So I learnt a new skill. Or rather, I improved a skill I haven’t used since university. I learnt it from a man called John and he was, in my opinion, the best tutor we had. He had a PhD and taught us about the avant-garde world of music and presented us with new ideas. “Will a tree make a sound if it falls in the forest if no one is there to hear it?” and other fundamentals of sound and sonic art. If you want to learn more there’s a book John swore by called The Digital Musician by Andrew Hugill.
KUDAC, Kingston University Digital Arts Collective, was a place where both students and teachers participated in creating textures and sounds. There John taught us how to circuit bend PCB boards and manipulate them in audio programming software like Pure Data and Max MSP. To expand what we thought of as music and sound and perform with it. He was my mentor so when he left to teach at Brown University in my second year I felt lost. All the sonic art and circuit bending seemed like I had tried to impress my mentor rather than learning some useful skills. However, today I believe that his work got me thinking of sound in such a different way, that it ended up changing my music and my work as a sound engineer. To think outside the box and try things out, no matter how crazy it may seem.
The practical skill I’m talking about is soldering. It is a fundamental skill for any sound engineer, and very useful. A skill I have been lacking in. This is why I recently took SoundGirls online workshop and now have a whole pile of fixed cables at home. It was so much fun to be taught by someone else, who also is a woman. A great deal of my own education was done by men and all my engineering colleagues are men too. She was understanding and encouraging throughout the session and not only taught me the basics but also shared her own tricks. My cables have been screaming for some serious TLC and I am so grateful to now be able to fix them myself.
Soldering has been the one skill I have envied in my male colleague’s skill set, and it’s always set us apart. Thanks to the SoundGirls workshop I have now taken another step towards confidence and equality. To show that I can do everything he can.
Confidence may not be something one can teach, it’s something that needs time to grow and requires a willingness to evolve. So I commend SoundGirls for equipping women all over the world with skills that will foster confidence in an environment that feels safe. At a young age, I was told that no question is too stupid to ask. I took it to heart and it has set me apart from my colleagues and classmates that were too proud to ask for help. So, whatever questions you may have, know that we are always here to answer them, no matter how small, stupid or silly you may think it is, we don’t think so.
Linnéa Kempe is front of house (well ALL of the house) sound engineer in the small legendary London club The Half Moon. The small team there is like her second family since her family is back home in Sweden! She plays in woodland pop duo MEADOWS and since “the lockdown” she’s also a feministing podcaster (@anditwentlikethispodcast).