Here’s my podcast of myself!
Here’s my podcast of myself!
This is my mini audio story, using the techniques of mixing sound (similar to when we made our video projects), and achronological storytelling.
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.
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.
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.
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 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?