Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Frog Man of the Desert

This a great story from NPR - Read on (NPR's words):
If you can, take a break from the rigors of the job today and listen to a marvelous story from NPR's John Burnett, who was a visiting faculty for Poynter's Public Radio Reporting seminar this year. The piece, about "Cecil Schwalbe, the frog man of the desert," is rich with sound and precision writing.

"Arizona is one of the nation's driest states," the NPR site says, "but during its brief rainy season, it becomes an amphibian wonderland. More than a quarter of the nation's frogs and toads live there, and with amphibians in alarming decline around the world, scientists are working to protect their Arizona habitat.

"For National Geographic Radio Expeditions, NPR's John Burnett followed Schwalbe into Arizona's Sonoran Desert for his annual trek to observe the frenzied courtship of its native amphibians."

The whole idea of frogwatching is not unimportant. As John points out in his story, biologists see frogs as a sort of sentry for the larger ecological picture. Frog and toad populations are declining. According to Frogwatch USA, "It is well-recognized among scientists that amphibian populations have declined. Several species are now extinct and once-thriving populations have diminished in numbers. Habitat loss, exposure to contaminants, ultraviolet radiation, introduced species, parasites, and fungal diseases are some of the factors identified as influencing amphibian declines. Understanding the decline of amphibian populations is crucial in uncovering how people's activities are affecting water quality, wildlife habitat, ecological processes, and other aspects of our environment. We share our environment with amphibians and their decline may foreshadow challenges we all will have to face in the 21st century."

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Greetings, Sonic Storytellers

"It is a pleasure to burn." - Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451

In 464, digitalization is a means toward experimentation with sound. You'll have the tools to remix the past into the present - and vice versa.

Everybody has a story. And the idea is to dust off those thoughts, and turn up your sonic sensors and rethink every story that you have told or heard or written with a NEW sound perspective.

Go through your photo album, and reflect on the soundscapes that accompanied that moment. You'll begin to hear the sounds from the playground, laughter from your friends, crunching of the snow beneath your boots, splashes from the neighbors' pool, the sound of church bells, etc. Those sonic prints develop into soundscapes or soundtracks of your life. Your personal sonic archive, however, is fluid, and sonic bits merge through memory - and converge through technology. Then, you can burn them onto a CD or upload them online. You share - remix - your sounds with others. You can create a "sound" collective among sonic storytellers. That's some of what 464ers will do this semester. I want your sonic personality in the final mix.

You might visit my research blog (sonic walden) to understand the signficance of sound as individual and cultural expression.

Seeking Sound Evidence for the Unseen

I recently visited my mother's place of birth (Salem, MA) - which was once the house of my grandparents, and now owned by my uncle. I was 16 the last time I entered the house, ran across the once grassy fields, walked across the sands of the Willows, chatted with my grandpa at the Gallows, etc. Now the infamous trees are gone, and across from my uncle's house is a school (built on a graveyard too) that is called Witchcraft Heights Elementary School (a tourism ploy). I hear the distant sounds of children playing at the school, and it reminds me of my younger cousins years ago running and laughing down the sidewalk along Belleview Avenue. The sound begins so muffled, and becomes clearer as my ears absorb some familiar vibrations from my past. I begin to remember the sounds of the house - door creaks, the ticking of the clock in the dining room, the sound of rain on the porch, and suddenly all my senses come alive - like when your ears pop on the plane. I am 16 again. But this time I have a digital recorder and can capture my memories sonically.

So Welcome to Sonic Fahrenheit 464 where your aural adventure has just begun. Things move quickly in the Spring - and as the speed of sound increases when the temperature rises, so will my expectations for your work.

You might want to begin the tour with a quick lesson - a 5th grade science lesson on "sound" for the timid! Truly, we start our voyage at the beginning -

For the advanced learner, try this link

Explore: Oral History

The Salem Willows, Photos - Jenny Johnson

Hearing Sound in Scapes -
Time and Place

Aurality and Orality - 2 sides of the same coin. Time, Place and People are critical elements to consider in your documentary. Before we begin, let me recommend a very simple read...
Radio: An Illustrated Guide by Jessica Abel & Ira Glass (publisher: W B E Z Alliance, Chicago). – available

Who is Ira Glass? Read his Manifesto

What is Audio Documentary?

What is Oral History?

How to do History?

Howard Dully - My Lobotomy (6:28) (
Related Story

* * * * * * *

Sounds So Good

Sound Memories

Sound Archive and Restoration

Sonic Memorial Project (World Trade Center)

Reflections on 911


Galveston Hurricane!!!!!!!!

Sound and Spirit

Explore: The Interview

"A tape recorder with microphone in hand…can be used to capture the voice of a celebrity, whose answers are ever ready and flow through all the expected straits. I have yet to be astonished by one. It can be used to capture the thoughts of the non-celebrated—on the steps of a public housing project, in a frame bungalow, in a furnished apartment, in a parked car—and these 'statistics' become persons, each one unique. I am constantly astonished."

—Studs Terkel (

Studs Terkel: The “RADIO” Man Who Interviewed America


Interview with Studs:
(Eclectic DJ)
(More Studs)

From the Studs’ education site: Interview Techniques (See Collecting Stories & Matrix)

How to Use Microphones

Field Recording:

Interview Tips:
Research Interviewing:
In-depth Interviewing:


Explore: Storytelling

Sound Archives (listen) (see Producer's guidelines)

American Radio Works (Listen to Ghetto Life)

Grasp the whole process of the documentary via the CBC's Outfront
Another source is the
Digital Storytelling Cookbook

Story through Sound

Creating Digital Storytellers

Writing for Radio the Basics

Better Writing Through Radio

Personal Reflections on Sound - Check out Melting Ice! (Fraser & the Penguins)

Soundwalks, Sound Marks, and the New Art of Documentary

Earth Ear

A note about: Documentary or Docudrama

History 101

Short/Long Form Documentary – Historical Part I
(Getting Started: the treatment)

Lost and Found Sound - Voices of the Dustbowl

the latest installment the "Lost and Found Sound," series: "Voices of the Dustbowl." In the 1930s, hundreds of thousands of people from Oklahoma and Arkansas traveled to California, in search of better living. Depression-related poverty and a massive drought and subsequent dust storms had made life impossible for them back home. There were no jobs, and the fields were fallow. California held the promise of work and wages, harvesting fruit and vegetables year-round. Sixty years ago, in the summer of 1940, Charles Todd was hired by the Library of Congress to visit the federal camps where many of these migrants lived, to create an audio oral history of their stories, and to document the success of the camp program to the Roosevelt administration back in Washington. Todd carried a 50-pound Presto recorder from camp to camp that summer, interviewing the migrant workers. He made hundreds of hours of recordings on acetate and cardboard discs. Todd was there at the same time that writer John Steinbeck was interviewing many of the same people in these camps, for research on a new novel called "The Grapes of Wrath." Producer Barrett Golding went though this massive collection of Todd's recordings. Together, they bring us this story, narrated by Charles Todd. (22:00) (7/28/00)

OutFront: Radio Documentary Tutorial

Digital Storytelling Cookbook



The Road Trip

For more, go to storytelling entry...

History 102

Making History, too...
The Journal of Multimedia History “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “Sonic History: “Making of Lost and Found Sound)

Remixing History (Creative Commons)
+ + +

Personal Documents

Personality in Sound Documentary

What is American Life? The first photo is of a business in Salem/Peabody, MA. Then note the sign in the window of Boston's Hard Rock. (Photos by Jenny Johnson). Although silent, the messages speak to U.S. culture - as signs of our culture. What are the "sounds" (soundmarks) of our culture?

Sound Portraits

This American Life

Many of us love a good radio documentary - now more than this USA Today opinion piece. The proof of public radio's longevity is in its sound programming - and its influence on the development of digital audio recorders.

Sonic Visionaries

The Best Of -

Achieving Excellence.....

Third Coast International


Critique by Request (PRX)

Explore: Audio Blogging