It was going on all semester and none of us knew.
Bansky’s take on Gleaners by Jean-François Millet
Alfred Hitchcock called style self-plagiarism, a repetition of your own imposed motifs, themes, and methods of delivery—predictable and therefore banal. DJ spooky acknowledges that us young composers fall into that cycle of repetition, if not tapping into our own experience, then the products of others: “The same track? The same beat? Day after day, night after night…it would be like some kind of living death if that were to happen in DJ culture.” (017) It’s interesting, then, that he refers to this same as entropy—a type of chaos—and its antithesis, the changing same.
I think of the changing shame in terms of a diaspora—but of information and media instead of peoples—that “represents a seamless convergence of time and space in a world of compartmentalized moments and discrete invisible transactions.” (021) In traveling, physically or metaphorically, through different mediums and samples and versions and iterations, you begin to identify not with one particular form but instead the “sonic collage.” (024) To me, this seems like heart of the changing same: an interaction with the archive, or otherwise preexisting material, a visceral response to it, then a unique reproduction rooted in your own experience. DJ Spooky puts it in terms of sounds. He writes, “Any sound can be you: that’s the idea of the nomad idea.” (024)
Just like a sound wave through the air, an idea in all its manifestations (images, texts, videos, chirps and whistles) is part of a data cloud ubiquitous and accessible to all. He writes that the creative process is the systematic dismantling and re-conceptualizing of these ideas. And because no “immaculate perception” exists, individuality is just our method of actualizing that abstract process of reconfiguration. (033) We get our license as creators by understanding our role as gleaners, sifting through archives and unearthing only what we deem useful in conveying our own individual message.
Digital media composition, therefore, becomes a type of literature review. But our citations aren’t condensed in a bibliography, but instead living and breathing throughout what we create, implied as odes or homages to sounds, images, narrative arcs, theatrical tropes, and every other bit of sensory intake we’ve knowingly and unknowingly absorbed as sons and daughters of the technological mushroom cloud. So do you think it’s an exercise in manifesting all your influences, or just a more comprehensive form of self-plagiarism? Who’s more of an artist, Banksy or Jean-François Millet? Probably depends on which century you ask.
An Audio Documentary by Brett Murphy
You know on talk radio, on sports shows especially, when they have callers chime in? It’s kind of an AM radio thing, but NPR does it a lot too. If you think you’re audio documentary has a couple too may voices that sound similar or if you’re just trying to differentiate, the radio effect can be a great way to underscore different speakers.
It’s also good for creating that sort of “call-in” type of testimonial/opinion that gives talk shows that common-man type of credibility. It makes the person sound like they’re talking from a cell-phone even if they aren’t. I think it’s just a cool way to make the sound come across as official even thought it’s…erm…an unofficial means of doing it? Just trust me and try it.
Here’s how you do it—there’s a lot of adjusting on top of effects, so don’t think it’s get repetitive. I’ll be sad if you think that.
- Highlight the clip you want to adjust
- Click effect + High pass filter
- Set the “roll off” to 12 decibels (this will make the clip noticeably quieter)
- Click effect + Amplify + Okay
- Click effect + Low pass filter
- Set the roll off to 6 decibels
- Go back to High Pass filter (set to 6 decibels)
- Amplify again
- Go to back to low pass filter
- Amplify it one more time if you have to, because you’ll get something that’s muffled (like we want) but we want it to be loud.
11. Now, we’re going to make a new track under that one, so click new track
13. Highlight the new white noise clip and amplify it
14. Click effect + High pass filter and set to 12 decibels
15. Click effect + High low filter and set to 6 decibels
16. Then repeat those steps only flip the decibels in each
17. Adjust the amplification to how you want it
18. Copy and paste however long you want the effect underneath
19. Then party.
There’s a lot going on in This American Life—Superheroes! Which I suppose is justified because of the busy lives the caped crusaders lead. This podcast is broken up into four parts, but, save for the final act, there is a thematic cadence throughout. Everything is anecdotal, fragmented, splintered, and layered on top of each other. Different speakers tell the same story.
For instance, the Zora piece really follows two different stories, the nameless narrator and Zora herself. By juxtaposing the two speakers, it gives the story dimensions. I think this is a great way to maintain listener interest—it works like jumping between a close up and zoomed out shot of the same person.
Another motif I noticed is the importance of detailed description and exposition. Because the listeners can only hear—and we’re all naturally short on attention—precise but colorful wording is key in setting the scene: “I noticed this amazon of a woman with huge blond and red streaked hair and frosty lips.” This attention to detail is something I hope to include in my own story. I’m a sucker for minutia, and I think scene narration like this can make certain small vignettes, and the larger thematic agendas they represent, much more accessible for the listener.
The first act was probably the most fragmented, showing us a 30,000-foot view of a seemingly innocuous question (Superman pun intended…so intended). Fly or fade? The podcast used a mosaic of testimonials and expert analysis to unpack what an individual’s answer says about them, what our answer says about us. And like the other acts, the more things were talked through, especially when the interviewer pushed back on a particular answer, the more the speaker becomes vulnerable or otherwise human—decidedly not super.
Moreover, those giving the testimonials were rarely given names. So the people on the street became just that, making it easy for the listener to identify with a certain person, their perspective, their confidence, their uncertainty, or even their uninteresting candor. The one guy who said he’d fly to the bar, his doctor’s appointment, then maybe hit Atlantic City with his buddies is so painfully mundane that I immediately thought, “Yeah, that sounds about right.”
Another recurring element in this podcast was the careful deployment of background music and sound effects. Although it’s usually white noise in NPR, the background music has a definitive role to play. It’s most notable, however, when it’s absent, giving the speaker’s words sudden depth, importance and immediacy. Like when everybody in a room shuts up, things get serious in a hurry.
At the 14:30 minute mark, a woman declares, “A person who wants to fly has nothing to hide, while a person who wants to be invisible wants to hide themselves.” Then the interviewer pushes back and asks, “Do you feel like you have to hide yourself?” She stammers as piano keys creep back in, waxing in volume as she grows quieter in discomfort, ultimately refusing, “I’m not going to answer that question.”
By personalizing the conversation, and flipping the subject’s own canon back on to her, the dialogue takes on a much more invasive tone—a sobering moment augmented by the blanket of silence. I hope to be just a judicious with my use of background noise in my piece. Likewise, I want anyone I interview to be comfortable and trusting, but not complacent. Just like in the real world, I want to hold myself, and anyone I might interview accountable for the things they say.
For my photo essay, I had each photo on a separate page, linking them through arrows next to the photos. I think it adds a certain dramatic effect when the entire image comes at you at once, instead of scrolling into it. It also makes the viewing experience a little more interactive—everyone likes to feel as if the website knows they’re there. I noticed a lot of people had it laid out vertically on one page, so I thought I’d share how to make it a little less linear.
You can do it right in html. Here’s how:
1) Customize your arrows in Photoshop. Just grab some from Google and make them the shape, color and size you want (mine are half of an inch wide).
2) Save each arrow individually: you want a left arrow and a right arrow.
3) In Dreamweaver you’re basically going to be creating the same page 8+ times, just with a different image, so it feels like the viewer isn’t leaving the photo essay. **Make sure to attach the CSS style you used for the template to each one of the new ones. **
This is what the template will look something like:
4) You’ll need to do this before you link all the arrows to pages because they need a destination html.
5) So first make your template page. To get the image in between the arrows, you just type the codes horizontally next to each other instead of below.
6) Now you’ll have the three images side by side if you want to preview it.
7) Next, you need to link the left arrow to the page before and the right to the page after. Highlight the image name, and click: modify + make link , then browse for where you want that arrow to land (one of the html pages you made from the initial template.
8) The code will look like this after you link the arrows.
9) Do that for all your arrows in each one of your pages. And bingo blamo!