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Audio Studio and/or Small-Group Workshop

Texts to have read:

  • Audio unit prompt and criteria
  • Any tutorials or assets needed for your project, citing as you go

Work to have done:

  • Second draft or further revisions on your audio project, uploaded to either GitHub or Box as at least one .mp3 (and ideally that plus both .aup and the related _data folder)
  • Add a link from your GitHub file to your Box folder, if you're using the Box folder

Unit 1 feedback, at last (5-10 min)

You should have already received this, either in conference with me or by email. If I've missed you, I apologize profusely! Email me and I'll make it right. Also email if you have any questions about what I wrote.

One big takeaway for me from assessing those projects was that the reflection really made a difference – people who wrote 500 words or more, as suggested in the prompt, helped me see what was working well in the piece and how the design choices aligned with the rhetorical situation.

These longer reflections also helped me see what was new, or hard, and how you dealt with those challenges. If you think way back to the first day of class (seems like years ago, doesn't it?), you may remember that my goal for this class is less to help you make a few awesome projects using a few essential programs, and more to help you figure out how to deal with the constantly shifting landscape of new media composition. So your reflecting on challenges and solutions and processes is important to me.

With that in mind, I want to propose two new lines in the reflection section of the audio unit criteria:

  • Reflect on the process of creating the visual: goals, challenges, solutions
    This was on the list for the visual unit, but we didn't explicitly bring it over to audio. Can we do so now?
  • Aim for 500 words or more
    This was on the formal assignment for the visual unit, but I left it vague in the formal audio assignment. I'd like to at least recommend it now. Thoughts?

Audio advice for the whole class (10 min)

With the official end of the audio unit only one class away, I wanted to make sure I gave you some feedback before it's over – but time prevents me from doing so individually. Here's some collective advice.

  • On uploading
    • In order to open a project, Audacity needs both the .aup project file and the full _data folder of .au clip files.
    • If you've uploaded one but not the other, whether to GitHub or Box, please add the other as soon as you can, to make sure you're backed up.
    • Also, to make sure I can hear your work. Apologies for not checking in with you sooner to ask for (or remind you that I'd asked for) that combination.
    • Thanks to those of you who exported to mp3 and uploaded that! If you've done so, I've now heard your files. What follows are some notes and suggestions based on that collective listening experience.
  • On silences
    • If you have background music for some sections, silence is high contrast, attention-grabbing.
    • This is especially true if the background cuts out suddenly: save this for a dramatic effect, like a slap.
    • Relatedly: try overlapping your tracks, fading in and out across the seams.
  • On beginnings
    • Several people effectively opened with background tracks before the vocal; others effectively opened with pure vocal, like a headline, and then had background tracks come in afterward. Both are good options.
    • Casey R had a great idea to include audio epigraphs – quotes at the beginning, in the form of clips of other people speaking memorable lines. really set a great atmosphere.
  • On endings
    • Have the perfect audio, but it's not quite long enough? You might want to find a repeated phrase (use your ears first, then the waveform) and split / copy / paste to make it loop.
    • If, on the other hand, it's running too long, you might be able to find a chord that occurs in more than one place, and split / delete / splice to make it shorter. But see also the second note about speed, below.
  • On speed
    • Speaking quickly quickly becomes hard to follow. if you are a fast talker, balance with some extra space between sentences or paragraphs. (Has anyone had any luck with altering speed without doing weird things to pitch?)
    • Relatedly: remember that silence is high contrast – even if it's only silent in one track. you might want to introduce gaps in your vocal just by way of organization, regardless of how quickly you speak.
    • This can also help you align changes in your words to changes in your background music without having to do a lot of tedious editing of complex music.
  • On minding P's and S's
    • One of the more common challenges of recording speech is that sibilants (s sounds) and plosives (especially p sounds) tend to pop out in stark contrast to the sounds around them. Some of the extended early readings in the unit talk about ways to fix this when first recording, but there are also lots of tutorials out there describing Audacity tricks for filtering them out once they're in the mix.
    • Here's one that uses equalizer to remove the low rumble of p's: How to Remove P-pop in Audacity
    • And here's one that gives us permission to just cut random chunks of 's' sounds Quick Trick to Eliminate Sibilance. NB: he doesn't use Audacity, but the tips are generalizable.
    • Here's one that uses the spectrogram instead of waveform view to find audio anomalies, especially useful if they're surrounded by micromoments of silence: Removing micro pops in Audacity
  • On subordination and prose style
    • In writing, which makes it easy to return to previous parts of sentences, and thus detect parallelism, parentheticals (especially these, which interrupt the flow), and other means of partitioning information, you have a lot of leeway in how complex a sentence can be; the verb, in particular, can often wait.
    • In soundwriting, listeners can't go back; complexity, therefore, must be limited. When possible, open your sentences with a clear subject-verb pair: once that's in place, you can add to the meaning at the end of the clause, where it's safely attached to that first mini-sentence — short, memorable, and concrete.
    • Actually, it's a good idea even on the page to have your verb come early, if your primary goal is clarity.
    • If you're working with prose, especially, you have the opportunity to revise your script.

Studio Time: work individually or in groups (50 min)

Spend the rest of the time working on your projects.

Start in groups, dividing the remaining time among you, and decide on a strategy:

  • Do you want help assessing what you have so far? Ask your groupmates to download, listen, and take notes that describe, evaluate, and suggest, with reference to times on the recording.
  • Or would you prefer to donate your chunk of time to directly editing, reflecting, and revising?

I'll float around.

EXT: If you finish early,

  • Have you also drafted your reflection / artists' statement? Does it reference the shared criteria and your goals? Have you made the case that you're meeting any of the aspirational goals? Have you explained what was new or hard, and how you dealt with that?
  • Call me over; maybe there's another level of ambition you can unlock, perhaps on a new git branch. Perhaps branching is the new level of ambition.
  • You seem to be good at this – see if you can help anyone else! At the very least, if two people finish early, you can exchange ideas and get fresh feedback on your draft.
  • If you somehow got through all of that and aren't sure what to do next, get a head start on the web design unit by installing the Atom text editor (not necessary if you already have a preferred text editor that can do syntax highlighting), and beginning a tutorial I'll assign next week: HTML & CSS is hard (but it doesn't have to be).

For Next Time

  • Outputs
    • The final copy of the audio unit project – including a prose reflection – is due before the start of class on Tuesday, October 17th, i.e. next class. Aim to have it completed by 10pm the night before, so you have some cushion if it takes longer than you expect.
    • Please do follow the guidelines in the Google doc, including submission guidelines: I'm expecting to see an exported .mp3 file in addition to the .aup project file and the associated _data folder with all its .au files. Otherwise, I can't play it.
    • If GitHub is choking on your _data folder, you can post that plus your .aup project file to Box. But please do put at least your mp3s and reflections on GitHub, so you can track what's changing.
  • **Inputs**
    • If you haven't yet, please do review the notes and suggestions for the class, above. Think about how they might apply to your project.
    • I'll have more information when we meet again for how we'll move through the next unit, which is focused on web design.
    • If you want to get a head start, you can install the Atom text editor.
      • Atom's not necessary if you already have a preferred text editor that can do syntax highlighting, such as TextWrangler, Notepad++, or SublimeText; but it is a good editor, and the one used in a tutorial I'll assign next week: HTML & CSS is hard (but it doesn't have to be).
      • You can also get a head start on that tutorial, if you're so inclined.