Wire 106 Week 4: Listening to Audio

This week’s assignment and directions were broadcast via earlier this afternoon, and you can listen to that 20 minute discussion for an overview of this week below. Be sure to listen, all the details in that discussion will not be covered in the text of this post.

First Things First: ToDo List

  • The Wire Episodes: We will be watching episodes 3, 4, and 5 of Season 2 this week. You know where to find them
  • Video Discussion: Sign-up to join here. Remember, you have to be a part of at least 3 video discussions before the semester ends:
    • Season 2, Episode 3: Wednesday at 6:30 PM;
    • Season 2, Episode 4: Thursday at 8 PM;
    • Season 2, Episode 5: Friday at 2PM.
  • Sign-up for a Wire 106 Lunch this week (lunch is always optional).
  • You need to complete 2 Daily Creates this week (I said 3 in the broadcast, but I am changing that to 2).
  • You need to blog about the Jennifer Ralston Interview (Thoughts/Ideas Category).
  • You need to complete 3 audio assignment worth at least 7 stars.
  • You need to brainstorm an idea for a 20-30 minute Wire-themed radio show (Thoughts/Ideas Category).
  • You need to listen to, and live tweet along with, at least one of this week’s The Wire  episode’s happening this Tues/Weds/Thur at 9 PM on http://ds106rad.io/listen
  • All audio assignment need to be sent to SoundCloud, twitter, and the Wire106 hub through your Known account—then write-up your assignment and tag it properly in your blog

Diving into Audio

This unit in ds106 we’re going to be diving into our first storytelling genre: audio. Working with sound often seems daunting, so we’ll be easing you into by focusing first on our listening. Nearly all previous ds106 students start here dreading audio, and in a few weeks they totally change their mind once they understand by experience the power of creating in and manipulating it as deftly as the edit text in a word processor.

We’ll ask you to do some listening exercises as well as complete some basic audio story editing. By the end of the unit, we suggest you to start forming groups for the mid-course project: creating a 20-30 minute radio show. More on that below. You’ll have several weeks to work on this project, and we’ll be returning to audio in greater depth by week 7.

 Learning to Listen: Jennifer Ralston on Sound Editing The Wire

We have a special treat this week. Jennifer Ralston, sound editor for The Wire series (amongst many others),  was kind enough to take an hour out of her life and talk with Paul and I about her work on the series. She does a few close readings of scenes from Season 1, and her observations and insights about listening closely and creating rich soundscapes are amazing. Listen to the entire interview, and then blog your reflections on this interview. Categorize this post under Thoughts/Ideas.

Also, I recommend checking out this interview about her work with another David Simon HBO production Treme, as well as the Reddit AMA  for some rich context.

Audacity: Open Source Sound Editing

Screenshot of Audacity

The way we run ds106 is that we never require use of any single software, but most highly recommend using Audacity for audio editing, the open source (free) audio editing software. Besides having many useful tools, a key features is its ability for multitrack editing, so you can layer your sounds. If you have other software available to you, by means use it!

The ds106 toolbox has a growing set of resources audio editing and sources of free audio to use. If you have suggestions, just leave a comment on tool page and we will add it to the box.

Some resources if you decided to use Audacity:

Your First Audio Stories (3 Audio Assignments totaling 7 stars)

This week we want you to get your feet wet with creating three audio assignments worth 7 stars in total; these will come from the Audio Assignments category of the ds106 Assignment Bank. If you are looking for ideas for what to do for these assignments, below are a couple of good starters, but, as always, feel free to create your own if you don’t find anything you like:

  • Create a DS106 Radio Bumper. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with ds106 radio, try your hand at making your first radio “bumper” – a 10-30 second short audio that announces a radio station that is played between songs to remind listeners what they are tuned in to.This should be saved as an MP3 file, and then upload it to SoundCloud. Make sure in Soundcloud that you enable to option to allow downloads (so we can add it to ds106 radio!) Your audio must be embedded in your blog post summary of this assignment. You can embed Soundcloud audio just like you have done for YouTube and flickr, put the plain text URL on its own line, and when you publish, WordPress will create a player to allow visitors to listen (on non WordPress platforms, you should look for embed code to copy to your site)
  • Create a sound effect story. This is a challenge to tell a short story (no longer than 60 seconds) using nothing but sound effects! Again, upload it to SoundCloud and make sure you embed your audio in your assignment post.

Share each of these contributions in separate posts on your blog, and tag them according to the instructions on their assignment page. The tags are important– for example the two tags for the Sound Effects Story are AudioAssignments and AudioAssignments70— as they enable us to list your blog post as an example completed for that assignment. Also, be sure to document your process. What was your thinking? How did you do it? A note about process. Etc.

“Listening to The Wire on ds106 Radio”

Understanding audio storytelling and the concept of radio means also learning how to be a participant by listening to ds106 radio, an internet radio station created for ds106 by Grant Potter, but open to a wide range of uses beyond this class.

This week we will be broadcasting just the sound of episodes 3, 4, and 5 of The Wire on ds106radio. This will happen at 9 PM each starting Tuesday (episode 3), Wednesday (episode 4), and Thursday (episode 5). We will be expecting that you listen and live tweet at least one episode, and reflect on the soundscape of that episode. In order to get credit for this assignment, you need to live tweet using the hastag. It’s time to welcome the other half of to Twitter, finally!

There are a number of methods to listen, try one of these:

The best way to engage the broadcast is the #ds106radio hash tag in twitter (in Tweetdeck, if you have a column for , it will also pick up ).

“Brainstorming a Wire-themed Radio show”

In a few weeks from now, you will be forming groups and creating a radio show as pre-recorded audio. In preparation, we want each of you to brainstorm an idea for a 20-30 minute radio show—somehow related to or inspired by The Wire—on your blog. This post can just be some ransom ideas, thoughts, and/or a rough sketch. We want this to be a space where you share your ideas and people start to congeal around a few so we can be prepared to form groups well before week 7. Categorize this under the Thoughts/Ideas category of your blog.

Additional Resources:

Radio may seem like old technology, but there is not much more powerful creativity done in a single media. Audio is effective when sounds generate stories in the minds of listeners– the audio you produce is not the whole story, it is in what the audio can evoke in the listener.

You might be familiar with the panic in the late 1930s caused when Orson Wells produced the radio show of H.G. Wells War of the Worlds– it was so effective, people thought it was real. If you think we are much more savvy in the modern age, read about what happened when producers of an Italian movie tried to play out a promotional video as something like looked like a real news broadcast.

A few other experts on audio storytelling worth listening to are Ira Glass, host of This American Life, a weekly radio storytelling show on National Public Radio.

Below are links to Ira Glass’ Series on storytelling (all together they’re about 20 minutes):

See also Part TwoPart ThreePart Four.

For another point of view, listen to a short interview with Radiolab‘s Jad Abumrad on “How Radio Creates Empathy”:

Introduction to Audio Techniques

Some things to notice when listening to audio are the pacing (think of the equivalent of paragraphs in sound), the use of music, sound effects, ambient/environmental sounds, the introduction of radio “bumpers” to remind us of the show, introduction and exits. Of key importance is trying to hear the layering of sounds, of how audio can create a sense of place by being more than just a recording, but a deliberate stacking of audio.

For a great reference, you might listen to an episode of Howsound, the radio show that takes you behind the scenes to understand how these shows are produced- Dissecting Joanne Rosser, Papermaker.

As another example, we took out elements of an hour long episode of RadioLab, a 2007 show called Detective Stories, and uploaded a shorter version to Soundcloud, where the comments indicate how some of these are used in the show. See if you can pick these out in this example and then in other audio you listen to this unit.

Another technique that is counter-intuitive, is when sound is left out. Listen to this annotated clip, an intro to an episode of the TED Radio Hour, for what happens near the 3 minute mark when the background music suddenly stops

Here are some references for audio techniques:

And, if that is not enough, among the open participants of ds106 is Scottlo, a guru of audio and radio technique. Scott was one of several ds106ers who gathered in the summer of 2013 in Kamloops, British Colombia for SoundCamp, a one day hands on experience in learning audio recording and editing technique– check out the SoundCamp site for audio resources and tutorials.

Also useful from Scottlo are archives from his daily series from the Summer ds106 Zone class of 2013, below are some selected episodes where he reviews audio and shares Audacity tips:

Lo Down Episode 1
Lo Down Episode 8
Lo Down Episode 9
Lo Down Episode 10
Lo Down Episode 11
Lo Down Episode 12
Lo Down Episode 13
Lo Down Episode 14

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9 Responses to Wire 106 Week 4: Listening to Audio

  1. Pingback: Wire 106 Week 4: Listening to Audio http://bavatuesdays.com/week-4-listening-to-audio/ #ds106 #wire106 #ds106radio

  2. Mariana Funes says:

    I just wanted to leave a note for all you #wireds106 folk: Radio shows rock! When I first saw all the ‘audio stuff’ I panicked and nearly walked away….who wants to do radio? The best experiences (Well, aside from now having a giffing dog may be) I have had in DS106 have been through the collaborative work making several radio shows since joining the open community last year. It is amazing what you can create and the amount of support you have out there in the DS106 radio community. Just ask for help if you need specific stuff. BTW Tweetdeck does not seem to pick up both hashtags for me. I use both when I want to reach out to radio folk. I cannot recommend the experience enough – and Ira and Jad are just dreamy 🙂 Jad is my hero though and you must all watch this for inspiration: http://99u.com/videos/7278/jad-abumrad-why-gut-churn-is-an-essential-part-of-the-creative-process Have fun, guys!

  3. Jim- do you think that you could start linking your material to transfer to a different tab? Like when you’re setting a link, could you check at little box that will open the link in a new tab? You have a ton of links that I’d like to explore, but I always get lost in them and then it takes awhile to get back to the spot I was at on your posts! Its not a huge deal by any means, but I just thought I would ask. 🙂 Thanks!

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