When You Hear This Sound is a book-and-record set by Australian artist Keg de Souza. It contains a collection of “quirky observations” about the artist’s neighbourhood Redfern and a 7” vinyl record of songs created from the book’s text. The hand-drawn and silk-screened illustrations, the loose, playful composition of the pages, and the unique format as a book-and-record set all drew me to this book with feelings of nostalgia and affection for de Souza’s neighbourhood (“When You Hear This Sound”) (“Keg de Souza”).
The illustrated book-and-record format, by recalling the similar books the artist and I had as kids, fits and creates the nostalgic feel of When You Hear This Sound (“When You Hear This Sound”). Like the book-and-CD sets I had as a kid, the introductory pages contain an illustration of two kids reading the book in front of a record player, the syntax is simplistic, and the typesetting is scattered and playful. The subject matter on the other hand, which includes crime, poverty, and some unpleasant neighbours, is entirely opposite to (at least my) expectations of a children’s book (De Souza). Yet these more serious, difficult topics are surrounded by a sort of affection conveyed by the book’s form.
The simple, loose aesthetic of the book’s content, too, conveys the same sort of nostalgic affection. The illustrations are all hand-drawn and the text stamped onto the page, giving the book an organic look, which speaks to the individuality of artist de Souza and the personal, manual attention given to the book’s creation. The style of illustration has that same imprecision—the lines are a little shaky, and straight edges are not perfectly straight. These imperfections, while evoking the nostalgia of a children’s book, also convey some of the broken, ugly imperfections of de Souza’s neighbourhood.
De Souza uses the form and content of When You Hear This Sound to convey her sentimentality for Redfern. The unruled text and inexact illustrations, the inclusion of a sing-a-long record, and the gentle irony in de Souza’s anecdotes create an affectionate blanket in which her neighbourhood—with its rotting vegetables, drug users, and reckless trolley man—lies. Personal, comical, and honest, When You Hear This Sound exhibits a love of the mundane (and sometimes less-than-beautiful) things that define home.
De Souza, Keg. When You Hear This Sound. Women’s Studio Workshop, 2012, wsworkshop.org/wp-content/uploads/collection-item/when-you-hear-this-sound/pdf/when-you-hear-reduced.pdf. Accessed 29 Sep. 2021.
“Keg de Souza.” Women’s Studio Workshop, 2021, wsworkshop.org/collection/when-you-hear-this-sound/. Accessed 28 Sep. 2021.
“When You Hear This Sound.” Women’s Studio Workshop, 2021, wsworkshop.org/collection/when-you-hear-this-sound/. Accessed 28 Sep. 2021.
4 thoughts on “Nostalgia in When You Hear This Sound”
It’s really interesting how it’s both a book and a record set combined! The way in which the artist designed the book is really neat, and the way in which the illustrations and text interact with the book give it sweet sense of charm. The way it reflects her neighborhood only adds to the appeal, since you’re able to learn more about the author as you read along. So cool!
I find it interesting how the artist chose a record to convey nostalgia, as if trying to preserve a distant sense of the old. De Souza could have chosen something more recent, like a CD or even a cassette tape. The record pulls the reader and listener back further in time, and I find that a significant decision.
This book does, indeed, seem very nostalgic, and I love that it actually does blend sound with the sight of the page. Yet, of course, there’s also that added element of memory. It’s as if the book is itself in conversation with our memories and the process of memory creation. Maybe that process is similar to the creative process of recording such memories in a book? Plus, memory is so very personal – which is how it can be used to convey sentimentality here. This book really does introduce the reader to the very mind of the author – without the author being physically present – and I think that the combination of senses definitely contributes to that.
I love how the artist weaved audio with written word through the inclusion of a record! And to choose a record specifically does speak to the sense of nostalgia you present here. Your exploration of the imprecise linework of the illustrations — which I agree, do evoke more feelings of nostalgia as they call to mind children’s books — and the ways in which that imprecision exemplifies the imperfect nature of the artist’s hometown is extremely profound!