Artist who ‘paints with sounds’ captures the noises that make Maine beautiful

PORTLAND, Maine — Audio recording artist Dianne Ballon remembers the exact instant she listened to the magic occur alongside one another, ideal in front of her ears.

Bobbing on a boat deck, in the center of Casco Bay previous summer time, with her headphones on and microphone pointed out to sea, the vessel swung around.

And there it was.

Two different channel buoys were being sounding jointly. One rang a gong. The other blew a wind-driven whistle. Both rode the tide atop the churning sea.

“It made me cry with joy,” Ballon mentioned. 

That’s how it is with seems, for her. They are art as very well as emotionally going encounters.

Visible artists operate with colours and canvas, pen and paper, or cameras and pixels. But Ballon uses a microphone and aural times when setting up her images. 

“You could say I paint with seem,” she reported. 

The channel buoy duet is just one of quite a few expressive moments Ballon captured close to her Portland dwelling very last summer season. Commonly, she often documents in much-flung places like the Arctic but this yr, thanks to the travel-proscribing pandemic, and a Maine Arts Fee grant, she expended the entire summer time recording on Maine’s coast. 

This month, Ballon will start sharing her newest Maine-centered seem art by way of displays at the Maine Historic Culture in Portland and the Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth. Equally occasions will be readily available on the web.

Ballon has appreciated a lengthy job in sound recording, both of those at residence, as well as in Iceland, the Arctic and the southern Appalachian Mountains. Ten of her sound works have aired on Nationwide Community Radio’s All Matters Thought of system. Now, she teaches audio generation by means of Maine University of Artwork.

Ballon was awarded a Maine Arts Commission $5,000 unique fellowship grant in 2021. 

Final week, Ballon sat down with us to chat about her artwork procedure and seem, alone.

Q: When generating your art, what kinds of appears are you seeking for?

A: I assume, in basic, folks do not listen to seem, even although we are bombarded with it each day. Mainly because, in a great way, our brains can filter out seems — so, if we’re on a busy avenue, speaking with someone, we can focus on listening to the particular person. What I do is perform with that track record audio, or subject audio.

Q: But alternatively of hectic road sounds, you are more fascinated in the organic environment even further more in the audio background, right?

A: Of course, and it’s extremely hard to go out and report the seem that I am just after — to have that audio be isolated and not have other seems interfere with it. Vehicles and trucks are not preferable. When I do get the sound I want, I continue to be for a lengthy time and document much more than I could have to have. 

Q: It reminds me of how I choose pics as a photographer. There is a full wide planet out there but I’m seeking to narrow it down to just what I want to body in my viewfinder. Only you are “looking” with your ears, fairly than your eyes?

A: Of course. It is specifically that. 

Q: With this Maine Arts Fee grant you stayed in Maine this summer when accomplishing your do the job.

A: Indeed. I generally go to the Arctic — and the financial fellowship would have been a nice chunk of a aircraft excursion — but I focussed on the sounds at property alternatively. The pandemic seriously permitted me to have that beautiful focus. I imagine I ended up driving much more than 600 miles, just in Maine.

Q: Apart from the Casco Bay buoys, what and wherever else did you record on the coastline this summertime?

A: I did a 4-day trip to South Bristol and the Christmas Cove location. I also explored Schoodic Issue, Prospect Harbor and Birch Harbor. I generally go to harbors for the creaking boats. I recorded at a lobster coop in Corea, as nicely. I transpired to arrive when the lobstermen were being unloading their catch — with the spontaneous speaking, back again and forth — and the lobster boats pulling up and pulling absent.

Q: When I pay attention to your sounds, in particular with headphones on, I immediately get photos in my head.

A: With something like movie, the photo is predetermined and the seem results in being just the track record. But what’s amazing about that photograph in your have thoughts is that you are developing it, oneself.

Dianne Ballon will existing her do the job on the net at the Maine Historic Society from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 13, and at Thomas Memorial Library from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 20.