Wednesday, February 8, 2017

THE STORY SO FAR (due Mon. Feb 13)

Students MUST post reactions ( minimum 250 words) to the reading/listening linked below. Students are encouraged (but not required) to additionally respond to other student reactions.

The Story So Far: Fiction Podcasts take their next step by Amanda Hess: "On one long August day, Eli Horowitz camped out in a cramped studio in Gowanus, Brooklyn, with Oscar Isaac, Catherine Keener, a microphone and a solitary Betta fish named Young Hollywood swimming laps around its little bowl.

Mr. Horowitz was there to direct Ms. Keener and Mr. Isaac as they acted out the story of a strange and intimate relationship between a therapist and an army veteran who come together as part of a secretive — maybe even sinister — government program. Mr. Isaac played the vet, Ms. Keener the therapist.

Young Hollywood served as scenery. The catch: They had to convey all of this exclusively through sound — including the fish. Also, Mr. Horowitz had never directed an actor in his life." Click heading to read the rest of the article. 

11 Fiction Podcasts Worth a Listen by Amanda Hess: "The fiction podcast is having a moment. But modern audio dramatists have been turning out intriguing scripted podcasts for several years, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down. Take a guided tour through the past, present and future of audio drama with these fictional standouts." Click heading to review recommended list, then pick one and listen to an episode. Don't pick one you have to subscribe to (the majority are free).


  1. Right from when everybody was a little kid, we all fall in love with the act of storytelling. As kids, we would beg our parents to tell us stories whether at bedtime or at camp fires. Knowing this, the fact that people actually have the opportunity to have a career as a storyteller is truly amazing and like a dream come true. However, there is bigger picture. They are trying to reform what radio drama should be or change it from what people think it’s supposed to be. They want to take radio drama to the next level and develop a more contemporary sense of audio fiction. This article is showing that audio or radio storytelling is not just a hobby or career; it a more like a movement or renaissance. It is a platform that people can bring life changing ideas that will speak to people. Through audio storytelling, they want to be able to evoke emotion in people and draw them in more and more with the images they are able to draw through sound. Back in the days in the 1920’s and 1940’s , people appreciated radio more but when TV came along, people focus got taken away quickly because they don’t have to use their minds anymore. They can just watch it. However, as the world continues to advance, there are other things that is making radio story telling more accessible now like podcasts instead of having to carry a radio around, people can just go on their phones or laptops and access different audio work that speaks to them.

  2. I chose to listen to Limetown because it was described to be similar to Serial — the one and only podcast that I have listened to in its entirety. There are definitely parallels between the two series especially the format of having a narrator lead the store with an interspersing of “evidence” and testimonials.

    It was an interesting experience listening to Limetown because of its similarities to Serial. At times, I forgot Limetown was completely fictional. The sounds were effective and extremely realistic — the phone calls sounded like phone calls, the iPhone ring was the default tone, the music was used to advance and segment different parts of the story, etc. Although this seeming realism was also at times unsettling to me. First, because I felt this whole situation had happened yet I had somehow overlooked or completely missed the mysterious disappearance of 200 people, and second because it didn’t exist but conceivably could. I think ultimately, this speaks to the power of the podcast format — Limetown doesn’t need to exist in any physical form, just in the minds of listeners, which is arguably much more powerful.

    Something else that struck me when it came to the difference between Limetown and Serial is the fact that the former was nonfiction while the latter was fictional. With Serial, Koening didn’t know what material she’d have until she had it and that was what she'd have to work with while Limetown had the liberty of creating suspense and crafting the story. This ensured that Limetown would be impactful and engaging.

    I assume that because this series is also described to be like X-Files, there is plenty of room for things to get freaky and weird, but so far, episode one seemed pretty realistic. And so I had to constantly remind myself, this wasn’t Serial and the events weren’t real. I mean just the fact that one of the first search queries when typing “Limetown” into google is “Is Limetown real?” just makes me laugh. It’s good to know I’m not alone.

  3. Reading about the art of the fictional podcast is extremely interesting to me. One aspect that intrigues me is the tradition of storytelling and how it is constantly changing. In a way, the rise of podcasts have created a means of conveying a plot in a challenging way, compared to that of movies which present visuals for what they are typically not open for interpretation. In audio podcasts, the story comes to life through dialogue and audio elements. For example, in Eli Horowitz’ “Homecoming”, the plot of the story unravels through audio clips such as phone calls and interview tapes. With this medium, there is often no explanation necessary. The audio-only form of storytelling also frees the writer to experiment with including places and identities that may be difficult or impossible to portray in film. The problem with creating fictitious podcasts however (which heavily rely on dialogue and soundscapes) is that the listeners must be fully committed and engaged, for tuning out for 15 seconds may mean missing a critical plot point. To combat this dilemma, writers must make sure their scripts are not too long. After reading the article by Amanda Hess, “The Story So Far: Fiction Podcasts Take Their Next Steps”, I chose to listen to “Homecoming” in which two of my favorite artists, Oscar Isaac and Catherine Keener, act as a therapist and soldier, who is being integrated back into society after going to war. The entirety of the podcast is made up of phone calls and therapy sessions. Although there is no narration, the listener can tell where the scene takes place (inside or outside) or whether or not a conversation is happening over the phone (indicated by a muffled tone). This really makes the podcast enjoyable to listen to.

  4. I chose to listen to “The Message.” I enjoyed listening to this podcast and I liked how the story and information was told. The beginning started with a woman named Nikki giving an opening narration about how they had received a message from aliens. She then proceeds to tell the story of how the message was deciphered. Within her storytelling, there are several cuts of dialogue from actual events in her story. By including dialogue, we get to hear different voices and sound effects in relation to where these events took place. Nikki’s narrations, along with dialogue also make the story more interesting. If someone were to tell me a story about how they deciphered a message from aliens, I would already be extremely intrigued. But this podcast does more than just tell the story; it makes listeners feel like they are actually in the story.
    I enjoyed the dialogue between different characters that are in the podcast. Based on Nikki’s interactions with her colleagues, listeners could get an understanding of each ones’ personality. It was sometimes funny hearing Nikki’s thoughts on her interactions with her coworkers because it was somewhat relatable in the sense that we all deal with many different characters in our workplace – some pleasant and some not so pleasant.
    At the end of the episode the message from the aliens if fully deciphered. Nikki explains that uncovering the message wasn’t easy and many people died doing it, which was very strange and it added suspense. Finally, we get to here the message and it sounds like a bunch of random electronic screeching noises, which sound like it has no meaning. Nikki then explains that we will find out what it means in the next episode. A lot of suspense builds up throughout the episode, and when the message is finally revealed, we are still left with a cliffhanger.

  5. The reading that was required for this assignment through me off. I guess I have just been oblivious to how extensive the range of podcasts is. Even the past few class periods I was mostly under the impression that current and even up and coming audio recordings were somewhat of a rarity, although now I see how untrue that is.

    For my reading I chose to listen to "The Message" (episode 1). I chose this one specifically upon reading the excerpt on the website. In the excerpt it mentions the story was created by General Electric- something I had just learned the history of in one of my other classes.

    I was not as impressed with this podcast as I was with others I had listened to. To start, there was a lot more narration and less sound effects than all the last audios I had listened to. It made sense with the story, as the main character was a reporter of sorts, but just did not catch my attention the same way. I would have liked to be shown more rather than told. The narration got under my skin even, and made it hard for me to keep my focus even though the episode I picked was a shorter one. Overall, I was a bit disappointed in the end.

  6. I chose to listen to Limetown because of its similarities with Serial. Limetown was described as “borrowing the aesthetics of the true-crime podcast” which is what intrigued me. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I always love watching to true-crime TV shows and Serial is the only podcast that has been able to catch my attention and keep it for 2 seasons. Although Limetown is fictional, I wanted to see if it was convincing (like a real true-crime podcast) and attention-grabbing (like Serial was to me).

    While listening to the podcast I was amazed at the similarities between the 2 podcasts. It almost felt as if I were listening to season 3 of Serial. Many of the similarities came from the way the episode was edited – the way the music was used to advance through each scene, the narration being segmented with testimonials and interviews, the phone calls sounding like they were actually recorded on a phone, the sounds of leaves crunching and people walking during the town visit, etc. The narrator for Limetown would even begin the phone recording, cut off the recording to introduce the person, and then continue the recording like Sara Koening would in Serial. The sound effects made the podcast flow more like a story unfolding with more and more information each time.

    I found myself forgetting that Limetown didn’t actually happen and this its actually a fictional podcast. I think it was very well made and convincing. I’m definitely looking forward to hearing what happens next.

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  8. (Amy Schwartz)

  9. Having listened to Welcome to Night Vale in the past, I was excited to see something else from the creators of this podcast. I enjoyed the surreal and fantastical elements of Welcome to Night Vale, so I hoped to hear audio with similar content in the fictional podcasts provided within Amanda Hess’s article. This led to my decision of choosing the first episode of “The Orbiting Human Circus” to listen to this week. “The Orbiting Human Circus” not only had an interesting premise, but was very clever in portraying space while only using sound. The podcast starts out with the narrator saying “We zoom in on a small, enclosed space”, which introduces the setting, but doesn’t really reinforce it. However, as the main character, Julian, speaks and pretends to be on the radio show, hearing the sound effects themselves really allowed me to feel as if I were in the setting of the story as well. Julian’s words sound as if his voice is projected with the microphone and echoing against the walls of the room. The same applies to his footsteps and other sounds made, setting the mood of the story well. I enjoyed how this podcast often broke the fourth wall, and was satirical at points (especially during fake commercial breaks). It was interesting having a radio show within a podcast, as it made me think about the impact of radio, in both the real world and fictional ones. The added sound of radio tuning was an effective method of transitioning between stories, and piqued my curiousity of untied ends and interrupted material.

  10. I enjoyed reading the “The Story So Far” article. The bit where they said that they had to read a Wikihow article in order to learn how to direct made me laugh because I’m sure I’m gonna have to do that when both the ear movie and sound story projects come around. Instantly, my eyes were drawn to the fact that they kept referencing Welcome to Night Vale as an example of how audio storytelling works, mainly talking about they have a narrator narrating weekly events and news with musical interludes while also working in a supernatural theme. It also made me realize that I seriously need to catch up on the podcast because I think I left off on Episode 40 and I lost track of how many episodes there are now. I wanna listen to that podcast, Homecoming, that they also discussed throughout the article mainly because the plot sounds interesting and because Oscar Isaac was one of the leads.

    I was seriously tempted to go and listen to the next episode of Night Vale but I decided to take a chance on a new podcast and see if I could find the next show that’s probably gonna take over my life like Night Vale did when I first started listening to it. So, I scrolled through the article and read some of the synopses on the podcasts listed on the accompanying article. And that’s when I found out about “Alice Isn’t Dead” and read how it was created by the same team behind Night Vale. The plot was interesting and as I was listening to the first episode, I found myself getting slowly drawn into the narration. It wasn’t until I heard sound effects that I realized the narrator wasn’t narrating in a studio like Cecil but rather the audio was modified so that it sounded like the narrator was speaking to a truck driver through cb radio. The first episode surrounds the fact that the narrator describes going to different diners, rest stops, and gas stations only to come across a weird figure known as the Thistle Man while trying to contact someone named Alice, whom the article says is the narrator’s wife. I was immediately hooked at the idea of supernatural road trips being described through cb radio and the atmosphere while listening to the show definitely gave off that Night Vale feeling. I’m hoping that one day this show becomes just as popular as Night Vale and that Joseph Fink decides to do a crossover episode. I can imagine Cecil doing a segment where listeners call in and talk to him, only one of the listeners turns out to be the narrator from Alice Isn’t Dead who asks if Cecil knows where Alice is and he just says, “Sorry, wrong number” and remarks that he thought Carlos was gonna be the first caller……. I should email Joseph Fink that idea, it’s too good for him to not make into an actual episode.

  11. I have never really listened to podcasts and any that my friends would talk about around me would be the same one or two, over and over again. Because of this, I wasn’t aware of the number and variety of them out there, but thanks to the article, and the class, I have become more woke.

    I decided to plunge into Welcome To Night Vale, listening to The Woman From Italy. Now, I honestly had no idea what to expect when I started listening and was extremely confused because I had not read the descriptions at all beforehand. I just clicked a link and went straight to the listening to do the assignment, then went back to read the article.

    Listening to the podcast, I started to piece together what was going on on my own. I realized it was some type of newscast or broadcast because of the different audio techniques used. The way the main voice spoke sounded like a spokesperson or announcer of sorts and whenever the voices changed, music sometimes accompanied. The music was a nice signifier of a different person speaking and also added to the overall atmosphere and personality of the people. It was like the music told a deeper story while the actual dialogue added to the setting and plot. The biggest give away though was probably “and now a word from our sponsors”. But when I went back to read the article, it was nice to see that I was right for the most part, but it was also great to get clarity. After reading the description I was actually even more intrigued now and I think I’m going to start listening or at least possibly check out the book that Night Vale has out. It also kind of reminded me of the movie/book Pontypool where a radio show host hosts his show while a zombie outbreak takes place.

  12. I listened to an episode of Limetown, and noticed the structure of the first episode was mostly narration. It felt like a journal entry that was peppered with memories and flashbacks. This is something I struggle with in my own writing because I often write about the space and characters conversing, but a two person conversation is not interesting to listen to if you can't see where they are. In Limetown, perhaps because it was mostly story background, the memories seemed seamless in the narration. The use of sound in a flashback is a striking way to remember, because you are forced to submerge yourself rather than just imagine the place. You hear it and react accordingly. I wonder how long this diary entry model could be useful, because I imagine after an episode it would get boring. But I supposed within each of the memories, the encounters between characters would become more vivid and immediate. The diary entry model would just serve as a frame work.
    I really appreciated the voice actor who played Lia Haddock. There are voices that are so soothing and calm that you are lulled to sleep, like Cecil in Welcome to Nightvale. Then there are voices that are abrasive and cartoonish, that distract from the actual narrative. Annie Sage-Whitehurst was able to be calm and informative without being too soothing or distracting. She is inquisitive and informed and just obsessed enough to believe. Another interesting form the podcast took was the montage of voices of the family members of the victims. They create this human element and connection to the victims. Their hope that the victims are alive pulls you in, and in my case, made me want to keep listening.

  13. After reading The Story so Far, it is good to know that podcasts and radio shows are still making an impact and trying to improve and progress. The more technology that can be implemented in radio shows, the more people will listen. This is because they will be able to add more detail to the plotline and make it seem like the person is actually there, just without seeing anything. Also, as time goes on people will understand new techniques and tricks to make radio podcasts more interesting and listenable.

    I listened to Alice Isn't Dead, and one thing I noticed about the podcast was that it was very authentic. It was easy to believe the main character was a truckdriver because there are so many little details that were implemented to make the story more realistic. Those certain small and seemingly unnoticeable details add a lot to the show and make it much more credible. The show was sufficiently creepy and had me interested throughout its duration, but I am still getting used to listening to stories rather than watching or reading them. You have a lot more freedom in terms of imagination when it comes to listening because there is a lack of a description, so I was able to imagine the characters and creatures in my own way.

  14. Dad :

  15. In reading this article, I was made aware of much information dealing with newer forms of radio shows that I was not exposed to prior. I have always thought that radio shows, even newly made podcasts were recorded in some sort of studio, with actors sitting around a table speaking into a microphone. In learning of the ideology of Horowitz and Blumberg, I realized that this is not always the case. Audio can be recorded from live settings, some conversations may be recorded outside to achieve some desired effect, etc. There is something to be noted of this art form, in that it is much more imaginative then say, film for example. Strong messages and emotions must be conveyed purely through conversation and sound, rather than cheap tricks or visual trickery.

    I listened to an episode of Welcome to Nightvale called Cookies. This being my first time listening to the series, I was very impressed and pleased with the way the show was formatted. The host/narrator is very conversational with listeners, and it creates an atmosphere similar to that of a real local radio broadcast. This very creatively makes the tales seem more real! The specific episode I listened to dealt with a girl trapped in some sort of alternate dimension. She can explore different times and areas, but it seems she refuses to step back into reality. What an interesting premise! The episode left me wanting to listen to more of the series.

  16. I think fictional podcasts are really interesting, and I'm glad that they're making a comeback. I happen to love podcasts, but I actually never really listen to fictional ones (one of my favorites is Serial). I think the podcast is a great medium for storytelling, because it calls for the use of one's imagination to fill in missing details (what does this character look like? what does this setting look like? what are their movements?) I think there's something really cool about this sort of implication that the audience has to create some of the details in their mind. It's like the audience has an active participation in the story itself.
    I listened to an episode of Welcome to Nightvale. I love how its formatted as if it were an actual radio broadcast. I found the episode really dark and funny and sort of spooky. It reminded me a bit of Twilight Zone.

  17. I listened to Welcome to Night Vale: If He Had Lived. Ever since these assignments have been more prevalent in my daily life, I find myself more and more attracted to the concept behind podcasts. Especially this episode, it discusses the Kennedy’s and how Jackie would repel human beings by creating a misty barrier between her and the people who tried to approach her. I noticed that it uses the same sound track throughout the track, and even though it’s a bit repetitive, I can’t help it but be more absorbed into the story. What I enjoyed most about these audiobooks is that it’s very introspective; discussing what is real and what isn’t. I also enjoyed that they changed the mood of the podcasts often, it wasn’t continuously ominous and mysterious. Some parts of it were interrupted by having musical breaks. However, one downfall of this podcast is that the subject material isn’t necessarily black and white. Listening to a few of these podcasts, i’m not sure if they have a certain theme they are trying to fill or if my right brain isn’t functioning properly. The podcasts aren’t bad because I still feel like i’m being told a story, but I just don’t understand what kind of story they are trying to evoke. I get hints of mystery, crime, and also comedic satire. However, I really enjoyed that it’s a bit nostalgic of elementary school, and how the tone of the teacher’s voice fluctuates, depending on the scene.

  18. After reading “The Story So Far” I gained a positive insight behind the workings and seriousness that podcasts became and are becoming once again. Podcasts to me were always thought to be one guy sitting in a room reading into a microphone with sounds playing alongside his words. I didn’t understand that there was a whole production and casting effort that goes on with these narrations. It also makes one realize that there is an enormous amount of effort in getting the audience to feel the emotion of the podcast without visual cues to aid them. That in it of itself takes a tremendous amount of vocal power. After all this effort I’m glad podcasts are making a comeback. It is a shame they lost their popularity when the rise of television grasped the public’s psyche. I understand the reasoning behind it, as picture and videos do all the guesswork of imagery for you but podcasts are still very interesting. There is also too much work involved to not get recognition. I tried getting into podcasts before but that was a failure for me, as I had no idea where to find podcasts that were not just simple commentary. With the given resources I may just reignite the drive to pick up podcasts again, as I am picking up more and more on their value. They would be especially handy as I do commute and spend a lot of time on NJ’s “finest” interstates. So it would be good to have something interesting to listen to while traveling around. It would make driving immensely more fun and hopefully would allow it to just fly by. I know it was mentioned in the article that this is not how podcasts were meant to be listened to but these would be the most convenient times for me to pull one out.