Helen Thorington, Who Brought Sonic Art To The Airwaves, Dies At 94

Helen Thorington, Who Brought Sonic Art To The Airwaves, Dies At 94

Helen Torrington Helen Torrington, who helped bring the art of radio to a national audience and gave a voice to filmmakers, artists and choreographers, died April 13 at age 94 in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

His partner and colleague Jo-Ann Green died in hospital from complications from Alzheimer's disease. Not much was reported about his death at the time.

Radio art was an important medium when Ms. Torrington began, but she helped bring attention to the form; his work was often featured on NPR and other non-commercial stations, and he later founded a project called New American Radio. Since 1987, he has commented on more than 300 pieces that have been broadcast by more than 70 radio stations for more than 10 years.

Ms. Torrington began her pioneering work by mixing her musical inspirations on synthesizers, musicians' improvisations on various instruments, and excerpts from radio broadcasts into industrial or natural-sounding audio clips. The result was the acoustic equivalent of an art installation.

Her public debut, "Trying to Think," is a synthesizer-based meditation on the emptiness and loss of a fictional woman after hearing the news of two young men drowning on the radio. The article appeared on NPR in 1977.

In an interview with Year magazine, the new music magazine she edited in the late 1980s, Ms. Torrington compared mixing and matching sounds from the natural environment to combining genes to create a new animal. "The overall effect is to create a narrative, not as we understand it, but a different kind of narrative that reaches an emotional level," he said.

His sound creations were often part of multimedia collaborations with musicians and visual artists. One of these performances, Adrift, used primitive virtual reality technology and was performed live at festivals and venues such as New York's New Museum and broadcast several times on the Internet between 1997 and 2001. The scripted dialogue, interspersed with loud voices, intercom commands and the sound of waves and boats crashing as doors open, conveys the horror of being lost at sea and the faint hope of survival.

His episodes often focus on the disastrous consequences of human domination over nature. "My work speaks to the destruction of the natural environment that I contribute to as a creator of the man-made world," he told Joe. "And I can use any kind of voice."

Helen Louise Torrington was born in Philadelphia on November 16, 1928, the second of four children of attorney Richard Torrington and Catherine (Moffat) Torrington.

Besides Mrs. Green, he is survived by a sister, Florence Williams;

In the mid-1960s, he earned doctorates in English literature from several institutions, including Rutgers University, but chose to write an unpublished novel rather than the required dissertation.

That year, in the mid-1970s, Ms. Torrington produced and critically acclaimed her first children's musical, The Ghost in the Frog Hollow, while continuing her life as a writer in the small town of Towanda. This was the beginning of a new direction in his career, and throughout the 1980s his work continued to be featured on college and public radio stations, as well as on stations in Europe and Australia, and at electronic music festivals.

According to the bill. He often performs his works live, collaborating with choreographers such as Jones and Ernie Yang, artists such as Jackie Apple and filmmakers such as Barbara Hammer. That year he provided the ethereal soundtrack to Mrs. Hammer's 16mm short Optic Nerve, which premiered at the 1987 Berlin International Film Festival and was screened biennially at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

When funding for the radio industry began to dry up in the 1990s, Ms. Torrington turned to the Internet. That year, 1996, he founded Turbulence.org, an influential web art site that provided a funding and distribution platform for aspiring web artists. It thrived in new media, using the openness of the Internet to reach large audiences and communicate and collaborate with users.

Whether on the radio or the Internet, Ms. Torrington explained, voices float across the airwaves, even across terrain and geography, and are becoming more prominent in today's culture, where people are more sedentary than ever.

In an interview given in 1998, he said: "Everywhere in our lives, that sense of community is disappearing." But that doesn't mean it isn't important. I believe that sound is a way to create a space that people can walk into and feel like they know where they are, at least in their imaginations.

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