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Audio Project Assignment

This is your major assignment for the Audio section of this course. It will count for 10% of your final grade. You will produce a 5-8min audio piece that features at least two voices and two additional sounds. You'll upload the audio piece to your Pitt Box folder along with a Designer's Statement; you will also upload a version of your piece to SoundCloud.

Assignment details

  • One audio project folder that includes all associated files for your 5-8min project.
  • The audio file features at least two voices and two additional sounds of your choice that you layer in.
  • The audio is based on an unscripted conversation or interview and tells some kind of story.
  • Designer's Statement of 500-750 words that describes your composing process, triumphs, frustrations, things you learned, what you meant to get across in your audio piece. Included in this Statement should be the link to your SoundCloud upload, as well as your List of Sources (which doesn't count toward your word count total). You will turn this in to Pitt Box as well, in doc/x, md or pdf format.
  • You must make sure that you have permission to use and modify all source materials you use, and provide proper credit in your associated Designer's Statement List of Sources. See the Audio Resource Packet for places to search for sounds, and you can use your own recorded sounds or music as well. Keep in mind possible fair use defenses for the sounds you use. You must credit every source image you use.
  • Rough draft of audio due for workshopping in class 11/8. (I don't have a deadline for an optional draft due to me for feedback this time, but feel free to ask me for feedback in class workshop time and in office hours.)
  • Final versions of audio and Designer's Statement to be graded due 11/15 11/17 (11:59pm), uploaded to Pitt Box.
  • You will upload your file to SoundCloud publicly or privately. If you upload it publicly, be sure that you have permission from your interviewee(s) to do so. The link to your SoundCloud upload should be provided in your Designer's Statement. Optionally, you can share the link on our blog.
  • Consider using a consent form to interview your subject, especially if you would like to share your interview publicly. Here is a consent form you can use in docx and pdf format. Edit it to fit your situation if you'd like.

Content

For this assignment, I'm asking you to produce an audio segment similar to what you listened to on Radio Diaries or StoryCorps. It should tell a kind of story. Since your audio will need to include two voices and tell some kind of story, you'll want to first think about who you want to talk to, and about what. The best places to start are with people close to you: your siblings, parents, grandparents, roommates, boyfriend/girlfriend, coworker, best friend from high school. The story could be a life story, say, just some highlights from your grandfather's life that you select from a much longer conversation. Perhaps you want to feature a story you already know--something you experienced together like a trip or an ilicit adventure in high school, for instance, or a triumph or hardship that you know the person has been through. Or maybe you want to learn something about this person: how they grew up, their relationship with their parents, something they never told you, what it was like when their first child was born, or when they moved to a new city, or got married. Use this assignment as a reason to start a conversation you would like to have but have maybe never had the time or reason to.

This assignment also includes a 500-750 word Designer's Statement, in which you will describe your composing process, triumphs, frustrations, things you learned, what you meant to get across in your audio project. Please note who you interviewed, where you interviewed them, and their relationship to you. Include a List of Sources for the extra sounds or music that you include with your audio project. Be sure to credit the creators of the work(s) and, if you found the sources online, give me a link and note about the permission you have to use the sound. Exercise your fair use rights if relevant, and note briefly why you think it's fair use.

Assessment

I will assess your audio project based on these criteria:

  • Do you follow the terms of the assignment, including turning in your files in the correct format?
  • Have you included your Designer's Statement and explained your choices well?
  • Does your audio tell a compelling or interesting story?
  • Have you edited the audio so that the voices can be heard and understood?
  • Have you edited the audio so that it highlights the story well?
  • Is your audio long enough to tell the story, but not longer than it needs to be to tell the story?
  • Do your addition sounds/music enhance the story?
  • Have you properly cited all of your sources and are you using sources you have permission to use?

Where and how to turn in your work

You should compose your audio in Audacity or another sound-editing program. If you use a program other than Audacity, note that I still need a raw project folder, where I can see your edited tracks. Please see me if you plan to use a program other than Audacity to complete your project so that we can ensure I can read your files.

You will turn in your audio project as a folder, including a .aud file and associated clips, on Pitt Box. I recommend that you test this file on a different computer so that you can be sure I can listen to the whole thing, without missing clips (this is a common problem).

You will also turn in a Designer's Statement in your Pitt box folder, in doc/x, pdf, or md format.

You will also upload a final version of your audio project to SoundCloud, posted publicly or privately. This is the version I will listen to. Alongside this, I will read your Audacity project.

A few tips on writing this assignment

Check out this list of good interview questions from StoryCorps. Listen to stories at StoryCorps to get some ideas about who you want to talk to and what you want to talk about.

Think about overlaying your narration on the interview to explain your reactions or to provide additional details, as in this example of a 21yo woman interviewing her grandfather. Or if your interviewee is reticent to answer questions, you can add another conversation at the end, as in this interview where a son and granddaughter interview a grandmother.

Aim for 5-6min. The upper time limit of 8min on this assignment is to accommodate longer stories that just can't be edited down. Note that the StoryCorps pieces are often around 3min, and they can accomplish a lot in that time. Good audio is well-trimmed audio.

Note that there are thousands of Audacity tutorials on the web. If you want to do something with Audacity, google some key terms and learn how to do it.

If you are recording yourself doing a layover narration for your audio, don't do it by yourself in a room. Invite a friend to join you and tell the friend what the story is about, and record what you say to your friend. Trust me here: unless you're experienced in recording your own voice by yourself or unless you have some good training in acting, you will probably sound strange, stilted and scripted if you're simply talking to yourself.

Take notes on questions you want to ask, but try to avoid scripting anything, or reading off of a piece of paper. It's not the worst thing in the world to sound scripted, but it's much more effective to have a as-natural-as-possible conversation.

Remember that audio can be intimate, especially the sound of voices. It can encourage our imaginations, pull at our heartstrings, make us laugh in ways that other modes can't. Work with the medium to highlight your story and affect your audience. Think of your audience as this class, since we'll listen to some of your stories in class.

Goals of this assignment

I hope that this assignment will help you:

  • Gain a basic comfort level or stretch your skills with audio-editing, including collecting technically and conceptually quality audio, working with multiple tracks, sound balance, and sound effects.
  • Introduce you to Audacity as a free, open source program to edit audio.
  • Think about sound composition as a way to get across ideas.
  • Get to know someone in your life a bit better.

Good luck and come see me in class or office hours for feedback or questions on your work.