Statement of Purpose

With a screwdriver in one hand and the parts of my mother’s radio all over the floor, I was on a quest to find the sounds inside. It was exploratory surgery; I hadn’t done any damage. It was all easy to put back together. I was about eight years old, and I’ve been a sort of artistic engineer ever since – from building the Barbie Dreamhouse for myself out of the foam molds that came in an electronics shipping carton to executing the same surgery on the television. Music classes in school were no different. I first picked up a trumpet, then drums, then guitar. But by my senior year, I was more curious about the physical nature of the instruments and how they created sound than working towards being a professional musician. This realization led to my aspirations of becoming a recording engineer, an unlikely prospect for a woman at that time. I held my first professional audio job at 19 and continued working in entertainment technology while completing my degrees in audio production at Middle Tennessee State University and New York University.

Ten years of life, work, and study in New York City are a mind-opening experience. I was successfully on the commercial music engineer path when I discovered the discipline of interactive sound art and R. Murray Schafer’s concept of soundscape studies while attending NYU. My maker nature flourished, finally finding an outlet to explore my creative side in courses such as Physical Computing, Museums and Interactive Technologies and Constructing Musical Instruments and Interfaces. My projects included a Jeopardy style quiz game controller and a gestural musical instrument prototype designed to the specifications of a musician who had lost some mobility in his wrists. I also joined the New York Society for Acoustic Ecology where I contributed to the NYC SoundMap project and the first Ear to the Earth Symposium. For my thesis, I researched the history and current technological practices of soundscape capture based on the work of R. Murray Schafer and Hildegard Westerkamp. Invigorated, I started designing a sound art installation of an aural treasure hunt that involved a complex sensor array installed in the room and a transmitter/receiver that would be worn by the treasure hunter.

New York City also awakened my desire to explore culture through cuisine. When I wasn’t disassembling Nintendo game controllers for parts or recording New York City’s soundscape with my awkward-looking, head-worn binaural microphones, I was exploring the gastronomic pleasures of the world. I embraced my new love of food and wine by pursuing wine certifications as a hobby. Wine is geography in a bottle. As a study technique, I traced maps to give context to the wine in the glass. Studying maps with such intensity instilled within me a deep-seated wanderlust. I eagerly accepted every opportunity to travel to wine regions throughout the world. One of my first explorations abroad took me to the Piedmont region of Italy on a project for Slow Food. This project involved recording soundscapes within restaurants, kitchens, vineyards, and winery cellars. When I returned, I launched my first website and blog, A Taste of Sound (now reimagined). Shortly after that, I discovered a wine specific social network, and in 2008 I attended the first Wine Bloggers Conference (a convergence of wine and technology). It was at this conference that I joined Twitter, learned about WordPress, and delved into the brave new world of social media.

Technology is ever-present in my life, be it simple questions from friends who are curious about software functions or errors, a commercial GPS sending me astray in Southern Italy, or my constant companion, my iPhone, that keeps me connected to social networks and any manner of media creation tools.

I currently create pop culture multimedia that seeks to represent gastronomy, establishes a sense of place, and is delivered in an entertaining, yet realistic and pedagogical way. The participant is drawn into a conscious state of engagement impressing upon them that biodiversity and those who create it are vital aspects of food culture. My primary media are sound and still photography which are captured spontaneously and displayed on the internet. I also enjoy exploring interactivity through online works and physical computing installations. My unadulterated soundscape recordings sonically transport the listener to another location by breaking their current audible context, motivating them to set aside the sounds of their actual environment to focus instead on their new surroundings. The reimagined Taste of Sound is intended to take “mindful eating” to another level by bringing awareness to the sonic aspects of their everyday food experiences.

With photography, I gravitate toward creating macro images that force the viewer to question what they are seeing. Ingredientini is a series of images inspired by Marcella Hazan’s posthumously published book Ingredienti: Marcella’s Guide to the Market. The suffix of -ini in Italian indicates smallness or expresses affection or endearment. In the book, she offers insight into individual elements of classical Italian cooking. Shooting them with a macro lens alters the perspective in which a consumer usually interacts with ingredients, drawing them closer and shifting their perspective and conception of what their food is supposed to be.

John Urry (The Tourist Gaze, 1990) and Dean MacCannell (The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class, 1977) have greatly influenced how I approach my work. Always seeking to create a sense of place, I compare their differing opinions on why people travel to the same reasons why and how someone interacts with my work. After these readings, I chose never to use the words “authentic” and “authenticity” when referring to the content of my photographs, sounds, and experiences. I am constructing and presenting culture in the manner in which I perceive it, and authenticity is subjective in this case. With my Italian-focused works, for example, I cannot represent authenticity as an obvious Other.

My artistic influences include Aaron Ximm, The Quiet American. His work focused my attention on the transportive nature of soundscape recording with his One Minute Vacations series where each track of 60 seconds was intended to be a sonic mini-vacation. Photographers Alfred Stieglitz and Vivian Meyer have been an influence visually, with their uncompromising capture of everyday street life. The interactive works Christopher Janney and Margaret Noble are a great source of inspiration.

I have selected CU Boulder and the ETMAP program specifically for their innovative approach to practice-led research. The department mission statement supports my interdisciplinary, cross-platform, experimental and experiential nature instead of confining it to a traditional, linear academic approach, reassuring me that I will excel in the program (and beyond) as an artist, researcher, and practitioner of digital media.

There are several professors in the Critical Media Practices department with whom I greatly look forward to collaborating as a student and research assistant. Betsey Biggs states in her dissertation abstract that she is, “engaging the public through physical interactivity, cinematic listening, and sonic psychogeography.”  I intend to expand my work in those ways. Her work, Lincoln Park, is reminiscent of my Campo de’ Fiori image + sound walk where photographs and field recordings are experienced simultaneously. The Providence Postcard Project has inspired me to employ similar devices with a recipe card project. Stephanie Spray explores phonography, and she would add her perspective on “ethnographically inflected media-making.” I have also spoken with Hunter Ewen about physical computing and immersive installation opportunities. I am well prepared to be their teaching assistant in such courses as CMDP 4110 – Cultures of Digital Sound and CMDP 3840 – Sound Practices.

My overarching goal at CU Boulder is to research and create transmedia works that tap into popular food culture and gastronomic tradition; that encourages civic engagement by supporting the persons and products represented in said works and contributes to the sustainability, biodiversity, and security of our food system. Fabio Parasecoli, Director of Food Studies Initiatives at The New School, recently stated in a panel discussion that the new landscape for food media lies in leveraging multiple formats for different modes of storytelling in ways that have yet to be researched. Beginning that research at ETMAP and CU Boulder are the perfect fit for this line of interdisciplinary study.

While there is not yet a formal food studies department at CU, the thriving food communities of Boulder and Denver will support the content of the media that I will produce. The Denver chapter of Slow Food is one of the most active in the country, and I have already signed on to volunteer as a social media producer with the international Slow Food Nations event happening in July 2017. Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey, owner of Frasca Food & Wine restaurant, regularly brings Italian food artisans to Boulder for special events. He and I have discussed a photography, oral/aural history and taste education project about these participants. I will experiment with augmented reality and how it can be leveraged for food and wine storytelling at the Boulder Wine Merchant with the intention of expanding the concept as a permanent installation at La Banca del Vino in Pollenzo, Italy, possibly using this work for the dissertation.

When I complete the Ph.D., I plan to teach at the university level or open a creative media production company focused on food and wine content. University-level food studies programs have increased in numbers in the last 20 years. The Association for the Study of Food and Society website currently lists 40 global programs across humanities food studies, food science and nutrition. I have found media related coursework in most of the humanities based departments I have researched. I predict there will be a demand for professors with the background and skills I will develop at CU Boulder.

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