Paper Presentation at the Grateful Dead Scholars Caucus, Feb. 7-10, 2018.

At long last I’m making my first visit to the Grateful Dead Scholars Caucus at the Southwest Popular / American Culture Association in Albuquerque, New Mexcio, Feb. 7-10, 2018.


Paper Abstract:

In Amir Bar-Lev’s documentary Long Strange Trip, we are told the story of the recording engineer on the Europe ’72 tour that left his post in the mobile studio truck to enter the venue and witness the band performing one of its best renditions of “Morning Dew.” He had to be there, and he had to get it on tape. He got his cake, and he ate it too: the track came out just exactly perfect enough to make the cut on the final album release. In this paper I argue that, through stories like this, Long Strange Trip is self-consciously about the act of performing the history of the Grateful Dead just as it reports on that history. Sporting the tagline “The Untold Story of the Grateful Dead,” the film capitalizes on a series of underrepresented stories to piece together an image of a band always on the edge of self-destruction, no captain at the wheel to keep it on course, even as it appeared increasingly indestructible as the years wore on. This tension between precarity and longevity is mirrored by the band’s storied relationship with live recording: capturing their notoriously ephemeral performances on tape seems anathema to what they were about as live performers while being essential to forming the Deadhead community experience that made the continuing performances possible. The absence of the “real thing” at the core of the band’s documentation fueled the presence that the band embodied at their shows. I will demonstrate how the film enacts this same tension by organizing itself around the amplification of lost moments of the band’s history of performance, which is, in turn, enacted by the balance that the film holds between performance as subject of the film and performance as the very mode of the film itself. To make my point I will situate Bar-Lev’s reflexive strategies within the discourse of what has come to be known as the “performative” mode of documentary filmmaking, and tie this to issues of sonic representation specific to the “rockumentary” genre to reveal how Long Strange Trip becomes a way of thinking about the Grateful Dead’s history informed by the band’s own performance strategies. The evocative figure of the empty recording booth becomes the marker of the structuring absence at the core of Long Strange Trip: the film’s job is not only to fill gaps in the history of the band and its documentation, but to perform the very idea of the absence at the heart of its media presence that drives the film forward. The booth is empty, but the tape rolls on.

Special Issue of Offscreen on Twin Peaks: The Return

I was guest-editor for a special double-issue of Offscreen dedicated to Twin Peaks: The Return to close out the journal’s 20th anniversary year.


Bell Tower of False Creek screening at Antimatter Media Art festival in Victoria on Oct. 18th 2017

The Antimatter Media Art festival in Victoria, B.C. is screening my short film Bell Tower of False Creek in its “Amarillo Ramp” program on Wednesday, Oct. 18th, at 9 pm.

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Bell Tower of False Creek screening at Local Sightings in Seattle, Sept. 25th, 2017

The Local Sightings film festival is screening my short film Bell Tower of False Creek in their “Natural Experiments” program on Monday, Sept. 30th, 2017.


Soundwalk and paper for the Music and the Moving Image conference at NYU, May 26-28th 2017

I will be leading the inaugural MaMI Village Soundwalk at this year’s Music and the Moving Image conference at New York University. The walk will be geared especially towards applying our skills as scholars of film sound to the art of listening in real-world environments in order to discover how each can inform the other. I’ll also be presenting a paper on the use of surround sound to explore cross-cultural communication in Terrence Malick’s The New World.


Soundwalk Abstract:

Hildegard Westerkamp’s recipe for soundwalking asks us to open our ears to all the sounds of the environment, break them down into their individual components, trace their sources, and assess their balance like a musical composition. If we were able to compose the sonic environment, what would we emphasize, diminish, add, or eliminate? How might we hear sonic spaces as they once were, as they might be in the future, and as the stuff of pure fiction? Of course this exercise has much in common with the art of designing sound environments for film. In this soundwalk we will venture through Greenwich Village while listening with ears primed by our collective expertise in film music and sound design. New York City is one of the most filmed cities in the world, which means it is one of the cities that has been most subject to auditory (re)composition. How does our experience of the live soundscape stack up against our cinematic memories? We’ll begin the soundwalk in Washington Square Park and work our way through a variety of soundscapes, across busy streets, down narrow laneways, and into a subway station, pausing intermittently for several minutes at marked positions in order to focus attention on isolated and collective sounds. At the end we will discuss the music ality of live soundscapes, how our experience with film sound has affected our listening in these environments, and the role this exercise could play for film sound scholars, practitioners, and educators.

Paper Abstract:

“Sing the Story of Our Land”: Intersecting Soundways and Contested Spaces in The New World

In this paper I examine Terrence Malick’s The New World (2005) as a form of creative historical research that has much in common with acoustic ecology’s interest in reconstructing and reimagining the soundscapes of the past, an increasingly popular area of investigation in sound studies more generally. Malick stages the tale of John Smith’s 1607 arrival in Virginia with a particularly rich approach to sound design that emphasizes not only authentic period detail but also the multiple subjective perspectives that have led to persistent popular mythologies surrounding this moment of first contact. The film’s soundtrack invites the audience to become immersed in narratives of cross-cultural tension and communication, as well as the problems of period filmmaking, through the complex staging of sound as a powerful confluence of technological sophistication, contemporary historical research, and aesthetic innovation. Drawing on recent research into the role of sound in the cultures of the English and the Algonquin of the early 17th Century, I situate the editing and mixing strategies of Malick’s sound designer Skip Lievsay (and his extensive use of historical sound archives) in the context of recent work on multi-channel sound technologies and context-based composition in electroacoustic music and acoustic ecology. Ultimately I demonstrate that Malick and Lievsay maximize the technological potential of the day to position their listeners at points of intersection and overlap between often contradictory ways of knowing the worlds their characters inhabit, which, in turn, exposes the artifice of the film’s periodization to reveal historical truths otherwise inaccessible.

Bell Tower of False Creek screening at the Noisefloor festival, Staffordshire University, May 2nd 2017

My recently completed short film Bell Tower of False Creek will play at the Noisefloor festival at Staffordshire University, UK, in the International Experimental Film screening at 5pm on May 2nd, 2017.

Noisefloor 2017

Workshop on Listening to the City at the Livable Cities Symposium April 13th 2017

I will be leading a workshop on listening to the city at the intersection of indigenous histories, industrialization, and gentrification at this year’s Livable Cities Symposium, April 13th, 2017, at the Anvil Centre in New Westminster, BC.

Livable Cities 2017

Workshop Title:

Sound / Media / History: Listening at the Intersection of Contested Space on the Fraser River


What can sound tell us about the histories, uses and politics of the spaces we inhabit everyday? In this workshop I will discuss the relationships between listening, technology, and space with specific reference to how the complexities of land use have been represented in the soundtracks of Vancouver-based films and media over the last century. We will then take a group soundwalk in the area around the Anvil Centre, following the rail lines by the Fraser River as we listen for evidence of the intersections between the traditional territory of the Qayqayt First Nation, 20th Century industrial development, and 21st Century gentrification. The walk will be followed by an open discussion in which the audience will be invited to share their experiences of the area with one another, with a particular ear for understanding the relationship between listening, the politics of urban space, and the role of media technologies in fostering engagement with place.


Bell Tower of False Creek Premiere at Resonance and Remembrance Symposium April 1st 2017

The new film component of my Bell Tower of False Creek project will have its first public screening at the Resonance and Remembrance Interdisciplinary Bell Studies Symposium at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, next Saturday, April 1st 2017. It has been programmed in the Saturday night concert (details below).

Resonance and Remembrance

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Program Notes:

A thick fog gathers under Vancouver’s Burrard Bridge in the winter of 2013, blotting out the gentrified skyline across the waters of False Creek. It’s the centenary of the first systemic clearance of indigenous residents from Kitsilano Indian Reserve on this site in 1913, and one can almost imagine the air filled with the smoke of shelters set ablaze or the chimneys of industry that settled on these shores thereafter. The sounds of transportation have been a mainstay here since rail lines first cut through the reserve in 1899, trains joining churches in the ringing of bells that defined the boundaries of early settler communities. Industrial urbanization would soon step in to sound out the economic heart of the newly incorporated city, replacing the parishes of old and Native communities older still. Today the trains are gone, but the thumping of bridge traffic in the absence of industry reveals the continuingly shifting status of the contested lands underneath.

Bell Tower of False Creek uses the church bell as metaphor for the traffic on Burrard Bridge as it casts an acoustic profile roughly equivalent to the area recently returned to the Squamish Nation as reserve lands in 2002. Recorded on the 40th anniversary of the World Soundscape Project’s first major case study on the city of Vancouver, the film juxtaposes archival recordings of the WSP members in conversation about the city’s endangered sounds with new audiovisual material exploring current indigenous presence around the bridge. Amidst the fog, listeners are invited to imagine the sound of traffic noise recasting the bells of old as markers of territorial boundaries, challenging stereotypical biases against urban noise pollution (typical of the work of early acoustic ecology) in order to rethink narratives that posit the death of indigenous culture in the face of modernization.

New Issue of Offscreen on Takashi Miike at Fantasia

I was guest-editor on the latest issue of Offscreen covering Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike’s visit to the Fantasia International Film Festival to receive his Lifetime Achievement Award last summer.



* from Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language, Canadian Edition.  New York: Lexicon Publications, Inc., 1988.