Sonic IDs


Intro from Jay Allison: Transom is a project of Atlantic Public Media, the non-profit parent of Cape Cod’s public radio station. On WCAI, we air short pieces we call Sonic IDs—little fragments of life as lived by our neighbors. We run them in the interstitial time all day long—30 and 60 second portraits, actualities, and stories. Recently, we assigned Sonic IDs to the participants in a Transom Story Workshop. They aced them. We got a lovely crop of these mini-documentaries. So we decided to feature them on Transom, along with tips from the students about their collection and production process. They’re short, after all—surprisingly thoughtful moments designed for the modern attention span.

Robbie Feinberg

Popcorn Enthusiast

Listen to “Popcorn Enthusiast”

Don’t try to search for sonics, per se – search for people. Read through the classifieds and see if there’s anybody doing something strange. Or just start driving in one direction, and if you see anybody who looks salty or interesting or fun to talk to, stop and start talking to them. The first few times can be a little awkward, but your mic and headphones are the perfect icebreakers to get people to talk. Then, just chat about anything – their job, their childhood, what they’re passionate about. If you’re patient, the sonics should emerge naturally.

Robbie Feinberg is a Washington, DC-based audio producer and a student at the University of Maryland. You can check out his stories at his website.

Mallory Falk

Provincetown Busker

Listen to “Provincetown Busker”

Sometimes you don’t need to hit the street to find good sonics – you can go mining in your old interview tape. Some of the best sonics are those great pieces of tape that didn’t fit in your final story but still ring in your ears: hilarious or heartbreaking stories, deep moments of reflection. By trimming these gems/puppies/gold nuggets down to 30-second or minute-long bites, you can produce great sonics.

Mallory Falk is an independent producer and youth media instructor in New Orleans, LA. Listen to her stories here.

Marnie Crawford-Samuelson

Oyster Eating

Listen to “Oyster Eater”

Metal Picker in Truro

Listen to “Metal Picker in Truro”

Funeral Director from Orleans

Listen to “Funeral Director from Orleans”

Sonics make you chuckle, or occasionally cry. Sonics delight and charm. Sonics surprise. They start with mystery and turn your head. Sonics go somewhere. The beginning matters, but it is the destination that delivers.

Marnie Crawford Samuelson is a radio producer on Cape Cod and in the Boston area. She is also a multi-media photographer and video shooter. She especially likes sonics. You can hear more of her work at her website.

Emily Hsiao

Pigeon Racer from Falmouth

Listen to “Pigeon Racer from Falmouth”

Finding sonics within existing interviews is nice, but I think it’s more fun (and challenging!) when you talk to people specifically to gather sonics. The quality of these sonics doesn’t have to suffer–it’s all about engaging people and asking good questions that guide them to reveal a story or a moment. You can do that in five minutes or 50 minutes.

Emily Hsiao is an independent producer who should really start carrying her gear with her, all the time. Since attending the Transom Story Workshop, she has been able to recognize and appreciate sonic-worthy moments in everyday happenings. Capturing them is a different story.

Emma de Campo

Psychic in Fall River

Listen to “Psychic in Fall River”

Homeless in Fall River

Listen to “Homeless in Fall River”

A warning that sonic collection can become addictive. If you’ve such tendencies, be sure to carry your gear with you at all times, force yourself to go and chat to that curious person (even though you really could just walk away), and for the sake of all womenkind – get that microphone in close!

Emma de Campo is a Radio Producer from Melbourne, Australia. She produces radio documentaries, hosts a news and current affairs program on community radio station 3CR and teaches radio craft to young people. Her website is even more exciting than Ashleigh and Pudsey.

Kristina Loring

Getting Lost on Cape Cod

Listen to “Getting Lost on Cape Cod”

The search for sonics turns your mic into a compass on a local map every time, allowing you to fearlessly uncover human landmarks. Any hesitation I had about approaching straight-up strangers completely faded. A few lessons I learned from sonics are ones that I learn each time I set out to make radio: don’t apologize, let your curiosity lead you, and be open to the potential wonder that a passing stranger is eager to unleash into your recorder.

Kristina Loring is an independent radio producer, writer, and digital content strategist living in San Francisco. By day, she’s the assistant editor of the storytelling site Cowbird and a sound gatherer and story sleuth at KALW public radio.

Ruth Samuelson

Septic Guy in Harwich

Listen to “The Septic Guy in Harwich”

Sonics are pivotal moments: the instance when the dynamic between people is sharply revealed, or when someone lets down their guard and starts sharing about something that inflames, saddens or delights them, nerdy as it may be.

Ruth Samuelson is currently an intern at Studio 360 at WNYC. Last June, she moved back to the US after two years in Mexico City — she misses the chaotic sidewalks the most and the air quality the least.

Veronica Simmonds

Monastery Compline Song in Woods Hole

Listen to “The Monastery Compline Song in Woods Hole”

Bake Sale in Falmouth

Listen to “Bake Sale in Falmouth”

Sonic-hunting changes the way you move in the world. You start to walk with awareness, listen with intention and embrace the serendipitous – with mic in hand.

Veronica Simmonds is a word-working radio/print person. Trained as a linguist, she can be found punning and pontificating in Halifax, Canada. Her work has aired on WAMC, WRST, CKDU, Spacing Radio and Visual Arts News.

Eric Drachman

Taxi Driver in Falmouth

Listen to “Taxi Driver in Falmouth”

I found it both scary and freeing to attempt making Sonic IDs. On the one hand, it means approaching a complete stranger with a microphone but no game plan. On the other hand, it’s just an exploration. You never know what you’ll get and I am continually overwhelmed by the generosity of strangers. Or perhaps they feel that it is I who is giving to them…validating what they are doing by taking interest in their story.

Eric Drachman is an independent radio producer and children’s book author/publisher living in Los Angeles, CA. He founded Kidwick Books where he writes, publishes and produces picture books and audio for the younger set (3-7).


Leave a Comment

  • Doug Foster



    It’s not the size of the gift, it’s the story it tells.

  • L.T. Hanlon



    Wonderful storytelling. What’s not to love?

  • joeturner



    These are great. Interested to know how much original audio was collected to edit into these shorts. Transom is a really great resource, thanks very much.

    • sam



      Hi Joe. Thanks for your kind words. To answer your question about how much original audio was collected, some of these were taken from long interviews that were being done for other purposes and some of these were quick moments captured the producer passed someone on the street they thought looked interesting and stopped to ask them a few questions. So there is no one answer. It depends.

  • kingdomguy1



    Love the idea of these sonic IDs! My big frustration is that they all leave me wanting just a little bit more. I feel like I’m getting robbed. Just as I get hooked, poof, it’s done. Seems like 2-3 minutes could offer much more. I’d love to hear more of the rationale behind the 1-minute restriction.

    • sam



      The sonics are limited to 30 seconds and 60 seconds because they air in the interstitial slots throughout the day. Instead of simply ID’ing the station, we provide a wee portrait from the local listening area.

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