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The Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics

ISSN: 2472-7318


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Abigail Lambke at the American Jazz Museum, sitting at the In the Mix Station

Track 4: FREquency

Track 4 Transcript

Featuring Sarah Elizabeth Adams

The timestamps refer to the complete audio. (VO) = audio that was recorded in my home studio and not captured during interview or sampled from elsewhere / (IV) = audio that was created via interview / (CA) = commercial audio sampled through fair use guidelines

00:00 (CA) Roger Miller "Kansas City Star" Staccato drums and guitar. Lyrics: Got a letter just this mornin' it was postmarked Omaha / It was typed and neatly written offerin' me this better job / Better job at higher wages, expenses paid and a car / But I'm on TV here locally and I can't quit, I'm a star / Ha ha, I come on TV grinnin, ' wearin' pistols and a hat / It's a kiddie show and I'm a hero of the younger set / I'm the number one attraction every supermarket parkin' lot / I'm the king of Kansas City, no thanks, Omaha, thanks a lot / Kansas City star, that's what I are / Yodel-deedle ay-hee, you oughta see my car / I drive a big old Cadillac with wire wheels....

01:00 (VO) Abigail Lambke: Hello. That was Roger Miller’s “Kansas City Star” and this is Track 4 “Frequency” in the webtext “Kansas City Hear I Come: Sonic Curation for Civic Impact.” This track is essentially an extended Artist Statement, where I describe the choices I made as curator, producer, author, artist when creating the webtext. Like the track “Resonance” this one also features Sarah Adams, who so helpfully listened to a draft and talked to me about the process of sonic scholarship.

01:32 (VO) Abigail Lambke: Kansas City, for me, is a place of personal confluence, and as curation is personal, and sound is personal and interior, I feel encouraged to share some of my personal perspective and history here too. I was born in Wichita, Kansas and went to high school there, but I attended undergraduate in Kansas City and graduate school Saint Louis, Missouri, and then took a job in Kansas City, Missouri one mile from the Kansas state line at Avila University. I’m now an Associate Professor of English at Avila where I teach courses in composition, rhetoric, women’s studies, literature, and community engagement. Given my history, I am equally at home in both states and thus often attuned to the divisions between them, some of which I find inane, but I work to also be attuned to the divisions within the city on the lines of race, or class, or sexual orientation. It is those divisions that I think need more attention. I am not native to Kansas City, but I’ve lived here an important portion of my life and find it a fascinating mix of kindness and oppression, of connection and difference.

02:47 (VO) Abigail Lambke: Sarah Adams asked me in her interview how I got interested in sound and making audio pieces, but before we hear that, let’s learn some more about her.

02:57 (IV) Sarah Elizabeth Adams: My name is Sarah Adams, and I am currently at Berea College where I am the Writing Program Administrator and also the summer bridge director. I earned my Ph.D. in English at Penn State where I wrote my dissertation on listening and listening pedagogy, so I'm really interested in how people are taught to listen. I have a recent publication in RSQ thats about minimalist music and listening to minimalist music and how I think that gets us into some really weird pre-symbolic areas; helps us access what Diane Davis calls "rhetoricity." My current stuff that I'm working on right now, I'm dealing with a silent archive about sound. So I don't have, like the time period I'm looking at is early 20th century and in particular classical music. In the situation of classical music how people were taught to listen. There aren't recordings of the things for the most part that I'm looking at, so there's things like Stokowski is the conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra at that time and he comes on stage and like yells at the audience because they don't listen the way he... So there I have the print archive because some music critic was like "Oh, you got to hear about what Stokowski did, you know this week and it was crazy." But there is no recording, so I kinda have to reconstruct what the listening environment would have been, what the kind of sonic environment would have been, that he was delivering these messages in. 

04:31 (VO) Abigail Lambke: Sarah and I met at Feminisms and Rhetorics 2015. We were put on the same panel about women’s recorded voices. And thank you, again, Sarah for pitching in and helping me with this piece. Alright, back to me. Sarah wanted to know more about my composing history

04:48 (IV) Sarah Elizabeth Adams: Derek Long, the head of the Marr Sound Archives at UMKC, explains that he came to curating because it combines his passions and his education. So, specifically, he mentions being a DJ, collecting records, being trained as an audio engineer, and earning degrees in history, anthropology, and library science. He sounds like a busy person. Could you tell me about how your passions and how your education led you to composing sonic scholarship?

05:19 (IV) Abigail Lambke: There is a circuitous path there. I would say from an academic standpoint it started with Walter Ong who did, he was at Saint Louis University and taught there his whole career, and that's where I did my graduate work, and I was studying rhetoric in my PhD and came across his ideas of secondary orality, I was working in his archives, and it seemed to be something that was new and interesting that people weren't really doing as well. But I've, I don't know, I've always liked sound, and I guess music. I was one of those people who had like a cassette player in the '90s and I liked to have blank tapes and then record things on them, like do my own little thing pretending to be on the radio or record things off the radio. I remember sitting in the closet playing with it for hours. So, looking back I can say, you know, there is a nice progression here but of course it never really works that way. 

06:23 (IV) Abigail Lambke: Also, you know when I started my PhD in what - 2008, it was right when podcasts were taking off, and so I knew since I was studying at the doctoral level that I was going to be like, studying all the time, right? And just learning about rhetoric. And I have a curious mind that likes to learn about lots of different things at the same time, and so I thought "I'll just listen to podcasts and I can learn about other stuff, too, outside of my, my scholarship." And then, as happens, you know, that became my scholarship.

06:57 (IV) Sarah Elizabeth Adams: So when, when did you start actually like doing sound scholarship? So you were studying Ong it sounds like in graduate school, was recording scholarship part of that then or did that come later?

07:11 (IV) Abigail Lambke: That came at about the same time when I was finishing up. You know I probably got it from someone but I don't remember who it was, that your scholarship should mirror what you were doing in it. And I thought "Why aren't we doing audio pieces?" And so I, I think my first one was for Present Tense, and it was on the recorded aspects of the Egyptian Revolution, taking sound clips from that. So I was working with found audio, and at the beginning, it was... like I taught myself audio editing, and I taught myself how to record and all these things, I had no idea what I was doing, and I would just like figure it out in small pieces. Which is what you can do in graduate school, when you have the time to do it. I mean I was also inspired by Cynthia Selfe's piece on sound and integrating sound into composition classes.

08:13 (IV) Sarah Elizabeth Adams: Oh yeah, when you read that article; that's one of those where you're like, "Why didn't I get to write that? Its so good."

08:20 (IV) Abigail Lambke: It's so good. Yeah, and I started having my students - I think really what pushed me to do my own audio, is that I wanted my students to do it in class, and I figured I shouldn't be teaching something I hadn't done myself. And so I'm like, I'm going to do this, and then I realized when I was editing, I would get into this flow state that was totally different than - I can get there when I'm writing, but its a lot faster when I'm audio editing, which I think means that I enjoy doing it more. 

08:48 (VO) Abigail Lambke: She also asked me several questions about the interviews I did for this piece. I’ll say now, even before I put those clips, that these were the first interviews I’ve ever done. And if the audio quality isn’t stellar – and I know it isn’t – I’ll take the blame for not knowing how to position things. Like in the Haddix/Long interview – and I interviewed both men together – there are many moments where someone bumps the table and shakes the mic. I didn’t realize it at the time, and I hate the effect it has in the audio, but I can’t seem to cut it all out. And I can't request another interview. So, I'm sorry for that. Also when Sarah was interviewing me I don't think I realized how squeaky my chair was, but, I think this also gets back to that idea of the interiority of sound, I guess sometimes it is an unexpected interiority, like the inside of my chair or the table at the Marr Sound Archives. But it is still there.

09:45 (IV) Sarah Elizabeth Adams: Chuck Haddix, he's the curator at the Marr Sound Archives at UMKC, mentions “trust” a few times in your interview with him. So, he mentions building trust with communities—with LGBTQ folks and with black folks in particular—as well as with musicians’ families. So, trust, it seems, is the foundation of curating a sonic archive for Haddix. I’m curious how you see trust playing a role, then, in your sonic curation efforts. Did you have to gain trust with any of your interviewees or did it feel automatic? Did you have to deal with trust issues recording in public spaces, maybe? And then if you were thinking about trust, how? What did you have to do to get it, where you successful or not? There's like seven or eight questions there. But... 

10:37 (IV) Abigail Lambke: Sure, well I think that this is really important question and for interviews trust is important, and particularly when you have a microphone set up and they know you will have a recording of exactly what it is they say. In some ways, having an academic affiliation and a Ph.D. you know gives that sense of ethos, they don't expect me to twist anything. And particularly at UMKC, I feel like I went in there and you know, we're kinda on the same level. They work with academics all the time, and we could feel each other out very quickly.

11:14 (IV) Abigail Lambke: With the American Jazz Museum, that one I think was harder to establish trust for a couple reasons. One, they have been in flux for a few years and there’s been, not necessarily scandals, but people have accused them of wasting money and they're not as successful as they want to be. So, early in the interview, I had to say "This is not at all what I'm interested in, I don't care about that. I care about this sonic curation thing and how you relate to the city and let's talk about these things and not the issues." And I think that kinda opened it up. That interview too, I mean, I'm a young white women, not young, I'm a white woman in my 30s and I was speaking with an black man in his, I don't know how old he is, but older than me, whose been throughout his career, so there is a power dynamic there, there is a racial dynamic, there are some things that ... you want to have some back and forth and make sure he knows I'm presenting this from this particular lens, and these are the things I care about. This is not, this is not an expose of any type. This is just exploring these ideas in a way that is more about gathering things than it is really about analyzing or, it is a little about interpreting.

12:35 (IV) Abigail Lambke: When I was recording in public spaces, I tried really hard not to record other people that could be identified by their voices. There was moment when I at a park and these people kept talking to me and they were being friendly and I wanted to be like "that's great that you're friendly but also could you be quite. That's not helpful" I just had to edit around them when I was editing that piece to put in.

13:03 (IV) Abigail Lambke: I was standing on a bridge recording and somebody like catcalled me. That was fun. I cut that out too. I think there is a trust dimension there throughout. What you're keeping, what you want to keep, how you are presenting yourself, all of that. It is important to be cognizant of that. And I thought about power dynamics in this city a lot, because you know this woman wandering around with a microphone, place to place, and in some places I might not normally go. So some of that felt a little invasive maybe? But also that is important for people to go places they might not normally go for scholarship.

13:55 (IV) Sarah Elizabeth Adams: I noticed some subtle differences in the presentation of your interview with Haddix and Long, from UMKC, and the interview with Caro, from the museum. I’m thinking, in particular, that we get a little bit more of the kinda back-and-forth between you and Caro, not tons, but there is a little more where we actually hear your voice in the room with him, in addition to your explanatory interjections where there’s really less of that back and forth with Haddix and Long. And that is one super-specific example. But I'm wondering if you could talk a bit about how those editing decisions were made? So like, why include the back-and-forth here but go ahead and cut it out there? Why not always include your questions? Why just go ahead and have answers for the most part? Did you edit their answers at all? I'm interested in that: what editing work did you have to do?

14:48 (IV) Abigail Lambke: Oh, I did a lot of editing work. A lot of it has been rearranged and moved around to fit the sort of themes that I'm trying to evoke at one point or another. Again, I don't think I chop up anybody's sentences. I might cut out an "um" or an "and" but I don't move around a sentence. But I am pretty inspired by the Kitchen Sisters who do the The Kitchen Sisters Present, is their podcast, it used to be called Fugitive Waves, and they do a lot of non-narrated podcasts or audio that I find fascinating that they can evoke these stories using multiple voices without commentary. And I have commentary in there but I try to keep it at a minimum because I want them to come forward. And for the audience to kinda piece things together themselves too. So I was inspired by that. I think I kept some of the pieces with Ralph Caro because we were building this sort of rapport and I really liked it, and it was this kinda fun moments, I liked his moments. I'll also say that these are the first two interviews - the only two interviews- like this I've ever done. And the Haddix and Long one was first. And so I would read a question and they would answer and I would go "um hmm, yeah" and I cut all that out. Because it is just me going "mmm," right, it doesn't sound particularly smart. 

16:20 (IV) Sarah Elizabeth Adams: And with the form of the overall project, since you have the "Resonance" section, which maybe this will be a part of, that's where you get to have your chance and your say. I can understand that, letting them have their moment  before you come in, yeah.

16:41 (IV) Abigail Lambke: Yeah, and for academics, so much of what we do, it seems traditionally is commentary. Like, there will be a quote, and they we comment on it, and then.... and that is what we teach students to do, and that is an important intellectual move. But especially in podcasting, and in sound, I think it's important to let people talk and to hear their voices. And possibly I don't have a great philosophical explanation for why, I'm still feeling part of that out. I could probably come up with one if I needed to. 

17:13 (IV) Sarah Elizabeth Adams: So, at one point Chuck Haddix, from UMKC, talks about how he was brought into the Sound Archives and onto that team because they “wanted to build a collection fast.” And one conclusion you come to in the “Resonance” section of your project is that “sound requires time.” So I’m wondering how time and maybe speed play a role in your project. As someone with not a lot of sound editing experience, I’d suspect that curating and collecting is fast work but editing is slow work? But then I kinda wonder: is editing actually separate from curating? I'm not so sure. Maybe it’s not? So yeah, anything you might have to say about time and speed and the roles those play in your collection / curation / editing work. 

18:02 (IV) Abigail Lambke: I think speaking to the Chuck Haddix part of this question, I think he had already put in the time, like collecting records, getting to know the record collectors, building this rapport, and so he could build the collection fast because he was leveraging previous time. I still think sound requires time, like you have to listen to the music you have to listen, not that I even really do musical scholarship, you have to listen to the audio you have to immerse yourself in that.

18:33 (IV) Abigail Lambke: I think the difference - the question of the difference between editing and curation is a really good one, there is so much overlap, I think. Like, I think of the soundscape I do for this piece as curation: I'm assembling, I'm building, I'm juxtaposing, we're moving through these things, there is no commentary whatsoever. And I think of that as if you are entering a room in a museum, right, and you see all of these pictures on the walls and that's curation. Things have been left out, things have been included, and you make sense of that, yourself.

19:11 (IV) Abigail Lambke: Editing, I feel like is a much more linear thing, and a much more - it drills down a lot more. Like,  you take out what is not needed but you are trying to create this sort of thing that is focused. So when I'm editing I feel like I'm trying to focus on something. When I'm curating I feel more like I'm trying to open something up that is not already there. And also I feel like they use different parts of my brain. Like, curation uses the part that's much more performative and the part that I use when sketching or the part that I'm using when doing something creative. And possibly this is a false dichotomy, but it's how it feels like it works in my brain. When I'm editing, I feel like I'm using much more of my analytical brain, like "what do I need to include for this to do this thing."

20:01 (IV) Sarah Elizabeth Adams: One question - and this one might be silly, but I'm going to ask anyway. This is the last of that big question. How much time does it take to even put together a piece of scholarship like this? Can you even estimate like how many hours go into something like this?  

20:15 (IV) Abigail Lambke: Well, yes, and no. I mean a lot of it, the invention process, I feel, if we are thinking about the rhetorical canons, takes a while, like I came up with this idea a while back, and then it got accepted in this special issue, and then it was just kinda in my mind. Like, I spend a month thinking about what sounds evoked Kansas City for me, and I would ask my friends, people who were born here, people who weren't and say "What sounds make Kansas City for you?" and I had this file on my phone where I would type notes on it. And then the recording took a while because I had to drive around to different parts of the city. But then when I started putting it together, I had sketched it out several times, like the different layers and what order I wanted to go in to. If you put in enough before work - then the editing happens pretty quickly.

21:09 (IV) Abigail Lambke: For the interviews, I mean it was the interview time, setting the interview, the interview time, then I had to transcribe them all, I typed them all up, so I listened to them all in half time and typed them. Which yeah, that takes some time. But then, when you are putting it all together you have it all in your mind. And yes. So, it takes some time, it does. There is there a lot of writing and drawing, for me, and thinking, before the audio editing happens, and that's the draft and now I'm in this sort of revision space where I'm listening again and reworking and reframing. So, it's time, but I don't know if it's any more or less time than writing a 20 page article-length essay. It is more fun than that. I'd rather stay up late doing it! Than stay up late writing. That's the advice I got in grad school. Do the thing that you'll want to do on Friday night like when you need to get work done do the thing you'll want to be working on.

22:17 (IV) Sarah Elizabeth Adams: That actually feels good. That isn't - I have to chain myself to the desk. That's interesting. Listening to it half speed is fascinating to me. Thinking about slow, like speed - slow things down to hear it I better, I guess?

22:35 (IV) Abigail Lambke: To keep up with the typing. It's the typing everything out. That's why there is are so many typos in that draft right now, because most of it comes from when I did the transcription.

22:49 (IV) Sarah Elizabeth Adams: Ok, cool. Ok - next question...

22:54 (VO) Abigail Lambke: And Sarah was talking to me before I revised everything twice more. So, sure, sonic scholarship is work. It takes time and a different sort of time and attention, it seems, then textual work. There is a vulnerability in putting your voice out there with its inflection and funny accents. But clearly I think the benefits of being able to work in sound, to do audio editing, to layer modalities, to think about and present scholarship a way that draws on different types of creativity outweighs any negative.

23:27 (VO) Abigail Lambke: That said, one of the limitations of audio composition is that they are not particularly conducive to textual quotations, the mainstay in academic prose. But much good information is stored in silent books. So, I end up reading quite a bit for sonic projects but don’t reference textual quotations when speaking, which feels as if it renders my references invisible. I included some in-text references throughout this webtext in the transcription. But I do want to give voice to books most important to me when researching Kansas City, Curation, sound, and Sound Art. 

24:04 (VO) Abigail Lambke: So to start with Kansas City Jazz: From Ragtime to Bebop a History – Frank Driggs and Chuck Haddix, And then of course Queering Kansas City Jazz: Gender, Performance, and the History of a Scene by Amber R. Clifford-Napoleone, Racism in Kansas City: A Short History by G. S. Griffin, The Otoe-Missouri People by R. David Edmunds, Kansas City Streetcars: From Hayburners to Streamliners by Edward A. Conrad, Kansas City and How it Grew 1822 – 2011 by James R. Shortridge, Digital Media and Learner Identity: The New Curatorship by James Potter, Curating Differently: Feminisms, Exhibitions and Curatorial Spaces, edited by Jessica Sjoholm Skrubbe, Sonic Flux: Sound, Art, and Metaphysics by Chrisoph Cox, Sonic Possible Worlds: Hearing the Continuum of Sound by Salome Voegelin, and Sounding Composition: Multimodal Pedagogies for Embodied Listening by Steph Ceraso.

25:05 (VO) Abigail Lambke: Also, I want to indicate that I followed fair use guidelines in the creation and curation of this piece. When using commercial audio I sampled less than a minute per track, and my use should not interfere with the creator’s ability to profit off of their own work. My use is strictly academic, it is not for profit, and it does not change the meaning of the original.

25:27 (VO) Abigail Lambke: A special thanks for Chuck Haddix and Derek Long at the Marr Sound Archives and Ralph Caro at the American Jazz Museum for granting me interviews. And to my friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, who went to the American Jazz Museum. And again to Sarah Adams for asking perceptive questions and putting in the time. And the the peer reviews on this piece. We’ll hear Kasey Musgraves finishing her version of “Kansas City Star” as the final outro. Thanks for listening. Goodbye.

25:57 (CA) Kacey Musgraves "Kansas City Star" Lyrics: Kansas City Star, that's what I are / Ha-delee-da-lady, you ought to see my car / I drive a big old Cadillac with wired wheels / I got rhinestones on the spokes / I've got credit down at my grocery store / And my barber tells me jokes / I'm the number one attraction in every supermarket parking lot / I'm the queen of Kansas City, no thanks Omaha, thanks a lot / I'm the queen of Kansas City, no thanks Omaha, thanks a lot / I'm the queen of Kansas City, no thanks Omaha, thanks for nothing.