PP1Posted: September 23, 2018
Ok, so a story of cultural significance with sound…
I think I fixated on a story of cultural significance for me (in my lifetime). I started researching by watching hours of news footage from the morning of September 11, and processed the events as if for the first time. I remember feeling shocked, but it all felt surreal. There were so many pieces that I couldn’t understand as a 14 year old.
I watched stories about people who were in the towers and their families. I listened to peoples’ screams as they watched the second plane hit. I learned about another plane that went down in a field. I listened to voicemails from people who were on the planes.
I remember the Mr. McKegg’s (the principal’s) voice come over the intercom to announce that there has been a terrorist attack. Two years after the columbine shooting, I was among many who initially thought that our school had been attacked. I probably felt relieved to learn that the attack was so far away! I remember watching the second plane hit from the heath classroom at my middle school. I remember TVs being on all day at school. I remember the World Trade Center happening to be pictured in our math books on the page that we happened to be covering that day. I remember feeling somewhat pleasantly surprised by the coincidence. I remember getting off the bus and my mom, exasperated, asked if my brother and I were ok. I remember feeling like I should be more emotionally effected.
Now, in 2018, I think I understand the exasperation that I didn’t feel at 14–and if I could be this effected by listening to these voices, screams and reports, I think others might too. Is it ethical to put the unsuspecting DEMS group through this without them knowing what they will hear? Should I pick something else? I hadn’t come up with a different concept, and didn’t feel like i had time, so I leaned in and crossed my fingers that it would be ok. I tried to dampen the impact of the sound by locating it within my school day. I hoped to tell the story from my 14 year old perspective, but didn’t want to make light of it either. However, we are not middle schoolers anymore, and we all have our own memories of the event.
On youtube, I found the sounds of electric school bells, the pledge of allegiance, gym class, and kids voices to start it off, and began playing with how much of each clip to listen to and at what volume. Then, I went into the sounds of the event. Trying not to make light of it, I think I went heavier than necessary. I wanted the sound of the plane hitting because I remember the visual, but that part is pretty intense. Then, silence, the sounds of tv static, the sound of an old TV clicking off, and more silence. Finally, it drops into math class saying, “To simplify, we can only combine what we call our like terms.” Not only was this math class, but it seems like a nod towards the political climate that grew out of 9/11 and heightened perceptions of sameness and difference.
But what about showing this to a bunch of people who don’t know what they are in for? I debated giving a trigger warning, but also knew that it would impact their experience. Then, in the moment, I pushed play and suddenly realized that I hadn’t said anything. I crossed my fingers harder.
For the most part, people heard what I hoped they would hear, but they heard their own experience of it too. I told my story, and they understood–but they seemed to feel their own story. People have their own associations with familiar sounds.
So, here it is. Listen if you’d like.