Thu, Nov 08, 2012 - Page 4 News List

Sound engineer captures sounds of Taiwan

Staff writer, with CNA

Lee Pai-wen, a 37-year-old vision-impaired audio engineer, poses astride her motorcycle outside the Taroko National Park’s Hehuanshan management office in this undated photograph.

Photo: CNA, courtesy of Lee Pai-wen

Despite a severe eye ailment, Lee Pai-wen (李百文) spent nearly two years traveling through western Taiwan in search of unique natural sounds and human voices to record.

Today, Lee has nearly finished compiling her recordings and expects to release a CD of the sounds in January to showcase the nation’s beauty from a new perspective.

The 37-year-old sound mixer, who used to work at a radio station, said the CD, which will be free for the visually impaired, is aimed at boosting the hopes of disadvantaged people and promoting a different way to experience the nation.

“I want to share how my physical imperfection has helped me build connections with people,” said Lee, who suffers from severe floaters — deposits seen floating in one’s vision.

The floaters, which she compared to blankets blocking her vision, do not prevent Lee from seeing or getting around, but are a major irritant. However, they provide Lee with the motivation to pursue captivating sounds.

Lee said she started her journey because she was fed up with the depression caused by her eye problem and wanted to change her life by fulfilling her teenage dreams.

“When I was younger, my ambition was to visit every karaoke place in Taiwan,” she said.

“The disease gave me new drive because it’s always better to do something instead of sinking into self-pity,” she said.

The collection is likely to have a total of 12 segments, each five minutes long, that document subtle sounds and voices in people’s daily lives in different parts of the country, she said.

Six of the tracks earned nominations for a 2012 Broadcast Golden Bell Award — the nation’s top recognition of achievement in broadcasting — after they were aired by the radio station where she used to work.

The sounds, recorded during her trips to 168 townships, range from swallows flapping their wings in the mountains to farmers collecting salt crystals along the seashore.

The heavenly notes may sound as smooth as silk, but the trip itself was not, said Lee, who quit her job at the radio station to hit the road by herself on a 150cc motorcycle.

“I usually slept at temples, schools or police stations,” said Lee, who started off with a budget of NT$300,000.

While there were times when she lost control of her motorcycle on steep mountain roads, nearly costing Lee her life, what really bothered the audio engineer during her adventure was something less tangible.

“I have been scared of ghosts since I was a child. I’ve always been scared to death of them,” she said, but spending numerous nights at places in the middle of nowhere helped her eventually overcome the fear.

Having emerged from the trip more confident and independent, Lee said that after the release of her CD she wants to visit the eastern part of the country and record more sounds.

“There is more than one way to live your life,” she said. “I found my strength because I didn’t only travel with my eyes. I traveled with my heart and was supported by others.”

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