The Village and the Parent: Audio Storytelling Draft

Well, this was a fun adventure in audio storytelling. I pondered numerous approaches and ideas when jogging or biking. There’s something about fresh air, sunshine, and physical activity that helps the brain function more holistically. Once I had the idea fairly well fleshed out in my head, I started collecting the bits and pieces I thought necessary for my story.

Blowing off the dust from my hand drum and thumb harp, I improvised some background music I hoped would complement the story. I also invited two of my girlfriends, Laura and Joyce, to provide voice recordings of parenting messages. I borrowed from my earlier recorded tutorial footage and also recorded an introduction and conclusion. After downloading the segments, I opened Adobe Audition and imported the MP3s into the project files. After which I drug the files over into several tracks and got down to business.

The first part of business included the drudge work of heavy editing. In the assigned readings, this was stressed as critical. I took it to heart and spent considerable time in removing clunky pauses, ums, sniffles and entire sections that didn’t add to the overall story. I tried focus on selecting for emotion, eliminating repeated thoughts, and identify those segments that got straight to the point. A large part of my work-a-day world consists of casting an editorial eye on written communication for plain-talk and brevity, so I was a bit surprised by how long this actually took.

I wanted to open the story building tension and capturing the anxiety created by competing voices and philosophies. To achieve this effect, I overlapped and layered the Laura, Joyce and narrator voices, and broke the percussion track into three overlapping sections. The tension resolves with “Stop!” and then the thumb harp cuts starts growing in volume as the narrator introduces the story.

At various spots, I faded in the thumb harp as a softening addition to the background, to add some flavor to the story. I also used brief percussion effects to punctuate a thought. I went back and forth several times between different track segments, arranging and then rearranging them to achieve the best possible transition and flow.  I’m not quite sure I achieved the opening gambit in a multi-part series, but hopefully it will work for you, dear listener.

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5 comments

  1. Wow Shannon, what a great audio piece. The audio quality was clear, the story was intriguing and the content was well researched. I felt like I was listening to a succinct report on a popular parenting channel. I love you use of my hand drum and thumb harp, both of which provided a child-like feel to the program while not taking away from the importance of the issue.

    When you mentioned that you “improvised some background music,” what you the one playing the instruments? Kudos for getting “removing clunky pauses, ums, sniffles and entire sections that didn’t add to the overall story,” why did maintaining the ebb-and-flow or the story.

    You have a great narrative voice!

    A few recommendations, and please take with a grain of salt….as I listened to this audio story with my more critical trained Journalist ear:
    • At 0:58 – it may be worthwhile to fade into the drums (a sound-up)….so start fading-in the drum sound around the 0:55 mark and progressively raise the volume of the drums to its peak about a second or two after the woman’s voice ends. I think this will help eliminate that small awkward pause that is currently there and make for a more seamless transition into the woman’s next thought process.
    • At 1:22 – it may work better to fade out the woman’s voice rather that a straight cut.
    • Great sound-up at 1:36 – I loved how you blended and thumb harp with the woman’s voice. I recommend that same tradition at 1:22.
    • Finally, the hand drum and thumb harp at the end (around 2:17) overpower your voice. It just needs to be lowered, so I can hear you lovely narrative voice. And perhaps let the thumb harp play for a second or two after you fade out your voice at the end.

    Great job! This is totally radio worthy.
    Cheers,
    O

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    1. Thank you for your careful listening ears, Ms. O! Your insight and suggestions will help me craft a more polished piece. And you also gave me a good sense of how to provide feedback for other students. It’s a pleasure learning with you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Shannon,

    Great story. You’re a natural storyteller with wonderful inflection in your voice.

    The fact that your created your own music is very impressive, and I like how you used it to create quick transitions in the story. I also like what the did with the opening – very creative.

    A couple of suggestions. I think the opening works really well, but it’s too long. I found myself wondering when it was going to climax. It’s currently 20 seconds. In my opinion, it should be about 6-7 seconds to grab the listeners attention, and then get on with the story. Also, not sure whether you listened to the audio with headphones, but it sounds like you have the hand drum 100% in the left stereo channel. I’m not certain how to do this in Audition, but you should be able to center the audio, so it comes through equally on both left and right.

    My next suggestion is to smooth out some of the audio cuts. There are a few places where I can hear pops or abrupt cuts. Adding a very short crossfade transition in the those spots will smooth them out.

    Lastly, there are a couple spots where I can hear paper rustling. This is more of a suggestion for next time because you can’t really fix it without re-recording the audio, but I would try not to touch or move anything while you’re recording.

    I hope this helps.

    Cheers,
    Jeff

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    1. Excellent suggestions, Jeff. I appreciate your keen listening ears and suggestions. I caught the paper rustling, as well. things to file away for future recording sessions at a desk with the handheld recorder! 🙂

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  3. Thank you again, to my classmates and professor for the thoughtful and helpful feedback. In some cases, you confirmed what I thought were rough spots, and you also pointed out some additional considerations that will help the quality of the piece as a whole and add additional depth to the story. For my “take-aways,” for the final product, I plan to:
    • Smooth the fade in and out spots between the different tracks noted by each of the listeners. I so appreciate the use of the “timer” to identify these areas. I also want to listen to the clip with headphones, which is something I hadn’t done before posting the draft. I know audio can sound quite different depending of the listening medium.
    • Shorten the intro. I had felt it was too long, but wasn’t sure. Glad to receive that feedback. Also, create, record and add an additional track that captures an ending that will tie the story together with the logo and the intent of the semester project more clearly. I will also use the logo I designed for the last project as the “cover” to the audio track.
    • Locate and add a track of open source sounds of children or family in the story at an appropriate place. A quick internet search found me some soundsnap options that may be useful.

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