16 March 2011

When Silence Sings - Airs March 16th

When Silence Sings by Joanne Coombs

Tonie Flaathen has been profoundly deaf from birth. This does not stop her from absorbing and relishing the reverberations that 'sound' through her. She contemplates what it means to hear as she takes us on an aural tour of her adoptive city - Venice.

Venice is the most acoustically transparent city in the World. It exists without the sounds of automobiles. You would think this aspect of the city's charm would be lost on Tonie. But Tonie understands audio; as a small child Tonie's father would create complex acoustic set-ups in the garden, amplifying the vibrations in nature in order to help her understand the concept of sound. And being free from the common mire of motor traffic makes it possible for the sonic details of urban life to have a surprising delicacy. Everyday sounds such as footsteps and the coos of pigeons have remarkable clarity as they penetrate and mix within the public acoustic space. Monumental sounds such as bells, ship horns, or thunder claps can travel great distances.

The Italian word 'to hear' is 'sentire'. The same word in reflexive form 'sentirsi' means 'to feel'. Different sorts of microphones were used by Joanne to reflect the way the world feels to Tonie. She captures the vibrations to create a sonic landscape of Venice - for us.

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