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LightHouse and the World According to Sound present the sounds of California

LightHouse and the World According to Sound present the sounds of California

Radio journalists partner with LightHouse for the Blind in San Francisco for an unprecedented experiment on the art and science of sound.

The LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired is partnering with The World According to Sound to create a podcast, radio and touring performance series that will take listeners on an audio exploration of California from the acoustic perspective of the blind. This non-visual, surround-sound performance, which began with a grant from California Humanities, and is augmented by direct support from the LightHouse, continues with its goal of pushing the boundaries of audio storytelling and furthering LightHouse’s mission both in-person and over the airwaves.

The WATS producers place speakers around a room before their immersive sounds performance.
The WATS producers place speakers around a room before their immersive sounds performance.

Each radio and podcast episode will focus on one sound or story that captures what it’s like to live in California as someone who is blind or visually impaired. We will hear from wanderers and winemakers, commuters and hikers, teenagers and those who are retired. Using the latest in 3D sound recording technology, the World According to Sound’s producers will work to faithfully capture environments, stories and observations from all corners of California.

For the live shows, these ambisonic recordings and stories will be projected on a ring of speakers, engulfing the audience in sound 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.

For more information about this collaboration and the performance, please contact thewatsound@gmail.com or press@lighthouse-sf.org.

The World According to Sounds co-producers Chris Hoff and Sam Harnett stand in a parking lot with their recording equipment.
The World According to Sounds co-producers Chris Hoff and Sam Harnett stand in a parking lot with their recording equipment.

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

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 events@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. 

LightHouse Studios

LightHouse Studios

With expanded facilities, the LightHouse is proud to now offer a podcast and vocal performance studio, available for rental for one-time and recurring sessions. Our 40,000 square-foot headquarters at 1155 Market Street in downtown San Francisco is just 15 steps from the Civic Center BART and Muni Station, and affords ample workspace for vocal recording projects of all sizes. This includes individual voice actors, podcast and radio producers, audiobook professionals, as well as any individual looking for professional-grade voice recording.

For shorter projects, our main studio, The Mike Cole Recording Studio, is rentable at standard rates (see below). Those who would like to book an entire day (9 a.m  to 5 p.m.) may do so for a flat fee. We also have smaller rooms available at lower rates for those with their own equipment who simply need an acoustically-isolated space.

Recording Studio Rental Rates

  • Nonprofit or individual, mission-aligned (blindness content): free
  • Nonprofit or individual, disability or advocacy field: $25/hr, $150/day
  • Nonprofit or individual, general interest: $50/hr, $300/day
  • Corporate, mission-aligned: $100/hr, $400/day
  • Corporate, non-mission: $300/hr, $1000/day

Our rates are subject to change based on the size, scope, and frequency of the session. We are a nonprofit organization and are happy to provide low rates to those who help promote our mission to celebrate and support the blindness community.

Equipment and Engineering

All clients must bring their own engineer or demonstrate a basic DAW competency before accessing the LightHouse’s studio facilities. The studio runs through a USB interface which can connect driverless to the in-room Mac or a laptop.

Our studio has 4 Shure SM7B vocal microphones, mounted into a table that can seat 4-5 comfortably. There is a Shoretel digital phone line in-studio, but no IDSN.

To book a session, email communications@lighthouse-sf.org

Clients who wish to make a tax-deductible donation to help with studio upkeep may follow these instructions:

Make check out to:

LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
For: Mike Cole Recording Studio

Mail to:

Finance Department
LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
1155 Market St., 10th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94103