thinking about sounds

This week our audio learning journeys led us to this assignment that teaches us about the art of audio storytelling. We had two videos: Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad: How Radio Creates Empathy and Digital Shamanism and Old-Fashioned, Newfangled Storytelling Magic with a podcast example to apply this new knowledge to called Moon Graffiti.

The two videos both talked about audio storytelling in a way I had never imagined before. A co-authorship between the narrator and the listener formed the lack of visual media. As the narrator provides cues and details of the story the listener must paint their own picture in their mind of what is happening. The connection formed between the two leads to something that feels more personal and draws people in. Though this form of storytelling uses technology, it has been an art form for years where people would gather around to hear a story from its narrator.

While listening to the podcast I experienced this co-imagining as the narrator took me through the story. In the beginning, we are thrown immediately into the story and we don’t know if this is real audio, where they are, or what they’re doing. We as the listener must fill in this information ourselves as the best we can. Then as the narrator slowly sets the scene we enter the “collective dream state” that lets us experience the story that is being told.

The usage of sound effects and ambient background noise is what makes this modern form of storytelling come together. The cues these sounds contain let the listener paint the picture with a little more help. The haunting music varies in intensity to match the moment, grainy voices as they speak through the comm system, the sounds of their ship flying by, the flag being planted in the ground, and the camera flashing. All of these combine to pull the listener into their world.

The podcast format of the story feels to me like it is better in some ways than a video. A part of my confusion from the start of the episode was how much of what we’re hearing is real. While this particular episode was all voiced by their team, it very well could have been a mix of real audio used with additional dialogue done by them to fill in the gaps and the listener wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. It leaves the narrator in complete control of how to create their stories’ reality in a way so that at least for the duration of the episode, the listener can believe that this is all real audio from the two astronauts’ final moments.

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