The Loneliest Creature On Earth

Intro from Jay Allison: Nine students recently completed the Spring 2013 Transom Story Workshop and they uncovered wonderful local stories. Their work is a real lesson not only in storytelling, but also in story finding. We asked each student to pick one of the pieces they produced during their time here, tell you about how they discovered it, and chronicle their challenges in producing it. They also picked one of the “Sonic IDs” they made, which are good ones. Most of this group had never produced before, so prepare to be inspired by what they accomplished.

Listen to “The Loneliest Creature On Earth”

About “The Loneliest Creature On Earth”

I’ve been thinking about this whale for six years. He is called 52 Hertz because he calls at a unique frequency, unheard and unanswered by other whales. A friend who was wrestling with depression told me about 52 Hertz. He said that the story of the whale described precisely how he felt. It was one of the saddest things I’d ever heard. But I didn’t think to make a radio piece about it until coming to Transom. When I discovered that the research took place largely in Woods Hole, I jumped into learning about 52 Hertz.

I came across a few challenges producing this story. Challenge number one: this story had neither character nor plot. It’s a story about an animal that no one has ever seen, who sings at a frequency that no one can hear. In sum, no characters, no interviews, no photos, and no tape. My main incentive: I thought it was beautiful and heartbreaking. The more I learned, the more I wanted to get to the bottom of what it all meant.

So I stuck with the story. And I’m glad I did. I learned about bioacoustics, marine mammal communication, and how the Navy collaborated with scientists after the Cold War. I did so much research that I had trouble deciding what to cut: how to distill the science into something succinct, and how to decide which characters to leave out. Rob, Sarah, and the wonderful Transom crew really helped me focus the narrative.

I never got tired of working on this story. I was drawn to the 52 Hertz story the first time I heard it, and even after producing this piece, I’m still fascinated by what drew me in the first place: the emotional truth about a whale that somehow reaches humans at a deep level. It was a good experience to have—to trust what feels important and true, and to follow that curiosity.

Lilly’s Sonic ID

Listen to “Lilly’s Sonic ID”

I met Andy Anello while researching artists in New Bedford. I found his series “90 Worms from My Father’s Garden” online and immediately wanted to talk to him. Andy’s work has such an interesting combination of the beautiful and the bizarre. And I loved the way Andy told this story. I wanted to make a sonic ID that could capture at least a snapshot of Andy’s humility, humor, and unique way of seeing the world.

Listen to More Pieces from this Story Workshop Class

Lilly Sullivan

Lilly Sullivan

Lilly Sullivan is an independent radio producer based in New York. She specializes in audio storytelling, oral history, and web production. She especially likes nonprofits, and has worked with organizations like StoryCorps, TED, and PEN American Center. She likes rowdy conversation and pathetic fallacy, and dislikes the word “brekkie.” You can listen to more of Lilly's work on PRX.

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