SOUND SOLUTIONS Compelling Audio and Multi-Platform Content for the Global Community

Welcome


For the past 50 years, Jim Metzner has recorded soundscapes all over the world, producing thousands of radio series and special projects. His sound archive now resides in the Library of Congress and will be available free to all US citizens for non-commercial use. Although he is no longer seeking new projects, Jim invites you to peruse this website for an overview of his audio portfolio.

Over the years, he’s worked with many clients, including the Museum of Natural History, National Geographic and NASA. Each project had its own set of challenges, rewards and stories!

Behind-the-Scenes Stories

The Dazzler
The Dazzler
In the Diktian Cave
In the Diktian Cave

When I was producing content for National Geographic Online, they gave us document nicknamed “The Dazzler,” designed to open doors and instill the spirit of cooperation. It was an impressive document, complete with a gold seal and ribbon. The one time I attempted to use it was in Crete, after a day of searching for the Diktian Cave “where Zeus was born.” We arrived at the remote location five minutes after closing time and no amount of pleading or the mighty Dazzler could convince the guard to let us in. The next day, when we came back, I understood why – reaching the cave involved a strenuous hike uphill and then a long descent into the cave itself, which was huge; there was no way you could explore it quickly.

On Great Gull Island
On Great Gull Island

It was a great privilege to work with the scientists and staff of the American Museum of Natural History. As a kid growing up in New York, I had visited the museum many times with my father. Our ritual began with buying roasted chestnuts from the vendors in the museum park, seeing the whale, the giant canoe and walking through the moon/Mars-scapes of the Hayden Planetarium. Years later, here I was with a full-time pass to the museum, and the opportunity to interview many AMMH scientists. One of the first Advisory Board meetings for Pulse of the Planet took place in an enormous meeting room, just adjacent to one of the museum’s famous dinosaurs. E.O. Wilson attended that meeting, and I recall him speaking about how in many species of animals, it is the males who present themselves and females who choose! Another memory was visiting Great Gull Island to document the work of museum scientist Helen Hays. Walking carefully through the nesting area of thousands of birds – and getting dive-bombed by a few protective terns, was a visceral reminder that we share the planet with countless other creatures, and we are – for this moment in our history – vastly outnumbered.

Tyrone and NASA Engineer<br> in their "bunny suits" at JPL
Tyrone and NASA Engineer in their “bunny suits” at JPL

I produced a number of aerospace programs for NASA, and have worked with several NASA agencies on the Kids’ Science Challenge, a national competition which allowed students to see their ideas come alive, working with scientists. It was a memorable experience to see “Curiosity,” the latest Mars Rover (currently on the Red Planet), up close at JPL, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena California. Our Kids’ Science Challenge winner Tyrone Hutchinson II, was given an opportunity typically reserved for members of Congress. Taking an “air shower” and donning a “Bunny Suit,” Tyrone and our crew entered JPL’s Clean Room and witnessed the work being done on Curiosity. The clean room precautions are to avoid any potential earthly contamination of Mars. Each technician who worked on Curiosity was hooked to a ground-wire to avoid any short-circuits. Hard to imagine that this huge instrument-filled vehicle would one day be on another planet! For Tyrone and me, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

 

There have been some unexpected clients: Cyndi Lauper wanted to do a cover version of “Across the Universe” using recordings from outer space; I supplied pulsars and a few other extra-terrestrial “sounds”. Johnny Depp came to the studio looking for sounds for a short film he was directing for DARE. I thought I was ready for anything – “pick a species, any species,” but when Johnny asked for “scary sounds”, it felt like I was shanghaied into a silent movie. I’ve got thousands of sounds in my archive, but up to that point, it hadn’t occurred to me to characterize them by their emotional qualities. I forget exactly what sounds I gave Johnny, but he was kind enough to give me a credit in “Banter,” which I believe was his first effort as a director. You can bet since that time, I’ve added emotional tags to my audio database!

Jim Metzner