Ineffable chats with Liz McArthur about using sound as a medium for expression.
Liz McArthur works as a radio producer and journalist in Victoria, BC. Her art practice involves writing and playing music and also creating audio worlds through sound production. People are infinitely interesting and complicated and she hopes to capture some of the nuance of the human experience in her work. She hopes to bring a little bit of surreal magic to the people around her. You can keep up-to-date with Liz and her latest work by following her on SoundCloud. Read below for ineffable's chat with her.
Why do you use sound as your medium for storytelling?
Sound is like sculpture for me. I do a bit of writing, and make music as Cosy Father, but something about sound-rich production work and essay storytelling works my creative muscles the most. Re-arranging voice, music, and effects feels very tactile. I spend a lot of time looking at soundwaves and lining them up to allow me to tap into my listeners’ imagination and build scenes. I like the idea that sound can carry my artistic intention to the minds of listeners. It’s like a complex game of telephone. My work is heavily influenced by the American style that is dominating podcasts right now.
What about sound/sound art allows you to express yourself?
I can convey what is going on in my head when I work with sound. I’m a hand talker and I think I use my hands and my body language a lot when I am in conversation because I’m trying to add this other level to help get my message across. Working with sound allows me to add the noise of my thoughts and emotional processes to the short essays I’ve been working on. If you listen to "The Poison Tree," one of my other pieces, I use music to convey emotion in a very literal way. I use a strings flourish from “Guess Who” by The Alabama Shakes to capture the rush I got from falling for someone. Sometimes creative use of sound can really go beyond what words can capture. That’s what I strive for.
At the end of "The Apocalypse" you say, “You don’t believe in God anymore so why limit yourself to putting your hopes in the sweet hereafter? Why not immerse yourself in this world that is fascinating, complicated, and heart breaking. Why not do that instead?” Can you speak a little bit about growing up religious and what it is like to leave it behind?
I’m sure there are many varied reactions to growing up religious and then casting that off. I think it’s likely that some people might cast it off for good, some might return to religion later in life. There are really positive aspects to being religious, like community built through congregations or a sense of purpose found in faith. It just didn’t work for me anymore. Losing my faith was not a choice, it was just a slow, progressive unraveling that led to the mundane realization that I no longer believed. I found peace of mind once I could admit that and it led to a richer, more meaningful experience for me. It also made me feel more accountable for my actions. I’m sure there are people out there that have the opposite experience, who find religion and then suddenly their world is infused with colour.
What projects are you working on now?
I am about to launch the "Sleepy City" podcast which will feature 7 half-hour documentaries between September and December, and then 7 more in the new year. I’m focusing on interesting stories that explore offbeat topics in Victoria, BC. The first episode is about marijuana dispensaries and the law and will be out in September. The second and third episodes feature stories that explore mental health and art and later in the series I’ll be looking at The Brother, XII who led a cult/colony in Nanaimo in the late 1920s. There’s also an episode about the impact the book Michelle Remembers had on culture in Victoria. It’s a terrible book, but it was a big part of the Satanic Panic in the 80s. I’m experimenting with my format a bit to try and make the experience of the pieces highly engaging and cinematic. Hopefully they will resonate with people. I’d like to eventually write a book about all the ways we try to fit in and find meaning in the world through the creation of micro cultures.
Sound art © Liz McArthur, reproduced with permission.