Listening to Stories

For this particular assignment/reflection, we were asked to listen to several different radio stories from different sites and pick up on each one’s audio techniques and what we thought about their their techniques.

From American Life: How I Got Into College

I sincerely enjoyed this story itself and all of the audio techniques that came with it. There is this incredibly progression of the story where it starts off believing it’s going to a somewhat boring story about college admissions, then it turns into a heartwarming tale about a teacher and her student, then the narrator brings the story around into a broader more philosophical meaning. It was just a wonderfully put together story.

Now back to the real reflection, the audio techniques. Most of the music that the authors chose seemed to be fitting for each scene and they used music as well as different noises to indicate when the characters were in a new setting. The authors also layered sounds many times, mostly background noise when characters were talking; however they would also have the narrator layered on top of everything at times. It seemed that they used the narrator on top of characters conversations in order to summarize the scene so it wouldn’t go for too long. Many street sound effects were used as good indicators that people were outside. There were also times when noise or music was absent during certain conversations in order to set a serious tone. the story also included upbeat music to indicate the excitement a character was experiencing. My favorite part was when the main character in the story came up with a great idea and the sound of a light bulb glowing came on, I thought it was quite fitting at that particular moment. By the end of the story, the narrator speaks while music plays in the background, but once the narrator is finished speaking, the music gradually grows louder and comes to the forefront.

From RadioLab: Ghost Stories

This was an interesting piece to say the least.  I would not go as far as calling most of them ghost stories, but they were interesting stories nonetheless. The radio show began with intense music to set the mood for some good ghost stories. Then the narrators came in with sound effects layered in the background.

In one story, when they mentioned someone dying, they played terrifying music in order to set the tone for tragedy. They also used a typewriting sound effect during the narration about the newspaper typing up the story, that made the story seem more real at that point. Another story was told where I woman was about to jump into a river, so they played sound effects of running water with an eventual splash indicating that the woman jumped in. There was one story where the music seemed to be building the suspense and leading to the climax. That particular moment reminded me of Glass’s idea of a sequence of events because it had that same tone he had been using when he demonstrated his story telling. My favorite sound effect used in this series was when one story was talking about eyes when people are dreaming. They used a fast sound effect to indicate REM sleep and then a slow “bum-bum” which meant that the eyes were no longer moving quickly but actually quite slowly from left to right.

From The Truth: Falling, It’s Going to Change Your Life, and Death of Poe

The Falling radio story begins with a crazy story of a man almost being hit by a train but a woman saving him at the last minute. Later the story picks up at people in a restaurant, which you can tell by the sound effects and background noise of chatter and silverware clinking. Then there is a clear scene change when dogs are barking in the background, possibly indicating that she works at an animal shelter. By the end of the short story, the girl tells her boyfriend she going to jump from her apartment building and he better catch her (dumbest idea I’ve ever heard). He wasn’t expecting her to jump so you hear him yell her name and then a big crash. Then nothing. Only silence. The listeners are left in suspense wondering if she was alive or dead. Next they cut to a hospital scene, which you can tell by background noise and the beeping heart monitor. The girlfriend is alive luckily. For the finale, the boyfriend begins singing her a song he wrote her and the music seems to line up perfectly with her beeping heart monitor, which I thought demonstrated their connection to one another.

The next radio story I listened to from The Truth, was called “It’s Going to Change Your Life” and it was quite an inspirational story of a woman finally standing up for herself and realizing what she wants out of life. This story was much shorter than the other ones I had listened to before hand so there were not as many audio techniques that I was able to pick up on. There was layering of voices on top of office noises such as a fax machine or a printer to show that she worked in an office. Other than background noise and layering, there were not many other audio effects until the end. That is when the girl was finally free from her evil boss and happy music began to play which set a tone of elation. It was almost as if the song demonstrated the opportunities that just oped up for her.

The last story I listened to was “Death of Poe,” which I thought would have been a fantastic story in RadioLab’s ghost stories series. The show begins with dark music, setting a very serious tone for the rest of the story. I feel like this story could have used a lot more sound effects and it would have made it so much better. For example, when the narrator speaks about someone researching on their computer, I think a typing effect would have been particular useful. At one point, Edgar Allen Poe walks down into the basement of the bar with a woman and a listener is able to tell it’s a dark dingy basement by the words the characters use and their echo effect, as well as the sound effects of water droplets. I also believe that the ending music to this story was not appropriate. It should have been darker, more Edgar Allen Poe-y.


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