Other People’s Stories

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.

Listen to “Other People’s Stories”

About “Other People’s Stories”

I found Joe through a Craigslist ad he posted to advertise his ghostwriting business. What immediately struck me was his ambition: Joe didn’t just talk about wanting to be a successful writer; he talked about telling a story that would “change the world.” Until he writes that story, he views himself as a collector — a collector of other people’s stories. I felt Joe’s story was, at the very least, interesting to me.

But it’s one thing to find a person interesting, and another to try and tell a story about them. This piece went through A LOT of different iterations. Many attempts were made to identify a point A and a point B, and to get the listener from one to the other. But it just wasn’t coming together. I thought about scrapping the whole thing and finding a new story.

There’s something Rob said that I wish I’d remembered earlier: “Use whatever it is inside of you that got you here to Transom to tell your story.” I come from a music background, and more recently worked at a contemporary music station. I’m also passionate about radio and working with audio. At some point, in the middle of a sleepless night, something finally clicked, and I thought, “Well, why don’t I use more of my personal experience to tell this story.”

And so I found my way into making this piece. It includes music from one of my favorite performers. Rhythms are created from quotes and ambient noise. It may not have a linear narrative, but my goal is to take the listener somewhere they couldn’t normally go: inside of Joe’s head. Thoughts interrupt each other, haunting ideas repeat again and again, and then the din of Joe’s ambition wipes it all away.

This piece taught me the importance of liking what you’re making. The crucial moment for me was when I recognized what my story wasn’t, and instead started to embrace what it was in my heart of hearts. I hope to keep listening to this instinct in the future.

Tobin’s Sonic ID

Listen to “Tobin’s Sonic ID”

Among the many things I learned at the workshop, I was really fascinated by the idea of “dream casting”: imagining the perfect character for a story before you start seeking out people to interview. When I found out about the Edward Gorey House in Yarmouth, I fantasized that the curator of the museum would have interesting stories about die-hard Edward Gorey fans. Lucky for me, he delivered this sonic.

Listen to More Pieces from this Story Workshop Class

Tobin Low

Tobin Low

Tobin is an independent radio producer and cellist based in New York. After moving to the city to attend The Juilliard School and later the Manhattan School of Music, he fell in love with radio production and found his way to Q2 Music at WQXR. At Q2, he got to nerd-out and write about classical contemporary music, as well as produce everything from concert broadcasts to a mash-up of 46 different recordings of The Rite of Spring. You can find more of Tobin's work at PRX and at his website.

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