John Cage’s 4’33”

4’33” is a music piece “written” by composer John Cage. The piece, which is more of a performance art consisted of a pianist walking up to a piano, sitting down in silence, not playing a single key, for four and a half minutes, getting up and leaving the stage. This article explains the artist’s take on the piece and offers various different critiques the piece received. Cage’s perception of the piece was to make the audience more aware of natural sound around them. He believes that there is music in all noise and used the pianist to heighten the audiences sense of sound.

While I wouldn’t pay to see 4’33” personally, I do appreciate the creative approach to engaging the audience to consciously be in tune with the natural sound around them. Without using any words Cage was able to force the audience to listen with him and hear what he wanted them to hear; silence.

Imani’s Boyfriend

For this in class project we had to interview a classmate and get enough audio to put together a good story. My partner and I got so engaged in her story we ended up speaking for about a half hour. With so much to her story it took a lot of cutting down to get this roughly 2 minute clip. The parts I chose, I think, gave the essence of her journey as a young girl trying to stand by her boyfriend, in her longest, most tumultuous relationship.


Public Radio & Lost Voices

In this article Chenjerai Kumanyika speaks on the current voice of public radio, the white “warm coffee voice”, as he calls it, and his issues with it. As a black man with a “non-traditional” public radio vernacular he discusses his tendency to feel the need to switch his natural voice to suit the voice of public radio. This need to conform, he says, takes away from the stories of a large number of minority groups by having it narrated by the current public radio voice. While minority interviewees are included in the radio pieces the story is distorted in a way it wouldn’t be if it was a conversation by two people of the same culture.

As he focused mainly on race because of his personal experiences, I’ve spoken with friends time and time again on the idea that if we, as black Americans, speak the way we speak with our friends or family we are viewed in a dimmer light than if we are speaking in standard American English. The non-acceptance of different voices as on-air personalities is harmful to public radio since many people feel left out of the conversation. Still, I think it goes further than just the sound of the voice. It also affects the empathy and understanding of each culture. As you cross into different minority groups the voices become fewer and far in between (i.e. hispanic woman, asian gay, black trans). As Kumanyika said, there is no one voice in each culture but a person shouldn’t feel uncomfortable speaking in their own voice on air.

I enjoy some public radio, mainly NPR shows (specifically: Code Switch, New Tech City, This American Life, & Serial), each for their own reason. Code Switch and New Tech City speak to my interests in race & culture, and technology. I love the idea of This American Life, finding a common human thread that practically all Americans can relate to and sharing 3 short stories of peoples experiences regarding that topic. I also respect the brilliance of choosing to do a podcast on something so general, yet so relatable. It seems hard to run out of content!

Serial is just an absolutely brilliant piece of investigative journalism turned into an engaging online experience. Each episode is coupled with some text and related documents and photos allowing the audience to follow along with the crime investigation covered and draw their own conclusions on what’s going to happen next.
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Radiolab: Rocked By Doubt

As an avid listener of This American Life, I love the idea of choosing a topic and sharing a story to depict it. This story took on the topic of doubt by following a man with shaken religious faith and his engagement that was shaken due to different fundamental beliefs.

While I feel the story did take a while to get into, the first half was filled with great imagery. The combination of natural sounds and the voices of the subjects made it easy to imagine the journey of the interviewer and the subject. For instance, hearing the subject panting and talking gave the image of him biking. It was easy to vision the subject washing off rocks  with the sound of water running in the background. Getting good natural sound during the trip seems as though it would be difficult, as well as getting good sound bites of them biking.

It was also easy to imagine when the interviewer described the subject slamming his cup on the table and saying he was supposed to get married. This was the turning point of the story that pulled my attention back in.

The sounds used from here on were different. Slow music played in the back to express the subject and his fiancee’s sadness when they realized they could not get married. While talking about Megan, his now ex-fiancee, the subject got emotional and the interviewer offered to turn off the recording. I like the idea of leaving this in because it  was a  nice expression of the subject’s emotion.

Another turning point, noted by an upscale happier beat, came when Jeff and Megan changed their mind. Followed by soundbites from the both of them and audio from their actual wedding.

This piece was not my favorite but it did give pretty good examples of various different types of audio that can be used to enhance your story.

Vox Pop Mic Experiment

For this project we experimented with a dynamic mic creating a quick vox pop with a question of our choosing. We decided to ask people how they felt about Kanye West’s latest rant at the Grammys knowing we’d get a lot of audio to work with. We got a little more than we bargained for. Our second interviewee gave us about a minute and a half of content to work with. I clipped her main points to flow quickly and smoothly. Getting ready to edit our recording we had to re-record my question because we only caught the second half of it on the original.

We used the tascam’s mic for this. Since our new recording of my question was a bit quieter than our original recording I had to adjust the mic gain in Pro Tools.

Tada! Here’s the final project.