had a problem’.


My personal favourite are probably the short, terse exchanges between ground control and the astronauts: as they quickly playback one after the other, they present the human face behind the epic explorations. And finally the best part- all the sounds are copyright-free unless otherwise stated.

))) The Experience: sometimes silence can play as important a role in art installations as any soundscape. Tucked away in Gallery 2 at the Douglas Hyde Gallery in Dublin I enjoyed ‘Invasion‘ by Austrian artist Lois Weinberger.


Image courtesy of DHG website | copyright Lois Weinberger

The relatively small space is taken over by dark tree fungi of different sizes, settling like aline life forms on the pristine white plaster wall. The effect is of natural life present and growing in silence, imposing and uncomfortable at the same time. Seeing this work in this country I couldn’t help make the connection with the dampness of Irish forests, and even walls, taken to a creative extreme… Whether this particular subtext was intended or not, this was a surprisingly fun installation to experience in person.  The installation runs until 3rd December, admission is free.

))) The Audio File: “Sometimes, it’s the spoken word. The truth of a voice. Some I’ll erase immediately. But others I’d listen to even if I didn’t speak the language.” so says La Reine du Podcast, aka Colette Bertin, a sprightly 80-year old woman subject of this heart warming documentary. Likewise, don’t let languge deter you from enjoying this piece (the programme is in French, but ARTE provides the text in French and English at this link).

You will wish you were there as Colette rummages through her extraordinary collection of cassette recordings of random radio gems, from Zulu chanting to howling wolves, which she has used as material during her long teaching career.  Extra points for the aural pleasure provided by play buttons clunking and tapes rewinding.  La Reine du Podcast is a programme by Charlotte Bienaimé, sound mix by Samuel Hirsch.

))) The Work: this month one of my new soundscapes, In Apnea, premiered on Nova on RTÉ Lyric FM. It is a short I recorded and put together while exploring the west of Ireland, west Clare (Doonbeg). Work is continuing in earnest on the Sound Conversations radio programme, and as you might have read in previous posts I have also been working on the new HearSay audio prize, which is happening in November- no doubt I will see some of you there!

3 thoughts on “The Sound Edit ))) October 2014

  1. I really enjoy your ‘Sound Edits’. I do hope you are going to keep them going. I especially like the eclectic mix of things you feature. And this time you’ve struck a chord (or several chords actually) with me.

    Obviously, I’m not going to refer to the ‘mention’ you gave me in the first item (of course not!) but this item does strike a chord with me … quite apart from the ‘mention’ that I’m not going to mention. I think there is something especially captivating about matching contemporary soundscapes to the characters or places featured in literature. Emile Zola is an especially good example for me because his very detailed descriptions of 19th century Paris are easily translatable into the today’s soundscapes of the same places. I’ve yet though to tackle Gustave Flaubert!

    The NASA Soundcloud piece strikes a chord because I can remember so vividly, ‘The Eagle has Landed’, as it actually happened.

    And then … well, this was a surprise. I’ve been an avid fan of ARTE Radio for a long time and I’m delighted that you are too. They have a brilliant creative team and you couldn’t have chosen a better piece than ‘La reine du Podcast’ to show off the kind of things they do. I understand that there must be a temptation for non French speakers to reach for the translation but, for me at least, this piece works best in French – even if you don’t completely understand what is being said. For me, this piece works much more for its pace, its rhythm and its tone rather than for the actual words being spoken, When ARTE Radio send me their regular update of items to listen to I usually stop what I’m doing and listen!

    Many thanks for these ‘Sound Edits’ and I’m already looking forward to the next one.

    • Thank you so much Des. I was so grateful for the little soundwalk you did for me during my L’Assommoir phase, I was only too happy to have the opportunity to share it again. The NASA thing really is incredible- there are so many gems in there, and it’s just a gift for us to be able to use and repurpose these sounds at will. I have a couple of ideas already…now it’s just a matter of finding the time! And yes, ARTE. Aren’t they just amazing? I have always found the french breed of creativity particularly strong (have you seen their cartoons for children? Bonkers, in the best possible way.), and radio really is no different. I totally agree with you- the piece definitely works best in French, and language really is not a barrier in this instance. but I thought I’d mention the script particularly as I don’t often come across these. It’s unusual for a radio station to put up a bilingual text in accessible pdf, which I thought was a nice touch. Didn’t know they have a newsletter- will definitely sign up so thanks for that tip!

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