straight down the line

Audio Storytelling

We have been tasked with “discussing audio in storytelling”, a vague, possibly momentous undertaking which leaves me unsure where to begin. So rather than an ambitious explanation, I’ll just sort of keep to what I looked at/listened to, and what I think/thought. Now first off, I watched all for sections of an interview with Ira Glass, host of This American Life. Now I’ve listen to NPR on occasionally for my whole life and I have always been a fan of This American Life. Ira Glass is a true professional and any radio he’s involved in is likely to be of the highest quality. His insight into radio and audio storytelling was interesting and articulate. I really think it is a waste of time to simply list all the small clips and episodes I explored while learning about audio storytelling. I’ll just mention that through my explorations I got hooked on the podcast Criminal and have spent probably too much time listening to several episodes. I also have always been a fan of Garrison Keillor and Prairie Home Companion and I really enjoyed seeing how foley sound artists create the sounds for that show. I would say that it is clear to me now that audio is very important, of course in radio, but also in film. The soundscape of any such production is invaluable in setting scene, mood, and pacing. Comparing two versions of the opening shot for Touch of Evil, one with theme music and one with street noise, was illuminating. I can see how both methods of sound-tracking have pros and cons. Theme music gives you total control over the mood, allowing the creator to make a scene menacing, innocent, romantic, or suspenseful. However, it can seem rather heavy-handed to modern audiences, and surreal. Realistic sounds, street noise, really put us inside what’s happening, making it seem very real. The differences reflect the evolution of film noir as a whole. Older examples feature dramatic themes to support the dramatic lighting, while newer noir tends towards grittiness and realism.

Leave a Comment