Innovative and archival are not two words you regularly hear together, but with the sound experiments and powerful audio stories presented in our inaugural Sonic South audio experience, that was exactly the genre of the evening. While the sky had darkened to produce a drizzly and blustery evening, this made the Studio at CURRENT where we gathered for the Sonic South only more intimate and created a perfect atmosphere to sit down, settle in, and listen.
Held on May 10th, the live-listening event was a chance to listen to the five works selected from our Sonic South audio competition. For this contest, we invited audio producers of all levels to engage with our interview archive in a new way by asking them to create short stories (three to five minutes) focusing in the theme of persistence—as the artist interprets for themselves—and using the voices of Southern women.
The five finalists were selected by judges Malinda Maynor Lowery, director for the Center for the Study of the American South and former SOHP director; John Biewen, audio program director at the Center for Documentary Studies and host of the Center’s audio documentary podcast, Scene on the Radio; and Leoneda Inge, WUNC’s Race and Southern Culture reporter, who also served as our host for the evening.
Below you can listen to the five pieces selected and their respective producers.
1964–Do Something! by Rebekah Smith
How do you get around a law intended to end segregation? You declare that your establishment is a private club and hope that those pesky protesters give up and go home. 1964 – Do Something! blends two interviews that were done as part of the 50th Anniversary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) that took place in 2010 in Raleigh, North Carolina. It tells the story of how businesses and even state entities tried to get around the Public Accommodations Act by declaring themselves to be “private clubs.” As such, they would be exempt from the new law that said that service could not be denied based on race, color, religion, or national origin. SNCC members protested at the Arkansas State Capitol cafeteria where blacks were refused service.
Ms. Smith and Ms. Brooks of the Pine Room, Pt. I by Rebekah Smith
This audio montage combines images from four different interviews and gives an impression of some of the issues that surrounded the 1969 Food Workers’ Strike at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. We meet the leaders of the strike, Ms. Mary Smith and Ms. Elizabeth Brooks, as the women repeatedly try to get the attention of management that makes promises they never keep. The two persist until they are granted a very simple request.
Rebekah Smith is the creator of QuOTeD – The Question of the Day Podcast – where she makes audio montages using stories that are sparked by a single question. For twenty-five years she has been interviewing regular people using this “one good question” method where conversations emerge naturally. In addition to being a platform for sharing her work, the podcast has inspired events that put people in the same room to talk.
Lead with What We Have by Sydney Lopez
Lead with What We Have intends to illustrate the intersectional experience of Southern women’s persistence. Kim Pevia’s story in particular highlights how female strength has evolved and grown through generations of Lumbee women.
Sydney Lopez is a sophomore at UNC originally from Boca Raton, Florida. She is double majoring in exercise and sports science and sociology. She found a love for oral history’s bottom-up approach in Dr. Rachel Seidman’s class her first year at Carolina. Since then, she has developed her audio editing skills through a summer internship at the SOHP where she co-produced an audio documentary and digital exhibit exploring the UNC Foodworkers’ Strikes of 1969.
Listen to Sydney Lopez’s commentary on her piece here:
Beyond Me by Spivey Knapik
Is persistence a series of self-directed actions or is it a response of openness to something bigger passing through you? This piece explores the liminal space of creation asking what it means both for an individual and for the concept of “art” to persist through a spectrum of time and place.
Spivey Knapik is an artist, independent producer, and native Floridian currently living and working in Des Moines, Iowa. She is interested in stories, death, and identity.
Listen to her commentary on her piece here:
Untitled by Jen Nathan Orris (Winner of the 2018 Sonic South Competition)
Reverend Sophia East speaks about the realities of being a woman of color in the South during the 1970s. The Georgia Sea Island Singers sing “Let Me Fly” in a 1960 recording as Reverend East describes her daily struggles and hopes for a more equitable future.
Jen Nathan Orris is an audio producer and writer based in Asheville, North Carolina. She studied at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies and has worked as a reporter and audio producer for fifteen years. Her work has aired on the BBC and NPR, as well as WFAE and WUNC in North Carolina. She is also the editor of Edible Asheville magazine and produces a podcast for the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project called Growing Local.
Listen to her commentary on her piece here:
These works remind us not only of the many histories and stories that each person holds inside of them, but the importance of preserving those stories as they provide us information to understand where we are, where we came from, and even provide insight as to how to be the people, communities, and society we want to become. When gathered together to listen to these stories collectively, it is undeniable that history echoes.
We are currently developing the competition and live listening room for The Sonic South 2019. Stay tuned for more information!