Sonic Walden

For those seeking their personal Waldens in sound and solitude

Monday, November 26, 2007

Quieting the Iron Beast

This photo of Walden's Pond illustrates the nature of sound waves. The pond resonates with transverse and longitudinal sound waves, and the train in the distance (unseen) cuts through the soundscape of the woods hidden behind the pond. As it passes by, its whistle announces its arrival, and just as quickly it fades out of hearing range.

I am all about trains, and Static issue 6 - ‘ALARM’ features a piece by Jonathan Pluskota and myself that extends from my sound work at Walden in Concord, Massachussetts and our recordings and research in the Shawnee National Forest of downstate Illinois, USA. The train has been conceptualizaed as a metaphor for progress, noise, and lost culture. Its whistle is both appealing and revealing to our conflicted views of what is noise and what is culture; and one might consider at what price does one sound displace another. As we look into the future, what happens when technology sheds its noisy entrance, and slips through our soundscapes and landscapes unheard and undetected, might there be a sense of cultural loss. That is only one of the many questions we contemplate in Static. We thank the editors Thomas Mansell, Richard Osborne, and Katherine Hunt for their acceptance of our work:

Essay: Quieting the Iron Beast: The Train Whistle as an Alarm

Sound Piece: Trained Alarms: A Salute to the Iron Beast (2:20)

Phylis Johnson, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Radio-Television, MC 6609, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois, USA, 62901,

Jonathan Pluskota, Ph.D. student, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois, USA, 62901,

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007