Welcome to The Compressed Interview #27! In today’s interview, Laura Giannone told me about her wide experience in field recording, acoustic analysis for ecology surveys, and sound editing. Laura’s work has been extended to sound engineering and acoustic research and she will tell us about some of her work in that area and how did she get interested on it. I am very excited because this is the first interview that includes work related to acoustic research.
Here’s what Laura shared with me.
Threshold: Getting Started
J: How did you get started in audio? What was your first job and how did you get it?
L: I was living in a rural area working in agriculture and ended up caretaking the property of a surf buddy in the neighborhood who is a field recordist. He needed help reviewing his recordings and I needed more work, so I tried it. It turned out I have very sensitive hearing and familiarity with natural sound from living and working outside, so it worked out well. My first sound job was editing his nature library Quiet Planet. The community in that region is increasingly impacted by the Navy’s Growler jet noise- I wanted to learn more about that as well as expand my skills, so next I completed a bachelor’s degree in Sound Engineering and Acoustic Ecology.
Attack: Things to discuss
J: What’s the biggest challenge you have encountered, professionally speaking, and how did you get around it?
L: The biggest challenge is my sense of urgency to compete. Many small business owners probably experience this- fear of falling behind, fear that I won’t be able to afford the latest tools. Early on I learned to show up ready to fight in hostile, male-centric work environments. The way I get around this mentality is to compartmentalize past workplace adaptations- I’m not in a boxing ring, I’m recording birds! I still feel like a giant when I get new equipment so I haven’t figured it out yet, but reframing my current work situation as separate and different from the past helps.
Release: Talking about the good stuff
J: What has been your favorite project to work on and why?
L: Bornean Bird Conservation, Sarawak, Borneo- as a student I worked with this stellar team of scientists, field technicians, students, and local experts to study bird species in wilderness and managed land. I prepared autonomous recorders, conducted acoustic surveys, helped with acoustic training, and analyzed acoustic data. We worked in a peat swamp forest for three weeks from a remote base camp, then from a field station at an acacia plantation. The best I could ask for in my work is to apply my skills and knowledge towards something that has a meaningful purpose. I learned so much from the team and loved working in such an amazing place!
J: Can you let us know a little about your creative process or your technical process?
L: Nature field recording is intuitive and totally at the mercy of the elements. I go with my instincts on what sounds I like. If I’m passing by a ravine and it catches my attention, I indulge in listening to it. I lay out everything days ahead of time if possible; if I have lingering questions I ask mentors and friends. This way, if something is missing from my gear, I spot it early with time to adapt. I like having an “oh shit” kit, like extra waterproofing materials, clips, cord, etc. so I have options if I need to adapt to changing conditions, or be able to stay longer than planned if something special is happening.
J: What are the biggest life lessons learned in your personal and professional career?
L: There is a shared love and respect for nature, that’s why we are here. A recordist friend was recently describing how he is focusing on being creative with the equipment he has versus ogling new gear. In the struggle to succeed financially I spend energy stressing about needing the latest software, applying for jobs that aren’t meaningful to me, gaps in projects, etc. I could put that energy into honing my skills, watching tutorials, cleaning cables, exercise- any multitude of things that are useful parts of my work. Another friend said, “the more you do something the more you become that thing.” So I reframe my priorities back to what they started as: being good to myself and the people in my life, and doing what I love.
We’ll read each other again in a couple of weeks!