Chris Hoff and Sam Harnett are co-creators of The World According to Sound, a radio show that airs on NPR’s All Things Considered and weekly on individual public radio stations. The Washington Post writes that “each episode is 90 seconds, containing a neat little story about an evocative, unusual sound rendered in intense aural detail.” The show’s sound-driven approach to radio has been featured on programs like NHPR’s “Overheard,” KQED’s “Earful,” KALW’s “The Spot,” CBC’s “Podcast Playlist,” and a segment on “HowSound” called “Short is Beautiful.”
The World According to Sound is more than just a radio show, however. Chris Hoff and Sam Harnett have turned it into a live performance where they set up a ring of speakers, pass out eye masks, turn out the lights, and take the sounds from their show and move them all around the audience. You will hear bridges and ants and the gurgle of mud pots. The sounds will transport you inside another person’s head and back in time a hundred years to the streets of Berlin. There will be a musical performance by a washing machine, a sonorous tennis match, and a disturbing howl Marco Polo heard centuries ago while crossing the Gobi Desert. The pair has performed at art galleries, theaters, and centers for the blind in San Francisco and throughout the Northeast.
We’re a public radio sound engineer and reporter in San Francisco, and all this started with the idea of making a radio show that didn’t tell you a story or what to think. We set out to create a show that is all about sound instead of language and narrative–a show where the point isn’t to hook you with a story, or to package up some quirky character you can admire, but to get deep into a sound and play a long, unnarrated stretch so you can really lose yourself. Maybe as you listen, your mind will start to wander; you might even experience a little boredom–that mortal sin for modern-day media. Don’t tell any of our radio friends, but we actually kind of like getting bored. Sometimes we get together and do it on weekends, that is, when we aren’t working on the show.
We hope you enjoy The World According to Sound and that it gets you to think a little bit about the world through your ears instead of your eyes. Thanks for listening!
Chris Hoff & Sam Harnett