About Audio Storytelling

To begin to think about ‘audio storytelling’ we were asked to watch videos by ‘experts’ in this field. Firstly, the four parts of  Ira Glass on Storytelling (This American Life) and then a couple of videos featuring Jad Abumrad (great name – is it an anagram of something?) from Radiolab.

In the fourpart video, Glass talks not just about audio storytelling, but video storytelling too. In the first part he uses the term ‘anecdote’ to refer to a series of actions that make the basic unit of a story and the ‘beat’ of the story – the question behind the story . But storytelling also need s a moment of reflection to establish the point of telling. Thus, the basic elements of storytelling from Glass’ perspective are anecdote and reflection.

In Part 2, Glass suggests the need to spend time looking for stories, trying things out, and not being afraid to abandon things that don’t work. ‘Be ruthless, fail, get super lucky’.

In Part 3, Glass continues with advice about doing lots of work to close the gap between your ambitions and what is good. From his own experience, even after 8 years of working, he didn’t think the work was good.

In the final part, Glass advises that you ‘just be yourself’ and that a story has a subject such as a person talking, but that the interaction with others is the site of drama.

Thus, Ira Glass gives us both advice about the process of storytelling, how to work, and also a lttle bit about the form and style of storytelling. In How Radio Creates Empathy, Jad Abumrad suggests that the musicality of the human voice and its capacity for expression is key in addressing the listener as a co-author in the imaginative interpretation of what is being presented.

In the video, Jad Abumrad: Why “Gut Churn” Is an Essential Part of the Creative Process, he talks more about the process of working than its content. Like Ira Glass, he advocates the importance of experimentation until ‘pointing arrows’ become apparent. This refers to a form of serendipity in which creativity happens when you are under pressure or alert to things that just happen or happen by chance. The skill is recognising the step-change from something that might be ordinary or ‘not good enough’.


I’m looking forward to listening to This American Life and Radiolab to learn more about audio storytelling and thinking about the success of the This American Life spin off podcast success Serial.


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