Sound artist and podcast producer Tim Hinman on music, storytelling and tuning your ears to the world.

 Who's that knocking? Tim Hinman in his Copenhagen studio.

Who's that knocking? Tim Hinman in his Copenhagen studio.

Sound Matters: Innovators

Tim Hinman's Third Ear 

 

How do our brains decide what’s noise and what’s meaningful? What is the sound of life itself? Tim Hinman – the man behind the Sound Matters podcast tries to answer these profound questions through sonic storytelling and placing listening at the centre of experience.

 
CONTRIBUTORS
Photos: Emil Hartvig for Studio C
Words: Nate Budzinski
 

“Umph, umph, umph, umph, umph, umph...” Tim Hinman is relaxing in his apartment building’s courtyard in central Copenhagen. With a humorous twinkle in his eye Tim beat-boxes along with the distant electronic drum sound of an urban festival that’s just kicked off in the Danish capital – the sound of which will define the city’s soundscape for the coming week. As the evening fades we sip ale imported from his native Britain and speak about the ideas behind Sound Matters, the podcast series he writes and produces with Bang & Olufsen.

 It’s an eccentric way of expressing his love for sound of all types:  “I’ve been interested in and working with sound in a number of different capacities for over 20 years now... so when B&O asked me to work on developing a series with them investigating a shared love for the world, or worlds, of sound, I jumped at the opportunity, especially as it allowed for such a broad amount of subjects to be featured.”

 
“I started out playing music and trying to be a rock star but needed to get a real job, so moved to film, and then radio.
 
 Tools of the trade: Hinman's trusty and well-worn portable recorder, for those hard to find sounds. 

Tools of the trade: Hinman's trusty and well-worn portable recorder, for those hard to find sounds. 

 Echoing  applause: Hinman and Third Ear recently won the prestigious Prix Europa for best digital audio 2016. 

Echoing  applause: Hinman and Third Ear recently won the prestigious Prix Europa for best digital audio 2016. 

Music is, of course, an important element of Sound Matters, but more often than not it’s just the doorway into a deeper sonic journey. Across the series, Sound Matters meets a number of key figures in the culture and practice of sound, like the influential field recordist and bio-acoustician Bernie Krause who started out studying classical composition and was part of the legendary folk music band The Weavers in the early 1960s; another episode looks at how one musician-therapist uses the music that people love, that is embedded in memories and dreams to help heal them after traumatic events; another investigates how neuroscientists are trying to understand the mystery of what exactly is going on in our brains that makes it possible to hear sounds, filter out only the most important parts, and understand what they mean through all the noise of our world; other episodes listen in on the practices and cultures of sound art, field recording the soundscape, and what exactly makes the difference between a good sound and a bad sound.

This rich diversity of the places, scenes and cultures where sound is an important, even necessary ingredient, represents Tim’s long-running and wide-reaching involvement in all things audible. “I started out playing music and trying to be a rock star but then needed to get a real job, so moved to film, and then radio. I moved to Denmark from London in 1996, and since then I’ve been involved in dozens of experimental audio productions at the Danish National Radio – from sound art and compositions to straight-up documentaries, from poetry and spoken word pieces to radio dramas. From 2009 I also produced my own and others work exclusively for the online digital magazine Third Ear. Oh, and I also teach radio and sound to journalists, techies and artists!”

 

This insatiable interest in sound, how it makes us feel, remember or forget, comforts us or excites us, and how creative practitioners use it, is what drives Tim's storytelling. And even though it feels like the first two series covered a massive range of subjects and ideas, there’s seemingly nothing that sound doesn’t affect. As the evening sun fades over a festive Copenhagen I ask Tim what listeners might expect from forthcoming episodes? He’s cagey, and says with a mischievous look, “I can’t say exactly, but expect acoustic archaeology, the sounds of the stars, and much more in between...”

 
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