Audio Essays

Welcome! If you’re anything like me, you’re ready to stop looking at screens and close your eyes for a while. That’s why I created the short audio narratives below.

These spoken-word stories are paired with music, sound cues, and clips from interviews I’ve conducted during my 20+ years of anthropological research. It’s my hope that these recordings will offer you an intellectually and emotionally engaging sonic experience.

 

Lean back, close your eyes, and see where they take you. If you like what you hear, please leave a comment.

 

Cheers, y’all …

Audio Essays
A person with their hands over their ears. Their body is made up of poetic words. It is abstract.

Psst.

For a complete list of all of my Audio Essays and more, visit my YouTube page.

"To Be A Mountain"

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Listen time: 9:37

Between 2007 and 2009, as part of my graduate school fieldwork, I spent time in Cusco, Peru, studying the concept of yanantin or complementary opposites as the philosophical principle underlying the Andean worldview. I wanted to know what it was like to live in a world in which the polarities of existence—inner-outer, male-female, dark-light—are seen as interdependent parts of a harmonious whole, rather than the insidious philosophy of antagonism that underlies so much of Western-world thinking.

 

During this time, my friend and guide Puma Quispe Singona brought me to meet with Doña Irena, a respected local healer. When I asked her about her early training in the medicine work, she told me a remarkable story …

Production Details

• Performed by Hillary S. Webb

• Narration, sound, and music composed and arranged by Hillary S. Webb

 

• Special thanks to Peter Scoma for his assistance with this piece

Featured Story

"It Sounds Like This"

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Listen time: 4:31

 

This one's a little different from my other, more narratively driven pieces. Less words, more sound. Best with headphones on. 🎧

Production Details

• Music, sound effects, narration created/arranged by Hillary S. Webb

• Additional sound provided by BBC Sound Effects

 

• Special thanks to Peter Scoma

 

Photo by Kristoffer Brink Jonsson on pexels.com

"Lothar's Vision"

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Listen time: 2:14

In 2003, I was asked to interview my friend, Lothar Patten, for an article in the local paper. Known as "The Nice Man" in our hometown of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Lothar had become a fierce advocate for the homeless during the 2004 Presidential Elections. After we finished discussing politics, we got to talking about that time he saw a ghost ...

Production Details

• Narration arranged by Hillary S. Webb

• Music and sound effects composed/arranged by Hillary S. Webb

 

• Special thanks to Peter Scoma for his assistance with this piece

Photo by Alex Fu on Unsplash

"Ice Crickets" (with Elena Avila)

Audio Essay - Hillary S. Webb - Ice Crickets with Elena Avila

Listen time: 1:01

Narration excerpted from an untitled poem by Curandera (medicine woman) Elena Avila (1944-2011) as recited to me, for use in the book, Traveling Between the Worlds: Conversations with Contemporary Shamans (2004). In addition to being a talented healer and poet, Elena is the author of the best-selling book, Woman Who Glows in the Dark: A Curandera Reveals Traditional Aztec Secrets of Physical and Spiritual Health. I had the great privilege of interviewing Elena back in 2001. This excerpt is a small offering of her extraordinary spirit and talent.

Production Details

• Narration by Elena Avila

• Music, sound, and narrative composed/arranged by Hillary S. Webb

 

• Special thanks to Peter Scoma

Photo by Kelly Sikke on Unsplash

 

 

"He Never Did Speak About the War"

Audio Essay - Hillary S. Webb - He Never Did Speak About the War

Listen time: 4:59

In 1998, my uncle, John Justin de Ledesma, sent my mother a 4+ hour audio letter telling her stories about his life growing up in Argentina, his long career in theater and film, and some of the remarkable synchronicities he experienced on his personal and professional path. 

Included in these tales were memories of what their father--my grandfather--went through during the dark days of World War I and beyond. As with all war stories, they were composed of equal parts tragedy and bravery. 

Production Details

• Narration arranged by Hillary S. Webb

• Music and sound effects composed/arranged by Hillary S. Webb

• Additional sounds provided by BBC Sound Effects

• Special thanks to Peter Scoma for his assistance with this piece

"Lauren's Dream" 

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Listen time: 3:56

In the fall of 2017, nearly a year into the Trump presidency, I traveled to Berlin, Germany, for a week’s vacation. I was feeling low. I had begun to fear that the better angels of our nature had deserted us entirely—if they had ever existed at all—and that the world was, at its core, a hostile place.

While in Berlin, I signed up for a bike tour led by Lauren Van Vuuren, a South African ex-pat writer who had made a home for herself there in the Grey City. It was platonic love at first sight.  Over the next several years, Lauren and I traded dozens of WhatsApp messages, detailing the events of our daily lives, from the mundane to the sublime. With her permission, I extracted excerpts from her side of the conversation in order to create the audio essay — “Lauren’s Dream.”

Production Details

• Narration, sound, and music composed and arranged by Hillary S. Webb

• Special thanks to Peter Scoma and Nick Phaneuf for their assistance with this piece.

"The End of Dreaming"

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Listen time: 5:00

“The End of Dreaming” tells the story of a young man who, in the summer of 1969, underwent a radical psycho-spiritual transformation after coming upon a group of young men and women gathered around a bonfire to honor the last virgin full moon before the Apollo 11 landing.

Production Details

• Written, composed, and performed by Hillary S. Webb 

• Mix and additional production by Nick Phaneuf

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

"Currents" (Wind Series)

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Listen time: 2:30

"Currents" is a meditation on the distinction (or lack thereof) between life and death, and the ways in which we humans must decide in each moment whether to swim against the current or to let the sea change carry us along. It features a clip of an interview I did in the early 2000s with Peruvian shaman Oscar Miro Quesada and a recording my father created of my sister in the 1970s.

Production Details

• Narration and sound arranged by Hillary S. Webb

• Music composed and produced by Nick Phaneuf

Photo by Stormseeker on Unsplash

"Think Back from the End" (Wind Series)

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Listen time: 3:45

"Think Back from the End" brings together diverse voices in a sonically driven narrative piece that explores how we view the climate crisis differently according to our individual and cultural understanding of the nature of time.

Production Details

• Narration, sound, and base music arranged by Hillary S. Webb 


• Additional music composed, arranged, and produced by Nick Phaneuf 

Voices featured within this audio piece include:

Erick Gonzalez (excerpted from a 2001 
interview)

• Margarita Tsomou and Maximillian Haas (excerpted from the "Burning Futures" discussion series held at HAU Hebbel am Ufer, Berlin, Germany, November 4, 2019) 

• "Maddi" (excerpted from public remarks at the November 28, 2015 “Turn the Tide Climate Rally,” Portland, Maine. Rally organized by 350 Maine and Maine College of Art) 

Photo by Aron Van de Pol on Unsplash