Podcast Project Module ENGL-420

What is a literary podcast?

Podcasts are usually short 10-30 minute spoken-word voice recordings. Literary podcasts focus on language or story. They are written, performed, recorded, and carefully edited for aesthetic effect. (There are other popular kinds of podcast; the “chat cast” for instance involves a few people talking spontaneously about a topic. )

Reading

Selection from the introduction to Podcasting: The Audio Media Revolution by Martin Spinelli and Lance Dann. https://www.dropbox.com/s/6bw3qs8b0yykixa/podcasting-intro.pdf?dl=0

Listening

Choose two of these to audit.

Reflection

What makes Radiolab or This American Life literary? How do these podcasts use sound and time artistically? Consider how sound is layered; how clips are juxtaposed; how background sound is used.

Project Requirements

  • Create a 5-20 minutes audio file (MP3 format) which can be uploaded and shared. (20 minute maximum. Professional producers may spend up to one hour editing each minute of final product; less is more).
  • Demonstrate thoughtful selection and placing of clips (composing with sound).
  • Fade or cut clips effectively.
  • Demonstrate effective sound balance (everything that should be is “audible”).

5 Steps to Making a Literary Podcast

1. **Generate an idea**

  • Do you want to work with a story or poems you have written? Do you want to produce a remix of a classic literary work? Would you like to feature one or many voices? What’s the title? What’s your genre/goal (humor, horror, etc.)?

2. **Write a Script**

- Compose or edit a text, reworking it to be read aloud. Use Radio Lab and This American Life as models. If you want to include interviews or quotations from other voices, record those first and make notes/transcript of where they will go in your script. A script might include an outline of how you will arrange materials. Sherwood-example-script-and-Outline

3. **Record the script**

- Recording Challenges You can use the microphone on your phone. If you have earbuds, this may produce a higher quality. If you record on a laptop, try to use a plugin mic of some kind (not the built-in mic which will pick up fan noise etc.) Choose a very quiet place to record. Put your equipment on a towel or rug to absorb the echoes. Position yourself very close to the mic. (Ordinarily I would loan you a digital audio recorder; but we can’t manage that from a distance).

4. **Edit the podcast**

- Editing audio requires a tool such as Audacity (https://www.audacityteam.org/) which can be downloaded for free.
- You should have at least two tracks / layers, such as a main voice track and a background music / sound track. You may also want a sound-effects track and an “announcer” track. Highly produced podcasts like Radiolab probably have dozens. - Volumes of different voices should match; background music should not obtrude on language (i.e. it should stay in the background etc.)
- Audibility - If you recorded a voice at a low level or from a distance, you may not be able to increase the volume without adding noise. The solution is to re-record it! - No awkward silences or random noises should be allowed (unless that’s clearly the aesthetic - Use of legal background music or sound effects should be credited at the end of the podcast. I recommend Creative Commons licensed material from here: https://freesound.org/ and https://freemusicarchive.org/static Just read the titles of songs and artists at the end.


5. **Mix down**

Using Audacity, Garage Band or a tool of your choice, mix the podcast down and export to an MP3 format. (There will be an upload area on the class website).

(In another context, we might explore how to develop a series or how to publish it using an RSS Feed, register it on Spotify etc. Your Wordpress blog can be a place for sharing podcasts if you like. There are many plugins too which you can add to your blog. Just Google it)