Talking in the Dark

For this, Blog post #10, I am choosing to touch on the importance of Radiolab’s: Behind the Scenes making of a podcast. I view myself as being a good listener in the traditional sense, but had never listened to a podcast up to this point. This podcast appealed to me because I feel as though it preps the inexperienced listener, and gives some background on the genres creation. 

My preconceived notion of a podcast had relegated this genre of digital composition to being strictly spoken word. I now know that that couldn’t be further from the truth. In the case of Radiolab it begins by meeting with ‘some guy’ who wants to meet with them. The audio is recorded, usefulness is determined, and then the clips are arranged. They then record (and often re-record) they’re prepared inputs on the topics being discussed. Jad described the creative process as being one which treats the clips as musical objects that need to be arranged properly and scored. I can’t help but make a comparison between scoring a podcast audio track, and scoring a movie. In my eyes, or rather my ears, the two have some distinct similarities. The primary goal is to elicit the desired emotional response, whatever that response may be.  The varied sounds and music that are used really propel the project forward, and aid in preventing boredom or confusion. Proper scoring may be even more vital in a podcast because there isn’t any clarity provided from a visual representation of the words being spoken.

There is substantially more that goes into the creation of a podcast than I had originally thought. Carefully planned choices seem to be of paramount importance in this genres creation. Another important learning experience I gained from Jad and Robert was through the polished, yet informal vibe of it all. Everything was edited precisely with its accompanying music or sound, but all the while never lost its conversational tone. In order to accomplish this, there must be a certain level of comfort between those who are speaking. I can imagine that nothing would be more boring than a stiff podcast which lacks authenticity.

Overall, I want my audio documentary to portray ‘me’ in as accurate a light as possible. How can we create documentaries on ourselves which are both intriguing, and objective? Does the recording device need to be left running in order to better produce authentic content? Careful reflection is needed to come to these creative decisions.




‘Who Am I?’ An unanswered question, but intriguing listen

Whoops, posted to my individual blog instead of the class blog? Here it goes:

My notes from this radio show are scribbled on post-its and a bit messy. I feel that may be reflected in this blog post.

So many different stories were jam packed into 56 minutes of Radiolab’s “Who Am I?” episode. As a listener, I appreciated the inclusion of many different elements and takes on the overarching question. My attention was kept as the segment shifted between different stories and narrators.

The segment began with Stephen Johnson describing an experiencing he had while his brain was monitored in a laboratory. As a listener, I was brought into that experience with him through hearing hospital monitor beeps, and an eerie, ambient noise layer with Johnson’s speaking. Following that, I experienced the sound of neuron’s firing, and it was discussed that mental life is what makes you, YOU. So essentially, the firing of neuron’s “little specs of gel” are responsible for this.

The “self-effect” (seeing oneself morphed with another object) was explained through morphing a photograph of Bill Clinton with speaker Julian Keenan. Julian would see himself in the photograph, whereas anyone else would see Bill Clinton. This point was aurally demonstrated by morphing Radiolab co-host Robert’s voice with Bill Clinton’s famous “I did NOT have sexual relations with that woman” quote. I felt this technique was both effective and humorous.

The segment shifted into a piece by Hannah Palin called “The Day my Mother’s Head Exploded” which as an intriguing story about a woman who suffered a brain aneurism and had a total personality shift as a result. The story is told by both Hannah Palin (daughter) and Nicki Plain (mother). Nicki begins by saying that she woke up one day with a horrible headache. She did what she would normally do and went to an aerobics class (fun, cheesy 80s workout music plays in background). The story goes on…her headache worsens…someone calls 911 in Nicki’s aerobics class. This is the last thing Nicki remembers for 4 months. Transition to Hannah’s voice talking about visiting her mother in the hospital (accompanied by hospital beeps). Hannah says that was the day that her mom died and a new mom replaced her. When Nicki is finally out of a coma, her personality has completely shifted. She is aware of past lives, talking about how she is/was a little man in Vietnam who grew vegetables (twangy, somewhat blusey guitar accompanies more reflective moments such as this). More is described about Nicki’s new personality, like that fact that she loves to sing, but hadn’t before the aneurism. Fun clips of Nicki singing about loving Wendy’s fast food and other clips of Nicki and Hannah signing together were added throughout.

Skipping ahead to a later, prominent part of the segment (for me as a listener), is the story about Robert Louis Stevenson. Stevenson fully believed that little people visited him in his dreams and told him amazing stories that would become his stories. From this, the question of authorship arises. Are these little people part of Stevenson, or are they separate?  One of the stories which was told to Stevenson by the little people is acted out. This was so different from anything else in the segment and really stood out (as well as entertained me) as a listener. Dramatic voices tell the tale of a son who kills his father and ends up living with his father’s widow. Birds singing, clanging, freaky piano, chaotic fiddle all contribute to the dramatic effect of the story.

General observations…Both Jad and Robert introduce and reintroduce themselves several times throughout the segment, especially when coming back from a break. They also introduce new speakers as they appear and typically repeat the speaker’s name when their part of the segment is done, effectively “signing them off.”

The music used was all instrumental. I noticed ambient sounding music, twangy guitar, bluesy guitar, manic fiddle, slow piano, old timey music etc, etc. All of the music made sense for the audio they were accompanying and enhanced rather than distracted from the story being told.

Overall, I was very entertained by this piece.

For my own work:

I definitely take note of the instrumental music, and realize that it can significantly alter the tone of the piece.

It is okay to mix my own voice in with the person I am interviewing, add my own opinions, anecdotes that relate, pose questions.

Adding many different perspectives and elements makes for a very interesting listen.



Mixing, Mingling, Shaking a Score

Jad and Robert are two rad fellas that host a radio show on radiolab (rehashing information you all know!). Now that that basic knowledge is now basic knowledge, I found this video on radio shows especially interesting because it shows HOW these THINGS come about. (“THINGS” referring to radio shows).

The way they describe the formation of their shows goes like this:

1. Find someone interesting to talk to.

2. Record talking to them.

3. Take snippets that are also interesting, and see how they work together.

4. Add themselves to the mix

5. Mix, mingle, and shake voices, music, and noises all around until something beautiful springs up – but always two guys talking.

6. Repeat.

These guys blend these noises – and lack of noises – so seamlessly that it makes me feel very comfortable. The way that there is a low bass that compliments their words in their introduction of their show, to the music that plays on a loop behind their words, to the sudden silences that subtly leave you feeling a tad empty without knowing why right away. These guys entice me to want to listen to more of their shows by seducing me with their other mediums other than just interesting content.

This video about podcasts was interesting because it was the only video – but it really showed me ways that podcasts can be especially interesting by directly stating how to do so.

I found the parts of the video most interesting were when they played short segments from one of their radio shows with the sounds they use. For example in the opening of their episode “Inheritance” from season 11, they do a lot of remixing with simple powerful sounds AND bounce back and forth between their two voices. The bass lines in the background remind me heavily of Everybody Loves Raymond, and put emphasis behind the words being said. They mention using the sounds they record as putting a score together, and come back to how in the end it’s just two guys talking. I think I may look into these guys a bit more, because they are mega interesting with their ideas* and such.


*Ideas as in just talking to interesting people, because why not.



What does it mean that I’m me? Should we charge monkeys with murder?

I enjoy listening to radio shows like NPR because they do a good job of telling amazing stories and taking you away for the length of the segment.  I like “Who Am I?” because it didn’t make me feel anxious like the other two podcasts (although it did have some eerie/creepy music).  The other pod casts made me feel like I needed to be on extra alert just so I didn’t’ miss something, where in turn this pod cast made it feel easy to follow along and almost like you were sitting in the room with the individuals talking.  I also noticed that abrupt halts in sound were used in order to dramatize parts of the segment.  I think this works since you do feel at ease while listening to the audio; you need something to keep you on track when there is a transition.  It’s almost like a replacement for body language!

The quick back and forth conversational commentary might create anxiety for some listeners but I found it very helpful for staying engaged.  I imagine that this technique probably takes some experience in order to create something that is easy to follow along with/makes sense.  The “I did not have sexual relations with that woman” morph with bill Clinton and the other guys was a great way to translate a visual idea into audio—how clever!  This brings me back to the intro of the segment when there was a mix of all different voices and languages to create a single sentence, which gave the program a worldly and sophisticated feeling.  I think I’d like to use that technique in my audio project.  Class: I am always so impressed with the musical choices that these audio segments match up with the conversations.  I feel like I struggle with finding the right music that will match the tone of my story.  Can someone share with me pointers on how to choose the right music and where you get it?  Or do you just need to have a knack for it?


Behind the Scenes – The Reality of Making a Podcast

For this post, I chose to write about Radiolab:Behind the Scenes for a couple of reasons – the most prominent being that I am not that into Podcasts. It’s not that I am not a good listener, it’s just that its a territory that is unvisited. Anyways, I thought this would be helpful for me in going forward with this project and give me the basics of the process (thankfully, it did!)

In terms of the way this video is put together, I think it mimics the flow of a podcast/audio recording. It starts out with some background information (who the Radiolab reporters are), adds details of who they are and where they are going. The essence of recording audio comes from weaving together snippets of audio to create the whole recording. The two reporters did this throughout the video, mimicking the way an audio recording is created. By building upon what the other one said, it really allowed me to think of what they were saying as a mode of storytelling. It’s easy to forget that you yourself tell stories all day, every day. If you think of your audio as a casual conversation, you get a great story – a view of another person’s story.

For me, the biggest takeaway is the planning that goes into a successful podcast/audio recording. In my mind, I always thought Podcasts were just conversations that happened naturally without any planning. Because it’s a sound recording, it’s difficult to actually see the planning that went into it because you’re listening with your ear only. How do we switch from using our eyes and ears to just using our ears when creating something ? Simultaneously, how can we convey what we saw with our eyes by only using our ears?



Who Am I – Analysis

Who Am I ( used a ton of great techniques to make for a pleasant audio broadcast.

One of the things they did was use music.  One way that music was used was by playing it in the background.  Too much background music is distracting and not good, but they used it just sparingly enough.  The hints of background music did a good job or mirroring the emotions and the feel of the broadcast.  Similar to how a sitcom uses pre-recorded laughter to help guide your emotions, I think the background music helped guide the listeners emotions as well.

Music was also used as a transition between parts of the broadcast.  This allowed the listener to distinguish one part from another.  Also, music wasn’t the only sound that functioned to distinguish between parts; various other sounds were used to do that as well.

Another thing I really liked was how they used various voices.  This allowed the listener to keep track of various streams of thought.  A lot of times a line of thought may require you to go off on a tangent slightly to explain something, so you could then proceed.  Using a different voice to go on this minor tangent helps to keep us focused on the main direction.  For example, maybe they need to qualify something with a scientific explanation, so they’ll have a scientist take 20 seconds to explain something before the main hosts proceed forward.  I wish I could do something like this when I write!

I loved the Bill Clinton part!  In addition to being funny, it did a great job of illustrating for us Bill Clinton vs. the subject.

While I liked the use of audio techniques, I thought the broadcast of a whole wasn’t good because it was lacking of substance.  It didn’t really have a point, and used lots of vague terminology that doesn’t clearly correspond to something real.  See

– Adam Zerner

Behind the Scenes

Radio lab: Behind the Scenes

“45 minutes for 1 minute”

This quote was taken from “Radio lab: Behind the Scenes,” it has embodied how I felt about the video when I watched it for the first time.  I am shocked that they would spend so much time working on something that would only end up being one minute of their show.

I’m really surprised at how much of practice and multiple takes they do for each piece.  I had always assumed that podcasts were just one person or a couple of people talking on the whim.  I never thought about the process behind each podcast.  It is like hearing a newspaper being read out loud.  A newspaper doesn’t have one single writer writing whatever they wish.  They have ideas, they have writes, and rewrites.  Lots of people, ideas and time go into each newspaper or magazine article so it makes sense that podcasts are done in the same way.

Sound is used in order to do what it is supposed to do.  They want you to hear it all in a specific way.  The two men in the main podcast are two specific and distinct voices.  The main “characters” of the podcast are Jad and Robert.  It is easy to tell the difference between these two people.  Having multiple voices, and multiple personalities shine through with just sound enhances the story for the listener.

Because this is really professional you can see the two Radio lab voices in their professional Radio lab.  The voice quality of their work is much clearer than when listing to the other podcast.

Having these as examples will help with my process as I create my own sound recordings.  I guess when I got the assignment I didn’t really see how I could record “A Day in the Life” without starting with my alarm going off in the morning, the water running as I brush my teeth, and grunts as I take vigorous notes in class.  I do not know how I want to do my piece at all. But at least I know to be a little more creative than an literal day in my life sound clip.