Intro from Jay Allison: This piece comes from a student in the Transom Story Workshop Fall 2013. For many of the participants, this is the first radio work they’ve ever made, which is not an excuse but a cause for amazement. In their two months in Woods Hole, under the guidance of Rob Rosenthal & Sarah Reynolds and the Transom Team (along with renowned visiting teachers like, this time: Jonathan Harris, Ira Glass, and Andrea Seabrook), they learn the skills of recording, interviewing, structuring, editing, writing, voicing, mixing, etc. etc… while creating work for broadcast. The fun part is not that they just learn the rules, but that they also break them creatively. The harmony in these groups, as they help one another, is inspiring. We asked students to write about their challenges and what they did to surmount or circumvent them. They share their own vulnerability in order to help others, which is part of the wonder of these workshops.
About “Beetbox Revival”
A couple days before this interview, I drove out to the location to do some testing. The space was big and boomy with high, vaulted ceilings, so I got a game plan for how I would set up the space, position the band members, and where I would be and generally how to optimize the acoustics. I imagined a smooth, controlled interview where I gathered all this clean, great tape.
I got great tape, but the way it went down was a whole different animal. My positioning plan went out the window — the place was filled with gear and instruments. My only choice was to gather everyone around an enormous oval table — like the kind you would use for holiday dinners. I sort of half lay on the table, half knelt in a chair, manically swinging the mic around as people spoke. Band members came in and out of the room, cellphones rang and people took calls during the interview. Dan, just off a long day with no time for dinner, was eating a big, meaty sandwich. At one point, the #1 Beetbox fan (Hi Duff!) came in the room bearing a six-pack. This was a big night for these folks — a CD release party — and they had work to do. It was a little chaotic for me. I remember that initial deer-in-the-headlights feeling: in a world totally out of control with no idea what to do. And that’s when I thought about the HowSound episode with Nick van der Kolk – about embracing the humanity of it all and letting a little dirt show — and also this thing Walter Murch once said about liking sound that really gives you a sense of the space that you’re in. So I made a conscious choice, right then and there, not to ask anyone to change anything. I just rolled with whatever came up. It may not be the most appropriate tactic in every situation, but in this case, I think it worked. The interview was warm, open and chock full of the band’s vibrant personalities. It set a tone for the piece in a larger framework and this ended up being very instructive for me. I understood that one facet of getting great tape is allowing for the moment to document itself.
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Jennifer’s Sonic ID
There were actually three guys in the initial version of this Sonic and these guys were just amazing. There was a wonderful juxtaposition of thoughtful tape about the nuances of golf technique with the witty one-liners of three friends talking smack out on the fairway. It was really problematic to introduce all three, though. It just seemed confusing. The takeaway? Also think about a logical cast of characters in Sonics production.