the Feeling Mode

photo of Rikki the drummer
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Listen to “the Feeling Mode”

Producing the Feeling Mode brought up a lot for me and helped me sift through my own radio priorities. Here are some of my takeaways:

Vision vs. Reality

The phrases “nonlinear” and “non-narrated” became staples in my vocabulary over the course of the workshop. But sometimes experimenting with narrative styles can come at a cost to the story. I wanted my second piece, the Feeling Mode, to be a non-narrated piece because Rikki Bate’s story is so personal. I compiled interview questions that required Rikki to give a lot of background information. During our interview, I even asked her to repeat the question in her responses. (I encourage doing this if you want to produce non-narrated pieces.) Nonetheless, the tape gathered felt unsubstantiated standing alone. I realized that to do a non-narrated piece I would need to gather a lot more tape that I didn’t have enough time to get. I ended up sparsely narrating the piece in order to stay true to Rikki’s story while also keeping the narrative clear.

Takeaway: Honor your story. Find a balance between your own story aesthetic and the reality of your tape.

Ear Smarts

I’m the kind of person who’s happy listening to 15 minutes of drone music. I realize that my sonic interests don’t suit everyone and I take that into account when I am mixing a piece. During the workshop I practiced mixing pieces that are accessible and also hold true to my own sound sensibilities. In radio, sound has an impact on the story. I played a lot with reverb, EQ, panning, and music before landing on a mix that accentuated the story without emotionally manipulating the listener. I initially made a lot of mistakes with music mixing because I wanted to fill up space in my pieces. I learned to appreciate the power of the unadulterated voice.

Takeaway: Practice manipulating sound to enhance the story, not overwhelm it.

Confront Assumptions

Producing radio means confronting your own assumptions. Realizing a piece — even though it may not be connected to you personally — may put you at odds with your own personal beliefs. I noticed this pretty quickly into Transom how my own assumptions played a role in my producing. First off, I initially kept researching “sad” and “heavy” stories to produce. I think I had an assumption that in order to move the listener I needed to find stories that are emotionally tearing. This isn’t true. In fact, this kind of emotionally driven reporting is not really fair to the listener or to the people that you’re featuring in your piece. Once I realized this assumption in myself, I felt more open to researching stories that I would have previously overlooked.

Additionally, I entered my interview with Rikki with assumptions about how I thought she would respond. I thought she would be angry. I thought she would be resentful of her situation. In reality, Rikki is soft spoken and incredibly understanding. In my first cut of this piece, I highlighted Rikki’s turmoil because this aspect of her story felt weighty. But in doing this I undermined her quiet resilience, which is the heart of the narrative. I had to address my own assumptions about Rikki’s reactions in order to produce a piece that prioritized the story.

Takeaway: Having assumptions is a part of producing radio. But it is your job to confront these assumptions and not let them get in the way. Let’s make radical radio!

Rachel’s Sonic ID

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Listen to “Rachel’s Sonic ID”

I met with David Bermudez, a Stonewall Veteran, and his husband Bob Isadore, in their Yarmouth Port home thinking that they would be the focus of my final Transom piece. The story did not pan out, but I did have three hours of radio-worthy tape with the talkative couple. I loved how David’s New York upbringing played into his everyday Cape Cod life. This snippet is emblematic of how the Bronx meets the Bay.

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  • Hubert Leigh Smith

    7.16.18

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    Heard a piece which the XM Radio only offered “The Feeling” as a title. Perhaps that is truncated? Is there a particular reason that public broadcasting devotes inordinate amounts of energy to transgender-ism? Do you feel these folks are somehow incompetent? It is so odd to see them treated as virtual mascots, to be petted and groomed when their actual numbers and needs do not merit such treatment.

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