The Village and the Parent

I think there is a fine line in audio production in which less is probably more. However, this story seemed to invite some additional layering of sound effects, so I gave myself the freedom to experiment. I also carefully reviewed the comments from the draft audio story and spent time cutting narrative here and there, and reworking the ending for a deeper sense of continuity in entire piece. Some of the rough transition spots were smoothed by reworking how I faded the thumb harp and hand drum in and out of the narrative.

I  also shortened the introduction by several seconds, based upon feedback. I felt fairly ambivalent about doing so, as I personally liked the build-up of tension over a longer period time. However, I had also questioned the length as possibly being too long. I decided the length appealed to me simply because it gave an auditory reflection of experienced and remembered stress. One friend’s comment was fairly instructive, however, in that she felt the story probably functioned as a catharsis for me. With my only child launching into his adult life, I have been reevaluating the whole parenting journey fairly repetitively. I suppose most parents go through something similar as their children leave the nest. Gaining that bit of insight increased my willingness to adjust the introduction.

The search for open source and free sound effects that I could use in my project was quite instructive and finally took me to SoundJay.  SoundJay explicitly allowed the  use of “sounds free of charge and royalty free in . . . projects (such as films, videos, games, presentations, animations, stage plays, radio plays, audio books, apps) be it for commercial or non-commercial purposes,” provided the user follow a few simple rules. I appreciated the clarity with which SoundJay laid out their rules, actually. So many times, rules get muddied in legal jargon. Each webpage included the following injunction:

You are allowed to use the sounds on our website free of charge and royalty free in your projects but you are NOT allowed to post the sounds on any web site for others to download, link directly to individual audio files, or sell the sounds to anyone else. Remember to read Terms of Use before downloading and using the sound effects or music tracks.

The first sound effect I chose was that of a baby “cooing” — to my ear it didn’t sound as much like a coo as the beginning stage of fussiness, but it worked well in the spot I placed it (1:17). The other effect I added was that of a crowd talking. I’m actually rather proud of the way I was able to build the narrative, hand drum and crowd together and stop them at the same time (1:47 – 1:56) in a way that accentuated the story.

Out of the three tools we have used thus far (Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and now Adobe Audition), I have enjoyed the Au tool the most. It has seemed the most intuitive and user-friendly of the package thus far, and I wish I had more time to play with the different features. The trial period is soon to end, however, so further experimentation will have to wait.

In terms of my final audio story — it’s not really final in my mind. If I were to start all over again, I would probably ensure that I had a clear outline, written my narrative or in some way crafted the individual points along the way first, rather than just rely on a stream-of-consciousness approach. I think the amount of time I spent replaying different tracks of narrative to cull out what didn’t work and keep what did work for the story would have been far better spent playing with some of the different effects. But, for a first go-around, I feel like I learned a great deal, and had a chance to at least “sneak” a peek at how NPR produces the radio shows I like so well.



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