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The World According to Sound

All summer, tune into KQED on Fridays for a blind tour of California

Every Friday starting April 26, The World According to Sound’s new radio series will take listeners on an audio exploration of California from the acoustic perspective of the blind.

Over the last year, LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired has partnered with Bay Area podcast The World According to Sound as they collected footage to take listeners on an audio exploration of California from the acoustic perspective of the blind. Starting this Friday, the radio series will begin airing on KQED during The California Report Magazine at 4:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. or 11 p.m. PST. Tune in live or visit this link to listen at your leisure.

Each radio episode focuses on one sound or story that captures what it’s like to live in California as someone who is blind or visually impaired. You will hear from wanderers, beekeepers, commuters, hikers, teenagers and retirees. Using the latest in binaural 3D sound recording, the World According to Sound’s producers, Chris Hoff and Sam Harnett, capture vivid sonic environments, stories and observations from all corners of our beautiful state.

Since the experience is all about the audio, and we know our sound-savvy audience, here are several tips for getting the best out of the strange sounds you are about to hear:
  1. Put on headphones. This way, you’ll be able to experience the binaural sound in all its eery depth.
  2. If you have vision, remove as much visual stimulation as possible. Dim the lights, close your eyes, or put on a sleep mask if you have one!
  3. Don’t multitask. Stop what you’re doing for 5 to 7 minutes and just listen.
  4. Tell your friends. Okay… we admit this one has nothing to do with the listening experience. However, we’re hoping this series will get people thinking more critically about the sounds they hear every day. What’s your favorite sound? Tweet your answer with the hashtag #myworldaccordingtosound.

What’s next? A live tour!

In the fall, The World According to Sound will kick off a tour of live shows, like this one we collaborated on a while back. During these live shows, ambisonic recordings and stories are projected on a ring of speakers. Surround sound engulfs the audience to give both sighted and blind listeners, seated in total darkness, a new appreciation of their environment through the rich and often-overlooked world of sound. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive event announcements in the fall.

The series is a partnership with LightHouse, with additional support from California Humanities. The goal of these episodes is to push the boundaries of audio storytelling and further LightHouse’s mission both in-person and over the airwaves. For more information about this collaboration and the performance, please contact thewatsound@gmail.com or press@lighthouse-sf.org.

About the World According to Sound

The World According to Sound is a podcast, radio program, and live performance. 90-second episodes of the radio program have aired on NPR, The California Report, and public radio stations across the country. The Washington Post wrote that “each episode contains a neat little story about an evocative, unusual sound rendered in intense aural detail.” WBEZ featured the show’s innovative approach to radio on Morning Shift, and the podcast HowSound dedicated an episode to the philosophy behind the program’s minimally-narrated, sound-dependent audio. Show producers Chris Hoff and Sam Harnett have taken the live version of their program on tour and have played at over 40 locations, including colleges like Cornell and Brown; performing arts venues like WNYC’s Greene Space and PRX’s Podcast Garage; and galleries like the Lab and the Whitebox.

For Ears Only: LightHouse Listenings presents podcast ‘The World According to Sound’ on March 8th and 9th

Ever wondered what bridges sound like? Or ants? In a new event at LightHouse, we’re offering an opportunity to relax, join friends for a drink and simply enjoy the act of listening.

On March 8th and 9th, the LightHouse for the Blind in San Francisco will host its first-ever LightHouse Listenings — a live listening party for ears only — featuring San-Francisco based podcast The World According to Sound.

When: Wednesday, March 8th and Thursday, March 9th at 7 p.m., doors open at 6 p.m.

Where: LightHouse Headquarters, 1155 Market St., 10th Floor, San Francisco

Cost: $10 in advance. $15 at the door (cash only). Visit our Eventbrite page to purchase tickets online. If you experience any difficulties purchasing tickets through Eventbrite, contact LightHouse Events Manager Dagny Brown at dbrown@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7311.

The World According to Sound (WATS) takes you on an hour-long jaunt through sound and space. Auditory hallucinations, cityscapes of bygone eras— these are the sonic oddities you might experience (or just truly pay attention to) for the very first time. Think 100 people sitting in a dark room equipped with sleep shades as they listen to a selection of choreographed sounds coming from eight world-class speakers placed throughout the room.

If it all sounds a little curious or experimental, we’ve got you covered: come straight from work for a beer on us. Doors open at 6. We think letting your mind do a little wondering and wandering might just be the perfect way to unwind after a long day in the office.

Not only are podcasts an inherently accessible medium for the blind and low vision community, but The World According to Sound is perfect for our audience of radio, recording and audio enthusiasts. So we’re teaming up with the podcast to bring the event directly to a local live audience for The World According to Sound’s east coast tour sendoff. It’s your chance to lean back and listen to the sound of blackholes, auctioneers, the Golden Gate Bridge and more — the eyes have no place at this event.

The two public radioheads behind the WATS, Chris Hoff and Sam Harnett, are no strangers to their live event’s popularity in the blind and low vision community — that’s why they approached us to host their east coast tour sendoff. The podcast’s very first donation, back in 2015, came from a blind listener in Nevada, who loved the evocative nature of the 90-second sound show. They have since received recurring praise from other blind and low vision attendees who were refreshed to find an event so tailored to a non visual medium.

Hoff and Harnett also have some interesting theories about sound and visual culture. They think that non visual mediums, like sound, might create a little more room for a special mental state to creep in – one might call it luxurious boredom – a kind of freeing opportunity for the always-spinning brain.

“Visual culture in America is so dominant and controlling,” says Sam. “But when you present sound in the right way, you create a space where your mind is invited to meander.”

“We’re looking for a sound that can communicate to the listener in a new way, evoke something and making you think about the world differently,” says Chris. “Our jobs in public radio have made us pay attention to sound — we’ve been conditioned to listen to spaces.”

You’ll probably walk away from the event thinking about audio in a whole new way. We certainly did after digging into a few episodes on the World According to Sound’s SoundCloud page.

LightHouse Listenings

We present live listening parties for ears only, from live podcast recordings to pre-recorded material, hosted by LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco. We’ll host panels, album releases, live musicians, you name it — if you’re into listening, we’ve got the venue. If you’re interested in staging your event for LightHouse Listenings, contact LightHouse Events Manager Dagny Brown at dbrown@lighthouse-sf.org.

About the World According to Sound

Sam Harnett and Chris Hoff started the World According to Sound show with one idea: to make radio that’s about sound, not storytelling. They both tell stories in their public radio day jobs — Sam as a reporter at KQED and Chris as a sound engineer at KALW. But they believe the medium has potential for so much more. That’s their bigger goal—to bring more sound, more experimentation, and more weirdness to mainstream public radio in their 90-second podcast.

WATS East Coast Tour

Starting on March 25, the World According to Sound will be touring the east coast and presenting their live event at colleges and universities including Skidmore College, University of Vermont,  Boston University and others. First stop? UVM on March 25th. Visit www.theworldaccordingtosound.org to stay updated.

A special thanks goes to BBI Engineering Inc. for sponsoring this event with the donation of eight world-class speakers.