Sonic Trace: A KCRW Design Challenge

Are You a Designer? A Builder? An Architect? A Visionary?

Sonic Trace Wants Your Ideas


Sonic Trace? It is a new media project and radio series, produced in partnership with AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio. A direct result of KCRW’s Indpendent Producer Project, Sonic Trace , brings you stories that explore the three age-old questions about community and immigration — ¿Por qué te fuiste? ¿Por qué te quedaste? ¿Por qué regresaste?

Why do people leave? Why do others stay? And, what makes people go back (in either direction)?

Sonic Trace will explore how Koreatown turned Korexico; it will jump onto food truck routes–mic in hand–across LA’s urban sprawl; and bring you stories from inside churches where Canjobal (Guatemala) meets Zapotec (Mexico) in the heart of South Central.

To collect these stories, we need to build a sound booth. So, we are launching a design competition and hope to receive ideas from designers, architects and visionaries like you.


Save us from this

Or this

Build us something more like this

Have a better idea? Pitch it to us!



A structure that provides isolation from outside sound. A space where conversation can happen amidst the urban chaos. A comfortable space that isolates sound for good recording, but also gives the listener a sense of place.

Sonic Trace will be taking this booth all over the city — to churches, food fairs and schools. To rock, jazz and cumbia concerts. We will be at the park, at the coffee shop and hanging at the tamale hot spots. We’ll be setting up and closing shop alongside food trucks and observing public transportation from bus stops and corner shops. You get the idea?

These places will be noisy and hectic. So we’ll need a space of intimacy, reflection and “border-less-ness” for broadcast quality story-telling. Think Story Corps with a KCRW edge, an Angelino accent and a tale that starts or ends in far-off land.


  • Portable, moveable, and light. (Consider a sound booth on wheels?)
  • It should be easily constructed and de-constructed on-site.
  • We need to be able to tie it to the roof of our VW wagoneer or attach it to a trolley that we can pull with our car.
  • It should comfortably fit two to three people sitting down.
  • Like a living room on wheels — a space to relax and reflect in.
  • If I can set the mobile boot up at a concert, and have an intimate interview, it’s a good design.


  • Technical. You are not responsible for the audio equipment, just the structure.


  • Anyone who can design, and build, on a tight deadline.


  • Pitch us your proposed materials. Feel free to experiment.


  • We have a small budget (approx $5000), but will launch a Sonic Trace/KCRW kickstarter campaign if your design and materials are over our budget.


  • Your design will be seen and documented in dozens of places around the city.
  • Your vision will be a template for other public media projects across the country.
  • The story of the sound booth will be documented through Sonic Trace and KCRW (on-air, web, blogs, facebook, twitter)
  • KCRW will promote you or your firm on its web site.


  • Send your proposals (and questions) to
  • Proposal submission deadline is Friday, June 8
  • Proposals will be judged on aesthetics, mobile design and innovation by a jury that includes Anayansi Diaz-Cortes, Eric Pearse Chavez, Frances Anderton and other KCRW hosts, producers and engineers.
  • With the support of Sonic Trace/KCRW, the winner will have one month to build the mobile sound booth.



Sonic Trace is part of Localore, a national initiative of AIR and produced in collaboration with KCRW and Zeegat with principal funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Anayansi Diaz-Cortes is an independent producer and reporter for public radio. Her documentaries have been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, WBEZ’s This American Life and KCRW’s Unfictional.  Her career in radio began at Radio Diaries, a regular feature of NPR’s All Things Considered. Listen to her piece, Mexico ’68: A Movement, A Massacre and the 40-Year Search for the Truth (

Her work has been honored by the Overseas Press Club and the Edward R. Murrow Award. She is launching Sonic Trace as a Localore grantee — a national initiative produced by the Association for Independents in Radio leading ten producers and their teams to a new vision of 21st century public media.


Eric Pearse Chavez is a journalist and radio producer from Mexico City, currently living in Los Angeles. He is the co-producer of Sonic Trace.

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  • The key to sound deadening is to use the material Homosote. (do not believe foam or soundboard is better and cheaper, it simply isn't) Create your design with Homosote sheets on the inside and some 1/4 plywood GLUED to the outside. Use no nails, screws, or bolts that transmit sound through the material. The plywood can be water proofed with paint. The Homosote leave as is. Design the booth to be put together with slots and toggles in the materials or on the outside of the Homosote (nothing should penetrate the deadening boards). The table upon which the mic sits should have a homsote covered top. Chairs should be upholsterd. There needs to be platform floor that is raised off the ground 6 inches or so. Homosote covers the floor and rugs can cover the Homoste. GLUE Homoste to the platform. Use LED 12 volt lights (they make no sounds) incandescent and florescent do. Make the entrance a door if you want or a walk in hall that has a left-left and right-right bend in it,covered in Homosote. Roof, same as walls. Heat/ cool / air that will have to use 'whisper quite' motors to move the air in and out. The key to cost is to keep it all in 4 ft x 8 ft. units put together with slot and tangs or hardware on the outside surfaces that do not intrude into the Homosote in side. 4×8 units fit easily into a van and will not be too heavy to move. Get some card board cut to 4" by 8" and play with your design. The Homosote can be dull on the inside. But look on the web for ways it can be decorative. Where did this originate. Making model train layout sounds deadened into order to inject environmental sound appropriate to the layouts and keep the mechanical sound as dead as possible. Have fun, use this or part of any way you see fit. File 13 it if you want to.
    —–Noah's Godfather

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  • My cousin used a summer house for a sound room. He did another plywood layer with installation in the middle then glued the foam on top of that, it works great because you dont have a huge area to sound proof and its outside in a nice little music room.

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  • industrial strength velcro for fasteners

  • question

    what is a vw wagoneer . . . ? jeep wagoneer or vw bus?

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  • I need to say, as a great deal as I enjoyed reading what you had to say, I couldnt assist but lose track of time following a while.

  • sumileator


  • This post is so well written and it's easy to see you know what you're talking about.