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.
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.
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.
Metal Picker in Truro
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.
These are tasty, no?
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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
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.
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.
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.
Monastery Compline Song in Woods Hole
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.
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).