I’ve spent many months helping my brother-in-law to complete his (mostly audio) online memoir. As I reflected on the experience, I was reminded of the directness of the spoken word and the power of sound; the way speech triggers imagery that sticks with you, and how the nuances of pace, tone, and inflection seem to add so much subtle, evocative meaning. Content and context seem so much richer when you listen.
In my brother-in-law’s voice, I can hear his passion for his memories, his regret over his losses, his enjoyment of the good times, and his questions about what his future might hold. These can be difficult to write about even for a seasoned writer, but it can be simpler and more direct to just say the words out loud.
A raw, straightforward storytelling can be powerful on its own, but I feel convinced that for my own uses, I need to make something a little more acoustically elaborate. I want something that uses background sounds to set the time and place. The best podcasts and radio broadcasting that I’ve ever heard have used place-sounds and ambient noise to create a soundscape – an acoustic landscape that sets the stage – an equivalent for being there. As examples, the podcast “Serial” did this quite well, as did another podcast about Richard Simmons. Each of them added just enough background tone and noise that you might visualise the immediate surroundings of the speaker: how sunny it was in a crowded mall parking lot, or how much traffic was on Rodeo Drive that day. it offers context that helps to build engagement and empathy.
I think a couple of tracks added like that would give my own stories so much more immersion for the listener – extra dimension and impact.
So, I’m searching for free (or creative commons) sounds and, ironically, visualising how editing and mixing might proceed using a tool like Audacity.
Update: I did make a little audio piece for my earliest story, “Peanut and Brittle”. I will be doing more of this for other stories too…