Sound Effect | KNKX

Sound Effect

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Sound Effect is stories inspired by the place we live. The show is hosted by KNKX's Gabriel Spitzer. Each week's show explores a different theme.

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Courtesy of David Montgomery

  David Montgomery may have won a MacArthur Genius Award for his work as a geomorphologist but his love of rock(s) also bleeds into his work as a musician in the local band, Big Dirt. Montgomery sits down with Sound Effect host, Gabriel Spitzer to discuss how his day job plays into his music. 

Ruby Bishop spoke to KNKX (then KPLU) in 2015, for a profile on our show "Sound Effect." Her weekly gigs at Vito's drew regulars and wowed first-timers.
Ed Ronco / KNKX

Ruby Bishop has played piano around the world. She's befriended some of the jazz world's greatest names -- including Louis Armstrong.

At 95, she's still playing Sunday nights at Vito's, on Seattle's First Hill.

In this story from the "Comfort Zone" episode of KPLU's Sound Effect, she talks about the piano, her life, her career, and feeling comfortable behind 88 keys.

And here's a video of her playing at Vito's, from The Seattle Times:

Jaymi Britten

It's usually right about this time every year that Pacific Northwest residents have seen enough of the rain and start daydreaming about trips to the tropics. But Amanda Frazier, who was born and raised in Hawaii and still lives there, wrote a song expressing her envy of the wet climate here.

Parker Miles Blohm

Anton Schwartz abandoned his doctoral thesis on artificial intelligence in order to pursue a career in music.

Schwartz made the decision to leave academia after suffering from chronic fatigue.

This might seem like a drastic career change to most of us, but Schwartz doesn't look at it that way. The way he looks at it, he just consistently followed his passions. 

The Rejections' Facebook page

Who are The Rejections?

"You know the Rockbottom Remainders? Yeah. Like that," says the Seattle-based band on its Facebook page

The band consists of published authors and their "trailing spouses" who, well, know a lot about rejection. They stopped by the KPLU studios last year. Listen to their performance of the song "Men of Luggage (Travel Light)": 

Wikimedia Commons

What would you do if a stranger tried to throw a party at your house and invited all 700 of their Facebook friends? Sound Effect Senior Producer Arwen Nicks lays out local artist and prankster Derek Erdman’s scheme to watch "Singles", a classic grunge film from the 1990s, in the courtyard of the apartment building where it was filmed.


Sound Effect is your weekly tour of ideas, inspired by the place we live. The show is hosted by KPLU's Gabriel Spitzer. Each week's show explores a different theme and this week we bring you notes from “Underground.” 

This week our gaggle of local journalists includes Kari Plog of the Tacoma News Tribune, Steve Wilhem of the Puget Sound Business Journal and Hanna Brooks Olsen of Seattlish

U.S. Coast Guard


In 1942, German U-boats were all over the North Atlantic. To avoid getting attacked, and to get supplies to the troops in Europe, the United States flew planes on a cold, remote route that hugged the top of the globe. They’d fly to Canada, then to Iceland, across Greenland, and if they were lucky, they’d eventually reach Great Britain.

sharkhats / Flickr

Sound Effect's Gabriel Spitzer spoke with phonographer and sound artist Chris DeLaurenti about his journey into the tunnels beneath Washington's mothballed nuclear power plant.


Mary Ellen Mark / Tiny, Streetwise Revisited

In 1983, Martin Bell and his wife, acclaimed photographer Mary Ellen Mark, set out to document the lives of young people living on the streets of Seattle, and he says he’ll never forget meeting one in particular: 14-year old Erin Blackwell, who went by Tiny.

“She was beautiful and engaging and impossible to forget,” Bell said.

Tiny would go on to become the unofficial star of "Streetwise", the heartbreaking, intimate and, at times, exuberant 1984 documentary.

Justin Steyer / KPLU

Sound Effect is your weekly tour of ideas, inspired by the place we live. The show is hosted by KPLU's Gabriel Spitzer.

As you may have heard, KPLU is now in a transition period and there is much uncertainty around the future of Sound Effect. So what do we do when we’re feeling frightened or anxious? We watch videos of cute animals.

Star Power: Sound Effect, Episode 44

Nov 7, 2015

Sound Effect is your weekly tour of ideas, inspired by the place we live. The show is hosted by KPLU's Gabriel Spitzer. Each week's show explores a different theme and this week we reach for Star Power.

A Symphonic Interpretation of Space

Nov 7, 2015
Hubble Space Telescope /

Composer Nan Avant has been in love with classical music since she was a teenager. While her sister and her friends were listening to pop records, Avant was becoming entranced by the music of Antonio Vivaldi and Erik Satie.

It wasn't long after she began her study of classical piano that Avant was composing original pieces, hoping then that she would one day become a conductor. 

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

The Hubble Space Telescope is incredible. The space-based observatory has captured images that have stunned scientists and the public alike. Some of those have been used to shed light on new planets and parts of space never before seen.

But Julianne Dalcanton is pushing for what she calls "the grandchild of Hubble", a new and improved version that could capture more of space than we could have ever imagined.

Erin Hennessey

Each week on Sound Effect we sit down with reporters from the region to talk about stories they think deserve more play.

KPLU's Sound Effect hears from Alex Stonehill, co-founder and editor of The Seattle Globalist; Phyllis Fletcher, managing editor of NW News Network, and freelance journalist Mike Lewis.

Halloween: Sound Effect, Episode 43

Oct 31, 2015
Wikimedia Commons

Sound Effect is your weekly tour of ideas, inspired by the place we live. The show is hosted by KPLU's Gabriel Spitzer. Each week's show explores a different theme, and this week the team tears a page from the calendar and embraces Halloween.

tibbygirl via Creative Commons

At one of Seattle's most historic hotels, one of the city’s most historic ghosts stories remains very persistent.

As the story goes, Hotel Sorrento is the place where the late socialite (and pot brownie creator) Alice B. Toklas has chosen to walk the halls for eternity.

But why the Hotel Sorrento? Toklas spent the bulk of her adult life with Gertrude Stein in Paris, and never actually stepped a living foot in the hotel.

Wikimedia Commons

It seems like every big city has its own tale of underground tunnels. And the stories of what they were used for are often very similar to each other. For many west coast port cities, the stories often involve drinking establishments with secret traps doors. Bar owners would get a patron good and intoxicated, drop that patron through a trap door and into a basement, which led to a secret tunnel to the port. By the time the poor soul came to, he found himself shanghaied on a boat in the middle of the ocean.

The Scientific Search for Sasquatch

Oct 31, 2015
Wikimedia Commons

When you think of Sasquatch you may think of grainy footage of a large mass moving through the woods or perhaps the movie and then television show, Harry and the Hendersons and that is because the iconic and centuries long hunt for Bigfoot has permeated pop culture. You probably do not think of unmaned drones swooping through the sky to hunt for signs of the mysterious bipedal humanoid, but that is exactly what Professor Jeffrey Meldrum is thinking about. 

Aaron Hushagen / KPLU

Reporters from the Pacific Northwest weigh in on stories they think didn't get enough coverage this week.

KPLU's Sound Effect hears from Ashley Stewart who covers technology and finance for the Puget Sound Business Journal; Rachel Lerman, technology reporter for The Seattle Times; and Peter Robison who heads up the Seattle bureau for Bloomberg News.

Northwest Women Filmmakers Aren't Running From Horror

Oct 31, 2015
Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Courtney Sheehan, Northwest Film Forum's Artistic Director, shares two upcoming cinematic events brought to you by local women filmmakers.  

A Life Dedicated To Searching For UFOs

Oct 31, 2015
Art-pop via Wikimedia Commons

Bill Puckett will investigate your UFO sighting. In fact, it’s part of what he does as the head of the group UFOs Northwest.

The former Washington resident now lives in Helena, Montana; but his belief that the truth is out there started when the first waves of UFO sightings began, right here in Washington state.

Gabriel Spitzer talks to Puckett about the flying saucer phenomenon and one specific incident that took place in Washington over the Cascade Mountains.

Exception To The Rule: Sound Effect, Episode 42

Oct 24, 2015
Cepheus / Wikimaedia Commons

Sound Effect is your weekly tour of ideas, inspired by the place we live. The show is hosted by KPLU's Gabriel Spitzer. Each week's show explores a different theme, and this week the team takes on exceptions to the rule.

Jeff Langford

Janell and Warren Langford got married in the summer of 2013. Just one year later, Janell was told that she was losing her eyesight and would be blind in just a few years.

At first, her doctor thought she had macular degeneration. But she tested negative. Only later would they realize she had Stargardt's disease.  

Having just began and intensive graphic design program, Janell Langford was terrified that she was going to have to drop out of school and prepare for her impending blindness.

Courtesy of Timothy Ray Brown

In 2007, Timothy Ray Brown underwent an experimental bone marrow transplant to treat his life-threatening leukemia. The marrow cells he received were no ordinary cells: They contained a very specific mutation that confers resistance to HIV. Brown, who grew up in Seattle but was living in Europe at the time, had been infected with HIV more than a decade earlier.

The procedure was harrowing, involving multiple rounds of chemotherapy, followed by radiation. He came down with graft vs. host disease and had to have a whole second transplant. But in the end, Timothy Ray Brown became the first person in the world functionally cured of HIV.

Erin Hennessey

Reporters from the Puget Sound region shine a light on stories they think deserved more coverage this week. 

KPLU's Sound Effect hears from Emily Parkhurst, Digital Managing Editor at the Puget Sound Business Journal, Bryan Cohen, a reporter with Capitol Hill Seattle blog, and Eli Sanders, Associate Editor at The Stranger.

Ijeoma Oluo

The stereotype about the Northwest is that we are, you know, nice - maybe not always warm, maybe not always effusive, but polite. One could take that as the mark of living in a truly civilized place. But there’s another way to see it too: As a way to avoid uncomfortable truths.

Etiquette: Sound Effect, Episode 41

Oct 17, 2015

Sound Effect is your weekly tour of ideas, inspired by the place we live. The show is hosted by KPLU's Gabriel Spitzer. Each week's show explores a different theme, and this week Sound Effect is on its best behavior, discussing the rules of etiquette.

Sound Effect kicks off this week with former Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. If you ask McGinn if he lacked political decorum, he will stop you short and say the word is divisive.

  Reporters from the Pacific Northwest weigh in on stories from the week that they believe deserve more ink and analysis.

This week, KPLU's Sound Effect hears from members of Seattlish who describe their blog as a place where you can read about "Seattle, politics, drinking, obscenities and cute animals... brought to you by a trio of mouthy broads.”