The Sonic Society

Showcasing the very best in new Audio Drama

Podphones

The Pulse considers What We Listen to on Our Phones:

Jenn Webster considers how podcasts have leaped from the fringes to the mainstream in this piece.

Chattanooga’s podcasting—and whether you like noir radio drama, current events or geeky fandom, there’s likely local-focused audio out there for you. If you want to keep up with urban development and education politics, check out The Camp House. 

The church/coffeehouse/meeting place offers a weekly long-form deep dive into community events at thecamphouse.simplecast.fm. Last week, they scored an interview with new Hamilton County Schools superintendent Bryan Johnson, Ed.D.

Like sports? The Chattanooga Football Club podcasts about all things CFC during the season (looks like they’ve been on hiatus a few weeks now). Or if you’re god(s)-fearing, it seems like almost every church in town has a podcast, from professional productions to simple playbacks of services.

A podcast is simply a digital audio program available as a download file; some podcasts are conceived and produced specifically for download, while others have a dual purpose as live audio on radio or another medium. More and more, radio programs are drawing listeners who visit their websites to download and listen to shows on their own schedules. 

This is especially true with long-form audio or shows that air in installments, such as stories with multiple segments.

Tales of the City

One such tale WUTC’s “Operation Song” series, covering the Nashville-based nonprofit of the same name, which is dedicated to supporting veterans through songwriting. Featured on Around and About Chattanooga, the stories were popular radio broadcasts, but, as a series of downloads, spin a larger saga.

Listening to a segment of the Memorial Day special, I hear a choir singing, a woman speaking about the death of her husband in the Chattanooga terrorist attack, and different takes, from rough to finished, of the commemorative song “Chattanooga Rain.” The listener is immersed in the music and raw emotion. Around and About’s news director and executive producer Michael Edward Miller’s voice appears late and infrequently.

“I was there during the [song-writing process], so I have different versions,” Michael says. “Like any writing process, you make a way-too-long first draft, and then you play it for people, get guidance on what to cut out and rearrange, and then get guidance from more people, and just slowly winnow it down into something that makes sense without narration, and that flows logically and can tell the entire story without having to have somebody there to literally tell the story. 

“And that is by far the most difficult kind of audio thing to do. Even with TV or film or documentary, you can do a lot with images…trying to do something like that without any narration…if you didn’t get the right sound bite you just have to figure out what you can do.”

To make that happen—an audio story told largely without a narrator—Michael draws on exhaustive on-the-ground research. Once interviews and sound files are collected, he creates a story just like a writer would.

Michael notes that podcasting is a continuum from amateur to professional. Around and About is designed as a radio program that’s also a podcast, but there are many similarities with home podcasters, such as delivery method. On the other hand, WUTC’s podcasts stay broad in topic rather than appealing a niche market, as would be more common for a hobbyist.

In another difference from live broadcast, a podcast’s biggest audience is at the beginning of a file, Michael says. People leave if they’re bored.

“Radio is much less linear,” he says. “People are tuning in and out all the time. You can never know for sure at what point in a radio story the most people are going to be listening. So, particularly in a long-form interview, you have to be careful to constantly re-introduce the subject and, for a feature piece, to produce it in a way that it still makes sense if somebody only caught the last half of it.”

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About The Author

Born to Teachers and Amateur Audio Enthusiasts in the small rural community of Belwood, Jack's first love was stories- writing, reading, telling, and singing. He developed his acting skills through High School, University, and through film and community theatre. Jack writes the lion's share of Electric Vicuna's Audio Drama scripts and has his own writing site at www.jackjward.com He's thrilled to co-host the Sonic Society with his wonderful, talented, friend David Ault!

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