Individual Studio Production Project Reflection
My piece entitled, It is Futile, is an audio phonic radio story that explores intolerance, vapid pursuits of happiness, and gender ambiguity. The narrative is comprised of fictitious elements as well as personal lived experiences. I’m hoping to explore the limits and potentiality of this medium, in as far as, how it holds the consumer’s attention, how it is perceived and disseminated.
Conceptually, I am hoping to detach the ‘self’ or the author from the front line of this story to allow the surreal and chronologically ambiguous narrative to speak homogeneously without performance constraints. Using the voice of Karen Jacobsen (the Australian female voice of Siri), we are given no real human face to the text. I was introduced to this concept after hearing the 1978 stylised ABC radio broadcast drama, What’s Rangoon to You is Grafton to Me by Russell Guy. Where James Dibble, the monotonous ABC news radio presenter, showed little to no emotion, which allowed the surreal and absurd text of the piece to shine through.
It could be said, that contemporary podcasts and audio stories, have their own character, which can influence a listeners focus and attention. For example, podcast presenter Ira Glass of This American Life, exposits in a way that makes a listener feel like a best friend. Similarly, Radio Lab actors announce with the same congeniality, offering consumers a sense as if they are all in on the same joke. For the most part, I subscribe to this way of presentation however, on occasion, it can obfuscate certain aspects of an audio story’s essence. And it is for this reason, that I have gone to great lengths to disable the human presenter from my piece.
In order to realise my production It is Futile, I have applied foley sound from both free sounds.org and my own recordings. I have then used dubbing through a cut, copy and paste method to emphasise moments in the narrative. For example in the shaving sequence and ‘outcome introductions’. Dynamic elements consist mainly of the highs and lows over the whole piece. Like for example the rock music sting, which functions to juxtapose the mundane drone of the train sequence. The harmonic distortion, which was applied to the rock music sting, acted to increase its volume, brightness and texture — further heightening dynamics.
The music sting was produced on a separate session due to a CPU overload. Even without ancillary stems being added to the primary session for this piece, I still experienced RAM and CPU overloads. To circumvent this, I have had to create several auxiliary buses governing the effect path of several tracks. Although, pitch shift, which was a cursory attempt to change characters in the classroom, was applied via the live audio suite render. Interestingly, the pitch shifted dialogue later became the voice of an evil ‘self’, wanting to break free from a homogeneous vice.
Panning and reverb were functions to accentuate texture and spatiality. Some examples can be heard in the skateboard moving from left to right and furthermore, with the word “etc”. Compression and side-chaining was applied to several sequences throughout the piece in order to bias the main voice over and keep it as the focal point. However, towards the end of the piece, when the music sting is re-introduced, I had to resort to a manual automation method as the factory compression plug-in was not handling the information as I would have liked. The Buchla synth from MESS became a feature at the beginning of the piece. It demonstrated a highly artificial and lofi tone which I felt would be fitting for the student “caressing his synth”. The main voice-over was captured by running a stereo 3.5 to 2 x 1/4″ mono XLR cables from a MacBook into the audio Interface on my iMac.
In sum, this is a practice that I hope to explore further. In the making of this piece, I have garnered a new understanding of the work involved in podcasts and radio stories be them fiction or nonfiction.
– ABC Radio National, Russell Guy 1978, broadcast drama, What’s Rangoon to You is Grafton to Me. Sydney.
– Bowden, D (recorded), Flanagan, J (composed) 2003, Player’s Speech, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Sydney.
– Free Sound, viewed 8th October 2017, <<http://http://freesound.org>>
– Radiolab 2017, WNYC, United States.
– This American Life with Ira Glass 2017, podcast, WBEZ Chicago.