Ear Play


Radio transformed the way people perceived location. Beaming sound across the airwaves dismantled the idea that in order to hear a concert or listen to a speech or a story the listener had to be physically present, within earshot. (Television, some argue, extended this idea to the point that the viewer no longer needed to be physically ormentally present.) With the advent of radio, suddenly stories could be told in one place and heard in thousands of other places. It's fitting, then, that Bay Area Radio Drama's newest series of radio plays concerns itself with the concept of location. The sounds of specific places -- a San Francisco farmers' market, a classroom for Latin Americans learning English as a second language, the inside of the human body -- are the backdrops for "Locations," which draws on the writing talents of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gary Soto, Helen Cline, and Millicent Dillon.

"Locations" is the brainchild of sound designer Randy Thom -- whose film work has garnered him multiple nominations and one Academy Award, sound designer Jim McKee, and radio producer Erik Bauersfeld. The series' creators asked writers to think about a specific location and explore how the sounds of that location could become acoustic elements in the dramas themselves. Listeners would get more than just a description; they would get a sense of place through ambient noise.

Helen Cline: The Soul of a Bell follows Bay Area poet Cline as she travels with her guide dog to a neighborhood market and to locations like Skywalker Ranch. Cline describes how she navigates the world without seeing it, what sounds and tactile objects are her aids. Here, Cline's absence of sight lends itself to radio, where listeners can get an understanding, albeit a limited one, of a blind person's perception of the world. The program airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on KPFA-FM, 94.1. Gary Soto's Teaching English airs Sunday, Dec. 5, at 7 p.m. Lawrence Ferlinghetti's One of These Days (or Nights) airs Sunday, Dec. 12, at 7 p.m. Millicent Dillon's Inside airs Sunday, Dec. 19, at 7 p.m.

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