|The Audio Assignment
This assignment invites you to explore the rhetorical and material affordances and possibilities of audio composition. The Audio Assignment offers you a number of openings as you think about composing with sound. The goal of this project is to use the affordances of audio to construct an argument, elucidate a question, or tell a story. You may create a single, linear/streamed audio file, or you may create a series of short, episodic audio files that that coalesce into a whole. You may choose a topic that builds off the infographic you created for The Image Assignment, or you may venture into new territory.
Unlike The Image Assignment, we are not stipulating a form or genre for your audio project. Instead, we are asking that you consider (or invent) a particular genre and work with its associated conventions. For example, you may choose to create an audio Public Service Announcement (PSA) composed for a particular audience and for a specific purpose. These texts tend to be direct in their desired response, and they tend to be concise and tightly crafted (between :15 and :60). A good PSA is a highly composed text that says a great deal in a short form. You may choose to compose a short-form text that tells a nonfiction story about a person, place, group, moment, movement, or event. This text might fall in the genre of documentary and may intersect with personal essay (or vice versa). Often incorporating interviews, voice over narration, or captured material, this text will likely be longer than a PSA and possibly use multiple layers of audio, but you should still think about short-form content for the purpose of this assignment.
Getting Started: An Audio Exercise
This assignment is a low-stakes opportunity to learn how to record and edit audio.
Begin with the descriptive alternative text you wrote for your infographic in The Image Assignment. Finding logical breaks in the text, divide the text into three somewhat equal parts.
Using a high-end device (like a Zoom recorder), or a device that you might own yourself (like a phone, but be sure you test the recording quality) record yourself reading each part of your infographic alternative text. If you make a mistake, you can stop recording and begin again. You should stop recording after you have successfully read each section so that you have discrete files to work with.
Using Audacity, create an audio alternative text of your infographic. You should include the intro and outro bumpers provided to you.
When you are finished, export your file as an .MP3 file.
Getting Started: The Audio Assignment
Before you begin working on your audio project, you will need to make some initial decisions about the text you would like to compose (while also remaining flexible as your text takes shape). You will also need to engage in some careful planning, creating a list of assets that you will need to gather and record (interviews, sounds, archival materials). You might also want to participate in some storyboarding/mapping/organizing activities if the audio editing interface is new to you.
Goals and Outcomes of The Audio Assignment
These goals and outcomes will shift and morph to reflect the audio text you compose. With all goals and outcomes, you want to take up questions of rhetorical effectiveness and appropriateness.
Your audio text should use to the fullest extent the affordances of sound. The audio may be constructed from archived/found audio, captured audio, audio stripped from video, or a combination thereof.
You should carefully consider short form content as you imagine and compose your audio text. Your project should illustrate concision and economy in rhetorically effective ways.
Your audio text should be composed for a genuine, public audience and should have a call to action appropriate to its form.
Your audio text should demonstrate facility with layering and sequencing audio assets.
Your text might or might not include voiceover narration, and it might or might not include your own voice.
Your text should take a critical, reflective, and/or interpretive approach to its subject matter.
You should strive to tell a compelling story or make an effective argument that offers a rich consideration and treatment of its subject matter.
You should strive to compose high quality audio that is effectively captured, creatively crafted, and well produced.
Your audio text should have a title.
You must secure permissions for all materials used in your project; this includes using permission forms for interviews.
In addition to your original captured and crafted material, you should use materials that exist in the public domain, anything that falls under your careful interpretation of Fair Use, and anything with a Creative Commons license.
You must give credit for all materials used in your project. You should include the names of anyone you interviewed and the dates and locations of the interviews.
You must write a 2-3 sentence description that summarizes the audio text, that attempts to capture and convey its meaning, and that describes its form and materials.
You must provide a print transcript of your audio file.
Submitting your final project
You should export your completed audio text as an .mp3 file. Your file should be named /Lastname.mp3/.
Your written description should be composed in the third person. It should include the title of the audio and your name in the opening sentence. For example:
In his audio composition, “#1Grandpa,” Travis Waugh reflects on his love of vintage objects and media, particularly cars, music and film. He asks listeners to imagine him delivering his soliloquy on stage in a (possibly empty) smoky, dark jazz club. Billie Holiday provides the soundtrack as Waugh wonders aloud if he were born in the wrong era.