For this Transom SHOW, we’re featuring a few short pieces that have come in to us — a dinner made from hors d’oeuvres — all of them filtering experience through the self.
“Short Self Portraits” by Monika Mueller
From Monika Mueller
English is my second language and it took a long time to finally pick it up, even though I had English in school for 7 years to. In fact I had to leave Germany! It’s been a challenge and in the end very rewarding when you can make jokes or a play on words in a second language. For me it opened up a whole new radio horizon. I think it’s like having another character and it makes it easier to be insulting, self obsessed or kind of goofy. I am more shy and self conscious in my native language.
“Short Self Portraits” are 3 short expressions done pretty spontaneously. I think I was very frustrated that day, mainly with my bartending job, and I decided to play around and have fun and create something, something about me with the hopes other people could identify with it too. Other people have mean thoughts, or like to sing in their car. I had already been thinking about making lists of all sorts of things. The contents of my fridge or all my birthday presents.
The idea is repetition, contemplation and a bit of mystery since a tiny puzzle will be resolved in the end.
I produced it on my first imac (it’s been a while) the week I got it. I had no other software than what it came with. I just sat down at my computer desk in Los Angeles, windows wide open (you can hear some birds sing, if you listen closely) and recorded it into imovie. I had an old aiwa microphone I bought 10 years ago and plugged it directly into the computer without an interface, recorded my voice and then arranged the music. There is no complex, editing, imovie doesn’t offer many options for the audio tracks. All I could do was fade the music in and out.
I recorded the narration a couple of times, since the phone would ring, or my cats would meow, while I was speaking.
About Monika Mueller
Nuremberg, London, Berlin, Amsterdam, Los Angeles these are the cities I lived in and where I have been looking for radio stories. For the longest time I produced correspondent style pieces. I did stories on 70 year old Surfers in California, people that overdose on space cakes in Amsterdam, alternative cultural centers in London and African soccer players in Bavaria.
Most of my work has been aired on MDR Sputnik, German public radio in Halle. I have also worked as a waitress, a blacksmith assistant, designed and produced hand made lamps and I like to draw cats. I was part of a group exhibition “The Cat Show” at Acme gallery in Los Angeles last march.
These days my focus is on radio creations. My radio stories became more personal just the last couple of years, that’s when I started to write stuff in English. A few month ago I relocated from Los Angeles to Berlin, where I am working as a freelance radio journalist.
“The Catsitter” by Ochen K.
From Ochen K.
Months ago, while researching some audio equipment, I came across Transom.org for the first time. I had heard the web address on This American Life and All Things Considered, but never remembered it when I was at the computer. I spent the rest of that night listening to as much as I could find on the site. I love finding these little online jewels. It reaffirms my trust and faith in the Internet. I decided that night to create something. I didn’t know what, but I’ve wanted to try for a long time and Transom finally gave me that push.
The next morning, with my resolution still intact, I set to writing. In almost every creative thing I do, I start out by setting rules and boundaries. This helps in narrowing down options and gives me new walls to bounce against. The rules for this piece were (a) it had to be a fairly quick production, (b) it had to be first person narrative since I didn’t have time figure out how to do much else, (c) it had to at least allude to a bigger theme, (d) it had to be, if not funny, at least light, and (e) I had to be willing to submit it to Transom when I was done. The five minutes spent making up these rules immediately helped define and form the piece. I wrote the script in about and hour, recorded it in about an hour, edited it in about an hour, and then sent it of to Transom.
I had no hopes of having my piece selected, but thought that the experience of going through the entire process would be valuable to my education. It was.
Months passed, I started developing a few other radio pieces with actual airplay in mind, I got a job at Minnesota Public Radio, and then I got the email from Transom about presenting Cattsitter. Right away, I went back and listened to the piece. I hadn’t listened to it since I had submitted it. There are many things I’d change and many things I’d like to spend more time on, but the purpose of the piece was to learn how it felt to do it. It felt nice, and although I’m still in a little bit of shock, this part feels nice too.
I have a music recording background, so I had no need or interest to spend much time on the technical side. Since I also knew that this was my very first piece, and therefore would probably never go anywhere, I wasn’t so concerned about the quality.
I did everything on my Vaio laptop. I have a USB powered I/O (Edirol UA-3) that I always carry with me. It’s only two-in-two-out with a not-so-great preamp or driver, but it’s small, lightweight, and most importantly, powered off the laptop, so I can be in the middle of the desert and get decent audio into my computer. I plugged a Shure 57 directly into the UA-3 and recorded, edited, and mixed in Cool Edit Pro. This is my standard ‘down and dirty’ setup when time, location, and dependability are issues.
About Ochen K.
Ochen K. is an artist, composer, and performer living and working in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His musical credits include complete scores for Bondi Dance (Los Angeles, California) and The Gandini Juggling Project (London, England), soundtracks for Peapot Productions (Helsinki, Finland), new musical theater works for Nautilus Music Theater and Steppingstone Theatre (St. Paul, Minnesota), and numerous soundscapes for various theater and dance performances. Ochen has received many awards for his commercial design work and independent artwork, and in 2000, he received an Emerging Artist grant from the Jerome Foundation for a commission by the Walker Art Center. He currently works as the online producer for American RadioWorks, the national documentary unit of Minnesota Public Radio and NPR, and his personal work can be viewed at Ochen K’s Website.
When he’s not taking care of his neighbor’s cat, he takes care of three of his own; Maggie, Buzz and Ethel, with his partner Leslie Ball.
“Dangling Woman” by Susan B. Price
From Susan B. Price
I wanted to write a traveler’s tale — short and well-focused. The story was simple: I was an eco-tourist in Costa Rica. I bought a ticket to slide on a cable between treetops in the rainforest. Everyone else did it fine, but I got stuck in the middle. A one-chuckle anecdote.
But if I was going to write a jungle story, I wanted it to have grand dark meaning. I didn’t want to be a silly middle-aged tourist. I didn’t want to be Erma Bombeck. I wanted to be Joseph Conrad. If I’ve had a single insight in my travels, it is that the places we visit are neutral and largely indifferent to us. The mood and the meaning is inside the visitor.
I was fixated on my little anecdote about getting stuck in the canopy but I needed to find some symbolism, some larger truth, so I pulled out my trip journal and remembered the nightmares.
The result reveals a bit about my psychology. I’m not a very good in-the-moment person. I think too much and the world is really more accommodating to people who just go along. If you think about the mechanics of walking down stairs, you stumble.
Being a lover of complexity, I’ve gone from writing and computer graphics to video production. Along the way, I discovered sound design. For this project I used my new Marantz minidisc recorder with a Sony ECM-MS907 condenser mic — I like the intimate sound it gets for first-person narrations. My bedroom — carpeted, lined with books, and wall hangings — is my sound studio.
I edited the narration with Sonic Foundry’s Sound Forge. I like putting the narration and music bits together in Acid Pro, where I can fool around with loops and pretend I’m a composer.
About Susan B. Price
I have to confess that — like the canopy cable — the jungle of social reform has finally defeated me. In December, after 24 years in youth and family services, I am calling it quits. Maria Cristalli (one of my fellow reformers) and I have started Cosmopolitan Productions, on the belief that good storytelling has a better shot at changing the world. We have begun to produce short videos that express the dilemmas and longings of children and adolescents. “Dangling Woman” is our first production for radio.
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