Remembering Joe Stevens

Last week our friend Joe Stevens sadly passed away.

Joe was a dedicated recordist of everyday life and a wonderful listener. His was an original voice in discussions about what it means to record everyday life in sound; he approached field recording with curiosity; and he was very sensitive to how sounds are intimately bound up with the lives of people. Many of his projects explicitly connected sounds with social history, and he was always inventing new ways to engage communities through sound.

Our Working Lives documents sixty years of changing work practices around Poole, and involved collecting many oral histories from local residents. The bus tour which coincided with this amazing project brought the voices and textures of those histories together with the landscape itself. Sounds of the Seaside – one of many shows produced for framework radio by Joe – opens with the sincere, warm reminder that people’s voices have been kept throughout the show, because they are an integral part of the soundscape. These examples speak of Joe’s generous and sociable focus in his work with sounds.

In a discipline where people often say we need more silence, Joe seemed to often say that we needed to talk more, and to listen better.

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Creative Conversations #1 – Joe Stevens

Creative Conversations explored questions around funding for the arts, the cultural legacy of the London 2012 Olympics for the people of Dorset, the practices and ideas of local artists, and the thorny issue of how to make a living through creative work. The series is a DIY inquiry, both rich and practical. Unfunded and self-initiated, Creative Conversations were fueled purely by a wish to talk to other artists, to share knowledge, to address issues around public projects and community engagement. All of this seems somehow very Joe.

I will miss conversations with him immensely and am glad for the handful of times when we got to talk, record sounds, and wander round beaches and industrial landscapes together.

His life and work are remembered in the most recent edition of framework, produced by Patrick McGinley; the show makes for highly recommended listening, and includes several unreleased recordings and a fantastic introduction from among many that Joe recorded for framework.

Here are a handful of recordings that Joe made – little snippets of sound, connected with times shared with this wonderful sonic comrade.

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This is a recording of some of Joe’s journey to the sound:site event which we co-organised with Martin Franklin at the Digital Media Centre at South Hill Park, in October 2010.

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All recorded on January 9th, at Kimmeridge Bay, where Mark and I met with Joe, Ben from the National Trust and many other folk enlisted through Twitter, for a walk around the bay. I remember these sounds, and pausing in our conversations to listen to them.

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This is a recording of the amazing Routemaster Bus tour of Poole’s working landscape, which Joe organised as part of the project, Our Working Lives.

Goodbye Joe: you will be greatly missed.