Using Found Sounds to Create Soundscapes

Gigi Robinson
Emphasis Area
Public Health

Gigi Robinson interned with LitLabs to gain experience in audio production through the creation of an EP utilizing sounds from everyday life.

How did you get your internship?

My internship found me. Professor Jacqueline Barrios approached me about wanting me to help on her LitLabs project, and eager for an opportunity that would involve creative work, and something to do over the summer, I happily obliged. Prior to her asking, I had created, as a submission for her soundscape project in her PAH 200 Introduction to Applied Humanities class, a song I made using sounds I recorded as I walked from class to my dorm, including a construction site, a homeless man screaming at me, the sound of my umbrella, and a few other smaller accents I made using instruments that I had changed to be nearly unrecognizable. It seems to have stuck with her, and I was approached at the Public and Applied Humanities Bloom showcase to help on her project.

What kind of work did you do throughout your internship experience?

As was requested of the interns, I read David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, meeting regularly to discuss the book and write about it with other collaborators in a way that felt reminiscent of a traditional class. There would be weekly creative activities loosely based on the book, which I appreciated as means of exploring creative outlets we might use further down the line.  I remember distinctly writing a description of a location in the style of Dickens, which really helped me appreciate the art of his style.

Later on, my work grew to involve more of my own free willed creative work. I began to plan for my project, which I knew would involve work with found sound as it was why I was requested to join for the project, so I began gathering sounds. How it fit into the novel really only came as I progressed into the book, realizing that people frequently returned to places with personal meaning in the book, and so I did the same, and interpreted those locations through sound, later researching the pasts of the locations and wrapping it all nicely into booklet exploring my production and the significance of locations on several levels. In this time, I also joined the collaborators for frequent meetings in different places around Tucson to explore art and culture.

What new knowledge and skills did you develop in this internship?

A big thing was creating art with a deadline and with specific instructions, something that was not only new to me, but exciting, especially with an interest in scoring and sound design, either of which would have deadlines and specific requests involved in the creative process, though more rigid. I got to experience a taste of that, even if milder, and it was a really wonderful thing. As well, I have learned to work with others a bit more, as well as appreciate their art, as my respect for other artists has often been either diminished by my own dissatisfaction with their work, or increased by my disappointment with my own craft. I was really able to see the care and work that led to each person’s creation. Also, my overall comfort with presenting my work has improved, as the compliments and praise I received from collaborators and visitors alike really astounded me, especially because I still felt (and feel) like my work could have been better.

I also now better understand the work and research that goes into presenting your work, and the artistry that comes with creating a project in the humanities. I see the direct impact of art in communities, through our exploration of South Tucson and our discussions throughout the project (especially of Dickens’ works impact on his era). The time I spent on this project also forced me to consider meaning in my own art, what message was I spreading when I made a piece of art? What am I telling people? In the future, I will put more thought into that (and in fact with my current works, I already am).

What was the most satisfying part of your internship?

Finally presenting your work (Link to EP; Link to zine) is a feeling that can be unmatched, but experiencing people’s reactions to your work in person is such a rare experience and I felt so lucky to have had it. One visitor even cried at my work (though I think that my art more triggered it than caused it), which truly was an astonishing moment. I wish that everyone could experience the feeling of seeing a project garner an emotional response, especially in a close contact setting (something that playing a live show, as I have done a few times, really lacks). It’s something I hope I can experience again, especially if I continue working on my music.

How has your internship experience influenced your plans for your future?

It really made me realize that my passions and career can overlap, even if not exactly how I planned. For example, though I am a musician, my work as a musician may not take the form of a touring musician or the like. I could be hired as a composer, a sound designer, a creative consultant, or something more academic like this internship. Now of course, ideally, I’d like to be that industrial rock star I dream of, roaming around playing music, but just because thats the ideal of success doesn’t mean I cannot find it elsewhere. That is to say, I realized my dreams are not as far out of reach as I may have thought. With that though, I also do not necessarily think that music is all I could do. I have realized I have a wide array of things I could do with my degree.

What advice do you have for other students as they search for and begin their internship?

I honestly think, if you see an opportunity and it feels right, you should go with your gut. Think about things a bit, of course, you don't want to actively hamper your progress, but also just try to enjoy your experience.

It's also very important to remember that every has a different experience, so do not worry if the people around you are making progress faster than you or if you are struggling to keep up, just remember that your life is not theirs, we are not all going to find our ay the same way. Just live life is all I am saying, do what makes you happy, and live for experience, not victory.