Dianne Ballon is a sound artist from Maine. She spent years as a visual artist before sound caught her ear. During semester breaks at Massachusetts College of Art, she volunteered in Appalachia. Listening to the rich story-telling tradition in the hills and hollows opened her ears to sound. Ten of her sound works have aired on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered.
She was awarded an Artist-in-Residency at Shenandoah National Park. She created a sound portrait of the park, recording the natural sounds and recollections about mountain life. At the Goethe Institute in Washington, DC, she presented her sound installation Musical Instrument Dreams. The lecture was part of a series that featured sound artists from around the world.
As an adjunct instructor at the University of Maine at Augusta, she taught independent study in audio production and a course in radio theatre. Students were asked to write and perform a script, create sound effects, and record the drama.
The radio theatre work led to the National Audio Theatre Festivals’ Audio Theatre Workshop. Participants from all over the country gathered to learn, create, and perform radio theatre. For over 10 years, she worked as a member of the teaching and production staff. She taught digital audio editing and worked to produce live radio theatre that was simultaneously broadcast.
3DPhotoWorks, a New York company, asked her to create 27 individual yet thematically connected audio drama mixes for the 3D tactile painting for the blind, George Washington Crossing the Delaware. To successfully complete this project, she drew on her field recordings of various streams, rivers, winds and boats. The sound of boats creaking at a dock worked well for the sounds of the wooden boat in the crossing.
Through the international company VoiceMap, she produced The Eastern Promenade in All Seasons, a GPS-based audio walk for Portland, Maine. Included are recollections from a local who grew up in the neighborhood. Users download the walk with a smartphone and as they walk, an audio track triggers at each GPS point of interest along the way.
She has given many workshops in audio production to artists, producers and students. These include: California State University Media Studies, Concordia University in Montreal at a women and sound technology conference, Maine College of Art, Bridgewater College Theatre Arts, and at several Audubon Societies for her field recordings of bird sounds. In the 90s, she served as Chair of the Media Arts Advisory Panel at the Maine Arts Commission.
She was awarded third place in the international radio competition 60 Seconds Radio for her field recording of boats creaking at a dock in Isafjordur Harbor, Iceland.
A more challenging field recording was accomplished farther north in Iceland. Not one tree, bush or stone shielded the blustery wind crossing the tundra. On a 10-mile hike close to the Arctic Circle in the midnight sun, wearing every layer she brought, she recorded the sound of one lone bird singing.
And for a short moment in time, the wind took a rest.