3 years 27 weeks
3 years 29 weeks
3 years 28 weeks
3 years 32 weeks
3 years 32 weeks
3 years 35 weeks
3 years 36 weeks
3 years 36 weeks
3 years 36 weeks
3 years 40 weeks
3 years 40 weeks
3 years 41 weeks
3 years 37 weeks
3 years 41 weeks
3 years 42 weeks
Music/Poetry Audio Essay
Assignment: An Audio Essay
Create an audio essay to be integrated into your media page. Use an audio editor to cut samples from songs or other audio files. Use a microphone to record narration offering analysis and explanation of the audio materials. Make decisions about the fair use of audio materials. Since you will be creating an audio essay to be part of a larger collection of materials--text, links, images, etc.--consider revisiting your topic as a whole as you think about how to focus the audio essay; it might take up a sub-topic related to the larger project. Or it could be more of a main focus and the surrounding materials could provide support and context. Just develop some sense of how the audio essay fits within the media page conceptually.
Plan It: Practice Invention Strategies for An Audio Essay Based on a Playlist
Before going too far, you should familiarize yourself with elements of audio essays. Audio essays can range from the typical radio-news-style reporting piece to a music review containing audio samples to a profile that includes recorded interviews, to name some options. Consider some of these possibilities:
- NPR’s Music Site (http://www.npr.org/music/)
- Music Popcast (http://odeo.com/channels/61944-Music-Popcast)
- Pandora (student podcast)
- Bon Iver (student podcast)
Next, think about adjustments to your project that might be needed as you develop an essay that includes audio samples and your recorded voice. Working with recorded voices will require you to be concise and deliberate about how you cover materials. Closely analyzing a single song, for instance, might require you to introduce the piece for listeners, play a brief sample, and then discuss the song in terms of your topic. Spend some time mulling over what you want to talk about and how you will approach things. Here are some suggestions:
- Find a model that can help you conceptualize your project. Search online for audio essays or podcasts. Consider the kinds of topics they take up. Identify an example that works well and that might be adapted for your own composition.
- Play music samples or other audio elements (interviews, background sounds, audio from films or television) that might make it into your audio essay. Think about the possibilities these materials raise for the project. Think also about the challenges they might pose.
- Talk with others about your project. Talk with family or friends about your topic. Work with classmates to sharpen one another’s topics. (Consider asking partners if they would be willing to be interviewed later for the essay.)
- Make a list of topic possibilities. Start with ideas spurred by your montage assignment. Zoom in to identify sub-topics or areas of focus that might be taken up. Could a single song drive an audio exploration? Is there a key concern that might be investigated in detail?
- Zoom out to think about how related people, ideas, or things might extend your topic or translate ideas into a new topic. Are there controversies that might be taken up to explore the subject? What groups are associated with your topic? How might larger contexts be taken up or used to organize the project?
- Conduct research to learn more about the topic and refine your thinking. What have others said already that is related to your subject? What can you learn from books, journals, or online articles on the topic?
- Make an outline or map sketching out directions for the essay. List audio samples that might be taken up? Jot down key points you will make in the audio essay. Think of the project in terms of segments and develop a plan for individual segments and for the project as a whole.
Compose it: Draft an Audio Essay Based on a Playlist
When you compose your audio essay, you will need to balance the need to learn about and focus on the audio composing process with the conceptual demands of your topic. You will need to spend some time getting to know the audio editor you choose to use for the project. (Audacity is a good choice.) Take time to read any overviews, help pages, or tutorials that can get you started with the program. You will create a practice piece initially to familiarize yourself with some of the composing moves. You can try a simple voice mail exercise or an analysis of a segment of a song as a learning exercise.
Conceptually, you will also need to spend some time working on your audio composing skills. The crucial move is learning to introduce and discuss the audio samples you use. This can be a challenge because you want your own voice to complement rather than repeat the messages present in your audio samples. If you play an interview clip with an artist discussing his work for animal welfare causes, your narration to introduce the clip should prepare listeners for the clip without stating what is about to be said in the interview. Similarly, as you discuss an audio sample, you will need to compose narration that situates, extends, or clarifies rather than repeats what has been said. Be flexible and deliberate as you compose your narration, using your words to help listeners zoom in on specifics in your materials and zoom out to connect with your topic as a whole.
Although your project and your audio editor will influence your composing process, you can follow some general steps.
- Become adept at recording your own voice to narrate the audio essay. Find a quiet environment where you can work. Experiment with your available microphones. (Built in laptop microphones often work fine; affordable USB microphones work well; more advanced microphones might be worth a look.) Try some practice recordings, working with your equipment and software until you get audio that is loud enough to be easily heard and that does not contain undue levels of background sound.
- Get comfortable with your voice. Experiment with cadences, tempo, and pitch as you begin working. Don’t be shy about trying out new tones or giving your voice presence in your recordings. Use the audio essay as an opportunity to think about how you can use your voice as you communicate and about how you can develop a “voice” in both spoken and written contexts.
- Learn the moves needed to import audio files into your editor. You may also need to learn something about converting audio files. Experiment with cutting, copying, and moving segments of the audio that you import. Learn to fade clips in and out and to adjust the volume levels of clips.
- Ensure that you have an outline or plan for developing the essay. Import a clip and begin editing it and adding your narration. Check that you are writing into and out of the clips in ways that clarify and extend your topic.
- Develop a transcript as you move closer to conducting final recordings. You can draft a script ahead of time, and then revise it. Or you can do some free-form recordings, transcribe them, and then edit the transcript into a final script for the production recordings.
- Continue importing materials and adding narration. Add background sounds for ambiance as needed. Adjust and polish the composition.
- Export a draft of the file. Explore your audio editor to learn about file formats for exporting—most likely mp3 format. Post the file to the class Web site or online.
Below find resources to refer to as you work:
You will need to download and install the Audacity audio editor to work with the sounds. (You will also need to downlaod the lame encoder.) I will give you instructions about how to use the program. You will import the songs into the project, and then edit them into the samples you will use.
You will also need to collect interview clips. You can probably use the built in microphone on your laptop, or I have some microphones that you can use with your laptop to record people. Before starting, you will need to think ahead about what you want to ask--if you ask something broad like is Steve Earle literary?, you may get a range of responses. If you say, what do you think about the topics or motifs in Earle's music?, the responses might be easier to plug into your project. In any case, the interview process often involves a good deal of collecting, listening, and then selecting and trimming. For every 10 minutes of interview "tape" you will probably get 20 or 30 seconds that really should end up in the podcast.
You will also need to gather resources from the net. As you do so, you may want to use zamzar.com to get sound out of YouTube clips, and you may need to use a media conversion program (I suggest Mediacoder for Windows, but there are others) to get files into formats that will work with Audacity.
You will also need to record your own voice to stitch everything together. For your interviews and your own voice, you will need to experiment with the audio. Again, if your laptop microphone delivers good sound, that will work, or you can try borrowing one from me. You need to do everything possible to get good quality audio for the project.
This should be a project that raises some new challenges for you. Some will be technical--be sure to save your files often and give yourself time to learn how to compose with audio. Most of the challenges should be conceptual--you'll need to learn to imagine how you can organize a project based in sound, create transitions, convey information succinctly, create a mood through audio, etc. There will also be content challenges--what is literature, what makes a musical artist literary, how can you demonstrate this literary aspect of the artist? Hopefuly the level of challenges will still allow the project to be creative and fun.
Here are some additional readings and resources:
From Transom, Alex Blumberg's story advice and some short audio profiles
Nancy Updike's writing for audio advice
Sound Portrait's advice on How to Record.