Sound As The Protagonist

photo of freediver
Listen to “Sound As The Protagonist”

The first time I listened to Jump Blue, I was slightly thrown off center; it took a couple of minutes to acclimate my ear.

The story starts with a quote from an interview and I thought to myself “Oh, cool. A documentary about free diving.” Quickly after that quote, we’re in a lecture hall listening to Russian free diver Natalia Molchanova, a world record holder. She was speaking about diving to great depths on a single breath. But, something didn’t sound quite right. There was an odd cut in the crowd ambiance. A tinkle of music. A spaciousness to the hall and the crowd that seemed maybe too spacious — or something. I couldn’t tell exactly what.

Then, as the story creatively segued into an actual dive, I realized this was a sound-designed dramatization. And off I went. I was sucked in. So much so that as Natalia dived, I lost my breath. The production was transportive.

That was the first listen. On the second listen, I had a hundred questions. If that wasn’t Natalia, who was it and what words was she speaking? Does a fictionalized approach to Natalia’s story get at the truth better than a standard documentary approach? If you’re working with an actor, how do you know you’ve got it right? Does the actor know what the sound design will be as they read?

Nicolas Jackson answered all these questions and many more on this episode of HowSound (listen below). Nicolas works at Afonica, a radio production company in Spain, and he was one of the producers of Jump Blue. The story aired on Between the Ears, a program from BBC Radio 3. And, I should mention, Jump Blue just received a “Commendation” from the BBC’s 2017 Drama Awards for Best Single Drama.

Listen to “Natalia’s own words, sort of”
Listen to “Fiction vs. Non-fiction”
Listen to “Lots of takes with the actor provides options in production”
Listen to “Sound design and directing an actor”


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  • Chris Hall



    This is an amazing story. This first half, ending with finishing the record dive, kind of got me into that transportive moment you mentioned. Thanks for sharing this in HowSound.

    I remember another episode of HowSound featuring a Danish musician who made a podcast focusing on sound. It certainly seem like the Europeans approach radio really different than in the US.

    If I wanted to listen to more pieces like Jump Blue, do you have any recommendations?

  • Rob Rosenthal



    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for listening.

    For more stories produced in the still of “Jump Blue” I recommend the following podcasts:

    Third Ear
    Short Cuts
    Sound Matters
    Between the Ears

    Happy listening.


  • Sebastian Watzinger



    Thanks Rob for How Sound. I enjoy every episode.

    The concept of Jumb Blue is awesome. And I love it.
    Apart from the voice (which is brilliant) and the Sounddesign (which really sets you right in to the scene) also how they used music to get even more in your head is very inspiring.

    I also remember this episode, Chris. But I cant remember the name of the podcast.

    But I heard a great piece which was introduced in the Third Coast Pocket Conference Podcast, where Love + Radio’s Nick van der Kolk talks about his early podcast experiments (amongst other inspiring ideas).

    You can find an example in the Episode “Embrace the Chaos” (at minute 42, but listen to all of it) from Third Coast Pocket Conference and of course at Love+Radio, the episode is called “Fix”.

    That blew me away. The engineer did an outstanding job there.

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