We had the good fortune of connecting with Diane Hope and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Diane, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I’ve had three major career changes (so far!) so I’m not averse to risk. I plan for a change in circumstances as much as possible – but I’m always governed by where my heart lies. If your heart is not in a venture, I don’t see how you can ever be truly successful – and enjoy the ride. If you’re not enjoying the majority of what you’re doing … why bother? Following my instincts in this way has not necessarily financially lucrative, but its led to wonderful experiences – and I’ve always managed to pay the bills! My most recent career move (2006) saw me leaving an established career as an environmental research scientist & assistant professor at a big university – to enter the world of sound recording and audio production. It seemed like a ‘lemming leap’ at the time. But now, 15 years after I took that leap, there’s an explosion in the audio podcasting industry – and for the first time in over a decade I have regular work. I’d advise anyone taking a risk to trust your instinct – and follow what you really WANT to do, not what looks good to other people or the world at large. That way risk becomes something to negotiate – like rocks when you’re kayaking down a fast flowing river – there’s no point in throwing yourself against a boulder — but with planning you can survive the rapids and get with the flow.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Immersive, evocative stereo sound is what I’m all about. I like to use the craft of location sound recording to bring listeners on a journey with me and get a sense of what its like to be there. To do this, I’ve learned to employ binaural stereo recording techniques – which records in a way that’s exactly like how humans hear, recording with mics mounted on (very weird looking!) dummy heads – or my favorite technique, by wearing the mics myself … I AM the ‘dummy head’. Having worked with some super experienced and talented producers (often ex-BBC folks) I’ve also learned by osmosis how to mix interviews and narrative with a rich swirl of ambient sound and music – to really generate a mood and help to tell a story. Bringing my science research skills (I was an assistant research prof at ASU) to bear on all kinds of topics – from the history of Arizona’s ghost towns to the latest environmental understandings is something I feel is particularly worthwhile. You’ll be able to hear one of my latest short pieces – about pinyon-juniper habitat and pinyon jays on ‘Bird Note’ – due to air on 17th November on many NPR stations across the US. My brand? Put on headphones – listen – immerse – learn – then take your headphones off and go out into the world with listening ears to discover it for yourself.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Based in Flagstaff, Arizona – that’s pretty easy – pick up an Italian pizza at Pizzecleta, some japchae or bibimbap at one of the town’s two Korean restaurants (Na-D-Li or Kokiyo) – or some tasty Indian food at the Delhi Palace. I’d definitely plan a visit to Wupatki and Sunset Crater – experience an evening visitor program at the historic Lowell Observatory on Mars Hill. And best of all, bring – or rent – a bike (at one of the town’s several bike shops) … I’d take my visitor up to the Grand Canyon National Park’s South Rim … to experience some of the most scenic bike riding in the world. You need to get in shape for that though … if you’re not used to working out at 7,000 ft above sea level!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My sister & all my friends have always been so supportive of my surprising career shifts which has been tremendously helpful. I’m also grateful to more experienced audio professionals who took time to give me advice early in my career – folks like Chris Watson & Gordon Hempton (The Sound Tracker). I always try & answer any queries I get from newbies myself these days. People at my local NPR station, KNAU have been very generous in giving me opportunities to air stories – and especially to hone my writing skills on their regular ‘Earth Notes’ series. As were the folks at KUYI – the community radio station of the Hopi tribe … who let me loose on a once a month program I devised called ‘Modern Jazz from the Mesas’ when I was very new to the audio scene. I’ve also appreciated greatly the Swiss watch company Swatch – for having an artist residency program … and selecting me to participate and spend 4 wonderful months in Shanghai, China among a community of artists in all mediums – it gave me some confidence in working creatively with sound. I’m very excited about a new podcast series I’m starting – it’s in development with Mark Stern and his team at Echoverse in LA – got a glorious crew of guests and production folks for the pilot episode – I can’t say more at the moment … but keep an ear out on my website…
Other: Do check out my guide to exploring Shanghai by sound at: https://www.shanghaisoundsguide.com/
Closer to home – find out what wildlife you can see, where to go and when – everything from elk to bison to all sorts of owls here: https://www.azwatchwildlife.com/audio-guides
Or learn what inspiration artists get from the Grand Canyon at: http://www.dianehope.com/intimate-expanse – where you can also hear a sample of my narration/voice work.
All Diane Hope – recording on location at Kelso Dunes (CA), Kane Ranch (AZ), Shanghai, with bike at Grand Canyon South Rim, Kelso Dunes long shot .. and view while recording from the back of a speeding motorbike crossing the Han River in Seoul South Korea.