Michelle Macklem

sound designer, mix engineer and artist

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.