Fit the Description (Ferguson, 9-13 August 2014)

2015, 31:13 min.
Christopher DeLaurenti

Fit the Description echoes the escalating intensity of four days following Michael Brown’s murder by Ferguson police. DeLaurenti was neither protestor nor reporter. In pulsing fidelities, he melds audio stripped from files freely uploaded to YouTube and Periscope and the now defunct Vine app. From such a distance, this kind of composed sound stumbles into eerie tension: there are bold remembrances and eulogies woven with murmured epithets by witnesses to a slain body intentionally left on the sidewalk.

Memory is ripe for manipulating and DeLaurenti’s orchestration of protest examines this through palpable, sometimes contrapuntal recordings. Like his other Protest Symphonies, sounds aren’t just smashed together; like memory, the stories are re-built. DeLaurenti’s sonic segues through social media and police scanners, even a choreographed elegy of silence and gun shot volleys, serve as a contemporary archive —a conscience—for the events at Ferguson, but also for the contentions of race, for riot’s memory. It’s a construction that brings us deeply into the maelstrom of police violence and profiled communities.

DeLaurenti is keen to explore these expanses when he asks about memory in relation to the ephemeral cloud of material where he sourced his narrative. The world was watching the events unfold, blanketing a virtual space of people living, day to day, with racialized violence. A question formed the backdrop of his composing: what does it mean to be a white artist telling Black peoples’ stories? DeLaurenti urges us to question our own complicity, no matter our backgrounds, as witnesses nowhere near the site of conflict. Perhaps to listen as if we’d never heard these pervasive stories engenders more empathy.

Radio invites both closeness and distance. Fit the Description lures us away from the small screen in our hands into this audible intimacy. Consider further how this very American story comes to our ears from afar as a commission of Australia’s national radio art program, Soundproof. - Described by Wave Farm Radio Artist Fellowship Mentor Joan Schuman.

Safe Harbor note: Please note that this audio contains profanity and should only be broadcast during Safe Harbor hours per FCC guidelines.

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