The Foley Artist’s Apprentice

By Caitlin Doyle

I wanted to be one of his props, a thing
that made the sound of other things—an umbrella
      pushed open and closed: birds’ wings.
      A coconut shell, one half
in each of his hands—galloping,
      galloping. I set up his microphone stands
and he made the crackle of fire
      with a ball of cellophane,
      poured salt on a tinfoil sheet for rain.
The sound of skin on skin—two pieces of paper he slid
      against each other. I wanted to be the words
on the paper. I wanted to be what I heard
in the mixing studio as I layered and looped
      his tracks. I play them back:
my body the strip of steel he shook for thunder,
      the feather he held to the spinning bike wheel
      for a hummingbird’s hum, the fine-tooth comb
on which he plucked the crickets’ song. The real
sound isn’t always the best,
      he said, when I asked why not go outside
and record the wind—and when I held
      the microphone to my chest, what it amplified
      was less
like a heartbeat than the one he made
      when he wrapped
the microphone in felt and gently tapped
      it against a bass drum, again and again.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/05/the-foley-artist-s-apprentice/308927/