Intro from Jay Allison: This is Jules Jenssen's first radio piece ever--a gentle offering to his father. He made it as a way to help his father deal with mourning and loss. Jules said if "I Wish You Could Hear Me" has a moral, it is: "Don’t leave things unsaid with the people you love." Jules addresses this in a way only audio can. He submitted this story to us as a rough draft and polished it with help from Transom’s Viki Merrick. Give a listen and then read Jules' notes on "the making of" below.
Although this is my first time telling a story in this medium, there were many reasons why it came naturally to me and was so rewarding to create. I’ve been listening to NPR my entire life. My parents were always donators and supporters of our local station, and the voices of Garrison Keillor, Ira Glass, and Ray and Tom of Car Talk have been familiar to me for as long as I can remember. Also, in more recent years, between the amount of time I spend driving and the podcast boom, I’ve continued to enjoy the art of the radio story and become familiar with new voices. The mix of skills that I’ve already developed, such as audio editing and studio production — paired with a natural verbosity, and an inspiring idea — made creating this story fun, and rewarding. It also created a hunger to bring more stories to the world.
Developing The Narrative
I don’t want to mislead anybody into thinking that this version is exactly as I first created it. I was lucky enough to work directly with Viki Merrick on things like narrative structure and final voicing. I now realize how lucky I was to get insight and assistance from such accomplished individuals as Viki, Samantha Broun, and Syd Lewis at Transom. With their help, I was able to take my initial idea, hone it and give it a concise, consolidated form. As previously mentioned, I was lucky to have a very inspiring idea to work from. Without giving away the twist of my story, I can say that my father had the original idea to use the source material for the story in a different context. When he first explained his concept and played me the source material, it ignited my creativity. From that moment, I spent 6 to 8 hours a day over four consecutive days and completed the full first draft. Refining the narrative and script took another 20 or so hours over the course of the next six weeks. Through the constructive and considerate input from Transom, I realized that certain elements of my narrative were too much about myself and not enough about the subject of the story. Being the creator, writer, narrator, editor, and composer had made it hard for me to see the narrative clearly. After editing, refining, and re-scripting certain parts, I learned a lot about which details are actually necessary in a story like this. Additionally, it helped me understand what a stranger and first-time listener would need to know to fully appreciate this story. I plan on creating more pieces that come from both the personal and impersonal sides of the aisle.
There are many things that I learned and gained from creating this piece, as well as things that I hope will also mean something to listeners. The main one is: Don’t leave things unsaid with the people you love!!! Another huge part was creating the opportunity for my father that I reveal in the story. It was also a way to create an effigy of someone who was very important to my father. Preserving a piece of someone’s history allows their spirit to live on in the world after their body is gone. Making this piece has been cathartic, and further strengthened my relationship with my father. Had it never seen the light of day, I’d still have had that reward. To then gain the support of people like those at Transom reminds me that I’m on the right track, and that following my creative intuition will continue to be rewarding in numerous ways. I’m excited to tell more stories.
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Gear And More
Other than the final narration, the majority of this piece, including the ambient music, was written, engineered, and recorded at my home studio (Shabby Road) located in the beautiful Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. Here are some of the select pieces of equipment that I used to create this piece:
DAW (digital audio workstation). a.k.a. audio editing software- Ableton Live. I’ve been using the amazing Ableton Live software for all my digital audio needs and creative processes.
Interfaces + AD/DA conversion. For my input interface I use a 32-channel digital board from Berhringer called the X32. The functionality, and quickly changeable configuration of a digital board has proven invaluable for maintaining a fast workflow while juggling the many different projects I’m involved with in my home studio. For my output interface, which I use for creating headphone and main monitor mixes, as well as re-amping, I used a MOTU 896 Mk3.
Mic Preamp. For all of the recordings (including my father and I talking together in the same room, my rough initial narration, and all the synthesized music) I used a Universal Audio LA – 610 preamp/compressor to get a nice warm signal.
Microphones. For the in-room interviews as well as my rough narration, I used an MXL 990 condenser mic. To create the telephone effect, I used a vintage Shure Green Bullet harmonica microphone. The natural characteristics of this microphone were a great fit to help create an easily identifiable phone call style sound. I didn’t use any field recordings for this piece, but I plan on using a Zoom H5 for that application in the future.
Synthesizers. I am a synthesizer fanatic, and a huge part of the fun in creating this piece was writing the original music. I used two main keyboards, a Moog Sub 37 paraphonic synthesizer, and a mid-1980s Roland JX–8P polyphonic synthesizer.
Plug-ins. A variety of plug-ins were used for audio normalization which include the PSP vintage warmer, the PSP mixpressor, A Sonnox reverb plug-in which emulates a classic Lexicon reverb unit, and the Dorrough audio meter from the Waves collection.
Special thanks to The Transom team, Rob Sachs, Rick Tiven, and Good Friend Coyote.
*Note: the photo at the top of the post is of Rick, Pete and little Jules.