“How Long Can This Possibly Last For?” is a short audio piece in which my cousin Toby Greene expresses the difficulties and stresses that the most recent lockdown in NSW has caused his day-to -day life. Toby explains how he has had to put everything on hold to stay clear from the transmission of the new delta variant of COVID-19 and asks how long can the harsh restrictions continue.
As (Kazmer and Xie, 2008) suggest, to maximise comfortability and ensure the effective collection of detail, I made the ethical decision to undertake the interview at the talent’s home instead of my own, due to it being the most “familiar and safe environment” in which one can discuss topics that may be considered upsetting. To prompt my talent to elaborate on his experience living through another state-wide lockdown, I thought it would be appropriate to ask an open-ended question to gradually set the pace. In asking “how do you feel about being forced into another locked down?” the development of a 15 minute and 37 second audio was created. As a result this posed an enormous challenge as Campbell & Huang suggest, to shoot the puppies of my interview, as a means of funnelling the most relevant information into a time slot of only 2 minutes.
Clarity, Structure & Detail:
I undertook this interview over two separate sessions due to issues regarding clarity and structure with the level of detail given in the first session. Within the first interview he frequently repeated the phrase ‘sitting in my bedroom’ or ‘stuck inside my bedroom ’, an evidently over-hyperbolised description of how isolated Toby feels during the lockdown. With fears listeners would lose interest or become confused at Toby’s answers, wondering whether he did anything else but sit within his bedroom, I changed my approach to asking questions. In my second organised session I found myself improvising with questions, provoking detail though a conversational approach. More direct, focused questions like “did you have any holidays planned for this year?” and “How has the lockdown impacted your job” proved effective in gathering an elevated element of detail which heightened the emotional delivery of his negative experiences as-well.
(McHugh, 2014) states that one way to develop a compelling narrative is through “affective auditory elements such as ambient sound.” Considering the central theme of the interview is how the nothingness of a lockdown impacts the life of a busy individual, the most appropriate creative decision was to utilise minimal background audio to match; not only the thematic nature of the content being discussed but to enhance the emotional authenticity of my talent’s evident anger and concern for his well being.
As a result, I decided to use “Abandoned Church 3” from Epidemic Sound as opposed to just music. I felt that including music or sound effects would distract from the mood of Toby’s situation, devaluating the emotional delivery of his words, so upon numerous trial and error attempts adding heavy metal and hard rock instrumentals, it just didn’t work. I could see listeners blocking it out to focus solely on my talent’s words, further distracting them from what’s most important.
To combat this issue I decided to utilise room ambience instead. The elongated white-noise and soft taps which can be traced throughout the duration sits subtly behind Toby’s frustrated voice, effectively complimented by not only his negative tonality, but amplifying the thematic emptiness of being trapped within a lockdown for not the first but the third time. Here, listeners are transported into both a visual and auditory state of isolation as they discern and sympathise with Toby’s evident distress. As suggested by (Hall, 2010), sound provides a metaphorical ‘portal’ where listeners can be “immersed” (Hall, 2010) into the narrative as they “substitute their own situations” (Hall, 2010) within an environment universally applicable to almost everyone around the world such as this state wide lockdown.
Hall, A 2010, ‘Cigarettes and dance steps’ in Biewen, J & Dilworth A (Eds), Reality Radio: Telling True Stories in Sound, University of North Carolina Press, Durham.
McHugh, S 2014, ‘Audio Storytelling Unlocking the Power of Audio to Inform, Empower and Connect’, Asia Pacific Media Educator, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 141-156.
Campbell, B & Huang, P 2011, ‘Shooting Puppies: A Tutorial’, Transom, weblog post, 7 May, viewed 23 August 2019, <https://transom.org/2011/shooting-puppies/>.
Kazmer, M & Xie, B 2008, ‘Qualitative Interviewing in Internet Studies: Playing With the Media, Playing With the Method’, Information, Communication and Society, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 257-278.