Life Unseen Darren Copeland

Life Unseen is a radiophonic tape composition. Over its seventy-minute duration, the work explores the subject of blindness from a variety of reference points. First of all, there is a tapestry of personal perspectives pulled together from interviews made in Vancouver, Canada during April of 1996: men and women of various ages with different experiences of blindness. Secondly, there is the leading voice of the writer-actress Alex Bulmer from Toronto, Canada who describes her gradual ten-year progression from being sighted to becoming legally blind. Finally, there is a mélange of styles and techniques blended by Darren Copeland from the recipe books of radio producers and electroacoustic composers: documentary commentary, storytelling, poetic monologue, acousmatic music, and soundscape composition.

  • Year of composition: 1996
  • Duration of the submitted work: 70:00

1. Part One: 1. Introduction

The problem of defining ‘legal’ blindness is presented right at the outset, as vision loss can take on many more forms than the common lay person would imagine. The scene also moves inside the psychological experience of blindness by examining how blindness upends basic concepts and functions easily taken for granted, such as the perception of time and space or the simple tasks of eating, walking, dreaming, and socializing.

  • Duration of the submitted work: 12:11

2. Part One: 2. Awareness of Space

In this scene, the argument that blind people are at a disadvantage when it comes to orienting themselves around an environment is outlined and challenged.

  • Duration of the submitted work: 2:45

3. Part One: 3. Recharting the Senses

Essentially, this scene does exactly what the title says. It reverses the sensory hierarchy prevalent in western society, and highlights the many intricacies of detail available to the other senses, particularly the sense of hearing.

  • Duration of the submitted work: 5:43

4. Part One: 4. Elegy

Elegy was written in memory of those experiences that are no longer accessible to Alex Bulmer after she had lost her vision. The many plays of light, shape, and nuance that the eyes once consumed are recollected and cherished.

  • Duration of the submitted work: 5:11

5. Part One: 5. Listening in Place of Seeing

This scene builds upon the premise of the third that the acute listening sensitivity of blind people takes the place of vision.

  • Duration of the submitted work: 6:35

6. Part Two: 1. Vulnerability

Two threads run side by side in this scene. The first is a conversation about the feelings of vulnerability brought on by the use of low vision aids in the social environment. The second is Alex Bulmer’s description of sitting down on a leather chair in a cafe, the process of which is tainted with difficulties as she attempts to conceal her blindness from the people around her.

  • Duration of the submitted work: 5:54

7. Part Two: 2. Insensitivity

In this scene we take a trip through a shopping mall and other public environments. Along the way we encounter the gulf that exists between sighted people’s attitudes and blind people’s needs.

  • Duration of the submitted work: 8:05

8. Part Two: 3. Disrespect

Blind people must trust the people around them a great deal more than sighted people. However, instances do occur when this trust is let down by an insensitive or greedy sighted person. Two instances are related and dramatized that are based on riding in a cab.

  • Duration of the submitted work: 5:28

9. Part Two: 4. Social Interactions

Most people find loud environments anti-social. For blind people, noisy environments are utterly paralyzing and constitute a kind of absolute darkness. In quiet social environments, however, the blind person’s perception of detail is far more sensitive than that of sighted people. In conversations, for instance, the blind person can pick up truths which speakers do not wish to disclose by tuning into voice qualities and general moods.

  • Duration of the submitted work: 5:47

10. Part Two: 5. Conclusion

The final scene brings together all of the key soundscapes and sound events before returning to Alex Bulmer. She reflects first on her experiences in Toronto, where she struggles with a fast paced sighted lifestyle. Then she reviews the trip to Vancouver, and marvels at how the activities in a day could be planned entirely to accommodate blind people. Her Vancouver experiences provide hope that the special attributes and needs of blind people could add up to forming the building blocks of an unique culture.

  • Duration of the submitted work: 13:32

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