Summer Research Partnership in Cinema and Media Studies: The Wandering House ~ Sonic Archive

6 October 2023
By Jeremy Gautama '26, Drew Rodriguez-Michel '25

8am: Wake up, shower, brush teeth, make bed. 9am: Get breakfast–either PB&J or McDonald’s (probably McDonalds this time, since LDC is closed). 10am: Get to the Weitz, sit down in the Advanced Edit or Media Lab room. And the journey begins… This is basically what morning looks like in The Wandering House ~ Sonic Archive Summer Research.

After drinking water and or coffee, Cecilia will assign us daily audio testimonials to edit. Some of the testimonials are 5 minutes long, but some could go up to 25 minutes long. Once edited, the testimonials will be uploaded to the Sonic Archive, a repository of ambient sounds and reflections on “home” recorded by community members in Northfield. The audio editing process is very straightforward. Open up either editing software–Premiere Pro or Final Cut–and import those daily audio files into it. From there, some of the audio recordings have sound coming out of only one channel–either the left or the right audio channel. To overcome this issue , every time we edit a new piece of audio, we duplicate the sound from the one channel to the other, making it a stereo sound mix. After that, we listen to the entire recording and determine which section of the recording needs to be cut out. Reasons for cutting portions of the audio are mainly long pauses from when people are thinking about answering the questions. But we also need to know the pace in which the person is talking–as people tend to have a speed of their own when they speak. Thus we edit in accordance with the speakers’ pace. This is important as we need to ethically edit and develop the “editor’s ear”: striking a balance between taking things out—words, expressions, extended silences—while preserving the integrity and cadence of each project participant’s voice. We are editing with care, by paying attention and not censuring, but highlighting people’s voices.

Other than editing audio, we get to visit Cecilia’s exhibition, Threads of Connection & Belonging, at the Anderson Center in Red Wing. The works in the show come from audio collected with The Wandering House project and give us a bigger picture of what we are trying to accomplish with the editing of the audio testimonials. The exhibition showcases interactive pieces with a big touchscreen , and short videos, as well as beautiful embroidered quilts that offer a visual rendition of what “home” means to people. The place of the exhibition also has a light-house-like tower where we walk up 200 flights of stairs for a nice lunch. The research is more post-research than just research. It is the final step of the research process before releasing the Sonic Archive into the world. And it is a wonderful experience to be a part of this project.