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listening to stories

I listened to They Say It’s Your Birthday: Sheila Cavanaugh and Sandra Kwawu from The Moth. The reason I chose this one was because my own birthday was yesterday (at the time of writing this, it’s July 4th). I enjoyed both stories told in this episode, two different feelings, connected by one theme: birthdays! Of course, our assignment was to listen to the audio techniques used to tell this story, but I think I’ll be sharing my opinion on the stories themselves alongside that.

The podcast starts off as most podcasts do, with the introduction. The host talks about the theme- birthdays- and tells a story about her own feelings on birthdays. This intro section doesn’t have any background music, but it does have the sound of people talking in the background so that it doesn’t feel empty. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a huge fan of this- it felt unauthentic and clearly fake. The host’s voice was too loud/enunciated? I’m not sure, but they could have at least attempted to sound more authentic, as the rest of the podcast is. But fortunately, this intro section isn’t the entire podcast, and it quickly transitions into the first speaker, Sheila Cavanaugh. I liked how the transition into this section didn’t use music or suddenly stop the background noise, and decided to flow with the audience clapping from the Sheila Cavanaugh portion.

I loved both of the speaking portions, especially because there was no added sound effects or audio cuts- it was as raw as possible. You can hear the audience react without them overpowering the speaker, and it wasn’t fake chatter like in the intro. It was real, just like the stories that were being told. Sheila’s story was funny, the idea that her then boyfriend had gotten her birthday wrong because he had technically misread the calendar made me laugh, and of course having the real audience’s reaction being laughter only added to that feeling.

Overall, from this podcast, I learned that if you want your audience to feel the way you want them to feel, every part of it has to go along with that. If you want your audience to understand that the story is real, make sure your audience feels real, because if not, they won’t get that same feeling. I saw this with the difference between the intro/outro portions and the story portions. You don’t feel captivated with the host introducing everything, but when the authentic audio comes in, you really want to sit and listen.

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