It’s somewhat surprising to me I hadn’t heard of SOUND MATTERS until recently, as I have two very strong connections to it. One: as I hope needs no introduction, I am resolutely obsessed with music, making anything related to the perception of the microscopic sounds that constitute it of inherent interest to me. Two: one of the several jobs I hold down has me grinding away in a product placement warehouse, spending my days lugging around various Bang & Olufsen equipment, oblivious to the fact that they’ve put their production power behind one of the more academic, in-depth, and generally fascinating podcasts of recent memory. Suffice it to say, SOUND MATTERS was a match made in heaven.
I’ve recommended some niche podcasts before, but I still like to hold fast to the belief that people demonstrating genuine passion and expertise can make any topic under the sun fascinating to listen to (if Bill Nye had a full-blown, straight-cut science podcast we’d all download it in a heartbeat, and don’t you pretend to deny it). As such, I would encourage you to stay with SOUND MATTERS, even if explorations of the physical, emotional, and spiritual elements of sound don’t interest you from the starting pistol, for Tim Hinman most assuredly meets the above qualifications. As the best podcasts tend to do, the initial hook and main drive is all means to an end of a larger and more holistic appreciation for the complex machinations that drive our lives and the world we live them in.
My entry-point into SOUND MATTERS was from the perspective of a music fan, but you can just as easily hop in the water as a hearing participant in our natural world. In fact, Episode 13, “Nature Recording: When Your Ears Go Pop,” is geared just towards that, interviewing Chris Watson (renowned nature recordings artist, for the nerds out there) about the cacophony of sounds surrounding us on a daily basis and how to appreciate and glean beauty from them. But there are far more esoteric and innovative explorations, such as the most recent installment, “The Bass, The Colour, The Mystery of Synesthesia,” exploring the bizarre phenomenon wherein we experience one sensory stimulation through a secondary sense (ie: seeing sounds, tasting colours), and the absolutely enthralling “New Tunes From Old Bones,” which sees our host meet with someone who recreates sounds from instruments and sources that practically pre-date society. But perhaps the episodes to ease you in are the intensely relevant “In Search of the Missing Sound,” which details the slow decay of audio quality, and, by far the most emotionally impactful, “Music, Memory, and Auditory Angels,” which delves into the music that entrenches itself within our memories and psyches, music that can help those that are lost return to themselves.
Yes, Hinman initially comes off as a bit dry, but especially if you’ve cut your teeth on NPR, the comparatively more academic tone shouldn’t send you running to the hills. And besides, the scholarly care he generously grants to each of his subjects fully paints in the pictures of the difficult and intellectually challenging concepts he traffics in. While perhaps not the easiest podcast to zone out to during your commute, for those looking to settle in and sink their teeth into something that’ll massage their brains and get them to appreciate constant barrage of noise around us in a new light, SOUND MATTERS is a perfect fit.