- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) - Dan Crall and Cheyne Willems are having a chat while walking along a trail at Willamette Park. Crall stops suddenly at the sound of a bird calling out in a tree.

Crall points a recorder at the sound for a minute, smiles, and continues walking and talking with Willems.

The sounds of everyday life, from the bland and monotonous to the exciting and visceral, fascinate Crall - so much so that they regularly become a part of his podcast, which he calls, “The Spirit of the Forest.”

Willems is the co-contributor and voice actor for the show. For the recording session of their walk through Willamette Park, Willems and Crall improvise ideas from the sounds they hear all around them.

The podcast, while still in its infancy, uses experimental narratives from improvised conversations to happenstance noises and sounds to repetitive raw sounds Crall picked up in the outdoors.

The latest episode of the podcast featured some rambling voice mails on Crall’s phone and a bellowing goat.

Other episodes featured a Russian street preacher yelling at Oregon State University students, while another episode included three minutes of doors shutting, air conditioners revving and faucets turning on and off - sounds Crall collected at a hotel in Burns.

The episodes might seem to ramble or wallow and digress; Crall said that’s often the point.

“It is a show that’s all over the place,” Crall said. “But sometimes the random symphony of sound around us hits that right measure. And I want to be there to record it and share it.”

Crall developed the idea of a radio show focused on random, serendipitous sound while he was working six years ago for KOAC, the public broadcasting station in Corvallis, but he didn’t start the podcast then.

“When I worked for OPB, the point of the shows was to get happy stories from people around Oregon. But I noticed a lot of the people we talked to had sad stories - talking about how no one has money and there are no jobs left,” he said. “A lot of programming was aimed at feel-good radio. But I like reality. It sucks often, and people want to escape it, but there’s something very beautiful about the ugliness of reality.”

Crall said the idea for the show came to him again when he was visiting the Chicago area and heard a ship’s horn blaring on Lake Michigan combine with trucks backing up down a nearby street and a gust of wind, all joining in harmony.

“There was something extremely beautiful about that moment, and I wish I could’ve recorded it,” he said.

In 2009, when Oregon Public Broadcasting decided to shut its doors in Corvallis and move to its Portland studios, Crall stayed behind and started the Corvallis Pedicab company - a non-motorized cab service. While riding around the farmers market in Corvallis, the idea came back to Crall, and he decided to act on it.

“There is a lot of beauty in random sound, if we just stop and listen to it,” Crall said; “The Spirit of the Forest” is about capturing that random beauty. “One thing I’ve noticed while walking in the forest, especially after walking for a while: your brain goes into a different mode. And it’s almost like entering something very magical.”

Crall knows the show won’t fit into everyone’s tastes. He’s not looking for everyone to love it. Instead, he wants everyone who would love it to get a chance to hear it.

“It’s a dark comedy and audio drama that reflects on the sadness, absurdity and normalcy of life,” Crall said before pausing to pick up the sound of a gust of wind. “I know that normal is a very relative term.”

“The Spirit of the Forest” is available to stream for free on iTunes and also can be found at Archive.org by searching “Dan Crall.”

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Information from: Gazette-Times, https://www.gtconnect.com

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