The Mark Of A Blacksmith

Intro from Jay Allison: For seven weeks, students from all over the US (plus Canada and Australia) came to Woods Hole to immerse themselves in radio in the first ever Transom Story Workshop. They were led by Rob Rosenthal, with help from all of us at Transom, WCAI, and visiting friends—Ira Glass, John Barth, Kelly McEvers, and many others. They were beginners when they arrived, some with no experience at all, but they all left with completed radio pieces good enough for broadcast on our station and nationally. They lived and ate together. They worked on their stories until dawn. They actually looked different when they left, filled with new energy. They were a wonderful, coherent, lively group of people and we loved having them here on Cape Cod. Audiences are already benefitting from the stories they told. Take a look and listen.

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Listen to “The Mark of A Blacksmith”

About “The Mark of A Blacksmith”

I really struggled to find a story for my first piece. Nobody was getting back to me, my ideas seemed dull, and the clock was ticking. I thought I’d already failed at radio before even starting! I panicked a little. Finally, when I’d lost all hope, my classmate Mary Helen took pity on me, and gave me her backup story. A blacksmith named Bob Jordan.

Bob turned out to be a great interview – but recording in his shop was tough. There was a lot of background noise for one thing: the ventilation fan, the buzzing fluorescent tubes, and of course, the forge. When Bob started working, I found myself chasing him around, jumping between miking the forge, his voice, and the hammering – all while trying not to get burned or melt my equipment. A hammer on an anvil is really, really, loud. I tried cranking my levels up and down as I went between the hammer and his mouth. I tried turning the attenuator on and off every few seconds. Neither of these produced good tape. In the end, I realized I had to slow down and record each thing individually, one level at a time.

Toward the end of our time together, after Bob had shut down the forge, I remembered something. I needed to get that sizzling sound that when happens red-hot metal is dunked into water. It seemed essential, and he hadn’t done it while working earlier. So at my behest, Bob fired up the forge, heated an iron rod, and quenched it in water. It didn’t have anything to do with what he’d been working on – but it sounded amazing. I was so pleased with myself. Later of course, I remembered what we’d learned about ethics, and of course I couldn’t use the tape. I’d visited Bob to document reality, not manufacture it.

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