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Local Podcaster's New Show Looks At Language, Listening And Music

Fil Corbitt sitting at a wooden desk in the woods. They are looking toward the camera with one hand to the side of their face. A stack of books and a microphone are visible on the desk.
Courtesy Fil Corbitt
The Wind
Local podcaster Fil Corbitt used a handsaw they found in the woods to create this desk. It’s where they record their show, “The Wind.”";s:3:

Fil Corbitt is the host and producer of a new podcast, taking place right here in the Sierra Nevada. It’s called The Wind, and it’s an exploration of language and music, particularly during a time of social isolation.

Corbitt shares their thoughts on making a podcast during a global pandemic with KUNR's Noah Glick.

Noah Glick: Tell me a little about the show. What started you on this path? What’s the show about?

Fil Corbitt: So, I made a podcast called Van Sounds for about six and a half years, and I just started seeing music journalism and seeing the practice of listening in a new way. [I] wanted to start a podcast that kind of reflected this new experience of listening.

And [in] late 2019, I started the process of creating this new show called The Wind, and it just so happened that two months later, the pandemic hit and here we are.

Glick: Speaking of the pandemic, how much did the pandemic change your approach? How did it change the direction of the show? Did the pandemic have much of an impact at all?

Corbitt: So, basically the genesis of the show was I had moved up to the mountains off of Mt. Rose Highway in February last year, and at the end of February, I started hiking up into the woods and I found a handsaw up there. So I used that to cut a downed lodgepole pine into a desk, and I just set up a desk out in the woods.

My thought was, “I’ve been making a podcast in a studio for my whole life. It would be really cool to have this outdoor studio.” Especially on a podcast about listening, it made sense to be out where I could hear the world.

Then when the pandemic did hit, about a month later, I was already completely set up for social distancing. It made my choice to record out in the woods less of a novelty and honestly more of a necessity.

Glick: It’s an interesting approach for a podcast to focus on listening. When you think of podcasting, it’s this idea of broadcasting, you’re speaking, you’re talking to someone. But, this sort of flips that idea on its head, and you’re focused on listening. What have you learned about listening through this project?

Corbitt: That’s a really interesting observation. I mean, it’s like the difference between inhaling and exhaling. They’re both very interconnected.

I think I learned an unexplainable amount about listening over the last year because I would start most days of work out in the woods, and I still do, by doing a deep listening exercise. I’ll sit in one spot and just listen for 20 minutes and try to hear everything from the airplanes to the creek to the way the wind is blowing through the trees to the way the birds sound.

Doing that, over and over, you start to notice just so many differences and variations in what birds are singing when and what trees are making which sounds during which part of which season.

Glick: One interesting aspect of this project is how you merge storytelling and music together in this sort of new way. I’m thinking of one clip where you’re drinking from a fountain and this leads to a discussion on a piece of music.

Corbitt: Yeah, so that clip is from an episode called “Time Flies” that was submitted by a contributor, Eleanor Tullock. I wrote this intro that was about the desk and where the desk is situated, and I wrote about this fountain that I found out there, which is basically just an artesian well, a rusty pipe sticking out of the ground.

I wrote a scene where I walk over to this fountain and drink from it. And then that fades into this clip that Eleanor had included in her piece where a Brazilian musician, Hermeto Pascoal, is gargling water while singing, and it just creates this really, really interesting sound.

Glick: I’m always fascinated by this idea of place. How much does place play into this show? How ingrained is the place that you’re doing this into the show?

Corbitt: The podcast is very, very rooted in physical place and very rooted in the Sierra Nevada, even though I don’t really cover the Sierra Nevada in the show. So instead of it being a show about the place that I’m at, it’s a show that just exists here. If you listen closely, you can hear the birds and the trees in the background every now and then when I’m doing the narration because it’s taking place in the Sierra Nevada.

Glick: Would it be fair to say that if this show was done somewhere else, it would be a different show?

Corbitt: Oh, absolutely. If I did this show somewhere else, it would be a very different show. And, it’s possible I might in future seasons pick up the desk and move it somewhere else. But, for right now, it’s very rooted in this very specific lodgepole pine stand up in the mountains.

Noah Glick is a former content director and host at KUNR Public Radio.
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