Among my most prized possessions are words that I have never spoken………..Orson Scott Card
The University of Mary Washington’s Digital Knowledge Center provides peer tutoring to all University students on digital projects and assignments. Students can schedule 50 minute, one-one-one tutorials with a trained peer tutor on any DS106 related projects. Click Here to set up an appointment.
Introduction to Audio- Listening First
This week in ds106 we’re going to be diving into our first storytelling genre: audio. Working with sound can be a bit daunting and unfamiliar, so we’ll be easing you into it this week. Nearly all previous ds106 students start here dreading this media, and in a few weeks they totally change their mind.
We’ll ask you to do some listening exercises as well as do some audio story editing. By the end of the week, I’ll organize you into groups for your mid-term project: creating a 20-30 minute radio show, which is due right after fall break. You’ll have several weeks to work on this project, and we’ll be returning to audio in greater depth the week before break.
In last week’s assignment for describing what is storytelling, many of you touched on the tradition of oral storytelling. There is no place where this plays out more effectively than on the radio. For many of you radio may seem like old technology, but there is a lot of current powerful creativity done in a single media. Audio is most effective when sounds generate stories in the minds of listeners.
You might be familiar with the panic caused in the late 1930s when Orson Wells produced the radio show of H.G. Wells War of the Worlds– it was so effective, people thought it was real. If you think we are much more savvy in the modern age, read about what happened when producers of an Italian movie tried to play out a promotional video as something like looked like a real news broadcast.
We’d like you to listen to some experts on audio storytelling describe a bit of how this is effective, probably no one has their game on for this than Ira Glass, host of This American Life, a weekly radio storytelling show on National Public Radio.
Listen to least two parts of Ira Glass’ Series on storytelling (all together they’re about 20 minutes)
For another point of view, listen to a short interview with Radiolab‘s Jad Abumrad on “How Radio Creates Empathy”:
or listen to his longer talk where he shares how he and his colleagues go about the process of creating radio shows.
Introduction to Audio Techniques
Some things to notice when listening to audio are the pacing (think of the equivalent of paragraphs in sound), the use of music, sound effects, ambient/environmental sounds, the introduction of radio “bumpers” to remind us of the show, introduction and exits. Of key importance is trying to hear the layering of sounds, of how audio can create a sense of place by being more than just a recording, but a deliberate stacking of audio.
For a great reference reference, you might listen to an episode of Howsound, the radio show that takes you behind the scenes to understand how these shows are produced- Dissecting Joanne Rosser, Papermaker.
As another example, we took out elements of an hour long episode of RadioLab, a 2007 show called Detective Stories, and uploaded a shorter version to Soundcloud, where the comments indicate how some of these are used in the show. See if you can pick these out in this example and then in other audio you listen to this unit.
Another technique that is counter-intuitive, is when sound is left out. Listen to this annotated clip, an intro to an episode of the TED Radio Hour, for what happens near the 3 minute mark when the background music suddenly stops
Here are some references for audio techniques:
- Radio Glossary
- What is Foley Sound?
- Video of foley artists at work on Prairie Home Companion
- The Wilhem Scream
View the story “ds106 Tips for Audio Storytelling” on Storify
And, if that is not enough, among the open participants of ds106 is ScottLo, a guru of audio and radio technique. Scott was one of several ds106ers who gathered in the summer of 2013 in Kamloops, British Colombia for SoundCamp, a one day hands on experience in learning audio recording and editing technique– check out the SoundCamp site for audio resources and tutorials.
Also useful from Scottlo are archives from his daily series from the Summer ds106 Zone class of 2013, below are some selected episodes where he reviews audio and shares Audacity tips:
One of the best ways to understand how audio can be used to create stories is to listen to some great examples. We’ve assembled a list of audio stories for you.
Try to listen closely to at least one this unit and write up your reaction and thoughts about it.
Overall, how effective do you think audio was for telling the story(ies)? What types of audio techniques did the producers use — sound effects, layering of sounds, music, etc. — to convey their story? While we are interested in reading what you thought of the story being told — but we’re just as interested in your reflection about HOW the story was told. Try and step back from the story itself, and reflect upon the technique that the storytelling/producers used. What choices did they make that impacted your understanding of and feelings about the story? What are the techniques from the references above that you may not have noticed before?
Pay very close attention to not only the stories told but how they are constructed in audio format. Take the time to focus on listening, not just in the background of being on your computer. Put the phone down, turn off the TV, tell the family to leave you alone. Just listen. Pick three total but if you any from “The Truth” then you must listen to three in order to count as 1, they are much shorter.
- This American Life “There’s a theme to each episode, and a variety of stories on that theme. It’s mostly true stories of everyday people, though not always.”
- Radio Lab “Radiolab is a show about curiosity. Where sound illuminates ideas, and the boundaries blur between science, philosophy, and human experience.”
- The Truth “Movies for your ears” (Listen to three of these, they are shorter)
Audacity: Open Source Sound Editing
The way we run ds106 is that we never require use of any single software, but most highly recommend usingAudacity for audio editing, the open source (free) audio editing software. Besides having many useful tools, a key features is its ability for multitrack editing, so you can layer your sounds. If you have other software available to you, by means use it!
The ds106 toolbox has a growing set of resources audio editing and sources of free audio to use. If you have suggestions, just leave a comment on tool page and we will add it to the box.
Some resources if you decided to use Audacity:
- Download Audacity, a free open source audio editing softwarehttp://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/
- Download and install the plugin needed to save your Audacity sounds as mp3 fileshttp://audacity.sourceforge.net/help/faq?s=install&item=lame-mp3
- See also Layering Sounds in Audacity
- You should already have an account on SoundCloud, a site you will be using to share your audio assignments http://soundcloud.com (if you have a smart phone, you may want to also get the SoundCloud app for recording audio).
- Create an account on Freesounds, a site for creative commons licensed sound effectshttp://www.freesound.org/
Your First Audio Stories (3 Audio Assignments totaling 8 stars or more)
This week I want you to get your feet wet with creating three audio assignments worth 8 stars in total; these will come from the Audio Assignments category of the ds106 Assignment Bank. If you are looking for ideas for what to do for these assignments, below are a couple of good starters, but, as always, feel free to create your own if you don’t find anything you like:
- Create a DS106 Radio Bumper. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with ds106 radio, try your hand at making your first radio “bumper” – a 10-30 second short audio that announces a radio station that is played between songs to remind listeners what they are tuned in to.This should be saved as an MP3 file, and then upload it to SoundCloud. Make sure in Soundcloud that you enable to option to allow downloads (so we can add it to ds106 radio!) Your audio must be embedded in your blog post summary of this assignment. You can embed Soundcloud audio just like you have done for YouTube and flickr, put the plain text URL on its own line, and when you publish, WordPress will create a player to allow visitors to listen (on non WordPress platforms, you should look for embed code to copy to your site)
- Create a sound effect story. This is a challenge to tell a short story (no longer than 60 seconds) using nothing but sound effects! Again, upload it to SoundCloud and make sure you embed your audio in your assignment post.
Share each of these contributions in separate posts on your blog, and tag them according to the instructions on their assignment page. The tags are important– for example the two tags for the Sound Effects Story are AudioAssignments and AudioAssignments70– as they enable us to list your blog post as an example completed for that assignment. Also, be sure to document your process. What was your thinking? How did you do it? A note about process. Etc.
Your weekly summary is due by Sunday, September 21 at midnight. As always, link to or embed all of your work from the week. Use this as an opportunity to reflect upon your initial foray into audio. What did you struggle with? What ideas/exercises were most challenging or interesting?
Now we are moving into the main part of the course where the bulk of your work is writing up assignments, you are going to be expected to follow the criteria – just posting “here is my assignment” is not going to be enough to earn credit. There needs to be writing with your media, a story about the story.
This week’s checklist includes:
- Summarize the key points you learned about audio storytelling from the Ira Glass and Jad Abumrad videos.
- Summary of the radio story you listened to, making special notes of the techniques used. Be sure to link to the show you listened to.
- Summarize/link the Audio assignments
- Summarize/link At least 4 Daily Creates
- Summary of your feedback from your Comments and what you gained by looking at other people’s blogs.
- At least a paragraph on what you learned this week, what questions/complaints you have.