Cosmic Visions in Sound

January 12, 2024 | 21:43

Today we share a podcast episode on the visual epistemology of astronomy by our friends at The World According to Sound. What kind of knowledge do we really gain when we look at images from space?

Longtime listeners to this show will remember The World According to Sound. As we referred to them two years ago, WATS is a team of two rogue audionauts who rebelled against the NPR mothership: Chris Hoff and Sam Harnett. Tired of sound playing second fiddle to narrative on NPR, they launched a micro podcast that held one unique sound under the microscope for 90 seconds each episode. Later, WATS became much more ambitious, producing live sonic odysseys in 8-channel surround sound and live online sound journeys during the pandemic.

Since then, Harnett and Hoff have embarked on another project. For the past couple of years, they have been partnering with different universities to translate humanities research into compelling sound-designed narrative podcasts. The first season of Ways of Knowing was produced in partnership with the University of Washington and it focused on different analytical methods and disciplines in the humanities, from close reading, deconstruction, and translational analysis, to black studies, material culture, and disability studies. The second season just wrapped up. It’s called Cosmic Visions and it’s produced in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University and that’s what we’ll hear an episode from today. Just this week, they dropped the last episode of season two and now the entire series is available on The World According to Sound website.

We wanted to draw your attention to this series because turning humanities research and sound art into a sonic narrative experience was the original mission of Phantom Power. We know that many of you are interested in this area of humanities podcasting as well, so if you’re not already a fan of Chris and Sam’s work, check it out. We also wanted to share this particular episode because it also provides one answer to a tricky question: How do you do a sonic explication of something that is entirely visual?