Open session on sound language

She looked for the sounds that could “draw” the images of a time that we did not live in. This is how Sofia Saldanha defined to the students of the Master in Communication Sciences the creative process of the documentary series “Não sei o que o amanhã trará” [“I do not know what tomorrow will bring”], about the life and work of Fernando Pessoa. In an open class of Communication and Languages, on 16th January, specially dedicated to sound plasticity, the author of this audio guide explained: “These sounds are here for what? For us to have the images.”The purpose of the session was to talk about narrative, storytelling, new formats and sound creativity at a time that is essentially defined by the abundance of images. The purpose was to talk about sounds that tell stories. For this, Sofia Saldanha, who received the Best New Artist Award in 2010 at the Third Coast International Audio Festival in Chicago, began by inviting participants to a listening exercise in the dark.

She switched off the lights and suggested participants to listen to two episodes of the 15 she conceived, produced and performed for the documentary. Then she explained that she thought of the work as a journey in the Lisbon of Fernando Pessoa, through streets and environments experienced by the poet that we can only imagine today.

Asked about the creative process of sound editing, she acknowledged that she “already had the images in her head” because she even did a photo research of that time. She then sought to identify the answer to the question, “What sounds can evoke these images?” And so she decided to insert the sound of seagulls, the sound of chariots, the sound of the church bells and the sound of the tram, which are articulated with the cross-narrative of the interviews she made about Fernando Pessoa.

To an audience of half a hundred students, Sofia Saldanha recognised the long plastic work required for such a production. The 15 episodes have a total duration of 2h30, but to do so she gathered 25 hours of recorded sound and had to deal with the difficulty of recording specific sounds in a loud noisy city like Lisbon today.

Funded in part by Casa Fernando Pessoa, the documentary “Não sei o que o amanhã trará” will be launched in English, on February 13, the World Radio Day. In both languages, this work is, however, as she explained, above all a sound documentary, not necessarily a radio documentary. But Sofia Saldanha, who worked for several years at RUM – Rádio Universitária do Minho – does not forget that radio was her real school. And that, unlike common-sense predictions, radio today, as a medium, did not die nor face that risk. On the contrary, she said in his energetic gesture, “the radio is always starting”.


Text and photo: Madalena Oliveira