Sunday, November 2, 2014

Sonic Ethnographic Woodworking

P. Max Durayappah-Harrison is one of the students in my Shaker step stool woodworking class at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education in Harvard Square. He's a PhD candidate at the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University.

A few weeks ago he told me he had a project to do for his Sonic Ethnography class. The assignment was to record the sounds that represent someone. He asked if he could do a private lesson where he recorded me using my tools in my home workshop. Sure!

The video below is the result, actually a short audio documentary. He came over the next Sunday afternoon and we spent an hour and a half going through various hand tool operations. He recorded on a digital audio recorder with very sensitive microphones, mixing in questions about why I like working with hand tools.

It starts with the sound of him driving out to Ayer, about 30 miles west of Boston, then coming into the house and walking down the basement stairs. You can hear our two white doves in the kitchen and our chihuahua in the hallway. We also have a finch, a German Shepherd, and a cat, but they were all quiet.

In the shop you hear the sounds of various saws on wood, rough and fine handplaning an edge, sharpening a chisel on oilstones, and slicing off big chips diagonally across the grain with the chisel.

The last part is my Hyperkitten-style frame saw. He really liked the ringing of the plucked blade under tension; the sensitive microphones continued to pick it up after it fell below audibility. With headphones, it sounds like the Gong Of Doom!

Thanks, Max, it sounds great!

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