Michelle Macklem

sound designer, mix engineer and artist

I’m a freelance sound designer and mix engineer for podcasts.

I sound design and mix for clients including TED, Audible, CBC Podcasts and Broadwave. I also sound design and mix my own freelance audio documentary and art projects.

My recent projects and reel are below.

Listen: Apple, Spotify

Sound designer and mix engineer

Am I Normal? with Mona Chalabi 

About the show:

We all want to know if we’re normal—do I have enough friends? Should it take me this long to get over my ex? Should I move or stay where I am?

Endlessly curious data journalist Mona Chalabi NEEDS to know, and she’s ready to dive into the numbers to get some answers. But studies and spreadsheets don’t tell the whole story, so she’s consulting experts, strangers, and even her mum to fill in the gaps. The answers might surprise you, and make you ask: does normal even exist?

These episodes were made in collaboration with the teams from TED and Transmitter Media.

Sound designer and mix engineer

A Florescent Feeling

About the show:

A Fluorescent Feeling is a new podcast about pain and our bodies – how we talk about them and live inside them.

Over three million Australians live with chronic pain. Being in pain can be lonely, boring, scary and frustrating. But what if it could also be beautiful, colourful and textural? What if we could share it with others?

Hosted by writer and artist Georgia Mill, this audio mini-series introduces you to people with lived experiences of pain, illness and disability. Featuring artists, writers, designers and video journalists, A Fluorescent Feeling looks at creative responses to pain and how pain intersects with all aspects of identity.

My sound design excerpts featured in the reel:

  • “Swimming with Tilapia” an excerpt from Catch of the Day, on CBC’s The Fridge Light. Tilapia are a game-changer in sustainable fish farming, in this excerpt scientists and industry experts describe the incredible history and life of the species.

  • “Emu in the Sky” featuring Kamilaroi astronomer Krystal De Napoli, on BBC Radio 4’s Short Cuts. Kamilaroi astronomer Krystal De Napoli takes us out under the night sky revealing how, for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the sky is just as significant to culture as the land.

  • “A not-so tasty history” an excerpt from The Restaurant: A Table Divided on CBC Radio’s Ideas. Using extensive data from restaurant review websites like zamato and trip advisor, NYU food studies chair Krishnendu Ray has studied the demographics of the world’s top 100 restaurants over a 30 years period. In his game changing research, Krishnendu shows that eating another culture’s food doesn’t equate with acceptance.

  • “The sounds of advertising”, an excerpt from Sonic Sculptor: Suzanne Ciani on KCRW’s Lost Notes. Composer and synth wizard, Suzanne describes the heyday of her advertising career, sound designing for some of the world’s biggest brands.

Image Credit: Tiffany Adams

“Our Rocks Are Alive”
On Short Cuts, BBC Radio 4
Featuring Alicia Potts
Singing by Chanse Adams-Zavalla
Photo by Alicia Potts
Co-produced by Michelle Macklem, Alicia Potts and Zoe Tennant
Edited by Andrea Rangecraft
Each autumn, when the oak branches shake off their acorns, Alicia Adams Potts gathers the nuts. Alicia, who’s from the Maidu tribe in northern California, grinds the acorns into a silky white flour using a stone mortar and pestle that belonged to her grandmother, and to her grandmother’s grandmother before her. Alicia’s sister grinds her acorns in a Vitamix, but Alicia likes to keep it old school, she likes to hold the same pestle that her ancestors’ hands held. Alicia often gets texts and calls from other Indigenous folks about how to prepare acorn -- she’s known as the go-to acorn person. Alicia, like the Maidu women before her, uses the flour to make acorn bread and acorn soup.

For Indigenous tribes in California, like Alicia’s, acorn is more than food. Acorn was, and still is, at the centre of everything.

Acorn was at the heart of Indigenous social and economic systems, and at the centre of their story. That story became buried, though, in the wake of colonization. But today, Indigenous people like Alicia are bringing the acorn back into focus.

“Our grinding rocks are all over the state of California. Our creation stories start here, we are created here. We believe our rocks are alive,” Alicia told us.

“Gow Gei”
On Short Cuts, BBC Radio 4
Featuring Jess Ho, Denny and Ophelia
Co-produced by Jess Ho and Michelle Macklem,
Edited by Eleanor McDowall
Jess’s Dad has always told her that she have the palate of an old man because she loves bitter flavours, and old-school, traditional Cantoense dishes. As long as she can remember, Jess loved this herbal soup her dad made for her as a kid. Because her parents didn't know how to translate gow gei into English, she grew up calling it 'leaf soup’. Her Dad is extremely protective of the leaves used to make the soup, and his elusive tactics have left her searching for the truth behind the recipe.

You’ll hear from Jess Ho’s parents, Denny and Ophelia, and of course, Jess as they head out to the garden to try and find some answers. Jess translates her parents’ conversational Cantonese into English.

Image Credit: Zoe Tennant

“The Acorn: A Love Story”
On Outside/ In, NPR
Featuring Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino
Edited by Justine Paradis
Co-produced by Michelle Macklem, Zoe Tennant, Vincent Medina and Louis Trevino
In the early 1900s, an Ohlone woman named Isabel Meadows was recorded describing her longing to eat acorn bread again. She detailed the bread’s flavor; the jelly-like texture; the crispy edges; the people who made it. And she talked about the bread’s place in the creation story of her tribe. A century later, a young Ohlone man named Louis Trevino came across the recordings and recognized Meadows as an ancestor from his community. Today, Trevino and his Ohlone partner, Vincent Medina, are on a journey to bring acorn bread, and the language and traditions connected to it, back to the Ohlone people.

The Acorn: An Ohlone Love Story is a documentary about Ohlone food, language, and history. But, ultimately, it is a story about Ohlone strength and homeland, the landscape that stretches from the Bay Area of California to Monterey and Big Sur. And at the heart of this story are acorns.

“Emu in the Sky”
06/2020On Short Cuts, BBC Radio 4
Featuring Krystal De Napoli
Produced by Krystal De Napoli, Michelle Macklem and Zoe Tennant
Krystal tells the story of a very special constellation you can see in Australia, known as The Emu in the Sky.

Krystal is Kamilaroi and for her people the celestial emu holds important knowledge, and it connects her to Indigenous astronomers like her who have passed down their knowledge for tens of thousands of years.

Krystal studies astrophysics and she takes us out on a quiet night to look at the stars in the dark skies of Kulin Nation land, an area that stretches across south eastern Australia.

Credit: Michela Di Savino
Image Credit: Michela Di Savino

“Sonic Sculptor: Suzanne Ciani”
On Lost Notes, KCRW
Featuring Suzanne Ciani, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith and Leticia Trandafir
Produced and scored by Michelle Macklem
In 1968, Suzanne Ciani was a music student at UC Berkeley when she met Don Buchla. Buchla had just created one of the first electronic musical instruments, a modular synthesizer. It looked like an old telephone switchboard with knobs and wires, dials and faders. Ciani fell in love with it. And it became the catalyst to her career - one of the most consequential and influential music careers of the 20th century. Ciani has been nominated for five Grammy Awards for Best New Age Album. Her warm, inviting electronic compositions have inspired numerous modern, avant-garde synth composers.

Ciani tells Lost Notes about balancing her commercial work with her artistic career - and how the two worlds became symbiotic. "I learned so much doing commercial work,” Ciani says. "I learned studio techniques, production techniques. I think they really were synergistic; my commercial work really did support my artwork, [though] not in obvious ways.”

With both her commercial and her artistic work, Ciani inspired a whole generation of synth musicians.

Image Credit: Cailleah Scott-Grimes
Image Credit: Cailleah Scott-Grimes

The Restaurant: A Table Divided
On Ideas, CBC Radio
Produced by Michelle Macklem and Zoe Tennant
Edited by Nicola Luksic
Original score by Michelle Macklem
Ever since they began, restaurants have been mirrors of who we are: our social aspirations — and our social inequalities, reflecting and refracting both our best and worst selves. And today, Canadians and Americans spend more money dining out than ever before.

Through conversations with restaurateurs, chefs, food sociologists and food historians, producers Michelle Macklem and Zoe Tennant ask one central question: what does this institution — the restaurant — reveal about us as people?

Their immersive documentary The Restaurant: A Table Divided is composed of interviews and soundscapes recorded in: two cities (New York and Toronto), four restaurants, an old tavern, and two kitchens. The Restaurant is a story about the French Revolution, turtles, the Civil Rights movement, disappearing white table cloths, Williamsburg, sexual anxieties, and colonization.

“There Is Space For You Here [Remember]”
For Wheeler Centre’s Signal Boost 2021
Featuring Lia Stark
Mixing help from Atticus Bastow
Special thanks to Maddy Macquine for commissioning

Crafted entirely from fragments of discarded words, mouth sounds and breaths, There Is Space For You Here [Remember] explores the spaces we dispose of in the editing process. All sounds are rooted in land, even when we try and remove that context through studios and closets and duvets, our soundscapes and field recordings and voiceovers are complicit in the act of colonisation, in the process of capturing and taking. I’m interested in ways we can recognize this and have more conversations about audio recording and the politics of land and voice. In making this piece, I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land. I recorded this audio on the lands of the Bunurong Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung peoples of the Eastern Kulin Nation. I pay respect to their Elders past, present and emerging and acknowledge that Aboriginal Australians have one of the oldest storytelling cultures and ties to land in the world. It was stolen by white settlers and the struggles for decolonization of this land continue. It always was and always will be Aboriginal land.

For a while I’ve been interested in working with the sounds we edit out in the process of making podcasts , the clicks and pops. Deleted words. Erased breaths. So I made a piece, a bit of a song if you will, all from bits of space that had been thrown away during a particular recording session. I’ve been questioning what makes a voice ‘listenable’ and how to subvert the process of ‘cleaning and polishing’, using those extraneous bits to make something completely new, sparkly and fun.

“Resonant Bodies”Curator
Exhibition featuring comissioned works by Cheldon Paterson, Phoebe Wang, Kaija Siirala, Aliya Pabani, Jon Tjhia, Chandra Melting Tallow
Supported by the Toronto Arts Council and the Ontario Arts Council 

Resonant Bodies is an online exhibition about the sonic reflections between bodies and their environments, and an extension of a physical exhibition which took place at the Toronto Media Arts Centre from August 11-17th, 2019. More information about the physical exhibition here. I was the curator of the 

The online exhibition consists of 6 new Constellations episodes, featuring new works by participating artists Aliya Pabani, Chandra Melting Tallow, Cheldon Paterson, Kaija Siirala, Jon Tjhia, and Phoebe Wang. Episodes were  released weekly on our podcast feed and online between October 25th and December 2nd, 2019. 

I curated Resonant Bodies and produced it alongside Aliya Pabani and Jess Shane.

Listen: Spotify, Apple, Google
7am is Australia’s top daily podcast.
I was an audio producer with 7am from May 2019 to Sept 2021.

About the show: 

7am is a daily news podcast from the publisher of The Monthly and The Saturday Paper. It tells the news through in-depth interviews and sharp analysis.

Hosted by award-winning investigative journalist and documentary host Ruby Jones, 7am is a smart, strong, character-driven account of the big story of the day: the background, who’s involved, and why it matters. This is news with narrative, every weekday.

Select episodes I’ve pitched and produced:

These episodes were made in collaboration with the 7am team: Osman Faruqi, Ruby Jones, Ruby Schwartz, Elle Marsh, Atticus Bastow, Anu Hasbold and Beth Atkinson-Quinton.

Listen: Spotify, Apple, Google

The Fridge Light is a Webby award-winning podcast from CBC about the foods we eat.
I was the supervising producer for season 1 in 2017 before moving to Australia in 2018.

About the show:

Join top food writer Chris Nuttall-Smith for an obsessive, fascinating journey through the hidden stories of the things we eat. Each episode chows down on one food phenomenon, revealing the unexpected cultural ingredients.

Part science, part business, part psychology — always fresh and delicious.

Top Episodes:
These episodes were produced in collaboration with our team: Chris Nuttall-Smith, Zoe Tennant, Lisa Godfrey, Veronica Simmonds, Alison Broverman and Paolo Pietropaolo.

Listen: Spotify, Apple
Sleepover is a critically acclaimed podcast from CBC that follows an unusual social encounter. Three complete strangers meet for 24 hours to work through each other's challenges. It’s hosted by Sook-Yin Lee and the supervising producer is Veronica Simmonds.

I was an associate producer for season 2 in 2017, and a producer for season 3 in 2018.

About the show:

Sleepover takes us inside an unusual social encounter, where three complete strangers agree to meet in different places—from a highrise condo to an island yurt—for an evening, night, and morning together.

In each episode, with Sook-Yin's guidance, one stranger takes the spotlight and presents a problem from their life. The other two offer advice and bring up related experiences from their own unique perspectives.

Top Episodes:
These episodes were produced in collaboration with our team: Sook-Yin Lee, Veronica Simmonds, TK Matunda, Alanna Stuart and Craig Desson.